Kirkpatrick, JB and Bridle, KL and Dickinson, KJM, Decades-scale vegetation change in burned and unburned alpine coniferous heath, Australian Journal of Botany, 58, (6) pp. 453-462. ISSN 0067-1924 (2010) [Refereed Article]
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Fire appears to be a rare event in alpine vegetation, suggesting that its effects might be more persistent than in
most lowland vegetation types. However, it has been suggested that the Australian alpine biota is resilient to infrequent large
fires. This paper describes decades-scale vegetation and soil change after fire in paired plots overfire boundaries in Tasmanian
alpine coniferous heath. The effect of fire on soils persisted for decades. Recovery of vegetation was extremely slow by global
standards, with delayed reinvasion of previously dominant species. There was low cover of the most fire-sensitive species
43–69 years after fire and much bare ground still evident, with the rate of revegetation declining through time. Gymnosperm
shrubs increased at the expense of angiosperms in the unburned plots in the same period and cryptogams declined in both
burned and unburned plots. These results suggest that the Tasmanian alpine flora cannot be characterised as resilient to
infrequent large fire, although most species survive its incidence. The many centuries that it appears are necessary for
coniferous heath to recover to its pre-burn state suggest that fires caused by increased ignitions from lightning and arsonists
are the major issue for conservation of the vegetation type.
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