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Article

Remarkable Resilience of Forest Structure and Biodiversity Following Fire in the Peri-Urban Bushland of Sydney, Australia

1
Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW 2753, Australia
2
Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, Boise, ID 83725, USA
3
School of Aviation, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
4
Greater Sydney Local Land Services, Penrith, NSW 2750, Australia
5
Thismia Pty Ltd., Narellan, NSW 2567, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Terri Schulz
Climate 2022, 10(6), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/cli10060086
Received: 29 March 2022 / Revised: 13 June 2022 / Accepted: 14 June 2022 / Published: 16 June 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Climate System Uncertainty and Biodiversity Conservation)
In rapidly urbanizing areas, natural vegetation becomes fragmented, making conservation planning challenging, particularly as climate change accelerates fire risk. We studied urban forest fragments in two threatened eucalypt-dominated (scribbly gum woodland, SGW, and ironbark forest, IF) communities across ~2000 ha near Sydney, Australia, to evaluate effects of fire frequency (0–4 in last 25 years) and time since fire (0.5 to >25 years) on canopy structure, habitat quality and biodiversity (e.g., species richness). Airborne lidar was used to assess canopy height and density, and ground-based surveys of 148 (400 m2) plots measured leaf area index (LAI), plant species composition and habitat metrics such as litter cover and hollow-bearing trees. LAI, canopy density, litter, and microbiotic soil crust increased with time since fire in both communities, while tree and mistletoe cover increased in IF. Unexpectedly, plant species richness increased with fire frequency, owing to increased shrub richness which offset decreased tree richness in both communities. These findings indicate biodiversity and canopy structure are generally resilient to a range of times since fire and fire frequencies across this study area. Nevertheless, reduced arboreal habitat quality and subtle shifts in community composition of resprouters and obligate seeders signal early concern for a scenario of increasing fire frequency under climate change. Ongoing assessment of fire responses is needed to ensure that biodiversity, canopy structure and ecosystem function are maintained in the remaining fragments of urban forests under future climate change which will likely drive hotter and more frequent fires. View Full-Text
Keywords: Cumberland Plain; disturbance; Eucalyptus; fire regime; habitat; leaf area index; lidar; sclerophyll; succession; woodland; urbanization Cumberland Plain; disturbance; Eucalyptus; fire regime; habitat; leaf area index; lidar; sclerophyll; succession; woodland; urbanization
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MDPI and ACS Style

Pendall, E.; Hewitt, A.; Boer, M.M.; Carrillo, Y.; Glenn, N.F.; Griebel, A.; Middleton, J.H.; Mumford, P.J.; Ridgeway, P.; Rymer, P.D.; Steenbeeke, G.L. Remarkable Resilience of Forest Structure and Biodiversity Following Fire in the Peri-Urban Bushland of Sydney, Australia. Climate 2022, 10, 86. https://doi.org/10.3390/cli10060086

AMA Style

Pendall E, Hewitt A, Boer MM, Carrillo Y, Glenn NF, Griebel A, Middleton JH, Mumford PJ, Ridgeway P, Rymer PD, Steenbeeke GL. Remarkable Resilience of Forest Structure and Biodiversity Following Fire in the Peri-Urban Bushland of Sydney, Australia. Climate. 2022; 10(6):86. https://doi.org/10.3390/cli10060086

Chicago/Turabian Style

Pendall, Elise, Alison Hewitt, Matthias M. Boer, Yolima Carrillo, Nancy F. Glenn, Anne Griebel, Jason H. Middleton, Peter J. Mumford, Peter Ridgeway, Paul D. Rymer, and Greg L. Steenbeeke. 2022. "Remarkable Resilience of Forest Structure and Biodiversity Following Fire in the Peri-Urban Bushland of Sydney, Australia" Climate 10, no. 6: 86. https://doi.org/10.3390/cli10060086

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