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Quantifying successional changes in response to forest disturbances

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Question: Can dissimilarity measures of individual plots be used to forecast the driving factors among various anthropogenic disturbances influencing understorey successional changes?

Location: Yambulla State Forest, south-eastern Australia (37°14' S, 149°38' E).

Methods: Assessments of understorey vegetation communities were taken prior to anthropogenic disturbances and at three subsequent time periods representing a period of 15 years post-disturbance. Dissimilarities were calculated from the original assessment and modelled in a Bayesian framework to examine the influence of logging, number of prescribed burns and time.

Results: All sites underwent significant changes over time independently of the imposed management regimes. Logging resulted in an immediate change in vegetation assemblage which decreased in the subsequent assessments. The number of prescribed fires brought greater change in the shrub vegetation assemblages, but less change in the ground species vegetation assemblages.

Conclusions: The anthropogenic disturbances did have some role in the changes of vegetation assemblages but these were minimal. The ongoing changes appear to be a natural response to the last wildfire, which passed through the study area in 1973 (13 years prior to the study). Forest management practices should consider the influence of wildfire succession when planning for the conservation of biodiversity.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-04-01

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