Fire and Environmental Heterogeneity in Southern Temperate Forest Ecosystems: Implications for Management
JE Williams, RJ Whelan and AM Gill
Australian Journal of Botany
42(2) 125 - 137
Fire is a natural part of most Australian landscapes and has an important influence on the biological productivity and biotic composition of many ecosystems. Although fire is commonly used as a management tool, the precise nature of the way it may influence productivity and biotic composition is often poorly understood and, as a consequence, its use is controversial. This paper considers the use of fire for the management of ecosystems. Specifically, the influences of fire on environmental heterogeneity and the effects these have on shaping biological productivity and biotic patterns are discussed. Heterogeneity that affects biotic response includes variation in biophysical attributes of landscapes such as topography, fire regimes and the spatial attributes of fire. Examples are used to address the interplay between fires, environmental heterogeneity and biological patterns: (1) the effects of frees on plant resource availability; (2) crown scorch in eucalypt forests; and (3) the effects of spatial variation (patchiness) within a fire on species composition. Heterogeneity should be considered explicitly in management because prescriptions devised elsewhere may not be able to be imported with confidence to all sites and the responses of the biota to fires may differ from available information. Ecological monitoring and research into the ecological effects of heterogeneity are required to provide a predictive understanding of natural systems and provide information to aid decisions about the use of fire as a management tool.
Full text doi:10.1071/BT9940125
© CSIRO 1994