Lorena M. Zavala
University of Seville, Spain
Recently, we and some members of our research group visited a burned area in Montellano (province of Sevilla, Southern Spain) to plan some field experiments. This area was affected by a wildfire during last August 2012.
The fire affected between 70 and 80 ha of a hardly accessible area, characterized by a pine dense forest, shallow soils and steep slopes. Originally an arson fire due to local struggles, fire quickly climbed the north face of the mountain, reached the top and moved down the southern slope in hours. The area is used by residents for recreative activities.
During the visit, we were guided and kindly assisted by technical staff from the Wildfire Prevention and Extinction Plan of the regional Andalusian government (INFOCA). We were surprised when we asked about the restoration plans for the burned area. Local authorities have planned the extraction of all (not some, not half, not most: all) dead or alive tree stems by heavy machinery and new pine plantations.
Four months after burning, and thanks to a rainy period and intense soil biological activity, most of the soil surface is covered by a continuous layer of pine seedlings, resprouting dwarf palm and woody plants as well as herbs. Now, in the most sensible areas, the soil surface, which is quickly self-restoring, is going to suffer intense physical damage and full loss of incipient plant cover.
Although the amount of money dedicated to the restoration of the area burned in 2012 is not known, just in 2010 the regional government invested 650,000 euros in silvicultural treatments and fire prevention in the municipality. Politicians are voted every four years and nature must keep this rhythm.