Austral Ecology

Published by Wiley
Online ISSN: 1442-9993
Publications
Article
Abstract A dune-swale-dune transect in north-eastern South Australia with a regular covering of saltbush (Atriplex vesicaria and Atriplex stipitata) was studied. The transect topography was surveyed, as were the Δ (discrimination against 13C in CO2) of the saltbush plants, and the electrical conductivity and chloride profiles of the soil. Increasing soil salinity, surveyed as electromagnetic (EM) soil conductivity, correlated with a decrease in A composition in the leaves of the C4 Atriplex species. No such correlation occurred with the whole plant. Further, the Δ of foliage was more variable than the Δ of whole plants. The Δ of foliage was higher than that of corresponding stems. We suggest that soil conductivity measured in this way is a meaningful assessment of plant growth conditions, and that further study will demonstrate its scope for incorporation into field studies of native plants at a quantitative level.
 
Article
Abstract Soil organic matter (SOM) was sampled from lateritic soil profiles across an abrupt eucalypt savanna–monsoon rainforest boundary on the north coast of Croker Island, northern Australia. Accelerator mass spectrometry dating revealed that SOM that had accumulated at the base of these 1.5 m profiles had a radiocarbon age of about 5000 years. The mean carbon and nitrogen stable isotope composition of SOM from 10 cm deep layers from the surface, middle and base of three monsoon rainforest soil profiles was significantly different from the means for these layers in three adjacent savanna soil profiles, suggesting the isotopic ‘footprint’ of the vegetation boundary has been stable since the mid Holocene. Although there were no obvious environmental discontinuities associated with the boundary, the monsoon rainforest was found to occur on significantly more clay rich soils than the surrounding savanna. Tiny fragments of monsoon rainforest and abandoned ‘nests’ (large earthen mounds) of the orange-footed scrubfowl, an obligate monsoon rainforest species, occurred in the savanna, signalling that the rainforest was once more extensive. Despite episodic disturbances, such as tropical storm damage and fires, the stability of the boundary is probably maintained because clay rich soils enable monsoon rainforest tree species to grow rapidly and achieve canopy closure, thereby excluding grass and reducing the risk of fire. Conversely, slower tree growth rates, grass competition and fire on the savanna soils would impede the expansion of the rainforest although high rainfall periods with shorter dry seasons may enable rainforest trees to grow sufficiently quickly to colonize the savanna successfully.
 
Article
Abstract Above-ground biomass and its nutrient content were measured in a 15.5 year old rehabilitated bauxite mine in the jarrah forest of southwest Australia. The litterfall and its nutrient content was also measured on the same site, 4–6 years and 8–10 years after rehabilitation. The total mass of the vegetation and litter was 103t ha−1, 25% of that in a nearby jarrah forest. The mass of the trees was 58t ha−1, approximately 22% of that in the jarrah forest. The amount of nitrogen in the soil, in the litter and in the understorey, and in the total system, exceeded that in the nearby jarrah forest. Annual litterfall in the rehabilitated area was comparable to that measured in the jarrah forest and other dry sclerophyll forests. The nitrogen content of the litterfall in the rehabilitated area was around three to four times that in other dry sclerophyll forests.
 
Article
Nitrogen availability and N-cycling dynamics across ecosystems play a critical role in plant functioning and species distribution. Measurements of 15N natural abundance provides a way to assess ecosystem N dynamics, and the range of nitrogen stable isotope values (δ15N) for plants in an ecosystem can indicate divergent strategies for N uptake. We tested the hypotheses that the N-rich seasonally dry forest would have higher soil and leaf δ15N and a smaller range of leaf δ15N values compared to the N-poor cerradão (savanna woodland). We measured N concentration and δ15N in two soil depths and leaves of 27 woody species in cerradão and 26 in seasonally dry forest. As expected, total soil N concentration decreased while soil δ15N value increased with soil depth. Regardless of soil depth, seasonally dry forest soils had higher δ15N and total N concentration compared to cerradão soils. Foliar δ15N values varied from −6.4‰ to 5.9‰ in cerradão and from −2.3‰ to 8.4‰ in seasonally dry forest plants. Phylogenetically independent contrasts analysis and comparisons of δ15N mean values of the most abundant species and species co-occurring in both sites confirmed the hypothesis of higher δ15N for seasonally dry forest in comparison to cerradão. These results corroborate the expectation of higher soil and leaf δ15N values in sites with higher soil N availability. However, except for the most abundant species, no across-site leaf–soil (δ15N leaf –δ15N soil) differences (Δδ15N) were found suggesting that differences in leaf δ15N between cerradão and seasonally dry forest are driven by differences in soil δ15N. Variation of leaf δ15N was large in both sites and only slightly higher in cerradão, suggesting high diversity of N use strategies for both cerradão and seasonally dry forest communities.
 
Article
Abstract The natural abundance of the stable isotope 15N was measured in different vegetation components and in the soil of a northern Australian savanna. Most of the vegetation was found to be 15N-depleted compared to atmospheric N2. Herbaceous legumes, perennial grasses, tree legumes, non-legume trees and annual grasses exhibited mean δ15N of − 1.7, − 0.8, − 0.7, 0.0 and + 0.3‰, respectively. These results are in good agreement with previous studies. Legumes exhibit slightly negative values, indicating that they are likely to be nitrogen-fixing plants. Non-legume plants have a δ15N close to zero, which could equally result from non-symbiotic fixation, soil organic matter mineralization, or fresh root litter mineralization. In contrast, soil organic matter was 15N-enriched. Values of δ15N increased with depth and were + 2.5, + 5.2 and +6.1‰ in the 0–10, 10–20 and 20–40cm layers, respectively. Soil organic matter δ15N shows a typical profile of mature soils.
 
Article
Abstract There is limited understanding of how fire-related cues such as heat shock and smoke can combine to affect the germination response of seeds from fire-prone vegetation because combinations of multiple levels of both cues have rarely been investigated. Germination response surfaces were determined for the combination of heat shock and smoke by applying factorial combinations of temperature (up to 100°C) and aerosol smoke (0–20 min) to 16 species that form soil seed banks in the Sydney region of south-eastern Australia. Duplicate populations of three species were also examined to assess the constancy of a species response surface. Of the 19 populations examined, 16 showed a germination response to both the fire cues, which combined interactively in 14 populations, and independently in two. No population responded only to a single cue; however, seeds of 11 populations responded to heat in the absence of smoke, and nine responded to smoke in the absence of heat. Heat applied in the absence of smoke negatively affected germination in seven populations, either progressively as temperature increased, or above a set temperature. Negative germination responses over part of the temperature range were fully reversed at higher temperatures for unsmoked seeds of four populations (curvilinear heat response). Smoke effects were most frequently positive over all or part of the range of durations used, and when combined with heat frequently fully or partially reversed negative heat effects. Three populations required the obligatory combination of smoke and heat. A novel response to the cues was observed for three species, with smoke reversing negative heat effects at 75°C, being supplanted by a positive heat response of unsmoked seed at 100°C. The response surface for duplicate populations of two of the three species examined was variable. Heat shock and smoke frequently combined to affect germination, in both positive and negative ways. Consequently, to gain an accurate assessment of the response of seeds to fires, an experimental design that samples within the potential response zones of germination cues is essential.
 
Article
Four problems associated with studying the altitudinal distribution of eucalypt species are examined: the lack of specific physiological relationship between altitude and plant growth, the influence of other environmental factors, the availability of suitable data and the need for statistical analysis. Presence/absence data for eucalypt species were obtained from several sources. Probability of occurrence in 100 m zones is determined for E. maculata, E. muellerana, E. fastigata, E. sieberi, E. dalrympleana and E. pauciflora. The influence of other factors is demonstrated for several species using direct gradient analysis. Aspect is important for E. fastigata and E. rossii in addition to altitude and rainfall.The statisical model used was the logit-linear model: log (p/I– p) = linear function of environmental variables where p is the expected probability of being present for a given combination of environmental variables. Two examples are presented. E. dalrympleana can be predicted from altitude, rainfall, radiation index (measure of aspect) and an interaction term between altitude and aspect. E. rossii presence is predicted by altitude, rainfall, radiation index and geology. Altitude is transformed into an estimate of mean annual temperature which is shown to clarify some overlaps of species distribution.It is concluded that use of data collected for other purposes can be used in a generalized linear model for presence data to show the complex correlations which exist between the altitudinal distribution of some eucalypts and other environmental factors.
 
Article
Abstract Mass mortalities of fauna are known to occur in estuarine environments during flood events. Specific factors associated with these mortalities have rarely been examined. Therefore, the effect of exposing, to lowered salinities, an infaunal bivalve that is susceptible to mass mortalities during winter flooding in a southern Australian estuary was tested in the present study. In a laboratory experiment, low salinities (≤6 parts per thousand [ppt]), which mimicked those expected during flood events in the Hopkins River estuary, were shown to affect Soletellina alba, both lethally and sublethally. All bivalves died at 1 ppt, while those at 6 ppt took longer to burrow and exhibited a poorer condition than those at 14 and 27 ppt. The limited salinity tolerance of S. alba suggests that lowered salinities are a likely cause of mass mortality for this species during winter flooding.
 
Article
Abstract Cyclone Larry (category 4) was the most severe cyclone to impact on the Wet Tropics bioregion since the devastating 1918 Innisfail cyclone. Based on an analysis of earlier cyclones impacting on this region over the period 1856–2006, it was determined that Larry was a ‘1 in 50 year’ event. This paper provides an overview of the landscape-scale impacts of Larry on the forest ecosystems of the Wet Tropics region, based on low-level helicopter surveys 2 weeks after the event. Cyclone Larry has been described as a ‘midget’ cyclone. Severe forest damage only extended about 30 km from the central track of the cyclone while moderate to severe damage extended some 50 km. Moderate to slight canopy disturbance was rarely identified more than 75 km from the centre of the cyclone's track. Beyond 75 km, forest damage was restricted to exposed areas of elevated terrain and in places exposed to strong lee (gravity) waves from the west. The ecological role of cyclones as important disturbance agents affecting the structure and function of forest ecosystems in the region is discussed, followed by an evaluation of likely effects of climate change on cyclone frequency and intensity.
 
Article
This paper supplements the existing climatic analyses for Darwin and the surrounding region, by providing a classification of years in terms of amount and distribution of rainfall, and highlighting the extreme, episodic rainfall events that have occurred in the period 1870 to 1983 inclusive. Approximately 77% of years have had significant departures from the two most frequent rainfall patterns and these are described. Much of the variation between years or groups of years lies in the dry and dry-wet transition periods. While the reliability of rainfall in the wet-dry tropics has been emphasized, rainfall variability over both the dry and wet seasons would seem to be an equally important characteristic, at least for the biota. In an environment such as the wet-dry tropics, where moisture is the primary limiting factor, rainfall variability has important implications for the design and interpretation of faunal and floristic surveys, monitoring programs and field experiments.
 
Article
The arid zone scorpion Urodacus yaschenkoi (Birula 1903) is shown to have six instars. Instars can be recognized by measuring the claws and the carapace plus first five tail segments. A population study, carried out at Coombah, NSW, showed that the life history consisted of mating in September–October, 18 month gestation, birth in February-March, moult to second instar March-April and annual moults to sixth instar in December–February. The minimum generation time was 6 y, and the population appeared to be stable. The calendar of catches method was used to determine the population size (about 400 animals in 2240 m2) but required some extra assumptions to cope with loss of marks from individuals when they moulted.
 
Article
A population energy budget and water relations of the arid zone scorpion Urodacus yaschenkoi (Birula 1903) is described. The standing crop varied between 1945 and 4043 kJ in 2240 m2. The annual population respiration was 191 l of oxygen or 3562 kJ. Ecological efficiencies using laboratory and field measurements of energy flow were calculated for each instar. Water loss was extrapolated from laboratory studies and was shown to be more critical to the survival of the population than energy demand.
 
Article
The stability of the Magela floodplain prior to the development of uranium mining at Ranger, in the Magela catchment, was estimated by comparing aerial photographs taken in 1950 and 1975, using the density of Melaleuca swamp forest as an index of change. The 1975 photographs were interpreted in the light of a ground survey carried out in the dry season of 1976. There was no increase in the area occupied by Melaleuca trees, indicating that infilling of perennial swamp and plant succession were not significant agents of change in this period. Thirty-eight per cent of the forested area suffered a significant decrease in tree density: fire, wind and buffalo are among the probable causes, and these hazards should be taken into account in monitoring the effects of the uranium mining.
 
Article
Abstract Revisitation studies enable long-term changes in vegetation to be deciphered and insights into plant community succession to be gained. This is particularly important when assessing the effects of fire exclusion in ecosystems where fire is thought to have once been common. Using two adjacent coastal Banksia integrifolia forest stands in southern Victoria, Australia initially surveyed in 1975 by Hazard and Parsons, we document the changes that occurred in the stand structure between 1975 and 2000. Western Park (WP) has now remained unburnt for over 100 years while Cerberus Naval Base (CNB) was most recently burnt in 1942. Banksia integrifolia densities have decreased at both sites over the 25-years period by an average of 42–77%, as have other coastal native shrubs (e.g. Leptospermum laevigatum, Leucopogon parviflorus). Trees at WP appear to have died due to old age while mortality at CNB is presumed to be due to stand thinning in response to intense competition for light. Successful recruitment by Banksia has been minimal; trees less than 9 cm girth over bark at breast height (GBBH) were absent at CNB while no trees <19 cm GBBH were observed at WP. The long-term absence of disturbance such as fire is suspected to be one of the causes of regeneration failure of the stand at WP. Gap phase regeneration is not apparent in B. integrifolia and hence, long-term succession to a more grassy community is likely when fire is excluded for long periods.
 
Article
Abstract Estimates of the population size of black noddy Anous minutus on Heron Island were made by counting nests in permanently marked plots in Pisonia grandis forest in 1978, 1979 and 1992. The results, and published data, indicate that the population has been increasing at ca 7% per annum since early this century and currently is ca 63 000 ± 7000 pairs. The continued exponential increase in bird numbers poses interesting ecological questions and potential management problems, as more of the island is occupied by the birds and interaction with the vegetation intensifies. Pisonia is by far the most common tree on the island and most nests are in this species. However, there is evidence that Ficus opposita is preferred over Pisonia and the high mortality of this species in the marked plots may be due to excessive use by noddies. Pisonia trees which reach the forest canopy and are in the 40–60 cm stem diameter class have more nests than smaller trees. Larger stems (>60 cm diameter) are also underutilized relative to their size, and it is suggested that this is because they are more liable to windthrow in cyclones.
 
Article
This Address examines the current concerns of ecologists. There is instability in the organization of science at a political level, in funding bodies, and in organizations such as CSIRO and tertiary education institutions. There is less funding for research and development in Australia than in other developed countries, mainly because of poor funding from the private sector, and funds available to the new Australian Research Council are small in relation to applications for support. These factors affect career opportunities for ecologists, although students continue to be attracted to the area.
 
Article
Abstract Kavanagh (1988) concluded that 46 months of predation by a pair of powerful owls caused a decline of over 90% in a greater glider population over an area of 100 ha in southeastern New South Wales. He suggested the owls concentrated their foraging activities by taking gliders in one pocket of their home range before moving to the next pocket once the glider population fell to levels at which they were difficult to catch. The assumptions on which Kavanagh's work is based and the methodology of the study are assessed here, and it is argued that the data presented are not sufficient to support the interpretations of powerful owl ecology made in the paper. In particular, alternative explanations of the glider population decline were not considered and home range use by the owls was not examined in enough detail to discern any spatial movement patterns.
 
Article
Canopy tree survival and compositional change of the Greefswald forest on the Limpopo River, South Africa, were monitored between 1990 and 2007 in response to a severe drought (cessation of flow in 1991/2), water abstraction commencing in 1991, a mega-flood in 2000 and increasing impact of elephants since 2000. Aerial photographs confirmed that forest area had not decreased during the 35 years prior to the study. In total, 25% of 428 canopy trees tagged in 1990 had died by 2005. Tree density was reduced from 22.8 to 16.3 trees per hectare. Forest was thus transformed to woodland. Mortality was attributed mainly to drought stress (47%), drought in combination with creeper infestation (30%) and the flood (21%). Of the nine main canopy species, mortality was highest for Acacia xanthophloea (56%) and Faidherbia albida (37%) mainly because of drought-related stress, and Ficus sycamorus (25%) mainly because of the flood. Water extraction increased drought-related mortality in the area of extraction by 45%. Creepers rendered microphyllous but not broad-leafed species more vulnerable to drought-induced mortality. Elephants were responsible for a further 3% mortality between 2005 and 2007. Composition has shifted towards ‘drought-tolerant’ species not selected by elephants, namely Philenoptera violacea, Xanthocercis zambesiaca and Schotia brachypetala. Initial concern about water abstraction was eclipsed by a rapid, unpredictable concatenation of a series of rare events that transformed forest to woodland in less than 15 years.
 
Article
Abstract In this note we demonstrate that the Buckney and Morrison (1992) data subsets are located on different geomorphological units and different pre-mining plant communities with different fire histories. The conclusions that they have drawn from their data are therefore not valid.
 
Article
Abstract This paper challenges Walter and Paterson's (1994) assertion that the community concept ought to be abandoned because of recent palaeontological evidence pointing to the ‘individualistic’ nature of biological communities. The ‘individualistic’ versus ‘superorganismic’ community concepts might provide good grist for the philosophical mill, but have little practical relevance to contemporary community ecology. Ecologists define communities in terms of current species distributions and interactions, and seek to integrate the roles of both biotic and abiotic factors influencing species distributions. There is no assumption of tight co-evolution among component species; Walter and Paterson confuse ‘organization’ with ‘co-adaptation’. Nor, contrary to the authors’ claims, is there an implicit assumption that all community patterns are caused by competition. For most ecologists, the ‘competition debate’ ended a decade ago. Walter and Paterson's view that competition is rarely, if ever, important in structuring communities is not even held by the main protaganists of the ‘competition is not so important’ school of the 1980s, and is in direct contradiction of the extensive, more recent literature on the subject. It entirely ignores plant ecology. Many of Walter and Paterson's misunderstandings appear to arise from the false premise that explanation of adaptation should be the ultimate goal of any ecological discipline. The authors are hostile to community ecology because, if communities are individualistic, then little light can be shed on species adaptations. Fortunately, most ecologists are not so preoccupied with adaptation.
 
Article
Abstract In late 2001 a category 3 cyclone impacted forest plots that were established in Tonga in 1995, and additionally, one plot was accidentally burned by an escaped land-clearing fire. Subsequent surveys provide observations of 10 years of forest dynamics in this poorly studied region, and the first reported observations of large interannual variation in juvenile (seedling and sapling) abundance in the western tropical Pacific. The severely disturbed (burned) plot was initially colonized by a non-native early pioneer, Carica papaya L., but 3.5 years later a native pioneer, Macaranga harveyana (Muell. Arg.) Muell. Arg., was the most abundant tree species. The seedling layer included some long-lived pioneers and shade-tolerant species. Two mature forest plots affected only by the cyclone changed very little over a decade. Late-successional shade-tolerant species that dominated the overstory were also abundant as seedlings and saplings. This is in contrast with a 30- to 40-year-old, formerly cultivated, secondary forest plot that still shows no recruitment of late-successional dominants, in spite of the proximity of remnant forest patches. This study suggests differing pathways of succession following shifting cultivation versus cyclone and fire disturbances in Tonga. Land use legacies appear to have a long-lasting effect on community composition.
 
Article
Abstract Mac Nally (1996), in describing the application of ‘hierarchical partitioning’ in regression modelling of species richness of breeding passerine birds with response variable the species count, rejects the use of Poisson regression in favour of normal-errors regression on an incorrect basis. Mac Nally uses a function of the residual sum of squares, the root-mean square prediction error (RMSPE), calculated from predictions from each regression and rejects the Poisson regression because its RMSPE was 20% larger. This note points out that the RMSPE will always be larger for the Poisson regression, given the same link function and linear predictor is used, even if the response is truly Poisson. References to appropriate methods of determining the most suitable response distribution and link function in the context of generalized linear models are given.
 
Article
Abstract We disagree with the assertion that recent human-caused invasions differ substantially from historic natural invasions in their magnitudes and impacts on ecological processes. The position that exotic species are inherently ‘bad’ and should be eradicated is an ethical judgement, usually based on the naturalist fallacy or xenophobic prejudice; it is not a scientific judgement. The role of scientists in studying invasive species should be to gather, interpret and communicate information as accurately and objectively as possible.
 
Article
Global climate warming is expected to cause systematic shifts in the distribution of species and consequently increase extinction risk. Conservation managers must be able to detect, measure and accurately predict range shifts in order to mitigate impacts on biodiversity. However, important responses to climate change may go unnoticed or be dismissed if we fail to collect sufficient baseline data and apply the most sensitive analytical tests. Here we use randomizations of a contemporary data set on rainforest birds of north-eastern Australia to quantify the sensitivity of three measures for assessing range shifts along altitudinal gradients. We find that smaller range shifts are detectable by analysing change in the mean altitude of presence records rather than upper or lower range boundaries. For a moderate survey effort of 96 surveys, measurements of change in the mean altitude of 34 species have the capacity to provide strong inference for a mean altitudinal range shift as small as 40 m across the species assemblage. We also show that range shifts measured at range boundaries can be potentially misleading when differences in sampling effort between contemporary and historical data sets are not taken into account.
 
Article
Abstract This opportunistic study compares the vegetation, fuel loads and vertebrate fauna of part of a 120-ha block of tropical open forest protected from fire for 23 years, and an adjacent block burnt annually over this period. Total fuel loads did not differ significantly between the unburnt and annually burnt sites, but their composition was markedly different, with far less grassy fuel, but far more litter fuel, in the unburnt block. There were major differences between treatments in the composition of trees and shrubs, manifest particularly in the number of stems. There was no overall difference in plant species richness between the two treatments, but richness of woody species was far higher in the unburnt treatment, and of annual and perennial grasses, and perennial herbs in the annually burnt treatment. Change in plant species composition from annually burnt to unburnt treatment was directional, in that there was a far higher representation of rainforest-associated species (with the percentage of woody stems attributable to ‘rainforest’ species increasing from 24% of all species in the annually burnt treatment to 43% in the unburnt treatment, that of basal area from 9% to 30%, that of species richness from 8% to 17%, and that of cover from 12 to 47%). The vertebrate species composition varied significantly between treatments, but there was relatively little difference in species richness (other than for a slightly richer reptile fauna in the unburnt treatment). Again, there was a tendency for species that were more common in the unburnt treatment to be rainforest-associated species. The results from this study suggest that there is a sizeable and distinct set of species that are associated with relatively long-unburnt environments, and hence that are strongly disadvantaged under contemporary fire regimes. We suggest that such species need to be better accommodated by fire management through strategic reductions in the frequency of burning.
 
Article
In 1949 an area of undisturbed warm temperate rainforest (simple notophyll vine forest) in mid-north coastal New South Wales, Australia was studied in terms of both floristics and structure (Burges A. & Johnston R. D. J. Ecol. 41, 72-83, 1953).During 1955-56, the area in which the transect was located was logged. Over 90% of the upper closed canopy trees adjacent to the creek and on the lower slope and about 35% of canopy trees on the upper slope were removed.The area was reassessed in terms of floristics and structure in 1981. The greatest impact of logging in the study area was structural and largely confined to the flat adjacent to the creek and to the lower slope. With the exception of the remaining gaps covering 6% of the area, structural recovery time is estimated at 140-190 yr. In the gaps structural recovery may take up to 250 yr.All flowering plants, ferns and mosses previously recorded were present 25 yr after logging. The two alien plant species on the site are short lived intolerant species and gradually disappearing with canopy closure of the regenerating forest.The regeneration of the original tree species is healthy and vigorous with most regeneration resulting from the growth of advance regeneration present at the time of logging or the germination of new seedlings. Eleven per cent of the regeneration is attributable to coppicing. The importance of remnant canopy trees as a source of propagules for the trees and epiphytes is recognised. The larger openings are slower to recover as a result of lack of protection from frost. The stability of floristic composition of this area of warm temperate rainforest following heavy logging is demonstrated.
 
Article
Abstract Fire is a significant determinant of vegetation structure in Australia’s savannas and has been implicated in the decline of many species. Identifying the patterns of fire in the landscape is fundamental to understanding vegetation dynamics but variation over time and space makes generalization difficult and specific management recommendations elusive. In order to improve the knowledge base for fire management in tropical savannas, we investigated interregional variation in fire patterns in two Queensland bioregions, the Mount Isa Inlier (MII) and Cape York Peninsula (CYP), over a 5-year period (1999–2003). Remotely sensed satellite data were used to identify burnt areas on a monthly basis for the western half of the CYP bioregion and about two-thirds of the smaller MII. Fire scars were mapped from JPEG-compressed, low-resolution Landsat images using geographical information system technology and data were investigated to determine annual burning patterns. Patterns were interpreted with regard to meteorological information and recent fire history. The area burnt per annum on western CYP was generally an order of magnitude greater than the area burnt on the MII. In the biggest fire year, nearly 74% (5 295 098 ha) of the CYP landscape burnt, compared with 35% (1 770 771 ha) of the MII landscape. The minimum percentage of the CYP study area burnt in 1 year between 1999 and 2003 was 43.1%, compared with 1.6% for the MII. The reliability and amount of seasonal rainfall was a strong determinant of differences in time of fire occurrence and area burnt between regions. Widespread wildfires were significantly related to above average rainfall in the preceding 12 months in the Mt. Isa area but not in CYP. Rainfall also affected fire frequency. Predictable wet season rainfall on CYP allowed for a biennial fire return interval, while on the semiarid MII, the average fire return interval was 5 years or longer. We conclude that the fire patterns in the semiarid MII are similar to those reported for arid Australia, while fire patterns in western CYP are comparable with other mesic savanna areas.
 
Article
Germination in 35 species from 15 legume genera of SE Australia was promoted by a heat treatment which broke the seed coat-caused dormancy. Once the critical temperature was reached, most seeds had their dormancy broken. Species fell into three classes according to whether their dormancy was broken by a temperature of 40, 60 or 80°C. Highest germination in the temperature range 80-100°C, although long durations (120 min) at 100°C caused seed death in several species. At 120°C, seeds of most species were killed at all but one minute's duration. A proportion of seeds from Acacia mytrifolia, Pultenaea daphnoides, P. incurvata, P. linophylla, P. polifolia, Dillwynia floribunda and Sphaerolobium vimineum was not killed at 120°C and had their dormancy broken. Predicted germination levels after a moderate intensity fire should far exceed those after a low intensity fire. Little germination was predicted for many species after a low intensity fire and for A. elongata, no germination was predicted. -from Authors
 
Article
Most observations can be explained by several different models or theories. To distinguish among these requires demonstration of the falsity of the consequences or predictions of incorrect models, best achieved by deriving from each model ≥1 hypotheses (predictions) about the type, form or nature of observations that should occur in some not-yet-examined set of circumstances. Hypotheses must be inverted to form logical null hypotheses which comprise all alternative possibilities to those predicted in the hypotheses. An appropriately designed test leads to unambiguous rejection or retention of the null hypotheses. Construction of statistical null hypotheses sometimes requires that these be identical to logical hypotheses (and not to the logical nulls). This leads to irrational acceptance of hypotheses and the models or theories from which they were derived. -from Author
 
Article
Problems of display and interpretation often associated with ordination techniques are briefly discussed. Minimum spanning ordination (MSO) is put forward as offering a meaningful compromise between the limitations of two-dimensional representation and three-dimensional complexity. The method incorporates the use of a minimum spanning tree together with a graphic spherical perspective of points in the third dimension. It is suggested that where this approach is used with reduction analysis, i.e. with centroids of representative clusters, interpretation is much improved and inherent distortions likely to result from techniques such as principal component analysis are more readily exposed.
 
Classification agglomerative hierarchical fusion (Flexible UPGMA) and 3-dimentional SSH ordination diagram from Bray-Curtis similarity association measures on range standardized data for five and three replicate plots in two sites for a 12-year period during the 3rd and 4th decades of regeneration in a subtropical rainforest previously selectively logged over time in north-east NSW, Australia: (a, c) trees ≥10 cm d.b.h. and (b, d) juvenile canopy trees 1.3 m in height <10 cm d.b.h. Plot labels; letters identify the site, the first numeral the plot and the last two digits the year of measurement (A188 and A100 represent site one plot one in 1988 and 2000 respectively). The ordination diagram shows plots connected to the next most similar one. Stress = 0.148 and 0.137 for (c) and (d) respectively.
Log series fit for the (a) 1988 and (b) 2000 floristic assemblages. (□) Observed, (▪) expected.
Number of stems in various species groups in both 1988 and 2000 censuses during the 3rd and 4th decades of redevelopment following repeated single-tree selection logging in a subtropical rainforest in north-east NSW, Australia: (a) regenerating woody species; (b) juvenile canopy trees 1.3 m in height <10 cm d.b.h.; (c) all trees ≥10 cm d.b.h. and (d) canopy trees ≥10 cm d.b.h.
Decease and increase in the percentage number of canopy tree species recorded in trees ≥10 cm d.b.h. and juvenile trees < 10 cm d.b.h. for a 12-year period during the 3rd and 4th decade of redevelopment following repeated single-tree selection in subtropical rainforest north-east NSW, Australia. Increase in common tree species indicate that both groups were tending toward similar floristic composition.
Article
Abstract Changes in regeneration patterns in a subtropical rainforest in north-east New South Wales (Australia) are presented for a 12-year period during the 3rd and 4th decades following repeated single-tree selection logging. Changes were investigated using multivariate and univariate approaches. There were no significant differences in floristic assemblages within and between censuses. However, two contrasting trends of changes in plant groups were detected. In trees with a diameter at breast height (d.b.h.; that is, 1.3 m above the ground level) ≥ 10 cm, both the density and species richness increased in the shade-tolerant group, while density increased and species richness decreased in the shade-intolerant group. Among smaller sized regenerating species including trees (1.3 m in height < 10 cm d.b.h.), a general decrease in species richness was observed along with significant changes in stem densities where the number of stems in the shade-tolerant species increased while that of both shade-intolerant and vine species decreased. Excluding the vines and understorey species from the broader regenerating species, revealed a decrease in species richness in juvenile canopy tree, and a significant change in densities with the number of stems in the shade-tolerant increasing while that of shade-intolerant trees decreased. A comparison between the canopy trees ≥ 10 cm d.b.h. and the juvenile canopy trees group showed that these groups were tending towards similar floristic assemblages. These results suggest gradual replacement of shade-intolerant by shade-tolerant species as stands tend toward later stages of regeneration. This study shows that the inclusion of regenerating species in long-term studies is both complementary to the larger plant component and more revealing of both trends and changes.
 
Article
Abstract The photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) incident on a horizontal surface at an open mountain site is positively correlated with solar altitude for sunny, blue sky conditions. The proportion of red light in PAR decreases with increasing solar altitude, while that of blue increases. These results are consistent with the wavelength dependency of Rayleigh and Mie scattering. The ratio of near infrared radiation to PAR decreases with increasing solar altitude towards solar noon and with decreasing solar altitude towards sunset. Thus surface reflection seems to be an important part of the light climate. The relative transmission of daylight through a forest canopy to a horizontal surface is not correlated with solar altitude for sunny, blue sky conditions at a mountain site. The amount of diffuse daylight is negatively correlated with per cent canopy interception, and the amount of direct sunlight is negatively correlated with per cent solar track interception. Daylength is negatively correlated with both canopy and solar track interceptions. The proportion of red light in PAR increases with increasing solar altitude, while that of blue decreases. These results are opposite those for the open site and are due to the spatial patterns of canopy obstruction of the sky vault, and of the spectral quality of daylight across the sky. The ratio of near infrared radiation to PAR in shadelight increases with increasing canopy interception due to the selective scattering properties of the canopy. The ratio for shadelight is positively correlated with the ratio for sunflecks.
 
Article
Successful management of invasive weeds will require active attempts to prevent new introductions, vigilant detection of nascent populations and persistent efforts to eradicate the worst invaders. To achieve these objectives, invasion ecology offers five groups of complementary approaches. (i) Stochastic approaches allow probabilistic predictions about potential invaders based on initial population size, residence time and number of introduction attempts. (ii) Empirical taxon-specific approaches are based on previously documented invasions of particular taxa. (iii) Evaluations of the biological characters of non-invasive taxa and successful invaders give rise either to general or to habitat-specific screening procedures. (iv) Evaluation of environmental compatibility helps to predict whether a particular plant taxon can invade specific habitats. (v) Experimental approaches attempt to tease apart intrinsic and extrinsic factors underlying invasion success. An emerging theory of plant invasiveness based on biological characters has resulted in several rather robust predictions which are presented in this paper.
 
Bird survey sites in Type 5b fragments. Dark grey represents the three fragments surveyed and points represent the centre of survey sites. Lighter grey represents other remnant vegetation.
Major contributors to the overall dissimilarity of bird assemblages in Curtain Fig sites in March (pre-cyclone) and April (post-cyclone) 2006
Major contributors to the overall dissimilarity of bird assemblages in Picnic Crossing sites in March (pre-cyclone) and April (post-cyclone) 2006
The number of bird species and the average number of individuals recorded in surveys before Cyclone Larry (Oct 2005 and Mar 2006) and after (Apr 2006 and Oct 2006)
Article
Abstract Bird surveys were conducted to assess the impact of a severe cyclone on bird communities in three fragments of the endangered rainforest Type 5b on the Atherton Tablelands of far north Queensland. Bird communities were surveyed using timed area searches in three sites in each of the three fragments and were undertaken prior to and following Tropical Cyclone Larry. Cyclone Larry caused short-term changes in the abundance of some species of birds in Type 5b rainforest fragments. Two weeks after the storm, in two of three fragments surveyed, abundance of the frugivorous wompoo fruit-dove (Ptilinopus magnificus) and figbird (Sphecotheres viridis) had decreased while the omnivorous Macleay's honeyeater (Xanthotis macleayana) and Lewin's honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii) decreased in abundance in all three locations. Most insectivorous species increased in some sites and decreased in others following Cyclone Larry. Rapid recovery of bird communities to approximately their pre-cyclone state after only 7 months appeared to reflect the capacity of species to either modify their foraging behaviour, switch foods, or to move within or between fragments or to other food sources in the landscape.
 
Article
Abstract The late Quaternary vegetation communities of the south-central highlands of Victoria are reconstructed from analyses of pollen and charcoal, and associated environmental conditions derived from the record of Nothofagus cunninghamii and alpine and sclerophyll taxa preserved in four subalpine Sphagnum bogs. The highest site occurs amid Eucalyptus paudflora woodland, the two intermediate sites are surrounded by Eucalyptus delegatensis forest and the lowest by a mixed forest of E. delegatensis/Eucalyptus regnans. Small pockets of N. cunninghamii occur within the eucalypt forests, and in close proximity to all four sites. Around 32 000 BP the vegetation consisted of a mosaic of alpine feldmark and herbfield, with small scattered groves of Nothofagus and Eucalyptus well below 1100m. Summer temperatures were probably 5°C lower than present with lowest values, probably 7° to 8°C below present, possibly between 17 000 and 13 500 BP, at which time alpine communities reached their greatest extent and much of the Central Highlands was treeless. After ca 13 500 BP herbaceous alpine taxa disappeared and there was an associated movement upslope of Nothofagus and tall open forest taxa to their maximum post-glacial extent, as temperatures and effective precipitation increased, ca 6000 BP. The retraction of cool temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll or tall open forest towards present day values indicates lower effective precipitation, generally rising temperatures and increased fire hazard. More recently, European activities have increased the stress on the remaining forests. The study of four sites has demonstrated die importance of analysing a number of sites within a given area in order to overcome the limitations imposed by sites which were sub-optimal due to one or more factors including poor preservation, problems of dating, variable sedimentation rates, and the influence of streams which flow close to all sites. While die local environment varies between sites, and some vegetation changes are successional, this study shows that the local records complement one another, to some extent reinforcing die regional picture of vegetation and environmental change.
 
Article
False absences in wildlife surveys make it difficult to identify metapopulation processes, increase uncertainty of management decisions and bias parameter estimates in habitat models. Despite these risks, the number of species that can be detected with a certain probability in a community survey has rarely been examined. I sampled beetles over 5 months using pitfall trap grids at three rainforest locations in Tasmania, Australia. I compared detection probability for dispersed and clustered sampling schemes using a zero-inflated binomial model and a simpler occurrence method to calculate the probability of detection. After excluding extremely rare species, I analysed 12 of 121 species. Only three to six species could be detected with 95% probability using a sampling effort that is frequently applied in ecological studies. A majority of common species had a mid summer peak in detection probability meaning that survey effort could be reduced from 5 to 2 months with only a small reduction in data quality. Most species occurred at only a proportion of sample points within locations. Despite the implied spatial structuring, three small grids within a location detected 10 of 12 species as effectively as large, dispersed grids. This study warns that as little as 5% of the beetle fauna may have a 95% probability of detection using the frequently applied pitfall trap method, highlighting a substantial limitation in our ability to accurately map the distributions of ground invertebrates. Whether very large sample sizes can overcome this limitation remains to be examined.
 
Article
The long-term movement of the abalone Haliotis laevigata was measured at three sites in Waterloo Bay, South Australia, characterized by differing amounts of available crevice space. Movement was negligible at a site where crevices were abundant, but extensive at a site without crevice space. At a site of limited available crevice space, the amount of movement increased as available crevice space decreased. In addition, the extent of movement was size dependent and movement was oriented in the direction of the approaching swell.Current experimental designs for measuring natural mortality of abalone depend heavily on assumptions about their movement. An understanding of this behaviour is thus a prerequisite for designing experiments to measure the mortality rates of abalone or other sedentary animals.The natural mortality rate at one site was estimated to be 0.59 (s.e.m. = 0.02, i.e. survival = 56% per year) and the disappearance rate (natural mortality and emigration) was independent of sex.
 
Map showing location of four study regions and survey sites (+).
Relationship between total Haliotis rubra abundance and understorey organisms. Significant regression lines (α = 0.05) and corresponding r2 values are shown. Note different scales on the x-axis. †Relationship influenced by outlier with strong leverage.
Influence of depth on (a) abundance of understorey organisms and (b) Haliotis rubra
Article
It is increasingly recognized that fisheries must take the broader ecosystem into account for sustainable management of marine systems, requiring an understanding of the interaction between fished species and other organisms. This study uses a correlative approach to investigate potential interactions between benthic organisms and Haliotis rubra, a dominant herbivore that is the subject of a large and valuable commercial fishery in south-eastern Australia. Specific emphasis was placed on understanding associations between H. rubra and understorey organisms, because particular understorey algae (crustose coralline algae) provide critical habitat for H. rubra larval recruitment and juvenile ecology. Broad-scale surveys along the 6–8 m depth contour (the depth range where H. rubra fishing activity is intense) were conducted across four regions (separated by 104−105 m), including at least 10 sites (separated by 102−103 m) within each region. Positive correlations between H. rubra and crustose coralline algae were found, while negative correlations were observed between H. rubra and sessile invertebrates and understorey algae. While significant, these associations were weak and H. rubra abundance generally only explained a small proportion of the variability in the abundance of understorey organisms (r2 0.02–0.30). H. rubra abundance also had a minor influence on community-level understorey patterns in comparison with differences in community structure attributable to regional variation. Patterns of H. rubra abundance and benthic community structure were also examined in relation to depth at a restricted number of sites. At sites where differences in understorey groups were evident, H. rubra abundance also varied significantly, highlighting the issue of confounding when contrasting patterns of understorey abundance using a correlative approach. Further manipulative experiments are required to confirm causal relationships; however, the available correlative evidence suggests limited ecosystem effects of H. rubra depletion at the scale of individual reefs.
 
Article
The role played by abandoned nests of leaf-cutting ants (Atta spp.) as a small-scale disturbance regime that affects plant recruitment, species coexistence and forest regeneration remains poorly investigated. Here we examine whether abandoned nests of Atta cephalotes serve as regeneration niches and operate as particular plant recruitment habitats, favouring forest regeneration after ant activities cease and leading to the establishment of taxonomically/ecologically distinct plant assemblages. Soil properties, canopy openness, light availability and regenerating plant assemblages were evaluated across 18 nests and adjacent control plots in a large remnant of Atlantic Forest in north-east Brazil from December 2004 to December 2005. Surprisingly, nests and control plots exhibited very similar light environments irrespective of nest age, but nest soils exhibited substantial reductions in carbon content (1.45 ± 0.24 vs. 1.79 ± 0.13%) and organic matter (2.50 ± 0.41 vs. 3.08 ± 0.23%), and proved to be much more resistant to penetration (30.57 ± 6.08 vs. 39.48 ± 7.53 mm). Functional signature of regenerating plant assemblages exhibited little variation across both habitat types, as they were dominated by pioneer, small-seeded and vertebrate-dispersed species. However, abandoned nests exhibited less dense, impoverished and more homogeneous regenerating plant assemblages at local and landscape scale; they clearly lacked nest-dependent plant species and represented floristic subsets of the flora inhabiting the undisturbed forest. This recruitment bottleneck was transient in the long term because nest-related effects ameliorated in older nests. Our results suggest that, unlike treefall gaps, abandoned nests represent temporary (relatively long-lasting) islands of unsuitable substrate that reduce plant recruitment, retard forest regeneration, and fail in providing a special regeneration niche able to promote species coexistence and plant diversity.
 
Article
Abstract In spite of numerous studies on the effect of nutrient levels and/or standing crop on the intensity of resource competition the debate has not been resolved. Field studies that have used natural productivity gradients have generally supported the argument that competitive intensity and resource availability are positively correlated, whereas studies that have used artificial resource gradients have generally refuted the same argument. Here we report the results from study in which both approaches were used within the same system. We studied two species of eucalypt that occupy contrasting parts of the same landscape: Eucalyptus camaldulensis, found mostly along creek lines and in valleys with deep alluvial soils, and Eucalyptus microcarpa, found on hillsides and ridges with shallow soils. We studied the response of seedlings of the two species to the combined effects of competition and manipulated nutrient levels in a glasshouse experiment, and also investigated their responses to removal of neighbouring plants in the field. Eucalyptus microcarpa was less responsive to increased resource availability, which is consistent with one of the principal assumptions of Grime’s C-S-R model. In the glasshouse experiment both species of eucalypt responded in a qualitatively similar fashion to the combined effects of resource availability and competition: release from competition resulted in increased growth, but only in pots that received additional resources. In the field we found that neighbouring vegetation could severely limit the establishment of E. camaldulensis but the removal of neighbouring vegetation did not affect the performance of E. microcarpa seedlings. Eucalyptus camaldulensis seedlings suffered high levels of damage from herbivores. Our results thus generally support the predications of the C-S-R model, however, they indicate that the effects of competition and herbivory may be heavily confounded.
 
Article
Abstract Environmental conditions such as light level, background contrast and temperature might influence a spider's prey capture success and risk of predation. Thus it may often be advantageous for spiders to adjust web-building behaviour in response to variation in these environmental conditions. This hypothesis was examined in a study of the construction of webs and web decorations (conspicuous strands of silk at the hub of the web) of the orb-web spider Argiope keyserlingi. Web decorations are thought to have one or more separate functions. They may attract prey, deter predators or advertise the web to oncoming birds, thus preventing web damage. In this series of experiments, relationships between weather parameters and the construction of webs and web decorations were considered. In complementary laboratory experiments, A. keyserlingi spiders were exposed to two different light levels (700 and 90 lx), background contrasts (black and white) and temperature conditions (20 and 26°C). Of the available weather parameters, only temperature was significantly related to web decorating behaviour but not to web size. In the laboratory, temperature also influenced web-decorating behaviour, and spiders in dim light (700 lx) constructed larger webs and longer decorations. Background contrast did not significantly alter web size or web decorations. These data suggest that when prey availability is reduced at low temperatures, spiders may use web decorations to attract prey to the web. Similarly, in dim light, spiders may build more and larger decorations to increase the visual signal to approaching prey or to advertise the web to oncoming birds.
 
Article
Relationships are established between flux measures in macrobenthos and climatic variables, and between these measures and certain estimates of the catches of penaeid prawns. Cycles in flux do not appear to reflect inherent annual rhythms; positive flux (overall recruitment rates) show strong positive correlations with temperatures of seven months previously; negative flux (overall depletion rates) show strong positive correlations with prawn catches of the same month or a month before.
 
Article
Despite the widespread recognition that disturbance by livestock affects multiple indices of landscape health, few studies have examined their effects on both biotic and abiotic processes. We examined the effects of livestock disturbance on soil, vascular plants and reptiles across a disturbance gradient in a semi-arid Australian woodland. Our gradient ranged from long-ungrazed water remote sites, through intermediately grazed recovering sites, to currently grazed sites close to water. Our aim was to examine the nature of the effects of grazing-induced disturbance on biotic and abiotic processes along the gradient. We detected small biotic effects, but no abiotic effects, at low levels of disturbance (intermediate sites). We could not detect a consistent biotic effect on plants or reptiles along the gradient, except between the extreme disturbances. In contrast, we recorded substantial reductions in abiotic structure and function at the most disturbed sites. Structural changes included reductions in the cover of shrub hummocks and increases in bare soil, and reductions in cryptogamic soil crusts. Structural changes were associated with declines in function (soil stability and nutrient indices). Our data are consistent with the notion that abiotic effects predominate at high levels of disturbance in rangelands. Given the extent of abiotic modification at currently grazed sites, the cover of abiotic elements such as hummocks and soil surfaces would seem a better indicator of the long-term effect of grazing-induced disturbance than biotic components. The extent of disturbance at currently grazed sites across large areas of rangeland suggests that autogenic recovery will be protracted.
 
Article
Local adaptation in alpine plants has been demonstrated across wide altitudinal gradients, but has rarely been examined across the alpine-to-montane transition that often encompasses only a few hundred metres. Here we characterize morphological variation in leaf and floral characteristics of the trigger plant Stylidium armeria along a narrow altitudinal gradient in the Bogong High Plains in Victoria. Across this gradient, which encompasses the high-elevation limit of this species, linear changes were found for floral scape height, leaf length and flower number. All these traits decreased with increasing altitude, whereas the frequency of abnormal flowers increased. When plants were grown in a common garden environment, an altitudinal pattern for flower abnormalities was no longer detected. However, altitudinal patterns for leaf length and scape height were maintained, albeit weaker than in the field. This indicates heritable variation for these morphological traits; the altitudinal patterns are likely to reflect the effects of selection by environmental factors that vary with altitude. Selection pressures remain to be identified but have generated both cogradient and countergradient patterns of variation.
 
Top-cited authors
K. Robert Clarke
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory
M. J. Anderson
  • Massey University
Richard Shine
  • Macquarie University
Tony D. Auld
  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment NSW (formerly Office of Environment and Heritage)
John Woinarski
  • Charles Darwin University