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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 23(3)

Relationship between fire-return interval and mulga (Acacia aneura) regeneration in the Gibson Desert and Gascoyne–Murchison regions of Western Australia

Bruce G. Ward A D, Thomas B. Bragg B and Barbara A. Hayes C

A Department of Parks and Wildlife, Brain Street, Manjimup, WA 6258, Australia.
B Department of Biology, University of Nebraska–Omaha, 6001 Dodge Street, Omaha, NE 68182-0040, USA.
C Hayes Environmental, 2812 North Main Street, Elkhorn, NE 68022, USA.
D Corresponding author. Email: bruce.ward@dpaw.wa.gov.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(3) 394-402 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF13007
Submitted: 15 January 2013  Accepted: 22 October 2013   Published: 21 February 2014

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A study of 26 burnt mulga (Acacia aneura) stands was conducted from 2003 to 2012 in the Gibson Desert and eastern Gascoyne–Murchison region of Western Australia to assess the effect of fire interval on seedling regeneration. Tree-ring analysis and Landsat satellite imagery identified mulga stands with fire intervals ranging from 3 to 52 years. Results show fire-return intervals less than 20 years produce 2–3-year-old seedling regeneration lower than 50% of the original adult stand population (average juvenile-to-adult ratio = 0.49). In total, 6 of the 26 stands sampled had reburnt within 3 to 10 years of the previous burn, a consequence of increased plant growth associated with higher rainfall. For all fires, summer fires were larger and more frequent (24 of 35 fires recorded, median fire size = 150 km2) than spring fires (median fire size = 91 km2). This study emphasises the important role of fire in maintaining the diversity and vigour of the mulga–Triodia ecosystem but indicates a minimum fire-return interval of 26 years to maintain mulga populations.

Additional keywords: fire frequency, fire size, mulga, spinifex, Triodia.


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