Fire Ecology, 2016
Volume 12, Issue 3
Post-Fire Recovery of Eucalypt-Dominated Vegetation Communities in the Sydney Basin, Australia
Authors: Jessica T. Heath, Chris J. Chafer, Thomas F.A. Bishop, and Floris F. Van Ogtrop
Monitoring landscape-scale vegetation responses of resprouter species to wildfire is helpful in explaining post-wildfire recovery. Several previous Australian studies have investigated the temporal recovery of eucalypt obligate-seeder communities (which have a significantly delayed revegetation response), but little research has been conducted for resprouter communities. In this study, we found that eucalypt dominated resprouter communities in Sydney’s drinking water supply catchments (SDWC) have a rapid post-wildfire response and recovery rate. This study was designed to detect inter-annual landscape-scale changes in vegetation response using a 22 yr pre- and post-wildfire time series of Landsat satellite-derived Australian summer images (1990/91 to 2011/12). Four burned subcatchments and three unburned subcatchments were analyzed. The temporal change in eucalypt forest and woodland vegetation communities was examined within the subcatchments using the Normalized Differenced Vegetation Index (NDVI) to assess their health. A new spectral index, differenced Recovery Index (dRI), was developed to quantify the difference between the pre- and post-wildfire NDVI values. We found that, spectrally, at the landscape scale, vegetation communities recovered to near pre-wildfire conditions within five to seven years post wildfire. These results demonstrate the resilience of resprouter vegetation communities in the Sydney Basin to large-area disturbance events at the landscape scale.