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August Meeting - effect of fire management on savanna grasses

Wednesday Aug 15 7:45 pm

Duration: 1.5 hours

Could fire management deplete an important food resource for savanna animals?

presented by Dr Anna Richards

Summary: Fire management is used across northern Australian savannas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon. These managed fires are less intense and frequent than recent historical baselines (one fire every two years) and may help to reverse small mammal declines. Here we determine the effect of reduced fire frequency and intensity on the diversity and abundance of grasses, which provide an important food source for some mammals and birds. We measured grass species diversity and abundance at a long-term (10 years +) fire experiment at the Territory Wildlife Park near Darwin. Fire treatments included long unburnt, burnt every one, two, three and five years in the early dry season and every two years in the late dry season. At the start of the fire experiment, after more than 20 years without fire, introduction of fire resulted in an increase in grass diversity and abundance. The highest grass diversity was found on plots burnt every 2 to 5 years. I discuss these findings and their implications for changes to food resources (particularly grass seeds and rhizomes) in tropical savannas under different fire regimes.

Biography: Anna Richards is a research scientist who has been based at the CSIRO laboratories in Darwin for the past 10 years. She is a plant and soil ecologist with a particular interest in the effect of fire on nutrient cycling. When she is not stuck at a desk, she likes to be out in the bush; walking, bird watching or orienteering.


CDU Casuarina. Room BLUE 2.1.51

Long: 130.871353 Lat: -12.371866