Fire management and tree decline: mycorrhizal indicators of declining forest health

Tree decline (decreasing health of mature trees leading to premature death) is a significant forest health issue in Australia. In Tasmania, decline of Eucalyptus delegatensis , a species found in high altitude forest in the north-east, has been linked to changes in fire management. In the absence of fire, a thick understorey of rainforest species develops and decline of canopy trees followed by premature death is apparent. Earlier research has indicated that there are associated changes in the fungal community when a forest is decline.

This research project aims the identify changes in the fungal community as forests become increasingly unhealthy and may also identify aspects of the fungal community that influence and maintain healthy forests. To do this, fungal species will be examined from healthy recently burnt forest and long unburnt unhealthy forest. Changes that take place in the fungal community following fire will also be monitored.

The outcomes of this project will not only expand our understanding of fire ecology and forest health but also identify possible forest health indicators within the fungal community which will aid in the long term management of healthy forests.

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Authors B.M. Horton; D.C. Close; T.J. WARDLAW; N.J. Davidson; G. Morag; D. Ratkowsky; C. Mohammed