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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 15(4)

Seasonality and fire severity in savanna landscapes of monsoonal northern Australia

Jeremy Russell-Smith A B C, Andrew C. Edwards A B

A Bushfires Council of the Northern Territory, PO Box 37346, Winnellie, NT 0821, Australia.
B Tropical Savannas Management Cooperative Research Centre, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: jeremy.russell-smith@nt.gov.au
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Ten years of photo and associated data records from an extensive fire and vegetation effects monitoring programme established in two large north Australian National Parks were used to (1) develop a simple-to-use semiquantitative fire severity index based on observed fire impact on vegetation, particularly leaf-scorch height; and (2) explore relationships between seasonality and fire severity in different landform and vegetation types. Using a three-tiered fire severity scale, data for 719 fires recorded from 178 plots over the period 1995–2004 indicate that the great majority of early dry season (pre-August) fires were of very low severity (fire-line intensities <<1000 kW m–1), whereas fires later in the dry season were typically of substantially greater severity. Similar trends were evident for vegetation occupying all landform types. The utility and limitations of the fire severity index, and implications for ecologic, greenhouse inventory, and remote sensing applications are discussed.

Keywords: fire intensity; fire regime; fire severity index; vegetation monitoring.

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