Long term monitoring for fire management – Technical report 26

Margaret Kitchin, Genevieve Wright, Geoff Robertson, Daniel Brown, Arn Tolsma and Steve E. Stern for Conservation Planning and Research, ACT Government, January 2013

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Executive summary

The Australian Alps Fire Plots project was developed to gather data about the effects of fire on woodlands and forests in the Australian Alps. The project implements one of the recommendations from a 1993 workshop funded by the Australian Alps Liaison Committee.

In 1996, 40 survey plots were established in three national parks in the Australian Alps – Kosciuszko National Park in NSW (the Merambego and Nungar groups of plots); the Alpine National Park in Victoria (the Buchan Headwaters Wilderness); and Namadgi National Park in the ACT. All sites were located in montane and sub-alpine forest and woodland vegetation.

All but eight of the plots were burnt by the January to February 2003 bushfires in south eastern Australia. Post-fire site assessment and fire intensity surveys were completed in March 2003, November 2003 and floristic surveys were conducted in subsequent years. This report provides a summary of the analysis and results to 2009 from this study.

In general, species richness recovered quickly, within a year or two on average for most sites. Many species present before the fires, were reported in the two years after the fire as having re-established either vegetatively or from seed. There was some variation in recovery times across the different Alps survey regions. Overall, the results showed little floristic change in the medium to long-term, a result that is consistent with other studies.

There was slower recovery in the structural elements of the vegetation communities. The cover-abundance measure of structural recovery showed the mid-storey rapidly recovering and remaining well above pre-fire levels. This reflects the large amount of eucalyptus and acacia regrowth from epicormic regrowth and seed. The surveys have also provided a wealth of data on the regenerative mechanism and the juvenile period for plant species that occur in the Alps region.

This project has successfully completed 15 years of a cross-jurisdictional fire monitoring program, in an environment where there are very few plots that have such long-term monitoring. These data are being used in the estimation of intervals for fire management planning and the program continues for the three Australian Alps land management Agencies with on-going involvement in fire management in these conservation areas.