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International Journal of Forestry Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 547120, 12 pages
Research Article

Changes of Species Richness in Heathland Communities over 15 Years following Disturbances

Area of Ecology, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of León, 24071 León, Spain

Received 13 October 2011; Revised 16 December 2011; Accepted 16 December 2011

Academic Editor: Piermaria Corona

Copyright © 2012 L. Calvo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The aim of this study was to define the species richness patterns over a period of 15 years during the vegetation recovery process after disturbances (burning, cutting and ploughing) in heathlands. Three communities were selected: two dominated by Erica australis and one dominated by Calluna vulgaris. The alpha and gamma diversity patterns were site specific and influenced by the ecological traits of dominant shrub species. The shrubland dominated by Erica australis, typical resprouters with a fast regeneration, showed the highest values of alpha and gamma diversity during the first 7 years of regeneration. The heathland dominated by Calluna vulgaris, an obligate seeder, had a contrasting pattern of alpha and gamma diversity, as the highest values appeared from year 7 until year 14. Thus, the speed of regeneration of the dominant shrub species could be the main factor affecting structural parameters in these communities. Species richness patterns did not vary in relation to the different types of perturbation. Cutting and burning would be the most suitable forestry management strategies to conserve Erica australis heathlands, but burning is more appropriate in Calluna vulgaris ones because cutting modified this community.