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Depletion of regenerative bud resources during cyclic drought: What are the implications for fire management?

Authors

  • Peter Croft,

  • John T. Hunter,

  • Nick Reid


  • Peter Croft is a Senior Ranger at the Department of Environment and Climate Change (Parks and Wildlife Division, Glen Innes Area, 68 Church Street, Glen Innes, NSW 2370, Australia; Tel: +61 2 6732 5133, Email: peter.croft@environment.nsw.gov.au) and is undertaking further study at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England (Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia). John T. Hunter is an Ecological Consultant and Honorary Associate at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England (Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia) and Nick Reid is Associate Professor in Ecosystem Management, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England (Armidale, NSW 2351). This research question has arisen from a need to consider the implications of extended drought when undertaking fire planning in natural areas. It is part of a broader project investigating the impacts of fire on habitat features of woodlands.

Abstract

Summary  Resprouting is a common regenerative strategy in plant taxa that occurs in fire and drought-prone environments. When plants are forced to use bud resources in quick succession as a result of repeated disturbances, recovery vigour may be diminished. The loss of bud resources through the combined effect of successive fire and drought is likely to be more damaging for plant survival and persistence than one or other disturbance on its own. In this study, we examine the resprouting response of seven trees and two shrubs after fire and drought in woodland communities in the New England and Bioregion of New South Wales. We also investigate whether there is a cumulative impact on plant vitality as a result of the combined disturbances of fire followed by drought. Preliminary results suggest that resprouting after drought occurs from buds located on the same morphological parts of tree and shrub species as after fire, although the response reflects the intensity of impact. Mortality in nine species affected by drought was similar to that in plants affected by both fire and drought. Since a drought between successive fires has the potential to deplete bud resources and debilitate plants, drought should be taken into account when determining fire regimes, and a severe drought between two fires should be considered in a similar way to an unplanned burn. Failure to do so may lead to reduced vigour and excessive mortality in resprouting species after planned fire.

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