• Chaining and Burning Modifies Vegetation Structure, Fuel, and Post-Disturbance Sprouting Capacity

      Gosper, Carl R.; Prober, Suzanne M.; Yates, Colin J. (Society for Range Management, 2010-09-01)
      Prescribed fire and/or mechanical methods can be used to modify the quantity, continuity, and/or spatial arrangement of flammable fuel. Yet the consequences of fuel management, both in terms of ecological outcomes and in facilitating improved fire management, often are poorly documented. In the global biodiversity hotspot of southwest Western Australia, chaining and burning is a novel technique for manipulating fuels. Vegetation first is dislodged using a chain, then after a period of curing, burnt. We tested whether combining two disturbance events in this way results in different vegetation structure postfire than only burning, and whether the postfire sprouting capacity of community-dominant Eucalyptus spp. is compromised. Both chained and burnt and only burnt treatments had much less leaf litter and vegetation >25 cm high than long-unburnt vegetation, indicating a fire management benefit of fuel modification. Chained and burnt strips had a threefold reduction in standing dead vegetation compared to only burnt samples. The stem number of Eucalyptus spp. was reduced by 20% in chained and burnt strips compared to only burnt vegetation, indicating that consecutive disturbances reduce resilience and might render sprouters vulnerable to subsequent disturbances. Balancing the fire management benefits of chaining and burning with the ecological consequences is a significant challenge facing land managers in this fire-prone landscape.