Age and growth of a fire prone Tasmanian temperate old-growth forest stand dominated by
Eucalyptus regnans, the world's tallest angiosperm
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Wood, SW and Hua, Q and Allen, KJ and Bowman, DMJS, Age and growth of a fire prone Tasmanian temperate old-growth forest stand dominated by
Eucalyptus regnans, the world's tallest angiosperm, Forest Ecology and Management, 260, (4) pp. 438-447. ISSN 0378-1127 (2010) [Refereed Article]
Forests are key components of the global carbon cycle, with deforestation being an important driver of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. Temperate old-growth forests have some of the highest above ground stores of carbon of any forest types on Earth. Unlike tropical forests, the ecology of many temperate forests is dominated by episodic disturbance, such as high intensity fire. An exemplar of a particularly carbon dense temperate forest system adapted to infrequent catastrophic fires is the Eucalyptus regnans forests of south eastern Australia. Knowledge of the growth and longevity of old-growth trees is crucial to understanding the carbon balance and fire regimes of these forest systems. In an old-growth E. regnans stand in the Styx Valley in southern Tasmania we used dendrochronological techniques and radiocarbon dating to determine the age and stem growth of E. regnans and Phyllocladus aspleniifolius, an understorey rainforest conifer. Our analysis revealed that an even-aged cohort of E. regnans and P. aspleniifolius established in 1490-1510AD, apparently after a stand-replacing fire. The stem growth rates of E. regnans in the first 100 years were very rapid compared to the co-occurring P. aspleniifolius. That the longevity of E. regnans is >500 years challenges the suggested 350-450 year timeframe proposed for the widely held model of succession from eucalypt to rainforest. These forests not only have the potential to store vast amounts of carbon, but can also maintain these high carbon densities for a long period of time. Estimates of the capacity of these forests to sequester and store carbon should explicitly consider past harvesting and fire regimes and the potential increases in the risk of fire associated with climate change. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
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