Effects of big forest fires on landscape fragmentation: the case of Peloponnesus, Greece
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Environmental heterogeneity, particularly in the Mediterranean region, is widely recognized as one of the main drivers of biodiversity. In the Mediterranean forest landscapes, human disturbance regimes and relative low fire intensities have created a spatial mosaic of land cover, which has a high capacity of harbouring many organisms. Fuel accumulation due to abandonment of traditional land use in conjunction with drier and warmer climatic conditions, have led to an increase in the severity of wildfire hazards and, therefore, to a decrease in biological diversity. In this study, we analyzed the effect of mega‐fires on the landscape pattern of ecosystems in Peloponnesus, southern Greece, an area heavily impacted on August 2007 by a ten‐day fire, responsible for the loss of 46 individuals. This fire affected the heterogeneity of ecosystems, reshaping the complexity of their landscape structure and disrupting their functionality. Forest patch size and the connectivity between remnant mature forest patches were decreased strongly, leading to increased fragmentation of these important landscapes. A notable difference was observed between areas of natural character and mosaics of pine forest with olive‐trees plantations where the latter suffered fewer changes and reduced the severity of the damage on the natural vegetation.