Increasing the resilience of the Australian alpine flora to climate change and associated threats: A plant functional traits approach
Mount Kosciusko (NSW) is part of one of the three most at risk ecosystems in Australia from climate change, and management needs to limit the spread of fires, feral animals (particularly hard-hooved animals) and weeds if the resilience of the alpine flora is to be improved. While recovery from fire differs among plant communities, rare and specialised plant communities such as short alpine herbfield and windswept feldmark will be threatened through the effects of more frequent fires. Tall alpine herbfield was found to be relatively resilient to threats such as fire and hare grazing, but not to grazing by hard-hooved animals such as cattle. Cattle grazing resulted in clear changes to composition and functional diversity of vegetation even 43 years later. Where conditions are warmer, herbs and graminoids are being replaced by more competitive shrubs. Enhancement of climate change resilience therefore involves minimising existing threats – particularly those from fire, weeds and hard-hooved grazing animals, as climate change is likely to increase wildfires in the region and expand the distribution of weeeds. These findings and recommendations are the result of compositional and functional trait analyses conducted for 220 alpine flora species.
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