Foothills fire and biota

This project aimed to model the relationship between different types of organisms, fire history and landscape patterns.

The results can be used to produce predictions of biodiversity outcomes of bushfire and planned burns in Foothills Forest.

Comparison of the relative influence of fire regime variables on different taxonomic groups (birds, mammals, plants) showed that time since fire and inter-fire interval both influenced species occurrence.

Fire type (bushfire versus planned burn; a surrogate for severity) generally had little influence on species occurrence.

Overall, results showed that while fire is a key driver in the Foothills Forest system, its influence is often equalled or outweighed by that of climate, topography and biogeography.

The Foothills Forest system is relatively resilient, in that most common species are likely to persist on a landscape scale if subjected to fire regimes within the range of historical variation.

One important aim for fire managers is to preserve and enhance the extent of old (long unburnt) vegetation, which will take decades to replace if burnt.

Team members

Project partners

  • Arthur Rylah Institute
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (Victoria)
  • Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Centre
  • Haslem, A., Leonard, S.W.J., Bruce, M.J., Christie, F., Holland, G.J., Kelly, L.T., MacHunter, J., Bennett, A.F., Clarke, M.F., York, A. (2016) Do multiple fires interact to affect vegetation structure in temperate eucalypt forests? Ecological Applications 26:2414–2423.
  • Kelly, L.T., Haslem, A., Holland, G.J., Leonard, S.W.J., MacHunter, J., Bassett, M., Bennett, A.F., Bruce, M.J., Chia, E.K., Christie, F.J., Clarke, M.F., Di Stefano, J., Loyn, R., McCarthy, M.A., Pung, A., Robinson, N., Sitters, H., Swan, M., York, A. (2017) Fire regimes and environmental gradients shape vertebrate and plant distributions in temperate eucalypt forests. Ecosphere 8(4) Article e01781.
  • Leonard, S., Bruce, M., Christie F., Di Stefano, J., Haslem, A., Holland, G., Kelly, L., Loyn, R., MacHunter, J., Rumpff, L., Stamation, K., Bennett, A., Clarke, M., York A. (2016) Foothills Fire and Biota, Fire and Adaptive Management Report no. 96. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne.