The impact of fire on vertebrates in the mediterranean basin: An overview

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Wildfires are among the most important natural disturbances in the Mediterranean basin. They impose drastic habitat and landscape modifications that affect not only the vegetation but also vertebrate dynamics and structure from the population up to the community levels. There are a wide range of post-fire succession trajectories for vertebrate populations, whereas specific-species responses are dependent upon post-fire biotic and abiotic conditions in the burned habitat. The main generalization at the population level is that the burned areas support populations of open- and edge-habitat species, whereas the species most abundant in unburned woody areas are typical forest-dweller species that avoid open areas. Wildfires reduce habitat availability for forest animals, but the overall impact of fire is not necessarily negative from the perspective of biodiversity conservation, since it creates heterogeneous landscape with forest patches that support forest dwellers and forest-edge specialists along with open habitats that are critical to maintain open-habitat species. But the effect of fires in the Mediterranean basin on biodiversity is highly variable and dependent upon several factors: the extent, severity, and frequency of the fire, the initial state of the ecosystem, the spatial arrangement and isolation of the post-fire burned and unburned patches, and various abiotic conditions. From the management point of view, the maintenance of landscape mosaic habitats with different fire history is vital for the preservation of high vertebrate biodiversity in the Mediterranean region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-233
Number of pages13
JournalIsrael Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2012


  • Mediterranean ecosystems
  • biodiversity
  • disturbance
  • fire
  • species richness
  • succession
  • vertebrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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