Potential impacts of fire and grazing in an endangered ecological community: plant composition and shrub and eucalypt regeneration in Cumberland Plain Woodland
Sarah J. Hill and Kristine French
Australian Journal of Botany
52(1) 23 - 29
Published: 17 February 2004
Exclosure plots were used to determine the effect of fire and grazing on the structure of a grassy-woodland community. Eighteen months after fire and fence treatments were applied, the species richness, cover and composition of shrubs, trees, herbs and grasses were assessed and compared to pre-treatment censuses. Unburned plots had fewer shrub species and a lower abundance of shrubs, indicating the importance of fire in promoting regeneration of shrub species. Eucalypt species were more abundant and richer following the wildfire burn in summer, suggesting timing of fires is an important aspect in the establishment of the canopy species. Interactions between fire and grazing were found for the abundance of eucalypts (although weak) and resprouting eucalypts, suggesting a subtle interaction between fire and grazing shortly after fire. There was no effect of grazing and no interaction effect between fire and grazing on shrub species richness and abundance or tree species richness and seedling abundance.
All plots showed a change in species composition despite treatment, and 46 species (32% of total richness) were recorded only in the final survey. The high rainfall during the 18-month study is likely to be an important factor in facilitating the establishment of species following all disturbances. This may have ameliorated the impact of grazing as abundant food was available throughout the woodland. The interaction between fire and grazing may be more important in structuring these grassy communities during periods of lower rainfall.
Full text doi:10.1071/BT02068
© CSIRO 2004