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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology

 

Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 61(2)

Fire dependency of a rock-outcrop plant Calothamnus rupestris (Myrtaceae) and implications for managing fire in south-western Australian forests

Neil D. Burrows

Science Division, Department of Environment and Conservation, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Perth, WA 6983, Australia; Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia. Email: neil.burrows@dec.wa.gov.au

Australian Journal of Botany 61(2) 81-88 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/BT12240
Submitted: 12 September 2012  Accepted: 29 November 2012   Published: 28 February 2013


 
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Abstract

Granite outcrops embedded in south-western Australian forests provide habitat for unique biotic assemblages and refugia for fire-sensitive taxa. Discontinuous vegetation and natural barriers to fire spread enable outcrops to function as fire refugia, provided fires in the surrounding forest are not of high intensity. In Summer 2003, lightning started a fire in jarrah forest that had not been burnt for almost 20 years. The high-intensity fire burned the vegetation on Mount Cooke, a large granite outcrop, providing an opportunity to study the response of Calothamnus rupestris Schauer, a fire-sensitive serotinous plant. The population was killed by the fire, but readily regenerated from seed stored in woody capsules. The post-fire population reached maturity after ~7.5 years, whereas the seed bank is unlikely to recover to the pre-fire level until ~14 years. The likelihood of intense forest wildfires affecting outcrop communities can be reduced by frequent low-intensity prescribed burning in the surrounding forests to reduce fuel hazard and quantity. Low-intensity forest fires are unlikely to be lethal to sensitive granite-outcrop communities.



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