Changes in ecosystem properties after post-fire management strategies in wildfire-affected Mediterranean forests.
Forest are highly vulnerable to global change drivers, such as an increase in wildfire events. Learning more about how and why different post-fire management strategies regulate the ability of forest ecosystem properties (e.g. plant diversity and function) to simultaneously recover after wildfire and provide multiple ecosystem functions is of critical importance. This study aims to evaluate how unburned, burned managed and burned unmanaged plots regulate the responses of multiple forest ecosystem properties (e.g. plant diversity, nutrient cycling, soil carbon stocks, water regulation, decomposition and wood production) and overall multifunctionality to wildfires. In September 2017, we selected two post-fire management strategies in a 3-km2 watershed previously affected by a wildfire in July 2012: contour-felled log debris (CFD), log erosion barriers area (LEB), and also unburned and unmanaged plots (BNA). We randomly distributed 12 plots among the three post-fire management strategies (three plots per treatment) and unburned. The results showed that multiple forest ecosystem properties were significantly affected by wildfire and that specific post-fire management treatment (e.g. LEB and CFD) can be used to efficiently support plant diversity and ecosystem functioning. Our results revealed that the general indicators of ecosystem functions decreased in Mediterranean forests after wildfires and post-fire management strategies (LEB and CFD) significantly helped to recover the ecosystems' short-term community-level properties and ecosystem functions (5 years after a wildfire event) to pre-fire levels. Synthesis and applications. These findings demonstrate that multiple ecosystem functions are affected by wildfires in Mediterranean forests and show that post-fire management treatments can promote multifunctionality and plant diversity. Our results unfold the potential of log erosion barriers (LEB) and contour-felled log debris (CFD) as effective strategies for recovering community-level properties and forest functions in the short term.