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Fire frequency variation in south-eastern Tasmanian dry eucalypt forest 1740-2004 from fire scars

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-26, 09:25 authored by von Platen, J, James KirkpatrickJames Kirkpatrick, Allen, KJ
An understanding of fire history is important in determining appropriate fire management regimes for biodiversity conservation in fire-prone ecosystems, such as the dry eucalypt forests of temperate Australia. We tested whether ring counts and evidence of fire in the stumps of felled eucalypts could be used to construct fire chronologies in the dry forests of south-eastern Tasmania. Given that the dates of fires derived from this method were consistent with other evidence of fire years, we constructed chronologies for 13 sites in the region. We applied a conversion factor for fires per decade per site based on the relationship between fire detection and sample size for all sites. Between 1740 and 1819 when indigenous people were managing the region, decadal fire frequency averaged 0.7. Between 1820 and 1849 fires were very infrequent in the region, with a mean decadal fire frequency of 0.4. An upward transition to a higher fire frequency took place between the 1840s and 1850s. Between 1850 and 1909 decadal fire frequency varied between 0.8 and 1.2 then sharply increased again. Between 1910 and 1989 it varied between 1.3 and 1.7. Extensive fire years were strongly related to annual precipitation < 0.75 standard deviations below the mean. Variation in annual precipitation, however, could not explain the sharp transitions in decadal fire frequency that took place in 1820, 1850, 1910 and 1990 and the constancy of fire frequency between these dates. The relationships of these transitions to land use changes are described. Keywords: fire; history; growth rings; people; land use; land management; eucalypts; Tasmania


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Australian Forestry



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Copyright Copyright 2011 Institute of Foresters Australia

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