iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Historical fire ecology and its effect on vegetation dynamics of the Lagunas de Montebello National Park, Chiapas, México

Laura Patricia Ponce-Calderón (1)   , Dante Arturo Rodríguez-Trejo (2), José Villanueva-Díaz (3), Bibiana Alejandra Bilbao (4), Guadalupe Del Carmen Álvarez-Gordillo (1), Gabriela Vera-Cortés (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 14, Issue 6, Pages 548-559 (2021)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor3682-014
Published: Dec 01, 2021 - Copyright © 2021 SISEF

Research Articles

Historical information on wildfires and dendrochronological studies offer meaningful clues about fire and climate regimes, factors that affect forest structure and dynamics. This study aimed to determine the effect of fire history on vegetation dynamics and successional pathways of areas under different fire management policies in the Lagunas de Montebello National Park (LMNP), Chiapas, México. The selected study sites were El Parque area under fire exclusion policies since 1961; Tziscao-inhabited area under fire prohibition since 1984; and Antelá area with a traditional agricultural fire management history. A Pinus oocarpa ring-width chronology was used as a proxy for climate variability to which wildfire occurrence was mapped and to determine the establishment patterns of this dominant species. Current vegetation composition and structure and fuel loads were determined to characterise the study sites. Large wildfires, like those occurring in 1984 and 1998, were associated with periods of high humidity followed by intense droughts; they were linked to strong El Niño events and severely impacted the LMNP. Vegetation dynamics indicated simplification of mesophyll forest (climax) to pine-oak-sweetgum forests, with Pinus dominating the overstorey in all sampling sites. Pine, oak and sweetgum species were the dominant juvenile trees in Antelá, El Parque and Tziscao, respectively. Late-successional seedlings (i.e., Prunus) were present in Antelá and El Parque, while were absent from Tziscao where several wildfires had occurred. Fuel accumulation in sites within protected areas subject to fire exclusion policies was very high (40-68 t ha-1); in contrast, it was the lowest in rural Antelá (24 t ha-1). Considering vegetation vulnerability to wildfires associated with extreme humid-dry climate events, increased fire hazard due to fuel accumulation, and the socio-ecological impacts of these events, we recommend revising the fire exclusion policies currently implemented in the LMNP and applying an integrated fire management approach that incorporates local socio-ecological conditions.


Historical Ecology, Dendrochronology, Fire Ecology, Ecological Succession, Fuel Loads

Authors’ address

Dante Arturo Rodríguez-Trejo 0000-0002-1407-8365
División de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo. Estado de México (México)
José Villanueva-Díaz 0000-0001-8211-1203
Laboratorio de Dendrocronología, INIFAP CENID-RASPA, Gómez Palacio, Durango (México)
Bibiana Alejandra Bilbao 0000-0001-9493-491X
Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas (Venezuela)

Corresponding author

Laura Patricia Ponce-Calderón


Ponce-Calderón LP, Rodríguez-Trejo DA, Villanueva-Díaz J, Bilbao BA, Álvarez-Gordillo GDC, Vera-Cortés G (2021). Historical fire ecology and its effect on vegetation dynamics of the Lagunas de Montebello National Park, Chiapas, México. iForest 14: 548-559. - doi: 10.3832/ifor3682-014

Academic Editor

Davide Ascoli

Paper history

Received: Oct 21, 2020
Accepted: Oct 06, 2021

First online: Dec 01, 2021
Publication Date: Dec 31, 2021
Publication Time: 1.87 months

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