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Drivers of rain-forest boundary dynamics in Kakadu National Park, northern Australia: a field assessment.


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Banfai, DS and Bowman, DMJS (2007) Drivers of rain-forest boundary dynamics in Kakadu National Park, northern Australia: a field assessment. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 23. pp. 73-86. ISSN 0266-4674

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Understanding the causes of savanna–forest dynamics is vital as small but widespread changes in the
extent of tropical forests can have major impacts on global climate, biodiversity and human well-being. Comparison
of aerial photographs for 50 rain-forest patches in Kakadu National Park had previously revealed a landscape-wide
monotonic expansion of rain-forest boundaries between 1964 and 2004. Here floristic, structural, environmental and
disturbance attributes of the changes were investigated by sampling 588 plots across 30 rain-forest patches. Areas
that had changed from savanna to rain forest were associated with a significantly higher abundance of rain-forest
trees and less grasses, relative to stable savanna areas. Ordination analyses showed that overall floristic composition
was not significantly different between newly established rain forest and longer established rain forest. Generalized
linearmodels also indicated that contemporary levels of disturbance (fire and feral animal impact) and environmental
variables (slope and soil texture) were poor predictors of historical vegetation change. We concluded that (1) the
rain-forest boundaries are highly dynamic at the decadal scale; (2) rain-forest expansion is consistent with having
been driven by global environmental change phenomena such as increases in rainfall and atmospheric CO2; and (3)
expansion will continue if current climatic trends and management conditions persist.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Tropical Ecology
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Page Range: pp. 73-86
ISSN: 0266-4674
Identification Number - DOI: 10.1017/S0266467406003701
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2008 14:31
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 03:35
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