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Keywords:

  • bushfires;
  • Hakea species;
  • seed survival;
  • serotinous seedbanks

Abstract The study assessed the survival, during bushfires, of seedbanks of six serotinous Hakea species found in the Sydney region of southeastern Australia. The survival of seeds was examined when fruits were heated in a muffle furnace at ambient temperatures ranging from 200–800°C for 1 min. For each species, fruit weight and dimensions of fruit walls were measured to characterize insulation. A field experiment was performed to examine the survival of the serotinous seedbank of Hakea dactyloides in a bushfire. Ambient and internal fruit temperatures were recorded during the fire. The viability of seeds from fruits exposed to the fire was tested and compared with an unburnt sample.

Viability of seeds within fruits exposed in the furnace varied according to species. Seeds of large fruited species such as Hakea constablei and Hakea propinqua survived, whereas those of the small fruited species Hakea teretifolia and H. dactyloides suffered significant mortality. The threshold temperature for death in four species was linearly related to the thickness of lower and lateral fruit walls, and to dry weight of fruits.

Internal and external temperatures of fruits decreased with increasing height on experimental H. dactyloides plants in the field. High levels of mortality (relative to the unburnt control) corresponded with fire temperature maxima greater than 400°C (external) and greater than 60°C (internal). In general, these temperatures occur when shrub crowns burn. A high risk of death for H. dactyloides, H. teretifolia and H. sericea seeds will result because fruits of these species have thin walls.