Fire Severity and Vegetation Dynamics in Montane and Tablelands Ecosystems in the Australian Alps, South-eastern New South Wales

Differences in fire severity within and between plant communities after the 2003 Canberra fires provide an opportunity to study whether there is a differential response to variations in fire severity that affects long term vegetation dynamics. For a given large fire event, a greater range of plant communities are affected and within each community, a range of fire intensities may be expected. This enables comparisons to be made both between and within communities of the effects of fire, controlled for fire season, but with variation in fire intensity. Past fire history is also an important factor and such information, combined with the use of long term plots with pre fire data, can assist in examining any variation between communities and also between sites within communities.

Using the 2003 Australian Alps fires as a case study and a series of 163 long term vegetation monitoring plots, I tested whether there were significant differences between low and high severity plots in relation to vascular plant species richness, plant community compositional dynamics and vegetation structure. My primary research question was: Does high severity fire result in significant or permanent change to vascular plant species richness, plant community composition or vegetation structure as compared to low severity fire in montane and tablelands plant communities?

In this seminar I will present my findings based on the analysis of pre fire and 9 years of post-fire monitoring data.

About the Speaker

Michael is a plant ecologist based in Canberra. Born in southern Sydney, he spent much of his formative years botanising and bushwalking in the sandstone country of the Sydney Basin, and graduated with an honours degree in science from the University of Sydney in 1986. For the next 30 years he undertook research and consulting in plant conservation and management both in Australia and overseas. Michael has worked at the National Herbarium of NSW and NSW NPWS, and spent the last 25 years of his ‘official’ career with CSIRO in Canberra. He left CSIRO in 2016 to pursue a career as a gentleman naturalist and occasional botanical consultant…..and to finally complete his part time PhD. Michael has a strong interest in vegetation disturbance dynamics and in particular, fire ecology.