Interactive effects of fire frequency and site factors in tropical Eucalyptus forest



An area of eucalypt forest on a rocky ridge, at the Solar Village near Darwin, protected from fire for 10 years, was compared with surrounding irregularly and regularly burnt vegetation. Vegetation patterns were influenced by fire history and aspect. Species richness was highest where the fire regime was moderate, and lowest in the fire-protected bush. The vegetation response at the Solar Village contrasted with another experiment, conducted at Munmalary in northern Australia, where fire was excluded from eucalypt forest and woodland. Very low numbers of facultative monsoon forest species seem favoured with fire protection at the Solar Village. Almost all common tree and shrub species moved into the mid canopy with fire protection, compared to Munmalary where most tree species did not leave the ground layer. The difference in the response of these two places is attributed to the interaction between site and fire influences and it is suggested that structural mutability of these forests increases on stressful sites, although the actual mechanics of the site/fire interactions remains unclear. There is no evidence to support an interactive model which predicts that relief from fire and favourable soil moisture conditions allows the accession of broadleaved shrubs into the mid storey.