Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Impact of wildfire on granite outcrops in archaeological sites surrounded by different types of vegetation.

Abstract

The lack of scientific information about the effects of wildfire on prehistoric structures and rock art, such as dolmens and petroglyphs, impedes the development of conservation guidelines. In this study, the impact of a recent wildfire (late 2017) on granite outcrops in the San Salvador de Coruxo archaeological site (Vigo, SW Galicia) was evaluated. Samples of the same type of granite were obtained from three sites characterised by different types of vegetation (natural scrub, native deciduous oak and non-native pine-eucalypt forest) in order to determine how the vegetation influences the fire-caused damage to the rock. Three subsamples were taken from each of the granite samples at depths of 1 cm-3 cm to study how fire affects the rock at depth. In all sites, the temperature reached at the granite surface was below 380°C. No mineralogical changes due to fire exposure were detected, and no physical changes that could be attributed to the effect of the fire on the fissure system of the granite were identified. However, aesthetic colour changes due to the deposition of organic and charred matter, which even penetrated the fissures, were detected. The existence of lignin-derived compounds, lipids and carbohydrates in the samples from the oakwood site indicates greater resistance to fire effects in this type of vegetation than in the other two types. Although preliminary, these findings suggest that oakwoods could act as protective belts around archaeological sites by reducing the wildfire severity, because of their greater resistance to being burnt, and that they could buffer the damaging effects of fire in natural areas where parietal art is found.