We surveyed vegetation diversity among different post-fire growth stages in heathy woodland, and used optimisation to determine the proportions of growth stages that would maximise species diversity. Pairing optimisation with the simulation model allowed us to identify the cumulative effects of different fire-regime scenarios on vegetation diversity.
The best scenario for vegetation diversity was 5% prescribed burning per year (with and without wildfire) which resulted in diversity values close to the theoretical maximum. Trends across the 60 years showed that wildfire depressed diversity and subsequent prescribed fire drove recovery within 15 years. The largest threat to vegetation diversity was the absence of fire.
Our method provides a flexible platform for developing long‐term fire management strategies that seek to balance human safety and biodiversity conservation.
Find out more: Chick, M., York, A., Sitters, H., Di Stefano, J. & Nitschke, C. (in press). The cumulative impacts of prescribed burning and wildfire on vegetation diversity. Journal of Applied Ecology.