Interactions between fire and ecological restoration in southwest Australia

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Ben Miller and Ebony Cowan

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Although an important natural process in SW Australia’s terrestrial ecosystems, fire interacts with ecological restoration in diverse ways. Fire, per se, is rarely considered to cause degradation requiring restoration, however, ‘changed fire regime’ (often poorly defined) is a listed threat in many conservation-listed ecosystems. Restoration-focussed fire management and post-fire restoration activities occur but are limited. Reference ecosystems themselves are often managed to reduce fire risk, and restoration may create perceived and actual, fire risk – to restoration and/or its neighbours – and consideration for fuel management. Vegetation parameters have similar trajectories in recovery after fire and restoration establishment. Post-fire features (e.g. ephemeral species) provide functions and benefits, but restoration targets are often based on mature-phase ecosystems. Can awareness of post-fire establishment processes and trajectories enable smarter restoration objectives and more timely interventions? As many plants flower and/or recruit seedlings largely or solely after fire, vegetation structure and composition are limited by initial establishment until subsequent disturbance occurs. Can we assess long-term persistence and sustainability of restoration without fire? Should we implement fire to encourage it? Resilience, another critical restoration objective, cannot be directly assessed unless an impact occurs. Can we define and assess resilience in relation to fire? And at what age do restored ecosystems achieve resilience? Fire ecology can assist with restoration techniques. Advances in fire-related seed biology have improved plant establishment rates, while treatment of topsoil donor sites with fire may also improve transfer effectiveness. Examples from research and practice are provided to illustrate each of these points.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration