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J Environ Manage. 2019 Feb 1;231:59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.10.021. Epub 2018 Oct 14.

Short-interval wildfires increase likelihood of resprouting failure in fire-tolerant trees.

Author information

1
School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne, 500 Yarra Boulevard, Burnley 3121, Victoria, Australia. Electronic address: thomas.fairman@gmail.com.
2
School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne, 4 Water Street, Creswick 3363, Victoria, Australia.
3
School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne, 500 Yarra Boulevard, Burnley 3121, Victoria, Australia.

Abstract

Epicormic and basal resprouting promote tree survival and persistence in fire-prone regions worldwide. However, little is known about limits to resprouting effectiveness when severe wildfires increase in frequency. In the extensive fire-tolerant mixed-eucalypt forests of temperate Australia, we examined the effects of one and two high-severity wildfires within six years on relationships between tree size (stem diameter) and resprouting (epicormic and/or basal), and on seedling regeneration. The diameter of eucalypts likely to be topkilled (no epicormic recovery) by high-severity fire increased from ∼15 cm after the first wildfire to ∼22 cm after the second. Middle-sized stems (22-36 cm diameter) were likely to resprout both epicormically and basally after one wildfire, but short-interval wildfires eroded this dual capacity, thereby reducing the probability of survival. Seedling abundance also decreased after two successive fires. Our study indicates that short-interval wildfires increased tree 'escape size', and eroded resprouting success particularly of middle-sized trees, which were too large for basal resprouting but too small for epicormic recovery. This, in combination with reduced seedling recruitment, portends structural and demographic challenges for even the most fire-tolerant forests under emerging fire regimes.

KEYWORDS:

Escape size; Eucalypt; Fire; Fire frequency; Fire regime; Interval squeeze; Resilience; Resistance

PMID:
30326339
DOI:
10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.10.021
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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