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Fire Ecology, 2016
Volume 12, Issue 1

Mechanisms Enabling a Fire Sensitive Plant to Survive Frequent Fires in South-West Australian Eucalypt Forests
Authors: Neil Burrows and Ted Middleton
Pages: 26-40
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.1201026

A fire sensitive plant, Banksia quercifolia R.Br., that often occurs as thickets embedded in forest landscapes in south-west Australia was exposed to repeated broad-scale fires at short intervals.  Fire severity and patchiness was mapped using satellite imagery and the response of the B. quercifolia population monitored.  Over the study period, the mean interval of fire in the landscape in which B. quercifolia occurred was 1.7 yralmost half the juvenile period of the speciesand the landscape fire frequency was six fires per decade.  The population increased in response to episodes of fire escape and fire-caused mortality and consequent regeneration.  Unlike surrounding vegetation, immature B. quercifolia thickets were not flammable under conditions of mild weather and moist fuels, so they burnt at a lower frequency than more flammable vegetation in the surrounding landscape, enabling the species to persist.  When the thickets had developed sufficiently to burn, the plants had reached maturity and regenerated readily from seed.  However, the juvenile period increased by 58 % following a period of 16 % below average rainfall, which has implications for fire management in a drying climate.

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