International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Soil temperatures during autumn prescribed burning: implications for the germination of fire responsive species?

T. D. Penman A B C and A. L. Towerton A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Forest Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 100, Beecroft, NSW 2119, Australia.

B Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre, 5/340 Albert Street, East Melbourne, VIC 3002, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: trent.penman@dpi.nsw.gov.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 17(5) 572-578 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF07092
Submitted: 9 July 2007  Accepted: 5 February 2008   Published: 3 October 2008

Abstract

Prescribed fire is a widely applied management tool in native forests. There have been concerns raised about the ecological impacts of prescribed fire on native flora. One aspect of the debate is the extent to which prescribed fire heats the soil to levels reported to trigger germination in the soil seed banks. We used Thermochrons to test soil temperatures at 2 and 5 cm in prescribed burns in dry sclerophyll forests. Soil temperatures during the burns were generally low (<40°C) with less than 5% of sites being exposed to temperatures necessary for the germination of fire-dependent shrub species. High temperatures were associated with high fuel consumption and large woody debris. This information suggests that prescribed fires, carried out according to standard practices, in these forests are unlikely to trigger germination in the majority of the soil-stored seed banks. If ecological burns in these forests are aimed at promoting populations of senescing obligate seeder species, they need to be hotter than standard practice if they are to achieve their objectives, although we acknowledge that there are inherent risks associated with hotter burns.

Additional keywords: dry sclerophyll, forest, management, seed dormancy.


Acknowledgements

The present work was funded by the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre and Forests NSW. We wish to thank Russell Clark who organised the prescribed burns reported. We also wish to acknowledge the field staff who implemented the burns. Ruth Allen and Roy Shiels assisted with the data collection. Discussions with Russell Clark, Ruth Allen and Roy Shiels provided insight into prescribed burning practices and aided the development of the paper. We also wish to thank Doug Binns, Frank Lemckert, Andy Stirling and two anonymous referees for providing comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.


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