Response of vegetation and vertebrate fauna to 23 years of fire exclusion in a tropical Eucalyptus open forest, Northern Territory, Australia

Response of vegetation and vertebrate fauna to 23 years of fire exclusion in a tropical... Abstract This opportunistic study compares the vegetation, fuel loads and vertebrate fauna of part of a 120‐ha block of tropical open forest protected from fire for 23 years, and an adjacent block burnt annually over this period. Total fuel loads did not differ significantly between the unburnt and annually burnt sites, but their composition was markedly different, with far less grassy fuel, but far more litter fuel, in the unburnt block. There were major differences between treatments in the composition of trees and shrubs, manifest particularly in the number of stems. There was no overall difference in plant species richness between the two treatments, but richness of woody species was far higher in the unburnt treatment, and of annual and perennial grasses, and perennial herbs in the annually burnt treatment. Change in plant species composition from annually burnt to unburnt treatment was directional, in that there was a far higher representation of rainforest‐associated species (with the percentage of woody stems attributable to ‘rainforest’ species increasing from 24% of all species in the annually burnt treatment to 43% in the unburnt treatment, that of basal area from 9% to 30%, that of species richness from 8% to 17%, and that of cover from 12 to 47%). The vertebrate species composition varied significantly between treatments, but there was relatively little difference in species richness (other than for a slightly richer reptile fauna in the unburnt treatment). Again, there was a tendency for species that were more common in the unburnt treatment to be rainforest‐associated species. The results from this study suggest that there is a sizeable and distinct set of species that are associated with relatively long‐unburnt environments, and hence that are strongly disadvantaged under contemporary fire regimes. We suggest that such species need to be better accommodated by fire management through strategic reductions in the frequency of burning. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Austral Ecology Wiley

Response of vegetation and vertebrate fauna to 23 years of fire exclusion in a tropical Eucalyptus open forest, Northern Territory, Australia

Austral Ecology, Volume 29 (2) – Apr 1, 2004

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
1442-9985
eISSN
1442-9993
D.O.I.
10.1111/j.1442-9993.2004.01333.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract This opportunistic study compares the vegetation, fuel loads and vertebrate fauna of part of a 120‐ha block of tropical open forest protected from fire for 23 years, and an adjacent block burnt annually over this period. Total fuel loads did not differ significantly between the unburnt and annually burnt sites, but their composition was markedly different, with far less grassy fuel, but far more litter fuel, in the unburnt block. There were major differences between treatments in the composition of trees and shrubs, manifest particularly in the number of stems. There was no overall difference in plant species richness between the two treatments, but richness of woody species was far higher in the unburnt treatment, and of annual and perennial grasses, and perennial herbs in the annually burnt treatment. Change in plant species composition from annually burnt to unburnt treatment was directional, in that there was a far higher representation of rainforest‐associated species (with the percentage of woody stems attributable to ‘rainforest’ species increasing from 24% of all species in the annually burnt treatment to 43% in the unburnt treatment, that of basal area from 9% to 30%, that of species richness from 8% to 17%, and that of cover from 12 to 47%). The vertebrate species composition varied significantly between treatments, but there was relatively little difference in species richness (other than for a slightly richer reptile fauna in the unburnt treatment). Again, there was a tendency for species that were more common in the unburnt treatment to be rainforest‐associated species. The results from this study suggest that there is a sizeable and distinct set of species that are associated with relatively long‐unburnt environments, and hence that are strongly disadvantaged under contemporary fire regimes. We suggest that such species need to be better accommodated by fire management through strategic reductions in the frequency of burning.

Journal

Austral EcologyWiley

Published: Apr 1, 2004

References

  • Response of Eucalyptus ‐dominated savanna to frequent. fires: lessons from Munmarlary, 1973–1996
    Russell‐Smith, Russell‐Smith; Whitehead, Whitehead; Cook, Cook; Hoare, Hoare
  • Responses of vertebrates to pastoralism, military land use and landscape position in an Australian tropical savanna
    Woinarski, Woinarski; Ash, Ash
  • Changes in mammal populations in relatively intact landscapes of Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia
    Woinarski, Woinarski; Milne, Milne; Wanganeen, Wanganeen
  • Fire ecology and Aboriginal land management in central Arnhem Land, northern Australia: a tradition of ecosystem management
    Yibarbuk, Yibarbuk; Whitehead, Whitehead; Russell‐Smith, Russell‐Smith

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