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Abstract

Plants of Banksia ericifolia and Petrophile pulchella are sensitive to fire. Changes in population size under different fire regimes were estimated, based on measurements of post-fire seedling emergence, seedling survival, survival and seed production in established plants of differing ages, survival of seeds held in serotinous cones and seed-release in the periods between fire.

Seeds were first available at 5 years in P. pulchella and 6 years in B. ericifolia. Exact replacement would be possible when burnt at these ages, if seedling establishment were very high. Low establishment would delay replacement to 13 years of age in both species. Late summer/autumn fires of high intensity favour high establishment. Such fires at 8–10 year intervals would be tolerated without any sustained decline in numbers. Fires at 10–15 year intervals could occur regardless of season or intensity with little risk of a population decline. Large increases in numbers and density would follow fires spaced at 15–30 years. Enough seeds would be available for replacement up to about 50 years in both species. Viable seed-release in unburnt conditions was sufficient to compensate for deaths in stands over 20 years old, even with very low levels of establishment.

Two variables accounted for the biggest changes in numbers and density between generations interspersed by fires; namely the age at which a stand is burned and the proportion of seeds which emerge as seedlings. A comparison with other similar species showed similarities in controls on emergence and establishment, lengths of primary juvenile periods and life spans.