Landscape-scale disturbances and regeneration in semi-arid woodlands of southwestern Australia
Colin J. Yates, Richard J. Hobbs and Richard W. Bell
Pacific Conservation Biology
1(3) 214 - 221
AbstractWoodlands dominated by Eucalyptus salmonophloia occur both in the fragmented landscapes of the Western Australian wheatbelt and in the adjacent unfragmented goldfields area. We examined the responses of the unfragmented woodlands to landscape-scale disturbances caused by fire, floods, windstorms and drought. Sites known to have experienced disturbances of these types over the past 50 years all had cohorts of sapling-stage E. salmonophloia and other dominant Eucalyptus species. Sites disturbed either by fire, flood or storm during 1991-92 displayed adult tree mortality and extensive seedling establishment, although rates of establishment and survival varied between sites. No regeneration was observed at equivalent undisturbed sites. These results indicate that landscape-scale disturbances of several types are important drivers of the dynamics of these semi-arid woodlands. Lack of regeneration of fragmented woodlands in the wheatbelt is likely to be due to changed disturbance regimes coupled with altered physical and biotic conditions within remnants. We argue that it may be difficult to identify processes which are important for the long-term persistence of natural ecosystems in fragmented landscapes without reference to equivalent unfragmented areas.
© CSIRO 1994