Effects of individual fire events on the flower production of fruit-bearing tree species, with reference to Aboriginal people's management and use, at Kalumburu, North Kimberley, Australia

T Vigilante, David Bowman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This study used a number of landscape-scale natural experiments to investigate the influence of individual fire events on the reproductive output of key fruit-bearing woody species [Buchanania obovata Engl. (two leaf forms), Persoonia falcata R.Br., Planchonia careya (F.Muell.) Knuth, Syzygium eucalyptoides (F.Muell.) B.Hyland, Syzygium suborbiculare (Benth.) T.Hartley & Perry, and Terminalia cunninghamii C.Gardner] around Kalumburu, North Kimberley, Australia. Flowering level was used as an estimate of reproductive success as sampling was done prior to fruit development. Terminalia cunninghamii was found to flower earlier and more prolifically in areas burnt in the early dry season of 1999 than in areas left unburnt; however, there was no significant difference between these treatments in 2000. Flowering levels were significantly reduced in burnt treatments (from early to mid-dry season fires) for Buchanania obovata (large-leafed form), Persoonia falcata, Planchonia careya, Syzygium eucalyptoides and Syzygium suborbiculare. Positive correlations occurred between the minimum foliage height and total tree height of Buchanania obovata small-leafed form (r = 0.78, y = 0.61x + 0.003), large-leafed form (r = 0.87, y = 0.59x + 0.10) and Syzygium suborbiculare (r = 0.76, y = 0.43x + 0.54). Above a height of 2 m, most trees have the majority of their foliage located in the top half of the tree. In all cases, flowering levels increased with foliage height intervals. The results indicate that fire events and their timing can have an impact on the reproductive cycle of fruit-tree species. Indigenous people have managed these resources through the careful use of fire. The conservation of fruit-tree species and frugivorous-animal species could benefit from (i) the careful management of areas with high densities of fruit-bearing species, and (ii) spatially and temporally diverse fire regimes across broader landscape units.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)405-416
    Number of pages12
    JournalAustralian Journal of Botany
    Volume52
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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