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Natural and cultural histories of fire differ between Tasmanian and mainland Australian alpine vegetation


Kirkpatrick, JB and Bridle, KL, Natural and cultural histories of fire differ between Tasmanian and mainland Australian alpine vegetation, Australian Journal of Botany, 61, (6) pp. 465-474. ISSN 0067-1924 (2013) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2013 CSIRO

DOI: doi:10.1071/BT13128


We ask how and why mainland Australia and Tasmania differ in the natural and cultural history of alpine fire. Indigenous people seem unlikely to have extensively burned the alpine landscape in either of mainland Australia or Tasmania, whereas anthropogenic fire increased markedly after the European invasion. In Tasmania, where lightning ignition is uncommon, alpine fires have been rare post-1980, whereas mainland alpine vegetation has been extensively burned. The current distributions of the eight Australian alpine plant species that have no mechanisms for recovery from fire suggest that climate and natural fire barriers have been important in their survival. Mainland Australian pre-fire vegetation cover is typically attained in less than a decade, whereas in Tasmania, half a century or more after fire, bare ground persists at high levels, and continues to decrease only where mammalian herbivores are excluded. These differences appear to be ultimately related to the climatic contrast between the maritime mountains of Tasmania and the continental mainland mountains, through the effects of continentality on snow cover, which, in turn affect marsupial herbivore grazing, exposure of soil and vegetation to extreme microclimatic conditions and the degree of shrub dominance.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:alpine, vegetation, fire
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Terrestrial ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Kirkpatrick, JB (Professor James Kirkpatrick)
UTAS Author:Bridle, KL (Dr Kerry Bridle)
ID Code:88778
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:18
Deposited By:Geography and Environmental Studies
Deposited On:2014-02-14
Last Modified:2014-05-16

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