Seedling mortality due to drought and fire associated with the 2002 El Nino Event in a tropical rain forest in north-east Queensland, Australia

Edwards, Will, and Krockenberger, Andrew (2006) Seedling mortality due to drought and fire associated with the 2002 El Nino Event in a tropical rain forest in north-east Queensland, Australia. Biotropica, 38 (1). pp. 16-26.

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Abstract

We monitored survival of seedlings in 216 1-m2 quadrats in lowland rain forest in tropical north Queensland between December 2001 and December 2002. During this time, the region experienced severe drought associated with an El Nińo Southern Oscillation event. The 2001 census recorded 124 species and 2912 individuals. In late November 2002 (2 wk prior to the second census), a low intensity fire passed through approximately half of the study site removing all evidence of seedlings from 110 plots. Only 482 (17%) individuals and 64 (52%) species recorded in 2001 survived the 12-mo period. In 96 quadrats not affected by fire, mortality was high, but considerably variable between species. Six of the 20 most abundant species in 2001 experienced mortality rates higher than the community average and two of the most abundant species showed rates lower than average. Overall, conditions experienced during 2002 caused significant changes in the rank abundances of species between censuses. Mortality due to fire was less severe and mortality more uniform across species, resulting in significant concordance between pre and postfire rankings, once the effects of drought had been considered. Our results provide the first indication of how differences in survival after a perturbation predicted to become more frequent in future global climates may alter the size and species composition of the seedling bank in Australian tropical rain forests.

Item ID: 3685
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1744-7429
Keywords: abundance patterns; drought; El Nino; fire; seedlings; survival
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2009 04:36
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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