Large fires in Australian alpine landscapes

their part in the historical fire regime and their impacts on alpine biodiversity

Rachel Williams, Carl-Henrik Wahren, A Tolsma, G Sanecki, W Papst, Bronwyn Myers, K McDougall, D Heinze, K Green

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    The fires of summer 2003 in south-eastern Australia burnt tens of thousands of hectares of treeless alpine landscape. Here, we examine the environmental impact of these fires, using data from the Bogong High Plains area of Victoria, and the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. 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 50100 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. We conclude that 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 we conclude that the flora and fauna of alpine Australia are highly resilient to infrequent, large, intense fires. � IAWF 2008.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)793-808
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
    Volume17
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Fingerprint

    fire regime
    biodiversity
    heathlands
    fauna
    heathland
    Victoria (Australia)
    flora
    fire weather
    keystone species
    vegetation
    alpine environment
    disasters
    local extinction
    montane forests
    small mammals
    mountain region
    montane forest
    small mammal
    New South Wales
    plant communities

    Cite this

    Williams, R., Wahren, C-H., Tolsma, A., Sanecki, G., Papst, W., Myers, B., ... 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(6), 793-808.
    Williams, Rachel ; Wahren, Carl-Henrik ; Tolsma, A ; Sanecki, G ; Papst, W ; Myers, Bronwyn ; McDougall, K ; Heinze, D ; Green, K. / Large fires in Australian alpine landscapes : their part in the historical fire regime and their impacts on alpine biodiversity. In: International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2008 ; Vol. 17, No. 6. pp. 793-808.
    @article{9af754249b8d48f5b7c48f31db08d2f8,
    title = "Large fires in Australian alpine landscapes: their part in the historical fire regime and their impacts on alpine biodiversity",
    abstract = "The fires of summer 2003 in south-eastern Australia burnt tens of thousands of hectares of treeless alpine landscape. Here, we examine the environmental impact of these fires, using data from the Bogong High Plains area of Victoria, and the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. 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 50100 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. We conclude that 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 we conclude that the flora and fauna of alpine Australia are highly resilient to infrequent, large, intense fires. � IAWF 2008.",
    keywords = "Mammalia",
    author = "Rachel Williams and Carl-Henrik Wahren and A Tolsma and G Sanecki and W Papst and Bronwyn Myers and K McDougall and D Heinze and K Green",
    year = "2008",
    language = "English",
    volume = "17",
    pages = "793--808",
    journal = "International Journal of Wildland Fire",
    issn = "1049-8001",
    publisher = "CSIRO Publishing",
    number = "6",

    }

    Williams, R, Wahren, C-H, Tolsma, A, Sanecki, G, Papst, W, Myers, B, McDougall, K, Heinze, D & 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, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 793-808.

    Large fires in Australian alpine landscapes : their part in the historical fire regime and their impacts on alpine biodiversity. / Williams, Rachel; Wahren, Carl-Henrik; Tolsma, A; Sanecki, G; Papst, W; Myers, Bronwyn; McDougall, K; Heinze, D; Green, K.

    In: International Journal of Wildland Fire, Vol. 17, No. 6, 2008, p. 793-808.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Large fires in Australian alpine landscapes

    T2 - their part in the historical fire regime and their impacts on alpine biodiversity

    AU - Williams, Rachel

    AU - Wahren, Carl-Henrik

    AU - Tolsma, A

    AU - Sanecki, G

    AU - Papst, W

    AU - Myers, Bronwyn

    AU - McDougall, K

    AU - Heinze, D

    AU - Green, K

    PY - 2008

    Y1 - 2008

    N2 - The fires of summer 2003 in south-eastern Australia burnt tens of thousands of hectares of treeless alpine landscape. Here, we examine the environmental impact of these fires, using data from the Bogong High Plains area of Victoria, and the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. 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 50100 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. We conclude that 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 we conclude that the flora and fauna of alpine Australia are highly resilient to infrequent, large, intense fires. � IAWF 2008.

    AB - The fires of summer 2003 in south-eastern Australia burnt tens of thousands of hectares of treeless alpine landscape. Here, we examine the environmental impact of these fires, using data from the Bogong High Plains area of Victoria, and the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. 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 50100 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. We conclude that 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 we conclude that the flora and fauna of alpine Australia are highly resilient to infrequent, large, intense fires. � IAWF 2008.

    KW - Mammalia

    M3 - Article

    VL - 17

    SP - 793

    EP - 808

    JO - International Journal of Wildland Fire

    JF - International Journal of Wildland Fire

    SN - 1049-8001

    IS - 6

    ER -