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

Fire-Related Dynamics of a Banksia Woodland in South-Western Western Australia

RJ Hobbs and L Atkins

Australian Journal of Botany 38(1) 97 - 110
Published: 1990


We studied the post-fire vegetation development of a low open woodland dominated by Banksia attenuata and B. menziesii near Perth, Western Australia. Two similar stands burned in autumn and spring displayed different regeneration patterns, with seedling regeneration occurring only in the autumn burn area. Vegetative regrowth was more rapid and post-fire species numbers were higher in the spring burn area. Introduced annuals increased significantly in the autumn fire area. Longer-term vegetation development was studied in a series of stands ranging in age since last fire from 1 to >44 years. Species richness was greatest in the 5-year-old stand, and many shrub species were most abundant 2-5 years after fire. Non-native annuals were found only in stands less than 5 years old since last fire. Dominance by the shrub Eremaea pauciflora increased with stand age, although shrub structure and total biomass did not vary greatly except in the oldest stand studied. The proportion of total shrub biomass accounted for by leaves declined with stand age. Both the two major Banksia species had mixed size structures with seedlings present in all stands, indicating that neither is dependent on fire for recruitment.

The results indicate that while autumn burns promote seedling regeneration they may also increase invasion by non-natives, and spring burning may be preferable in these Banksia woodlands. Burning rotations longer than those required for fuel reduction purposes are necessary to maximise conservation values.

© CSIRO 1990

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