Ecological thresholds and the status of fire-sensitive vegetation in western Arnhem Land, northern Australia: implications for management

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    Abstract

    The paper examines the application of the ecological thresholds concept to fire management issues concerning fire-sensitive vegetation types associated with the remote, biodiversity-rich, sandstone Arnhem Plateau, in western Arnhem Land, monsoonal northern Australia. In the absence of detailed assessments of fire regime impacts on component biota such as exist for adjoining Nitmiluk and World Heritage Kakadu National Parks, the paper builds on validated 16-year fire history and vegetation structural mapping products derived principally from Landsat-scale imagery, to apply critical ecological thresholds criteria as defined by fire regime parameters for assessing the status of fire-sensitive habitat and species elements. Assembled data indicate that the 24000 km 2 study region today experiences fire regimes characterised generally by high annual frequencies (mean ? 36.6%) of large (>10 km2) fires that occur mostly in the late dry season under severe fire-weather conditions. Collectively, such conditions substantially exceed defined ecological thresholds for significant proportions of fire-sensitive indicator rain forest and heath vegetation types, and the long-lived obligate seeder conifer tree species, Callitris intratropica. Thresholds criteria are recognised as an effective tool for informing ecological fire management in a variety of geographic settings. � 2009 IAWF.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCulture, Ecology and Economy of Fire Management in Northern Australian Savannas
    Subtitle of host publicationRekindling the Wurrk Tradition
    EditorsJ Russell-Smith, P Whitehead, P Cooke
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    PublisherCSIRO Publishing
    Pages229-256
    Number of pages28
    ISBN (Print)9780643094024
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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