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Megafire-induced interval squeeze threatens vegetation at landscape scales


Le Breton, TD and Lyons, MB and Nolan, RH and Penman, T and Williamson, GJ and Ooi, MKJ, Megafire-induced interval squeeze threatens vegetation at landscape scales, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 20, (5) pp. 327-334. ISSN 1540-9309 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2022 The Authors Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1002/fee.2482


Wildfires in 20192020 broke global records for extent and severity, affirming the arrival of the megafire era. Frequent megafires reflect changes to fire regimes that can negatively impact species and ecosystems. Here, we offer what we believe to be the first comprehensive analysis of megafire impacts on southeastern Australian vegetation communities, combining remote-sensing data, fire-history records, and plant trait-derived fire interval thresholds. In our study area, fires burned over 5.5 million ha. We found that one-third of all native vegetation in this region has burned too frequently following the megafires, particularly impacting fire-sensitive vegetation (for example, rainforests). This represents a single-year increase of 36% in the vegetation at risk of interval squeeze (vegetation transitions driven by altered fire regimes) compared to the previous 59 years combined. We demonstrate that megafires can overrun recently burned vegetation and infiltrate refugia, reducing fire intervals beyond the persistence thresholds of plant species and increasing the risk of ecosystem collapse. Averting this will require innovative approaches to fire management. However, if climate change is not addressed, ecosystem collapse may be unavoidable especially for ecosystems adapted to infrequent, high-severity fire.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:fire, forest, inverval, megafire
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Forestry sciences
Research Field:Forest ecosystems
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Williamson, GJ (Dr Grant Williamson)
ID Code:149300
Year Published:2022
Web of Science® Times Cited:9
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2022-03-24
Last Modified:2022-12-08
Downloads:7 View Download Statistics

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