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

Dynamics of Forest Clumps on Chenier Plains, Cobourg Peninsula, Northern Territory

DMJS Bowman, WJ Panton and L Mcdonough

Australian Journal of Botany 38(6) 593 - 601
Published: 1990


Forest clumps occur scattered throughout Sorghum plumosum grasslands on chenier plains at Gurig National Park, Cobourg Peninsula, a preferred habitat for the introduced banteng (Bos javanicus.). The clumps are dominated by Pandanus spiralis, Acacia auriculiformis, Alstonia actinophylla, Timonius timon and Casuarina equisetifolia and vary in size from the radius of one tree crown to large patches of over several hectares. Fifteen of the 32 woody species recorded in 42 clumps occurred as juveniles less than 1 cm diameter at breast height. Both the clumps and grasslands occur on uniform calcareous soils.

The clumps are thought to be a stage in a succession towards monsoon forest. Field experiments showed that seedlings from a range of monsoon forest and savanna species can grow on the plains. Interpretation of aerial photography taken in 1963 and 1982 suggests that the clumps have expanded.

Fire is thought to control the succession. A fire on the plains was found to kill between one and two-thirds of the basal area of Pandanus spiralis and A. auriculiformis and stimulated the establishment of six times more A. auriculiformis seedlings than in nearby unburnt clumps. Monsoon forest juveniles that invade the clumps typically resprout following fire. Stunted, fire-damaged monsoon forest species (e.g. Timonius timon, Alstonia actinophylla) occur in low densities in the grasslands. It is unclear whether banteng promotes the succession by reducing fuel loads in the grasslands and spreading A. auriculiforms seeds.

© CSIRO 1990

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