A team of Catalan researchers has studied the changes in the make-up of animal populations following forest fires, and have concluded that malacological fauna are a good indicator of forest recovery. The conclusions of this study will help to ensure that post-fire forestry operations that do not harm these species of molluscs, which are sensitive to microclimatic conditions of the soil and vegetation structure.
The researchers from the University of Barcelona (UB) and the Natural Areas Department of the Provincial Government of Barcelona took samples from areas on the edges of an area affected by a forest fire that took place in August 2003 on the outskirts of the Sant Lloren del Munt i l'Obac Natural Park in Catalonia.
The objective of this study, which has been recently published in Biodiversity and Conservation, was to check whether land molluscs, which are invertebrates with limited mobility, would re-colonise the burnt areas or manage to survive the fire in refuges.
"Forest fires produce radical changes in the environmental conditions of the habitat of land gastropods, such as changes to the vegetation structure, and the absence of humus and leaf litter, and so the composition of species within the mollusc community is very severely affected", Xavier Santos, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Department of Animal Biology of the UB, tells SINC.
According to the team, "land mollusc fauna is a good indicator of the processes of faunal recovery in areas affected by forest fires" because these are species that are very sensitive to microclimatic conditions of the soil and vegetation structure. The scientists identified 25 species of land gastropods, with large differences seen between the control stations and burnt areas.
"In the burnt zones there is a very significant absence of numerous forest species that are widespread throughout Europe, such as Pomatias elegans and Acanthinula aculeata,
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology