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Post-Fire Recruitment and Mortality in a Population of the Mallee Eucalyptus Incrassata in Semi-Arid, South-Eastern Australia

A. B. Wellington and I. R. Noble
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 73, No. 2 (Jul., 1985), pp. 645-656
DOI: 10.2307/2260501
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2260501
Page Count: 12
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Post-Fire Recruitment and Mortality in a Population of the Mallee Eucalyptus Incrassata in Semi-Arid, South-Eastern Australia
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Abstract

(1) A study of the population dynamics of yellow mallee, Eucalyptus incrassata, based upon the life-stage approach revealed, contrary to previous speculation, that the populations are not static under present conditions. Successful establishment of seedlings is rare and is restricted to recently-burnt stands. (2) Following a fire in December 1977, the rates of seedling recruitment were 7000 ha-1. Adjacent unburnt stands were devoid of seedlings at this time, but some germination occurred in these stands during the winter of 1980, resulting in densities of less than 100 ha-1. (3) In recently-burnt areas, seedling mortality (75% in 2 years) was density-dependent, greatest at higher positions on the dunes, and confined to summer. The mortality at sites of high seedling density was reduced by experimental increases in soil moisture and nutrients. (4) Fire caused an increase in the rates of mortality of adults (0.6% in 2 years in unburnt stands compared to 5.0% in 2 years after fire). The establishment of seedlings following fire may be facilitated by fire-mediated changes in resource availability as a result of the release of nutrients from burnt wood and litter, reduction in evapotranspirational demands on soil moisture, and increased rates of adult mortality. (5) Seedling recruitment of mallee eucalypts is uncommon, even following fire. This phenomenon may result from the infrequent coincidence of fire and years favourable for germination and establishment. Recruitment events are thus widely spaced in time, imparting a steady-state appearance to mallee populations.

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