To explore the ‘disaster–diversity’ hypotheses in the aftermath of the 2003 fires on Australian alpine landscapes (pp. 793). The hypothesis holds that "large arge fires such as the 2003 fires were unnatural, the result of decades of fire exclusion, and consequent fuel build-up, in the foothill, montane and subalpine forests, and a disaster for biodiversity in both the wooded and treeless landscapes" (pp. 794).
Type of Study:
Historical and biophysical evidence suggests that in Australian alpine environments, extensive fires occur only in periods of extended regional drought, and when severe local fire weather coincides with multiple ignitions in the surrounding montane forests. Dendrochronological evidence indicates that large fires have occurred approximately every 50–100 years over the past 400 years. Post-fire monitoring of vegetation in grasslands and heathlands indicates that most alpine species regenerate rapidly after fire, with >90% of species present 1 year after fire. Some keystone species in some plant communities, however, had not regenerated after 3 years. The responses of alpine fauna to the 2003 fires were variable. The core habitat (closed heathland) of several vulnerable small mammals was extensively burnt. Some mammals experienced substantial falls in populations, others experienced substantial increases. Unburnt patches of vegetation are critical to faunal recovery from fire. There was, however, no evidence of local extinction (pp. 793).
Infrequent extensive fires are a feature of alpine Australia. For both the flora and fauna, there is no quantitative evidence that the 2003 fires were an ecological disaster, and... flora and fauna ... are highly resilient to infrequent, large, intense fires (pp. 793).
Review of the short-medium term effects of large fires on alpine ecosystems in mainland Australia.
Imogen Fraser; Dick Williams
Mainland alpine landscapes,south east Australia
Response variable :
Williams R.J., Wahren C.H.A., Tolsma A.D., SaneckI G.M., Papst W.A., Myers B.A., McDougall K.L., Heinze D.A., Green K. (2008) Large fires in Australian alpine landscapes: their part in the historical fire regime and their impacts on alpine biodiversity. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17, 793–808.