Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Vegetation change in an urban grassy woodland 1974–2000

J. B. Kirkpatrick

School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 78, GPO, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia. Email:

Australian Journal of Botany 52(5) 597-608
Submitted: 1 July 2003  Accepted: 24 June 2004   Published: 25 October 2004


Few temporal studies document vegetation change in Australian temperate grassy woodlands. Floristic and structural data were collected from 68 randomly located sites in the Queens Domain, an urban grassy woodland remnant, in 1974, 1984, 1994 and 2000 and a search made for rare species. Species of conservation significance were concentrated at highly disturbed sites, whereas vegetation types of conservation significance decreased in area as a result of increases in the numbers of Allocasuarina verticillata, which caused a change in many unmown areas from Eucalyptus viminalis grassy woodland to E. viminalis–A. verticillata woodland/forest or A. verticillata open/closed forest. Structural changes were associated with changes in species composition and an increase in native-species richness. Increases in tree cover occurred where fires were most frequent, possibly as a result of the lack of mammalian herbivores. The frequencies of herbs and annual grasses were strongly affected by precipitation in the month of sampling. Half of the species that showed a consistent rise or fall through time were woody plants, approximately twice the number expected. In the dataset as a whole, species-richness variables were largely explained by varying combinations of variables related to moisture availability, altitude and the incidence of mowing. The strongest influences on species composition were the same, although slope and time since the last fire also contributed to multiple regression and generalised linear models. Compositional stability was positively related to native-species richness, whereas high levels of exotic-species richness occurred at both low and high levels of native-species richness. The maintenance of native-plant biodiversity on the Domain requires such counterintuitive measures as the maintenance of exotic trees and the control of native trees, demonstrating the contingencies of conservation management in fragmented vegetation that consists of a mixture of native and exotic species.


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