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Individual study: Vegetative response of bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi to experimental cutting and burning in Castilla Y León, northwest Spain

Published source details

del Barrio J., Luis-Calabuig E. & Tárrega R. (1999) Vegetative response of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi to experimental cutting and burning. Plant Ecology, 145, 191-195


Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is an ericaceous, dwarf evergreen shrub which may grow to form an almost continuous carpet in the open boreal or upland habitats that it occupies. It is well-able to survive fire, sometimes acting as a natural firebreak, and due to its dense growth it effective in preventing soil erosion. A.uva-ursi uses vegetative resprouting to recover rapidly after disturbances. The main aim of this present study was to investigate regeneration responses after cutting or burning as a first step to accessing how best to manage it.

Study area: The study was carried out in an upland heathland area in which A.uva-ursi is abundant, forming homogeneous carpets, in the province of León, central-northwest Spain.

Experimental design: In March 1994, 15 pairs of 50 cm diameter circular plots were established at random in homogeneous carpets (close to 100% cover) of bearberry. One plot of each pair was burned and the other was cut. Initial biomass was estimated as dry weight from the cut plots. A 50 cm diameter circular sampling quadrat, divided into two concentric circles, was used to determine cover recovery and the way in which this occurred (i.e. predominantly by colonization from outside or uniformly over the whole surface).

In October 1996, when recovery of cover appeared similar to that of untreated surrounding areas, the 30 treated plots (15 cut and 15 burned) were cut to assess biomass recovery.

Bearberry cover: Initial bearberry recovery was fast and similar after cutting or burning, exceeding 30% cover by the fourth month (July 1994). After 30 months (October 1996) it had reached 80%, which was almost as high as that recorded in control plots (90% cover). Recovery was entirely from vegetative resprouting; no seedlings of A. uva-ursi (or any other species) were observed in the plots. Recovery occurred fairly evenly throughout the plots.

Biomass recovery Recovery of aboveground biomass was also similar between treatments and was considered to be very rapid, more so than that of most shrub species characteristic of these ecosystems (e.g. in monospecific stands of Cistus laurifolius or C.ladanifer (obligate seeders), cover was less than 20% one year after burning or cutting and was < 40% after 3 years; Erica australis (resprouter) attained <30% cover three years after cutting and burning). Average biomass was close to 700g/m² after 30 months. Nevertheless, this was significantly lower than in the control plots, which had average values close to 1 kg /m².

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