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A review of Australian tree fern ecology in forest communities

Donoghue, S and Turner, PAM 2022 , 'A review of Australian tree fern ecology in forest communities' , Austral Ecology, vol. 47, no. 2 , pp. 145-165 , doi: 10.1111/aec.13103.

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Australian forest ecosystems cover almost 16% of Australia’s landmass. As the seventh-largest forested area worldwide, these forest ecosystems have largely evolved in the face of a changing climate and fire regime, drought and human land use practice. Australian tree ferns contribute to both the unique biodiversity of these forests and current forest product markets. We review the Australian tree fern literature including: the importance of tree ferns for other components of biodiversity; their response to disturbance such as fire and silviculture; and the management of tree ferns as a product for the horticultural market. Most studies focused on tree fern response to wildfire and clearfell burn and sow logging following management and horticultural industry changes. Survival and recruitment of tree ferns after a single fire/logging disturbance event found short-lived negative impacts. Studies of tree ferns over time include research on growth, with non-linear growth models found to best describe tree fern age; Cyathea australis grows 2.2 - 4.0 times faster than Dicksonia antarctica on average. Tree ferns perform a keystone function through habitat for epiphytes at the local scale, but it is unknown if this has an impact on biodiversity at the landscape scale. Our review found few studies on survival and recruitment following drought; multiple disturbance events such as repeated logging; and silvicultural techniques other than clearfell burn and sow. No studies had investigated the response of tree ferns to changing climate, invasive species, changes in fire frequency or effect of megafire. We conclude with recommendations for key areas of research including, future impacts due to changing climate, synecology, influence on forests, the impact of silvicultural techniques and the influence of megafires on survival.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Donoghue, S and Turner, PAM
Keywords: forestry, biodiversity, management, disturbance, fire, silviculture, horticulture
Journal or Publication Title: Austral Ecology
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Asia
ISSN: 1442-9993
DOI / ID Number: 10.1111/aec.13103
Copyright Information:

© 2021 Ecological Society of Australia.

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