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Forest Fires in Greece: Prevention and Aftermath

by Jennifer Gay

For the full article see The Mediterranean Garden No 51, January 2008.

Many Mediterranean species are able to regenerate successfully on their own after fire by re-sprouting or by seed, so that in many cases re-planting is totally unnecessary. Good winter rainfall in the first year speeds this process up; preventing grazing during the first and following few years is critical. Deforested areas present a high risk of great mudflows in the event of heavy winter rains. Once regeneration or replanting is under way, the roots hold the soil.

Some species may be burned to the ground, but have the ability to re-sprout from the base. Holm oak (Quercus ilex), kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus) and strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) all do this and can reach one metre within a year.

Olives are great survivors and may re-sprout from charred branches, even when some of the trunk bark has been destroyed. It is thus advisable to be sure that olives really are dead before rushing to uproot them – to start from scratch with young olive trees may result in a ten-year wait for the first crop. 

In September 2007, two months after the fire on Mount Pendeli, this lentisk
(Pistacia lentiscus) is putting out new growth from the base of its blackened skeleton.

Plenty of lentisks are regenerating naturally on this slope.

The vegetation regenerates both by re-sprouting and by seed. Here seedlings
of Pinus halepensis will soon appear.

Asphodel and Urginea maritima rapidly reappear from the burnt ground in Attica

Urban areas are increasingly encroaching on forest areas: houses built in a
pinewood near Rafina, Attica.

A charred olive tree in the Peloponnese re-sprouts from its branches.

Photographs 1-5 by Jennifer Gay; photograph 6 by Olivier Filippi.
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