FRONTIERS IN EARTH SCIENCE, vol.11, 2023 (SCI-Expanded)
Post-wildfire management actions mainly targeting the removal of salvage logs and burned trees is a common but controversial practice. Although it aims to regain some of the natural and economic value of a forest, it also requires disturbing burned areas, which may have some negative consequences affecting, for instance, the carbon cycle, soil erosion, and vegetation cover. Observations from different geographic settings contribute to this scientific debate, and yet, the spatiotemporal evolution of the post-fire road network developed as part of fire management practices and its influence on vegetation recovery has been rarely examined. Specifically, we still lack observations from Turkiye, though wildfires are a common event. This research examined the evolution of the vegetation cover in relation to post-fire road constructions and the resultant debris materials in areas affected by the 2017 Sapadere fire in Antalya, Turkiye. We used multi-sensor, multi-temporal optical satellite data and monitored the variation in both vegetation cover and road network from the pre-to post-fire periods between 2014 and 2021. Our results showed that fire management practices almost doubled the road network in the post-fire period, from 487 km to 900 km. Overall, 7% of the burned area was affected by these practices. As a result, vegetation cover in those areas shows only similar to 50% recovery, whereas undisturbed areas exhibit similar to 100% recovery 5 years after the event. Notably, such spatiotemporal analysis carried out for different burned areas would provide a better insight into the most suitable post-fire management practices. Our findings, in particular, show that the current practices need to be revisited as they cause a delay in vegetation recovery.