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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 32(5)

Fire heterogeneity in Kakadu National Park, 1980–2000

Owen Price A D E, Andrew Edwards B D, Greg Connors A D, John Woinarski A, Greg Ryan C, Andrew Turner C, Jeremy Russell-Smith B D

A Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment, Darwin, NT 0831, Australia.
B Bushfires Council of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT 0821, Australia.
C Parks Australia North, Kakadu National Park, Jabiru, NT 0886, Australia.
D Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.
E Corresponding author. PO Box 496, Palmerston, NT 0831, Australia.
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Although it is generally acknowledged that fire-induced heterogeneity is important for maintaining diverse species assemblages in northern Australian savannas, scant relevant data are currently available to examine this proposition. The study takes advantage of a singular, detailed, bidecadal fire history assembled annually for Kakadu National Park to explore relationships between fire-induced heterogeneity and other terrain features. Three patch-based heterogeneity indices were calculated from assembled fire-history data for the central 1-ha cell of a 5 × 5 cell (25 ha) window; that is, at a spatial scale relevant to the home ranges of many small- to medium-sized native mammals. Two of these indices were first calculated separately for each year, employing different metrics based on the extent of burning occurring in the 5 × 5 cell array, and then averaged for each of four consecutive five-year periods and over all years. The third index was calculated as the sum of the coefficients of variation for four fire-regime variability parameters determined likewise for five- and 20-year periods. Assembled data illustrate that (1) fire-induced heterogeneity in Kakadu increased in each successive five-year period from 1981, and (2) when modelled with independent terrain coverages, significant relationships were obtained for all three heterogeneity indices with terrain roughness, distance to roads, and distance to drainage lines.

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