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

The influence of fire and rainfall upon seedling recruitment in sand-mass (wallum) heathland of north-eastern New South Wales

S. J. Griffith, C. Bale and P. Adam

Australian Journal of Botany 52(1) 93 - 118
Published: 17 February 2004


Wallum heathland is extensive on coastal sand masses in north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. Here the climate is subtropical, although monthly rainfall is highly variable and unreliable. We examined the influence of fire and rainfall on seedling recruitment in bradysporous dry-heathland [Banksia aemula R.Br., Melaleuca nodosa (Sol. ex Gaertn.) Sm.] and wet-heathland [Banksia oblongifolia Cav., B. ericifolia L.f. subsp. macrantha (A.S.George) A.S.George, Leptospermum liversidgei R.T.Baker and H.G. Sm.] species. Two specific questions were addressed: (1) do elevated levels of soil moisture facilitate seedling recruitment; (2) is the post-fire environment superior for seedling recruitment? Field experiments demonstrated that heathland species studied here are capable of successful recruitment in atypical habitat, and this proceeds irrespective of fire and unreliable rainfall. Conditions for growth and reproduction were found to be adequate if not more favourable in dry heathland, and this outcome included species usually associated with wet heathland. Spatial and temporal trends in seedling emergence and survival were examined in relation to post-fire predation and plant resource availability. Existing ideas about wallum management and conservation are evaluated, in particular the role of fire.

© CSIRO 2004

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