Lessons learned from arson wildfire incidence in reforestations and natural stands in Spain
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Wildfires are currently considered the major threat to forests in Mediterranean countries. It has been implied that a large percentage of arson-caused fires in Spain are connected with the extensive reforestation programs implemented between 1940 and 1970. However, no consistent studies have been conducted
to study the relationships between arson-caused fires and stand origin. Therefore, the goal of this study was to analyze occurrences and model the influence of forest stand origin (artificial or not) on the development of wildfires in peninsular Spain. Twenty-one neural network models were trained to estimate fire incidence through fire type (surface or crown fire), burned area and total treed burned area, based on stand age (years), canopy cover (%), natural age class (from seedling to mature stages) and fuel type classification. Models were built for reforested stands and natural stands of Pinus pinaster Ait., the Mediterranean pines Pinus sylvestris L., Pinus nigra Arn., Pinus halepensis Mill. and Eucalyptus sp. L’Hér., or groups of these species, and the resulting models were compared. Reforested stands presented higher fire incidence than natural stands mainly for productive species like Pinus pinaster Ait. According to the fire type models, thickets had a large influence in the development of crown fires in reforested stands in a general model for all species, the model with the Mediterranean group of pines, and the Pinus pinaster Ait. model. Vertical continuity influenced crown fire propagation in natural Mediterranean pines and in Eucalyptus stands. Presence of shrubs, grasslands and wood slash was related to surface fires in models for both reforested and natural stands. The results suggested that stand origin was influential on fire incidence, at least with regard to fire type and commercial species in the northwestern region of Spain.