Defining grassland fire events and the response of perennial plants to annual fire in temperate grasslands of south-eastern Australia
- John W. Morgan
- … show all 1 hide
Purchase on Springer.com
$39.95 / €34.95 / £29.95*
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.
Many species-rich Themeda triandra grasslands in south-eastern Australia have been burnt annually in summer as a land management practice for decades. The characteristics of annual fires (maximum surface temperatures, maximum soil temperature changes at 10 mm depth, Byram fire intensity and duration of surface heating) were compared to fires that occur less frequently (2, 4 or 7-year inter-fire interval). The impacts of annual summer fires on seed survival, perennial plant dynamics and flowering were also documented at two sites over two years.
Annual grassland fires differ principally from other grassland fire types in their duration of surface temperatures above 100 °C (i.e., <1 min versus >2–3 min in grasslands burnt at 4–7-year intervals). This was correlated to fuel load, but not rate of spread or Byram fire intensity. Maximum surface temperatures were variable within annual fire events (98–458 °C ) and did not differ significantly from those observed in other grassland fires. All sites experienced temperatures above 350 °C but no site had its soil temperature increase at 10 mm depth by >10 °C during fire. Byram fire intensity was lower in annually burnt sites, but positively correlated with rate of spread moreso than fuel load.
Many perennial species (34–55%) and most perennial individuals (70–83%) avoid the annual summer fire event by being dormant at the time of burning. All perennial species regenerated rapidly by vegetative means after fire and seedlings were absent or rare for most species. As a result, turnover of species at the small-scale was low.
Annual burning permits high perennial species richness (mean 18 species/0.25 m2) and high numbers of individual perennial plants (range 189–1036 plants/0.25 m2) to co-exist at the small-scale. Seasonal plant density maxima peaked in spring, 6–8 months after fire, and the number of plants in a species' population each year following fire depended on their seasonal response more than their direct fire response. The direction and magnitude of population change from one year to the next was species and site specific and did not correlate with life form or a plant's ability for vegetative spread. All perennial species have a short secondary juvenile period (i.e., 6–11 months) but relatively few individual plants flower in any one year. Seed that has made its way into the soil is completely protected from the direct effects of fire and hence, occasional post-fire seedling recruitment may be possible for all species.
Maintaining annual burning in grasslands as a management regime is unlikely to lead to a decline in richness and plant density in the short-term. Rather, delayed burning (i.e., >3 year intervals), and the impact that this may have on interval dependent processes such as above-ground competition, are predicted to have more substantial long-term effects on the small-scale dynamic of this community.
- Alexander, M. E. 1982. Calculating and interpreting forest fire intensties. Can. J. Bot. 60: 349-357.
- Auld, T. D. & Bradstock, R. A. 1996. Soil temperatures after the passage of a fire. Do they influence the germination of buried seeds? Australian J. Ecol. 21: 106-109.
- Auld, T. D. & O'Connell, M. A. 1991. Predicting patterns of post-fire germination in 35 eastern Australian Fabaceae. Australian J. Ecol. 16: 53-70.
- Bell, D. T., Hopkins, A. J. M. & Pate, J. S. 1984. Fire in the kwongan. Pp. 178-204. In: Pate, J. S. & Beard, J. S. (eds), Kwongan-plant life of the sandplain. University ofWestern Australia Press, Nedlands.
- Belsky, A. J. 1992. Effects of grazing, competition, disturbance and fire on species composition and diversity in grassland communities. J. Veg. Sci. 3: 187-200.
- Biondini, M. E., Steuter, A. A. & Grygiel, C. E. 1989. Seasonal fire effects on the diversity patterns, spatial distribution and community structure of forbs in the northern mixed prairie, USA. Vegetatio 85: 21-31.
- Bond, W. J. & van Wilgen, B. W. 1996. Fire and plants. Chapman & Hall, London.
- Bradstock, R. A. & Auld, T. D. 1995. Soil temperatures during experimental bushfires in relation to fire intensity: consequences for legume germination and fire management in south-eastern Australia. J. Appl. Ecol. 32: 76-84.
- Bradstock, R. A., Auld, T. D., Ellis, M. E. & Cohn, J. S. 1992. Soil temperatures during bushfires in semi-arid, mallee shrublands. Australian J. Ecol. 17: 433-440.
- Brewer, J. S.&Platt, W. J. 1994. Effects of fire season and soil fertility on clonal growth in a pyrophilic forb, Pityopsis graminifolia (Asteraceae). Am. J. Bot. 81: 805-814.
- Bureau of Meteorology & Walsh, N. G. 1993. Climate of Victoria. Pp. 47-60. In: Foreman, D. B. & Walsh, N. G. (eds), Flora of Victoria. Volume 1. Introduction. Inkata Press, Melbourne.
- Chapman, R. R. & Crow, G. E. 1981. Application of Raunkiaer's life form system to plant species survival after fire. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 108: 472-478.
- Collins, S. L., Glenn, S. M. & Gibson, D. J. 1995. Experimental analysis of intermediate disturbance and initial floristic composition: decoupling cause and effect. Ecology 76: 486-492.
- Collins, S. L. & Gibson, D. J. 1990. Effects of fire on community structure in tallgrass and mixed-grass prairie. Pp. 81-98. In: Collins, S. L. & Wallace, L. L. (eds), Fire in North American tallgrass prairies. University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma.
- Conn, B. J. 1993. Natural regions and vegetation of Victoria. Pp. 79-158. In: Foreman, D. B. & Walsh, N. G. (eds), Flora of Victoria. Volume 1. Introduction. Inkata Press, Melbourne Egler
- F. E. 1954. Vegetation science concepts. I. Initial floristic composition-a factor in old-field vegetation development. Vegetatio 4: 412-417.
- Ewing, A. L. & Engle, D. M. 1988. Effects of late summer fire on tallgrass prairie microclimate and community composition. Am. Midl. Nat. 120: 212-223.
- Fensham, R. J. & Kirkpatrick, J. B. 1989. The conservation of original vegetation remnants in the Midlands, Tasmania. Papers Proc. Roy. Soc. Tasmania 123: 229-246.
- Freeland, P.W. 1976. Tests for the viability of seeds. J. Biol. Ed. 10: 57-64.
- Frost, P. G. H. 1984. The responses and survival of organisms in fire-prone environments. Pp. 273-309. In: Booysen, P. de V. & Tainton, N. M. (eds), Ecological effects of fire in South African ecosystems. Springer-Verlag, New York.
- Gibson, D. J. 1988. Regeneration and fluctuation of tallgrass prairie vegetation in response to burning frequency. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 115: 1-12.
- Gibson, D. J., Hartnett, D. C. & Merrill, G. L. S. 1990. Fire temperature heterogeneity in contrasting fire prone habitats: Kansas tallgrass prairie and Florida sandhill. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 117: 349-356.
- Gibson, D. J. & Hulbert, L. C. 1987. Effects of fire, topography and year-to-year climatic variation on species composition in tallgrass prairie. Vegetatio 72: 175-185.
- Gilfedder, L. & Kirkpatrick, J. B. 1993. Germinable soil seed and competitive relationships between a rare native species and exotics in a semi-natural pasture in the Midlands, Tasmania. Biol. Cons. 64: 113-119.
- Gilfedder, L. & Kirkpatrick, J. B. 1994. Culturally induced rarity? The past and present distributions of Leucochrysum albicans in Tasmania. Australian J. Bot. 42: 405-416.
- Gilfedder, L. & Kirkpatrick, J. B. 1998. Distribution, disturbance tolerance and conservation of Stackhousia gunnii in Tasmania. Australian J. Bot. 46: 1-13.
- Granstrom, A. & Schimmel, J. 1993. Heat effects on seeds and rhizomes of a selection of boreal forest plants and potential reaction to fire. Oecologia 94: 307-313.
- Groves, R. H. 1974. Growth of Themeda australis grassland in response to firing and mowing. Field Station Records, Division of Plant Industry, CSIRO Australia 13: 1-7.
- Hartnett, D. C. 1987. Effects of fire on clonal growth and dynamics of Pityopsis graminifolia (Asteraceae). Am. J. Bot. 74: 1737-1743.
- Hobbs, R. J. & Gimingham, C. H. 1984a. Studies on fire in Scottish heathland communities. II. Post-fire vegetation development. J. Ecol. 72: 585-610.
- Hobbs, R. J. & Gimingham, C. H. 1984b. Studies on fire in Scottish heathland communities. I. Fire characteristics. J. Ecol. 72: 223-240.
- Johnson, K. A., Morrison, D. A. & Goldsack, G. 1994. Post-fire flowering patterns in Blandfordia nobilis (Liliaceae). Australian J. Bot. 42: 49-60.
- Keeley, S. C., Keeley, J. E. & Hutchinson, S. M. 1981. Postfire succession of the herbaceous flora in southern Californian chaparral. Ecology 62: 1608-1621.
- Kirkpatrick, J. B. 1986. The viability of bush in cities-ten years of change in an urban grassy woodland. Australian J. Bot. 34: 691-708.
- Kirkpatrick, J., Gilfedder, L. & Fensham, R. 1988. City parks and cemeteries-Tasmania's remnant grasslands and grassy woodlands. Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Hobart.
- Lesica, P. & Steele, B. M. 1994. Prolonged dormancy in vascular plants and implications for monitoring studies. Natural Areas J. 14: 209-212.
- Lunt, I. D. 1990. Impact of an autumn fire on a long-grazed Themeda triandra (kangaroo grass) grassland: implications for management of invaded, remnant vegetations. Victorian Nat. 107: 45-51.
- Lunt, I. D. 1994. Variation in flower production of nine grassland species with time since fire, and implications for grassland management and restoration. Pac. Cons. Biol. 1: 359-366.
- Lunt, I. D. 1995a. European management of remnant grassy forests and woodlands in south-east Australia-past, present and future? Victorian Nat. 112: 239-249.
- Lunt, I. D. 1995b. Seed longevity of six native forbs in a closed Themeda triandra grassland. Australian J. Bot. 43: 439-449.
- Lunt, I. D. 1996. A transient soil seed bank for the Yam-daisy Microseris scapigera. Victorian Nat. 113: 16-19.
- Lunt, I. D. 1997. Effects of long-term vegetation management on remnant grassy forests and anthropogenic native grasslands in south-eastern Australia. Biol. Cons. 81: 287-297.
- Mallik, A. U. & Gimingham, C. H. 1983. Regeneration of heathland plants following burning. Vegetatio 53: 45-58.
- McDougall, K. 1989. The re-establishment of Themeda triandra (kangaroo grass): implications for the restoration of grassland. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Technical Report series No. 89. Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Melbourne.
- McDougall, K. L., Barlow, T. J. & Appleby, M. L. 1994. Western basalt plains, Lake Omeo, Murray Valley riverine plains and the Wimmera. Pp. 44-112. In: McDougall, K. & Kirkpatrick, J. B. (eds), Conservation of lowland native grasslands in south-eastern Australia. World Wide Fund for Nature, Sydney.
- McIntyre, S., Lavorel, S. & Tremont, R. M. 1995. Plant lifehistory attributes: their relationship to disturbance response in herbaceous vegetation. J. Ecol. 83: 31-44.
- Milberg, P. & Hansson, M. L. 1994. Soil seed bank and species turnover in a limestone grassland. J. Veg. Sci. 5: 35-42.
- Morgan, J. W. 1994. The ecology of grasses and grasslands in lowland Victoria. Victorian Nat. 111: 87-92.
- Morgan, J.W. 1995a. Ecological studies of the endangered Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides. I. Seed production, soil seed bank dynamics, population density and their effects on recruitment. Australian J. Bot. 43: 1-11.
- Morgan, J. W. 1995b. Ecological studies of the endangered Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides. II. Patterns of seedling emergence and survival in a native grassland. Australian J. Bot. 43: 13-24.
- Morgan, J. W. 1996. Secondary juvenile period and community recovery following late-spring burning of a kangaroo grass Themeda triandra grassland. Victorian Nat. 113: 47-57.
- Morgan, J. W. 1997. The effect of grassland gap size on establishment, growth and flowering of the endangered Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides (Asteraceae). J. Appl. Ecol. 34: 566-576.
- Morgan, J. W. 1998a The composition and seasonal flux of the soil seed bank of species-rich Themeda triandra grasslands in relation to burning history. J. Veg. Sci. 9: 135-146.
- Morgan, J. W. 1998b. Importance of canopy gaps for recruitment of some forbs in Themeda triandra-dominated grasslands in southeastern Australia. Australian J. Bot 46: in press
- Morgan, J. W. 1998c. Comparative germination responses of 28 temperate grassland species. Australian J. Bot. 46: 209-219.
- Morgan, J. W. 1998d. Small-scale plant dynamics in temperate Themeda triandra grasslands of southeastern Australia. J. Veg. Sci. 9: 347-360.
- Morgan, J. W. & Lunt, I. D. 1994. Germination characteristics of eight common grassland and woodland forbs. Victorian Nat. 111: 10-17.
- Morrison, D. A., Cary, G. J., Pengelly, S. M., Ross, D. G., Mullins, B. J., Thomas, C. R. & Anderson, T. S. 1995. Effects of fire frequency on plant species composition of sandstone communities in the Sydney region: inter-fire interval and time-since-fire. Australian J. Ecol. 20: 239-247.
- Parker, V. T., Simpson, R. L. and Leck, M. A. 1989. Patterns and processes in the dynamics of seed banks. Pp. 367-384. In: Leck, M. A., Parker, V. T. & Simpson, R. L. (eds), Ecology of soil seed banks. Academic Press, New York.
- Ross, J. H. 1996. A census of the vascular plants of Victoria. Royal Botanic Gardens, Victoria.
- Scarlett, N. H. & Parsons, R. F. 1990. Conservation biology of the southern Australian daisy Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides. Pp. 195-205. In: Clark, T. W. & Seebeck, J. H. (eds), Management and conservation of small populations. Chicago Zoological Society, Illinois.
- Scarlett, N. H., Wallbrink, S. T. & McDougall, K. 1992. Field guide to Victoria's native grasslands. Victoria Press, Melbourne.
- Sokal, R. R. & Rohlf, F. J. 1981. Biometry. W.H. Freeman and Co., New York.
- Stuwe, J. 1986. An assessment of the conservation status of native grasslands on the western plains, Victoria and sites of botanical significance. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Technical Report Series No. 48. Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Melbourne.
- Stuwe, J. & Parsons, R. F. 1977. Themeda australis grasslands on the basalt plains, Victoria: floristics and management effects. Australian J. Ecol. 2: 467-476.
- Trabaud, L. & Lepart, J. 1980. Diversity and stability in garrigue ecosystems after fire. Vegetatio 42: 49-57.
- van Wilgen, B.W., Richardson, D. M., Kruger, F. J. & van Hensbergen, H. J. (eds.) 1992. Fire in South African mountain fynbos. Springer-Verlag, London.
- Willis, J. H. 1964. Vegetation of the basalt plains in western Victoria. Proc. Roy. Soc. Victoria 77: 397-418.
- Willis, A. J. & Groves, R. H. 1991. Temperature and light effects on the germination of seven native forbs. Australian J. Bot. 39: 219-228.
- Wright, H. A. & Bailey, A. W. 1982. Fire ecology. John Wiley and Sons, New York.
- Zar, J. H. 1984. Biostatistical analysis. Prentice-Hall International, London.
- Defining grassland fire events and the response of perennial plants to annual fire in temperate grasslands of south-eastern Australia
Volume 144, Issue 1 , pp 127-144
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Kluwer Academic Publishers
- Additional Links
- Life form
- Secondary juvenile period
- Themeda triandra
- Vegetative regeneration
- John W. Morgan (1)
- Author Affiliations
- 1. School of Botany, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia, 3083