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Effects of high-severity fire drove the population collapse of the subalpine Tasmanian endemic conifer Athrotaxis cupressoides


Holz, A and Wood, SW and Veblen, TT and Bowman, DMJS, Effects of high-severity fire drove the population collapse of the subalpine Tasmanian endemic conifer Athrotaxis cupressoides, Global Change Biology, 21, (1) pp. 445-458. ISSN 1354-1013 (2014) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 WIley Blackwell

DOI: doi:10.1111/gcb.12674


Athrotaxis cupressoides is a slow-growing and long-lived conifer that occurs in the subalpine temperate forests of Tasmania, a continental island to the south of Australia. In 19601961, human-ignited wildfires occurred during an extremely dry summer that killed many A. cupressoides stands on the high plateau in the center of Tasmania. That fire year, coupled with subsequent regeneration failure, caused a loss of ca. 10% of the geographic extent of this endemic Tasmanian forest type. To provide historical context for these large-scale fire events, we (i) collected dendroecological, floristic, and structural data, (ii) documented the postfire survival and regeneration of A. cupressoides and co-occurring understory species, and (iii) assessed postfire understory plant community composition and flammability. We found that fire frequency did not vary following the arrival of European settlers, and that A. cupressoides populations were able to persist under a regime of low-to-mid severity fires prior to the 1960 fires. Our data indicate that the 1960 fires were (i) of greater severity than previous fires, (ii) herbivory by native marsupials may limit seedling survival in both burned and unburned A. cupressoides stands, and (iii) the loss of A. cupressoides populations is largely irreversible given the relatively high fuel loads of postfire vegetation communities that are dominated by resprouting shrubs. We suggest that the feedback between regeneration failure and increased flammability will be further exacerbated by a warmer and drier climate causing A. cupressoides to contract to the most fire-proof landscape settings.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:fire, fire sensitive, fire history, tree rings, Athrotaxis cupressoides, positive fire-flammability feedback, dendroecology, herbivory, regeneration dynamics
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:Holz, A (Dr Andres Holz)
UTAS Author:Wood, SW (Mr Samuel Wood)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:94755
Year Published:2014
Web of Science® Times Cited:56
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2014-09-16
Last Modified:2017-10-31

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