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Effects of long-term fire exclusion and frequent fire on plant community composition: a case study from semi-arid shrublands

Knuckey, Chris G., Van Etten, Eddie J.B. and Doherty, Timothy 2016, Effects of long-term fire exclusion and frequent fire on plant community composition: a case study from semi-arid shrublands, Austral ecology: a journal of ecology in the Southern Hemisphere, vol. 41, no. 8, pp. 964-975, doi: 10.1111/aec.12388.

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Title Effects of long-term fire exclusion and frequent fire on plant community composition: a case study from semi-arid shrublands
Author(s) Knuckey, Chris G.
Van Etten, Eddie J.B.
Doherty, TimothyORCID iD for Doherty, Timothy orcid.org/0000-0001-7745-0251
Journal name Austral ecology: a journal of ecology in the Southern Hemisphere
Volume number 41
Issue number 8
Start page 964
End page 975
Total pages 12
Publisher Wiley
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2016-12
ISSN 1442-9993
1442-9993
Keyword(s) disturbance
floristics
prescribed burning
species diversity
succession
Summary Time since last fire and fire frequency are strong determinants of plant community composition in fire-prone landscapes. Our study aimed to establish the influence of time since last fire and fire frequency on plant community composition and diversity of a south-west Australian semi-arid shrubland. We employed a space-for-time approach using four fire age classes: 'young', 8-15years since last fire; 'medium', 16-34; 'old', 35-50; and 'very old', 51-100; and three fire frequency classes: burnt once, twice and three times within the last 50years. Species diversity was compared using one-way ANOVA and species composition using PERMANOVA. Soil and climatic variables were included as covariables to partition underlying environmental drivers. We found that time since last fire influenced species richness, diversity and composition. Specifically, we recorded a late successional transition from woody seeders to long-lived, arid-zone, resprouting shrub species. Fire frequency did not influence species richness and diversity but did influence species composition via a reduction in cover of longer-lived resprouter species - presumably because of a reduced ability to replenish epicormic buds and/or sufficient starch stores. The distinct floristic composition of old and very old habitat, and the vulnerability of these areas to wildfires, indicate that these areas are ecologically important and management should seek to preserve them.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/aec.12388
Field of Research 050205 Environmental Management
050204 Environmental Impact Assessment
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 ©2016, Ecological Society of Australia
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30086242

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