Demographic effects of severe fire in montane shrubland on tasmania’s central plateau
journal contributionposted on 09.08.2021, 06:32 by JA Foulkes, LD Prior, Steven LeonardSteven Leonard, DMJS Bowman
Australian montane sclerophyll shrubland vegetation is widely considered to be resilient to infrequent severe fire, but this may not be the case in Tasmania. Here, we report on the vegetative and seedling regeneration response of a Tasmanian non-coniferous woody montane shrubland following a severe fire, which burned much of the Great Pine Tier in the Central Plateau Conservation Area during the 2018–2019 fire season when a historically anomalously large area was burned in central Tasmania. Our field survey of a representative area burned by severe crown fire revealed that more than 99% of the shrubland plants were top-killed, with only 5% of the burnt plants resprouting one year following the fire. Such a low resprouting rate means the resilience of the shrubland depends on seedling regeneration from aerial and soil seedbanks or colonization from plants outside the burned area. Woody species’ seedling densities were variable but generally low (25 m−2). The low number of resprouters, and reliance on seedlings for recovery, suggest the shrubland may not be as resilient to fire as mainland Australian montane shrubland, particularly given a warming climate and likely increase in fire frequency.