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Contrasting fire responses to climate and management: insights from two Australian ecosystems


King, KJ and Cary, GJ and Bradstock, RA and Marsden-Smedley, JB, Contrasting fire responses to climate and management: insights from two Australian ecosystems, Global Change Biology, 19, (4) pp. 1223-1235. ISSN 1354-1013 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1111/gcb.12115


This study explores effects of climate change and fuel management on unplanned fire activity in ecosystems representing contrasting extremes of the moisture availability spectrum (mesic and arid). Simulation modelling examined unplanned fire activity (fire incidence and area burned, and the area burned by large fires) for alternate climate scenarios and prescribed burning levels in: (i) a cool, moist temperate forest and wet moorland ecosystem in south-west Tasmania (mesic); and (ii) a spinifex and mulga ecosystem in central Australia (arid). Contemporary fire activity in these case study systems is limited, respectively, by fuel availability and fuel amount. For future climates, unplanned fire incidence and area burned increased in the mesic landscape, but decreased in the arid landscape in accordance with predictions based on these limiting factors. Area burned by large fires (greater than the 95th percentile of historical, unplanned fire size) increased with future climates in the mesic landscape. Simulated prescribed burning was more effective in reducing unplanned fire activity in the mesic landscape. However, the inhibitory effects of prescribed burning are predicted to be outweighed by climate change in the mesic landscape, whereas in the arid landscape prescribed burning reinforced a predicted decline in fire under climate change. The potentially contrasting direction of future changes to fire will have fundamentally different consequences for biodiversity in these contrasting ecosystems, and these will need to be accommodated through contrasting, innovative management solutions.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:area burned, arid, climate, fire incidence, fire regimes, FIRESCAPE, fuel dynamics, large fires, mesic, prescribed burn
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Environmental management
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments
Objective Field:Assessment and management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems
UTAS Author:Marsden-Smedley, JB (Dr Jonathan Marsden-Smedley)
ID Code:88498
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:34
Deposited By:Geography and Environmental Studies
Deposited On:2014-02-05
Last Modified:2014-04-29

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