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Cause and effects of a megafire in sedge-heathland in the Tasmanian temperate wilderness


French, BJ and Prior, LD and Williamson, GJ and Bowman, DMJS, Cause and effects of a megafire in sedge-heathland in the Tasmanian temperate wilderness, Australian Journal of Botany, 64, (6) pp. 513-525. ISSN 0067-1924 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 CSIRO

DOI: doi:10.1071/BT16087


The World Heritage wilderness of south-western Tasmania contains a complex vegetation mosaic of eucalypt forest, myrtaceous scrub and fire-sensitive rainforest embedded in highly flammable sedge–heathland. Aboriginal burning shaped this temperate region for millennia, and large, severe wildfires have prevailed since European settlement in the early 19th century. In 2013, the Giblin River fire burnt 45 000 ha of wilderness, most of which was sedge-heathland. We surveyed the fire footprint, and an adjacent management burn, to investigate the drivers of fire severity in sedge-heathland and to assess the regeneration response of woody vegetation and how these were influenced by antecedent fire histories. Analyses based on multi-model inference identified time since fire as the most important driver of sedge-heathland fire severity, as measured by diameter of burnt twigs. Mortality was high for both main stems (98%) and whole plants (91%), with only 16% of dead stems resprouting. Resprouting and seedling establishment were little affected by fire severity. The value of prescribed burning in reducing both the extent and severity of wildfires in the south-western Tasmanian landscape, and in maintaining stand-age heterogeneity, is illustrated by the wildfire having self-extinguished on the boundary of the management burn.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:buttongrass moorland, fire ecology, fire management, fire severity, plant mortality, resprouters, seedlings, shrub growth, sedge, heath
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Landscape ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:French, BJ (Mr Ben French)
UTAS Author:Prior, LD (Dr Lynda Prior)
UTAS Author:Williamson, GJ (Dr Grant Williamson)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:111444
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:9
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2016-09-14
Last Modified:2017-10-31

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