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Humans, fire and landscape pattern: understanding a maquis-forest complex, Mont Do, New Caledonia, using a spatial 'state-and-transition' model

Perry, G.L.W. and Enright, N.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2979-4505 (2002) Humans, fire and landscape pattern: understanding a maquis-forest complex, Mont Do, New Caledonia, using a spatial 'state-and-transition' model. Journal of Biogeography, 29 (9). pp. 1143-1158.

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Aim: The research explores how changes in disturbance regime resulting from human settlement may affect landscape structure. A spatially explicit grid-based simulation model is used to explore the interplay between humans, fire regime and landscape composition. Location: The study site for this research is the botanical reserve at Mont Do, New Caledonia. The endemic conifer Araucaria laubenfelsii (Araucariaceae) forms a key component of the landscape at Mont Do. This species is unusual in that it is found scattered as an emergent in maquis and as a canopy species in adjacent rain forest patches. Although now dominated by a low maquis, prior to human settlement of New Caledonia, montane landscapes such as Mont Do are likely to have been heavily forested. Methods: A spatially explicit simulation model, based on field data and palaeoecological information, was used to explore interactions between disturbance regime and the landscape. The model is described briefly here and more fully in Perry & Enright (2002) Ecological Modelling, 152, 279. Results: The model suggests that human-influenced changes to the fire regime at Mont Do have been important in generating the current landscape structure. The origin and maintenance of forest landscapes and maquis-forest mosaic landscapes are considered in the context of alternative stable states. Strong feedback loops between fire size and landscape composition, mediated at the smaller scale by other similar mechanisms, are capable of driving landscape change. The utility of a spatial state and transition modelling approach is demonstrated. Main conclusions: The current landscape pattern on Mont Do is likely the result of changes to the fire regime occurring since human settlement. The specific mechanisms for this change outlined here may occur in a number of other similar systems. Understanding the origin and persistence of these 'fire landscapes' in New Caledonia and in the southwest Pacific in general is crucial for effective management.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc.
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