Man and fire: impacts on Mediterranean vegetation
Document Type: Book Chapter
Author(s): L. Trabaud
Editor(s): C. F. di ; D. W. Goodall ; R. Specht
Publication Year: 1981

Cataloging Information

  • Africa
  • Australia
  • chaparral
  • Chile
  • combustion
  • cutting
  • fire adaptations (plants)
  • fire dependent species
  • fire management
  • France
  • grazing
  • Greece
  • human caused fires
  • ignition
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • lightning
  • lightning caused fires
  • macchia
  • Mediterranean habitats
  • mosaic
  • shrublands
  • soils
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • spontaneous combustion
  • succession
  • tundra
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 38501
Tall Timbers Record Number: 13107
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Fire is a an important ecological force which has fashioned numerous phytocoenoses through the world. But, owing to several ecological factors, its action has been stronger in countries with mediterranean climates. The aridity of the climate has played an undeniable, but not always preponderant, part combined with the poorness of the soils, it contributed to create landscapes in the Old World such as the maquis and garrigie in southern France, macchia in Italy, xerovuni and phrygana in Greece, choresh and batha in Israel, gatha nabati in Syria and Lebanon, and tomillares in Spain; and in the New World, chaparral in Califori1ia, espinal and matorral in Chile. Moreover, there are similar landscape types in South Africa and Australia (see Chapters 11 and 12 of this volume). But these various landscapes, as one sees them at the present time, have mainly been modelled by human action, which has been strongly exerted in these areas. The antiquity of fire is a certainty; it is undeniable that fire appeared on the earth long before the coming of man, and perhaps even as soon as there was terrestrial vegetation (Anonymous, 1973; Komarek, 1973). Indeed, lightning is a universal natural cause of vegetation fires, from the tundra to the tropical forest (Arnold, 1964; Komarek, 1964, 1966, l967b, 1968, 1972; Requa, 1964; Taylor, 1969, 1971, 1974). In the same way, other non-anthropogenic phenomena have played a part, such as volcanic eruptions, spontaneous combustion (Viosca, 1931), or production of sparks by falling rocks (Hennicker--Gotley, 1936). At first, fire was a natural component which appeared more or less regularly in the natural cycle of vegetation succession. Its advent allowed rejuvenation of sonic stands, thus giving a mosaic of phytocoenoses succeeding one another both in time and in space. But man, by his activity, has modified that natural equilibrium, substituting an artificial situation and upsetting the previous natural order. For his own needs, man has used and misused fire; this use, associated with other actions such as forest felling, grazing by domestic animals and cultivation of some areas which have afterwards been abandoned, has contributed greatly to die constitution of the vegetational landscapes which one encounters today in countries subject to a mediterranean climate. This continuous action of fire, closely associated with the action of man, has in consequence created many phytocoenoses adapted to fire for some, one may say dependent on fire, for they maintain themselves only by the action or the regular passage of time.

Trabaud, L. 1981. Man and fire: impacts on Mediterranean vegetation, in CF di, DW Goodall, and R Specht eds., Mediterranean-type shrublands. Amsterdam, Netherlands, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, p. 523-537.