The effects of topographic variation and the fire regime on coarse woody debris: insights from a large wildfire

Bassett, Michelle, Chia, Evelyn K., Leonard, Steve W.J., Nimmo, Dale G., Holland, Greg J., Ritchie, Euan G., Clarke, Michael F. and Bennett, Andrew F. 2015, The effects of topographic variation and the fire regime on coarse woody debris: insights from a large wildfire, Forest ecology and management, vol. 340, pp. 126-134, doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2014.12.028.

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Title The effects of topographic variation and the fire regime on coarse woody debris: insights from a large wildfire
Author(s) Bassett, Michelle
Chia, Evelyn K.
Leonard, Steve W.J.
Nimmo, Dale G.
Holland, Greg J.
Ritchie, Euan G.ORCID iD for Ritchie, Euan G.
Clarke, Michael F.
Bennett, Andrew F.
Journal name Forest ecology and management
Volume number 340
Start page 126
End page 134
Total pages 9
Publisher Elsevier
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication date 2015-03-05
ISSN 0378-1127
Keyword(s) Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Fire severity
Fire interval
Time since fire
Summary Coarse woody debris (CWD) is a common structural component of terrestrial ecosystems, and provides important habitat for biota. Fires modify the distribution of CWD, both spatially and temporally. Changes in fire regimes, such as those arising from prescribed burning and changing climatic conditions, make it critical to understand the response of this resource to fire. We created a conceptual model of the effects of fire on logs and dead trees in topographically diverse forests in which trees often survive severe fire. We then surveyed paired sites, in a damp gully and adjacent drier slope, ~3.5. years after a large wildfire in south-eastern Australia. Sites were stratified by fire severity (unburnt, understorey burnt and severely burnt), and fire history (burnt ≤3. years or ≥20. years prior to the wildfire). Both components of the fire regime influenced CWD availability in gullies. Severe wildfire and fire history ≤3. years reduced the volume of small logs (10-30. cm diameter) in gullies, while severe wildfire increased the number of large dead trees in gullies. CWD on slopes was not affected by fire severity or history at ~3.5. years post-fire. Log volumes on slopes may recover more quickly after wildfire through rapid collapse of branches and trees. Gullies generally supported more logs than slopes, but longer inter-fire intervals in gullies may allow fuel loads to accumulate and lead to comparatively larger fire impacts. Given that fire severity and fire interval are predicted to change in many fire-prone ecosystems in coming decades, this study highlights the importance of understanding the interacting effects of multiple components of the fire regime with landscape structure. In particular, variation in fire interval and fire severity in relation to topographic position will influence the pattern of accumulation of coarse woody debris across the landscape, and therefore the structure and quality of habitats for biota.
Language eng
DOI 10.1016/j.foreco.2014.12.028
Field of Research 059999 Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified
07 Agricultural And Veterinary Sciences
05 Environmental Sciences
06 Biological Sciences
Socio Economic Objective 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2015, Elsevier
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