Forests are one of the greatest assets against global climate change and local desertification in our region. In the summer of 2017 there was a large forest fire that affected an important natural park in our province (Albacete), the Calares del Mundo and the Sima. In total, more than 3000 ha burned. Although fires are another element of the Mediterranean ecosystem, their high recurrence (it’s our case) can endanger the recovery of the ecosystem. It could be possible to help their regeneration, based on the “severity of the fire” (proportion of the plant/surface burned), locating the areas of greater severity and discriminating them from those of low severity, capable of regenerating by themselves. Can we help regenerate these areas? Science states that satellite images can help determining the severity of fire and mapping the most vulnerable areas in terms of erosion or missing recovery capacity.
We selected three ground plots of the same habitat (scrub thermomediterranean typical) with different damage (high/medium/low) due to wildfire already catalogued by a previous forecast. Low are supposed to regenerate better and before than medium/high damage areas. Using line interception method, we measured bare soil and vegetation cover, classified it into bush, herbs and trees, and took soil samples. Vegetation shows high percentage of base soil, followed by significant percentage of herbs and bush (trees are about 1%). We observed that medium had less vegetation that high damage plot. Soil samples were analyzed by atomic spectroscopy: amounts of magnesium, calcium and potassium (essential nutrients) are higher in medium/high than low damage. Active limestone shows higher values for medium/high damage plots. Textures (sand/silt/clay %) are similar between plots. Earth observation considered NDVI using EOBrowser. Landsat’s pixel approximates ground plots and gives their NDVI trend after removing negative values: decrease of 9%, 52% and 57% for low, medium and high damage, respectively. We also analyzed NDVI trend for the whole perimeter of the wildfire using Sentinel’s data reports and ‘.kmz’ files to observe how orientation (shady/sunny) and slope influence in forest regeneration.
Actions to help lessen the problem
1) We will protect the soil with straw: it has been proven that it is an efficient, cheap and ecological way of retaining the first soil layers and increasing soil moisture. This will facilitate germination and growth of seedlings. 2) Through drones, we will carry out “clay coated seeds” sowing (or “ordinary seeds”, if the former is very expensive), with autochthonous species (herbaceous or woody) which accelerate the ecological succession, such as Brachypodium retusum, a very frequent cespitose plant in the area or the Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), a very resistant shrub native to the area. 3) We will show our study to the competent authorities, both local and regional, as well as to the press, to collect funding and put it into practice, following up on it, using satellite images provided by ESA.
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