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A fire-driven shift from forest to non-forest: evidence for alternative stable states?


Fletcher, M-S and Wood, SW and Haberle, SG, A fire-driven shift from forest to non-forest: evidence for alternative stable states?, Ecology, 95, (9) pp. 2504-2513. ISSN 0012-9658 (2014) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 by the Ecological Society of America

DOI: doi:10.1890/12-1766.1


We test the validity of applying the alternative stable state paradigm to account for the landscape-scale forest/non-forest mosaic that prevails in temperate Tasmania, Australia. This test is based on fine-scale pollen, spore, and charcoal analyses of sediments located within a small patch of non-forest vegetation surrounded by temperate forest. Following nearly 500 years of forest dominance at the site, a catastrophic fire drove an irreversible shift from a forested Cyperaceae–Sphagnum wetland to a non-forested Restionaceae wetland at ca. 7000 calibrated (cal) yr BP. Persistence of the non-forest/Restionaceae vegetation state over 7000 years, despite long fire-free intervals, implies that fire was not essential for the maintenance of the non-forest state. We propose that reduced interception and transpiration of the non-forest state resulted in local waterlogging, presenting an eco-hydrological barrier to forest reestablishment over the succeeding 7000 years. We further contend that the rhizomatous nature of the non-forest species presented a reinforcing eco-physical barrier to forest development. Our results satisfy a number of criteria for consideration as an example of a switch between alternative stable states, including different origin and maintenance pathways, and they provide insights into the role of threshold dynamics and hysteresis in forest–non-forest transitions.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:alternative stable states, Australia, fire, forest, hysteresis, non-forest, paleoecology, regime
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:Wood, SW (Mr Samuel Wood)
ID Code:95082
Year Published:2014
Web of Science® Times Cited:54
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2014-09-24
Last Modified:2017-10-31
Downloads:317 View Download Statistics

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