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Seed viability of early maturing alpine ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis R.T. Baker subsp. delegatensis) in the Australian Alps, southeastern Australia, and its implications for management under changing fire regimes
Eucalyptus delegatensis R.T. Baker subsp. delegatensis is an interval-sensitive, fire-killed eucalypt that dominates large tracts of montane forest in the Australian Alps. Although it has been widely accepted in forest management that E. delegatensis takes 20 years to flower and fruit after stand-replacing fire events, recent observations after high intensity fires in the Australian Alps have shown that early flowering and fruiting is occurring from what can be termed ‘precocious’ individuals in some areas. In some instances, early flowering and fruit set is occurring within 6 years after stand-replacing fire. One historical study in the ACT had noted that such seed was viable, but we found no reported experiments documenting this or detailing the degree of viability. Here we discuss the results of a germination experiment undertaken on seed collected from Namadgi National Park from early-maturing alpine ash trees. Although at the low end of known viability estimates for E. delegatensis, seed from these individuals was nonetheless found to be viable, with a mean of 455 (SD = 139) germinants per 10 g of chaff and seed mix. We discuss this result in relation to fire management in the Australian Alps and suggest further research that needs to be undertaken to better document and understand the phenomenon.
BT17068 Accepted 31 August 2017
© CSIRO 2017