University of Tasmania
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Disturbance ecology of Tasmanian highland grassland- an overview and implications for conservation management

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-03, 03:48 authored by D Kingdom, S Leonard
Active manipulation of disturbances such as fire and grazing is often necessary to maintain or enhance biodiversity values in grasslands. However in many instances information is lacking on the disturbance regimes most likely to achieve conservation aims. This paper provides an overview of the effects of fire and grazing in Tasmanian highland grasslands, and the implications of these for conservation management of this vegetation. In Tasmania, highland grassland is defined as occurring above 600 m above sea level. The vegetation is typically dominated by species of Poa. Highland grassland is grazed by a suite of native herbivores and has a history of stock grazing, which continues at some sites of high biodiversity value. There is evidence that Indigenous Tasmanians regularly burnt highland grasslands and that Indigenous burning was instrumental in maintaining grassland at sites that otherwise would be forest. For highland grasslands below 1000 m asl, a reduction in the biomass of dominant grasses through disturbance is necessary in order to maintain plant species diversity. The use of periodic fire, together with native grazing, is likely to be beneficial in this regard. The combination of fire and grazing is also likely to prevent woody plant invasion and maintain vegetation structural heterogeneity. The near ubiquity of native grazing species means there is no ecological imperative for stock grazing. Low productivity of grasslands occurring above 1000 m means that competitive exclusion of interstitial species by grasses is unlikely and therefore active application of disturbance as a management tool will rarely, if ever be necessary. Disturbance management should be accompanied by a well-designed monitoring program and regular review of the management strategy


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Papers & Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania







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