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Fire regimes in Australian sclerophyllous shrubby ecosystems: heathlands, heathy woodlands and mallee woodlands

Enright, N.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2979-4505, Keith, D., Clarke, M. and Miller, B.P. (2012) Fire regimes in Australian sclerophyllous shrubby ecosystems: heathlands, heathy woodlands and mallee woodlands. In: Bradstock, R.A., Gill, A.M. and Williams, R.J., (eds.) Flammable Australia: Fire Regimes, Biodiversity and Ecosystems in a Changing World. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia, pp. 215-234.


Australian sclerophyll shrubby ecosystems (SSEs) are rich in plant and animal taxa, the coexistence of which is mediated by disturbance dynamics in which fire regimes, nutritional poverty and climate play pivotal roles. Fire plays a crucial role in these interactions and will shape the fate of SSEs as climate changes in response to greenhouse gas emissions. Although future climate change scenarios vary regionally across Australian SSE regions (Pitman and Perkins 2008), most of temperate southern Australia is expected to become warmer and drier, with an increased frequency of extreme weather events (Lucas et al. 2007), so that the ecological dynamics of temperate shrublands are likely to be increasingly driven by the interactions between drought, plant growth and fire. SSEs elsewhere in Australia may experience different climate change impacts, with varying fire responses.

Here we provide a synopsis of the distribution, fuel characteristics and prevailing fire regimes of Australian SSEs. We review recent advances in understanding the key characteristics and dependencies that govern the responses of shrubby ecosystem plants and animals to fire regimes, and identify key fire-related ecological processes likely to interact with a changing climate and to mediate the persistence of plants and animals within them.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © Ross Bradstock, Malcolm Gill and CSIRO 2012
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