Post-fire response of shrubs in the tablelands of eastern Australia: do existing models explain habitat differences?
Peter J. Clarke and Kirsten J. E. Knox
Australian Journal of Botany
50(1) 53 - 62
Published: 07 February 2002
Fire is an important ecological factor that influences the distribution and abundance of plant populations of shrub species in fire-prone habitats. Comprehensive information about the fire-response syndromes and post-fire recruitment of seedlings in tableland habitats of eastern Australia is poorly known. In particular, data on shrubs occurring in grassy habitats are lacking for temperate regions of Australia. The post-fire response and recruitment patterns of shrub taxa were recorded from research burns and wildfires on the New England Tablelands over 4 years in the following four habitats: grassy woodlands and open forests, shrubby open forests, wet heaths and rocky outcrops. The ratio of obligate seeder to resprouter species differed among habitats, with the highest ratio occurring on rocky outcrops (90 : 10) and the lowest in grassy forests (19 : 81). Post-fire recruitment of seedlings was also highest on rocky outcrops whereas seedlings were rarely observed in the wet heaths and grassy forests. The following six models that explain these patterns were reviewed: fire and grazing frequency, soil nutrients and texture, habitat openness and environmental variability. No one model could uniformly explain differences in fire response across all habitats but a combination of disturbance-frequency and regeneration-niche models may provide a mechanism for the patterns observed. Field and laboratory experiments are needed to examine allocation to persistence (resprouting) and reproduction in species with different fire-response syndromes. These experiments also need to examine both disturbance-frequency and regeneration-niche factors in manipulative experiments.
Full text doi:10.1071/BT01055
© CSIRO 2002