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The Mallee Fire and Biodiversity Project
journal contributionposted on 2012-01-01, 00:00 authored by Simon Watson, R Taylor, L Spence-Bailey, Dale Nimmo, S Kenny, Luke Kelly, Angie Haslem, P Griffioen, K Callister, L Brown, S Avitabile, Andrew Bennett, M Clarke
Fire is a widespread disturbance and an important ecological process in semi-arid mallee ecosystems of southern Australia. Understanding the effects of fire on plants and animals is a key challenge for the conservation and management of biodiversity in this ecosystem. Commenctngin2006, the Mallee Fire and Biodiversity Project is investigating the effects of fire on range of taxa (vascular plants, invertebrates, reptiles, birds and mammals), with a focus on the influence of the properties of 'fire mosaics' on biota. A 'whole of landscape' design was employed, in which the flora and fauna were sampled in 28 study landscapes, each4 km in diameter (12.5 km2) across a 104,000 km2 area of the Murray Mallee region of Victoria, SA and NSW. Here, we summarise some key results and outputs from this project to date. These include: detailed maps of fire history and major vegetation types; a method for predicting the age of mallee vegetation; novel information about the distribution of fire age-classes in the region; and changes to vegetation structure and in the occurrence of reptile, bird and mammal species over a century-long post-fire time-frame. We also present an overview of the effects of fire mosaics (extent of particular age classes, diversity of fire age-classes) on the richness of some mallee fauna. A wealth of knowledge has been developed through the Mallee Fire and Biodiversity Project that will assist the management of mallee ecosystems in southern Australia for the future.