Project: Ecosystem Interaction

Fire regime impacts on understory plant communities in temperate Australia

Fire has been central to the evolution of vegetation in temperate Australia but changing fire regimes are now emerging as a key threat to the persistence of many plant species and vegetation communities. Inappropriate fire regimes characterised by short-interval and high-severity fires have intensified fire impacts on plants by reducing survival and regeneration (aka fitness). However, a detailed understanding of the impacts of fire regime components on understory plant composition relative to other factors that influence plant persistence (climate, topography, vegetation structure) remains lacking for temperate Australia despite the understory representing a significant portion of plant diversity and contributing to a range of ecosystem processes and services. This project aims to provide a holistic understanding of how different components of the fire regime, environmental and climatic variables, and vegetation type influence understory plant communities through systematic review, analysis of existing datasets, and fieldwork. The research will examine how different factors such as fire, environment, topography, and vegetation type interact with understory life form and fire response traits to affect plant diversity and composition of both the aboveground extant vegetation and the soil seed bank. Identifying how different variables interact and affect understory plant communities will help guide and improve conservation management strategies for maintaining diverse and healthy vegetation ecosystems.

Project timeline: 05/2023 – 11/2026

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