Charles Darwin University

CDU eSpace
Institutional Repository

CDU Staff and Student only

Response of Eucalyptus-dominated savanna to frequent fires: Lessons from Munmarlary, 1973-1996

Russell-Smith, Jeremy, Whitehead, Peter J., Cook, Garry D. and Hoare, James L. (2003). Response of Eucalyptus-dominated savanna to frequent fires: Lessons from Munmarlary, 1973-1996. Ecological Monographs,73(3):349-375.

Document type: Journal Article
Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 108 times in Scopus Article | Citations

Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your CDU eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
Download this reading RusselSmith_1293.pdf Published version application/pdf 657.88KB 408
Reading the attached file works best in Firefox, Chrome and IE 9 or later.

Title Response of Eucalyptus-dominated savanna to frequent fires: Lessons from Munmarlary, 1973-1996
Author Russell-Smith, Jeremy
Whitehead, Peter J.
Cook, Garry D.
Hoare, James L.
Journal Name Ecological Monographs
Publication Date 2003
Volume Number 73
Issue Number 3
ISSN 1557-7015   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-0042466505
Start Page 349
End Page 375
Total Pages 27
Place of Publication United States
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Field of Research 0602 - Ecology
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DEST)
Abstract We assess a replicated fire plot experiment undertaken between 1973 and 1996 in two Eucalyptus-dominated savanna vegetation formations (open forest, woodland), at Munmarlary, in monsoonal northern Australia. Four treatments, each with three replicates, were imposed on each vegetation type: annual early dry-season burning; annual late dry-season burning; biennial early dry-season burning; and unburned controls. Treatments were imposed faithfully, with noted exceptions, on 1-ha plots. Fire intensities were typically low (<1000 kW/m) to moderate (1000-2500 kW/m), varied significantly between treatments, and generally were greater in woodland. In both woodland and open forest, pH was significantly lower and NO3-N was significantly higher in unburned plots. Organic C was not significantly greater. in unburned treatments. Effects of fire regime on other soil chemical properties differed between open forest and woodland sites. Among the grasses, invariant frequent burning led to the dominance of a small number of annual species, notably regionally dominant Sorghum. In the absence of burning, annuals declined generally, whereas some perennials increased while most decreased. These responses usually were apparent within the first five years of the experiment. At the relatively, small spatial scale of the grass sampling regime, there was high turnover of both annual and perennial grasses. Under low- to moderate-intensity, frequent burning regimes, woody vegetation dominated by mature eucalypts is structurally stable. In the absence of burning for at least five years, there was release of the non-eucalypt, woody component into the midstory; this occurred more rapidly in open forest. Accession of rain forest species occurred on some woodland plots, especially the unburned treatment. In contrast, eucalypts were not released significantly from the understory. Rather, as suggested by other studies, recruitment of eucalypts into the canopy appears to involve significantly reduced root competition through death of dominant eucalypts. Although the Munmarlary experiment provides invaluable quantitative data for exploring relationships between fire regimes and the responses of north Australian savanna systems, it has been less successful in meeting the complex information requirements of regional fire managers. Replicated experimental fire plot designs, no matter how elegant and rigorously implemented, may substantially fail the test of management relevance , given the fundamental requirement for savanna biodiversity managers to experience the integrated effects of fire regimes that vary idiosyncratically over multiple time and spatial scales. We suggest that such information requirements are better met through modest, targeted adaptive management studies, involving collaborative partnerships between managers and researchers.
Keywords adaptive management
Eucalyptus spp.
fire experiment
fire intensity
fire plot
fire regime
northern australia
tropical savanna
DOI   (check subscription with CDU E-Gateway service for CDU Staff and Students  check subscription with CDU E-Gateway in new window)

© copyright

Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in CDU eSpace. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact

Version Filter Type
Access Statistics: 274 Abstract Views, 409 File Downloads  -  Detailed Statistics
Created: Fri, 12 Sep 2008, 08:35:25 CST by Administrator