Fire disturbance regimes, ecosystem recovery and restoration strategies in mediterranean and temperate regions of Chile

J. J. Armesto, M. A. Bustamante-Sánchez, M. F. Díaz, M. E. González, A. Holz, M. Nuñez-Avila, C. Smith-Ramírez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


We provide an overview of the major causes and historical recurrence times of fire disturbance, both natural and anthropogenic, in Mediterranean-type vegetation and temperate forests of Chile (33 to 42º S), southwestern South America. For each vegetation type, we examine the main consequences of fire for species and ecosystems and describe post-fire regeneration and potentially effective strategies for ecological restoration. In both ecosystem types, human activities have greatly altered the historical disturbance regime. Increasing frequency of small-scale fires and massive plantations of fire-prone exotics have accelerated the degradation of Chilean Mediterranean vegetation, which exhibit low resilience to repeated fire disturbance. Active restoration of Mediterranean sclerophyllous vegetation is urgently needed given the magnitude of the loss of species, vegetation cover, and ecosystem services. Recurrent burning remains the major threat to restoration efforts. In temperate forests, historical fire regimes were characterized by low-frequency, large scale fires, but increasing bamboo cover and canopy opening due to logging are changing the susceptibility of forests to fire. Synchronous die-off of bamboo populations in the forest understory significantly increases fire probabilities. Several long-lived conifers have vegetative and reproductive traits that make them resistant to fire. Passive restoration is a viable strategy for these conifer-dominated, montane forests, but the harvest of dead timber is a serious threat to ecosystem recovery. Active restoration is needed in lowland evergreen forests, where the loss of canopy cover alters hydrology and raises the water table, slowing the process of tree invasion.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFire Effects on Soils and Restoration Strategies
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781439843338
ISBN (Print)9781578085262
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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