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Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 14(2)

Effects of the fire retardant Phos-Chek on vegetation in eastern Australian heathlands

Tina Bell A C, Kevin Tolhurst A, Michael Wouters B

A School of Forest and Ecosystem Science, The University of Melbourne, Water Street, Creswick, Victoria 3363, Australia.
B Fire Management Section, Department for Environment and Heritage, 1 Richmond Road, Keswick, South Australia 5035, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Telephone: +61 3 5321 4181; fax: +61 3 5321 4166; email: tlbell@unimelb.edu.au
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The effects of the fire retardant Phos-Chek D75R on species composition, survival and growth of eastern Australian heathland vegetation are described. Two sites in Victoria were selected, Victoria Valley in the Grampian Ranges and Marlo in East Gippsland. Both areas supported heathland vegetation that was long, unburnt and relatively undisturbed. Plots were subjected to single applications of increasing concentrations of retardant (0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 L fire retardant m-2) or no additional fire retardant (‘Control’ and ‘Water only’ treatments). A single application of Phos-Chek did not appear to significantly change species composition or projected foliage cover of the major life forms of native heathland vegetation. However, it did cause whole plant and shoot death of key species Allocasuarina paludosa, Banksia marginata, Leptospermum continentale and L. myrsinoides, and was observed to affect other species. The fertilising effect of the fire retardant generally increased shoot growth of the key species but did not significantly increase the overall height of these species. The application of fire retardant enhanced weed invasion, particularly when supplied at higher concentrations. A number of research recommendations are made from this preliminary investigation.

Keywords: bushfire; East Gippsland; fire suppression; Grampian Ranges; weed invasion.

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