Impacts of cyclone Larry on the vegetation structure of timber plantations, restoration plantings and rainforest on the Atherton Tableland, Australia

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Kanowski, John
Catterall, Carla P
McKenna, Stephen G
Jensen, Rigel
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Michael Bull (Managing Editor)

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2008
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We examined the impact of severe cyclone 'Larry' on the vegetation structure of monoculture and mixed species timber plantations, restoration plantings and reference sites in upland rainforests on the Atherton Tableland, north Queensland, Australia. Sites were initially assessed in 2000 and resurveyed in 2006, six to eight months after the cyclone traversed the region. In both surveys, timber plantations had a relatively open canopy, grassy understorey and few shrubs or small-sized trees; whereas restoration plantings had a relatively closed canopy, an understorey of bare ground, leaf litter and rainforest seedlings, a high density of small-diameter trees and a moderate representation of special life forms characteristic of rainforest. Cyclone damage varied with tree size, site-type, proximity to the cyclone and stem density. First, the proportion of trees that were severely damaged by the cyclone (major branches broken, stem snapped or pushed over) increased with the diameter of trees across all site types. Second, damage to larger-sized trees (>10 cm dbh, >20 cm dbh) was proportionally highest in monoculture plantations, intermediate in mixed species plantations and rainforest, and lowest in restoration plantings. Third, within site-types, damage levels decreased with distance from the cyclone track and with stem density. There was no evidence that topographical position influenced damage levels, at least for timber plantations. We tentatively attribute the high levels of damage experienced by timber plantations to their relatively open structure and the large size of stems in plantations. Restoration plantings generally escaped severe damage by the cyclone, but their continued development towards rainforest conditions may require a coordinated monitoring and maintenance program to address the potential threat of weed invasion.

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Austral Ecology: a journal of ecology in the Southern Hemisphere

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33

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4

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Author Posting. Copyright 2008. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Austral Ecology, volume 33 Issue 4, Pages 485 - 494. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-9993.2008.01903.x

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Environmental sciences

Biological sciences

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