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Forests 2014, 5(4), 802-821;

Impacts of Frequent Burning on Live Tree Carbon Biomass and Demography in Post-Harvest Regrowth Forest

Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfire, Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
NSW Department of Primary Industries, Level 2, 470 Church St, North Parramatta, NSW 2151, Australia
Forestry Corporation of NSW, P.O. Box 4019, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia
Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne, 4 Water Street, Creswick, VIC 3363, Australia
Current address: Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 January 2014 / Revised: 18 March 2014 / Accepted: 9 April 2014 / Published: 22 April 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forest and Wood Vegetation Carbon Stores and Sequestration)
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The management of forest ecosystems to increase carbon storage is a global concern. Fire frequency has the potential to shift considerably in the future. These shifts may alter demographic processes and growth of tree species, and consequently carbon storage in forests. Examination of the sensitivity of forest carbon to the potential upper and lower extremes of fire frequency will provide crucial insight into the magnitude of possible change in carbon stocks associated with shifts in fire frequency. This study examines how tree biomass and demography of a eucalypt forest regenerating after harvest is affected by two experimentally manipulated extremes in fire frequency (i.e., ~3 year fire intervals vs. unburnt) sustained over a 23 year period. The rate of post-harvest biomass recovery of overstorey tree species, which constituted ~90% of total living tree biomass, was lower within frequently burnt plots than unburnt plots, resulting in approximately 20% lower biomass in frequently burnt plots by the end of the study. Significant differences in carbon biomass between the two extremes in frequency were only evident after >15–20 years of sustained treatment. Reduced growth rates and survivorship of smaller trees on the frequently burnt plots compared to unburnt plots appeared to be driving these patterns. The biomass of understorey trees, which constituted ~10% of total living tree biomass, was not affected by frequent burning. These findings suggest that future shifts toward more frequent fire will potentially result in considerable reductions in carbon sequestration across temperate forest ecosystems in Australia. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon; tree demography; fuel reduction burning; fire frequency; eucalypt forest carbon; tree demography; fuel reduction burning; fire frequency; eucalypt forest

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Collins, L.; Penman, T.; Ximenes, F.A.; Binns, D.; York, A.; Bradstock, R. Impacts of Frequent Burning on Live Tree Carbon Biomass and Demography in Post-Harvest Regrowth Forest. Forests 2014, 5, 802-821.

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