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Exploring the Future of Fuel Loads in Tasmania, Australia: Shifts in Vegetation in Response to Changing Fire Weather, Productivity, and Fire Frequency

1
Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), University of Tasmania, Hobart 7001, Australia
2
Bureau of Meteorology, Hobart 7001, Australia
3
Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), University of Tasmania, Hobart 7001, Australia
4
ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science, University of Tasmania, Hobart 7001, Australia
5
Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart 7001, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
This paper is an extended version of our paper published in Proceedings of The Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand (MSSANZ) conference 12 2017, pp. 1097–1103. ISBN: 978-0-9872143-7-9. http://www.mssanz.org.au/modsim2017/H10/harris.pdf.
Forests 2018, 9(4), 210; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9040210
Received: 23 February 2018 / Revised: 7 April 2018 / Accepted: 9 April 2018 / Published: 16 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Wildland Fire, Forest Dynamics, and Their Interactions)
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Abstract

Changes to the frequency of fire due to management decisions and climate change have the potential to affect the flammability of vegetation, with long-term effects on the vegetation structure and composition. Frequent fire in some vegetation types can lead to transformational change beyond which the vegetation type is radically altered. Such feedbacks limit our ability to project fuel loads under future climatic conditions or to consider the ecological tradeoffs associated with management burns. We present a “pathway modelling” approach to consider multiple transitional pathways that may occur under different fire frequencies. The model combines spatial layers representing current and future fire danger, biomass, flammability, and sensitivity to fire to assess potential future fire activity. The layers are derived from a dynamically downscaled regional climate model, attributes from a regional vegetation map, and information about fuel characteristics. Fire frequency is demonstrated to be an important factor influencing flammability and availability to burn and therefore an important determinant of future fire activity. Regional shifts in vegetation type occur in response to frequent fire, as the rate of change differs across vegetation type. Fire-sensitive vegetation types move towards drier, more fire-adapted vegetation quickly, as they may be irreversibly impacted by even a single fire, and require very long recovery times. Understanding the interaction between climate change and fire is important to identify appropriate management regimes to sustain fire-sensitive communities and maintain the distribution of broad vegetation types across the landscape. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; prescribed burning; vegetation change; climate adaptation climate change; prescribed burning; vegetation change; climate adaptation
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Harris, R.M.B.; Remenyi, T.; Fox-Hughes, P.; Love, P.; Bindoff, N.L. Exploring the Future of Fuel Loads in Tasmania, Australia: Shifts in Vegetation in Response to Changing Fire Weather, Productivity, and Fire Frequency. Forests 2018, 9, 210.

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