Journal article

Climatic warming strengthens a positive feedback between alpine shrubs and fire

James S Camac, Richard J Williams, Carl-Henrik Wahren, Ary A Hoffmann, Peter A Vesk



Climate change is expected to increase fire activity and woody plant encroachment in arctic and alpine landscapes. However, the extent to which these increases interact to affect the structure, function and composition of alpine ecosystems is largely unknown. Here we use field surveys and experimental manipulations to examine how warming and fire affect recruitment, seedling growth and seedling survival in four dominant Australian alpine shrubs. We found that fire increased establishment of shrub seedlings by as much as 33-fold. Experimental warming also doubled growth rates of tall shrub seedlings and could potentially increase their survival. By contrast, warming had no effect on shrub rec..

View full abstract


Funding Acknowledgements

This research was funded through Australian Research Council Linkage Grants, partnered through the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Parks Victoria and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Plot infrastructure was supported by the Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTERN). Funding was also received from the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and Holsworth Research Committee. J.S.C was a recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award. Monica Camac, Brad Farmilo, Monica Hursburgh, Paulius Kviecinskas, Karen Stott, Imogen Fraser, Sarah Bartlett, Paul Smart, Steven Rumbold, Lachlan Yourn and Chris Jones provided assistance with field measurements. William Morris and John Baumgartner provided coding advice and Warwick Papst provided field logistic advice. Daniel Falster and Richard Fitzjohn developed software that enabled these analyses to be readily reproducible. Special thanks to John Baumgartner, David Bowman, Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez, Anais Gibert, John Morgan, Kimberley Millers, Michaela Plein and Inka Veltheim for their comments on this manuscript. This research was conducted under Parks Victoria permits 10005212 & 10006611.