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Bark thickness does not explain the different susceptibility of Australian and New Zealand temperate rain forests to anthropogenic fire

Lawes, Michael J., Richardson, Sarah J., Clarke, Peter J., Midgley, Jeremy J., McGlone, Matt S. and Bellingham, Peter J. (2014). Bark thickness does not explain the different susceptibility of Australian and New Zealand temperate rain forests to anthropogenic fire. Journal of Biogeography,41(8):1467-1477.

Document type: Journal Article
Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 1 times in Scopus Article | Citations

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IRMA ID 84376995xPUB25
Title Bark thickness does not explain the different susceptibility of Australian and New Zealand temperate rain forests to anthropogenic fire
Author Lawes, Michael J.
Richardson, Sarah J.
Clarke, Peter J.
Midgley, Jeremy J.
McGlone, Matt S.
Bellingham, Peter J.
Journal Name Journal of Biogeography
Publication Date 2014
Volume Number 41
Issue Number 8
ISSN 0305-0270   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-84904193968
Start Page 1467
End Page 1477
Total Pages 11
Place of Publication United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DIISR)
Abstract Aim
Anthropogenic fires caused New Zealand's temperate rain forests to decline rapidly from 80% to 50% cover after Polynesian arrival. In contrast, Australian temperate rain forests have remained stable in spite of a longer history of fire and human occupation. We evaluate whether New Zealand's conifer-dominated forests declined because they lack fire resistance traits. We predicted that New Zealand species should have thinner bark than their Australian counterparts, and slower growing conifers should have relatively thicker bark than angiosperms.

Location

Temperate rain forests of south-eastern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.

Methods

We examined the ratio of bark thickness to stem diameter (relative bark thickness) as a standardized index (by tree size) of fire resistance. Nonlinear power models were fitted to examine trends in relative bark thickness between trees from New Zealand and Australia. Bark thickness was also compared between species pairs and congeners and by phylogenetically corrected ANOVA.

Results

Although angiosperms and gymnosperms in New Zealand had thin bark in a global context, they had significantly thicker bark than their Australian counterparts. Bark thickened more rapidly for small trees in New Zealand but declined with increasing stem diameter. Allocation to bark thickness was greater for larger stems in Australia. New Zealand gymnosperms had the thickest bark of all species examined.

Main conclusions

Fire resistance is a complex syndrome comprising functional traits that ensure protection (resistance – bark) from and recovery (resilience – resprouting) after fire. Thin bark in temperate rain forests suggests weak selection by fire on bark traits. However, the stability of Australian temperate forests in a flammable landscape emphasizes the importance of resprouting, especially basal resprouting, to forest persistence after fire. New Zealand forests do not resprout after fire and lack the fire resistance traits required for recovery from repeated anthropogenic fires.
Keywords Australia
bark ratio
cool temperate forests
epicormic buds
fire resilience
fire resistance
New Zealand
relative bark thickness
southern conifers
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12292   (check subscription with CDU E-Gateway service for CDU Staff and Students  check subscription with CDU E-Gateway in new window)
 
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