Spatial ecology in a changing world

Conservation planning in a dynamic world: Biodiversity and fire in the Mediterranean region

In response to the processes threatening
biodiversity such as habitat loss, effective selection of priority conservation areas is required to ensure long term persistence of key species. However, reserve selection methods usually ignore the drivers of future habitat changes, thus compromising the effectiveness of conservation.

In a new article published in Landscape Ecology and led by Sara Vallecillo, we formulated an approach to explicitly quantify the impact of fire on the selection of priority conservation areas, considering such disturbance as a driver of land-cover changes. This work emphasizes the need to consider the opposing potential impacts of wildfires on species for an effective conservation planning.This is the first study originated from our collaboration with Australian researchers from the Griffith University, Virgilio Hermoso, and the Center of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, CEED lead by Hugh Possingham).

The estimated fire impact was integrated as a constraint in the reserve selection process to tackle the likely threats or opportunities that fire might cause to the targeted species depending on their habitat requirements. In this way, we selected conservation areas in a fire-prone Mediterranean region for two bird assemblages: forest and open-habitat species. Differences in conservation areas selected before and after integrating the impact of fire in the reserve selection process were assessed. Integration of fire impact for forest species moved preferences towards areas that were less prone to burn.However, a larger area was required to achieve the same conservation goals.

Conversely, integration of fire impacts for open-habitat species shifted preferences towards conservation areas in locations where the persistence of their required habitat is more likely (i.e. shrublands). In other words, we prioritized the conservation of not only the current distribution of open-habitat birds, but also the disturbance process (i.e. fire) that favours their preferred habitat and distributions in the long term.


Planificació de la conservació en un món dinàmic: biodiversitat i foc a la regió Mediterrània.

En un nou article publiscat a la revista Landscape Ecology i liderat per  Sara Vallecillo, es formula una nova aproximació per quantificar de manera explíctia l’impacte del foc en la selecció d’àreas amb prioritat de conservació en paisatges dinàmics afectat pels incendis. Aquest és el primer treball originat a partir de la nostra colaboració amb investigadors Australians de la Griffith University, Virgilio Hermoso, i del Center of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, CEED lead by Hugh Possingham).

Vallecillo, S., Hermoso, V., Possingham, H. & Brotons, L. 2013. Conservation planning in a fire-prone Mediterranean region: threats and opportunities for bird species. Landscape Ecology in press.

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