Impact of high-severity fire in a Tasmanian dry eucalypt forest
Prior, LD and Williamson, GJ and Bowman, DMJS, Impact of high-severity fire in a Tasmanian dry eucalypt forest, Australian Journal of Botany, 64, (3) pp. 193-205. ISSN 0067-1924 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Dry eucalypt forests are believed to be highly fire tolerant, but their response to fire is not well quantified. We measured the effect of high-severity fires in dry eucalypt forest in the Tasmanian Midlands, the driest region on the island. We compared stand structures and fuel loads in long-unburnt (>15 years since fire) and recently burnt (<5 years since fire) sites that had been completely defoliated. Even in unburnt plots, 37% of eucalypt stems and 56% of acacia stems ≥5 cm in diameter were dead, possibly because of antecedent drought. The density of live eucalypt stems was 37% lower overall in burnt than in unburnt plots, compared with 78% lower for acacias. Whole-plant mortality caused by fire was estimated at 25% for eucalypt trees and 33% for acacias. Fire stimulated establishment of both eucalypt and acacia seedlings, although some seedlings and saplings were present in long-unburnt plots. The present study confirmed that eucalypts in dry forests are more tolerant of fire than the obligate seeder eucalypts in wet forests. However, there were few live mature stems remaining in some burnt plots, suggesting that dry eucalypt forests could be vulnerable to increasingly frequent, severe fires.
epicormic shoots, Eucalyptus, fire tolerance, fuel loads, mortality, resprouting, stand structure, tree biomass, wet eucalypt forest