The effect of wildfire on scattered trees

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This week’s featured research article has just been published in Austral Ecology and investigates the effect of wildfire on the distribution and abundance of scattered trees in agricultural landscapes. In agricultural landscapes, scattered trees are often considered keystone structures in these highly modified landscapes, providing habitat for native biodiversity, ecosystem function and agricultural production. In many landscapes, populations of scattered trees are under threat from a variety of processes, including nutrient enrichment, agricultural intensification, disease, and particularly lack of recruitment. However, the impact of wildfire on scattered tree populations has been paid limited attention. The authors investigated the impact of wildfire on scattered trees by measuring (with a combination of remote sensing and ground truthing) the abundance of scattered trees before and after wildfire, and in paired control sites, across a number of areas that had been impacted by recent wildfire. Wildfire had a significant impact on the abundance of scattered trees in these landscapes; where fires occurred, tree abundance declined by an average of 20%, while comparable control sites increased by an average of 5%. Given the role that scattered plays play in agricultural landscapes, the impact of fire on these key structures need to be more carefully considered by managers, alongside the range of other drivers of scattered tree declines. The article can be downloaded here.