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Climate change reduces resilience to fire in subalpine rainforests

Mariani, Michela; Fletcher, Michael-Shawn; Haberle, Simon; Chin, Hahjung; Zawadzki, A.; Jacobsen, Geraldine


Michael-Shawn Fletcher

Simon Haberle

Hahjung Chin

A. Zawadzki

Geraldine Jacobsen


Climate change is affecting the distribution of species and the functioning of ecosystems. For species that are slow growing and poorly dispersed, climate change can force a lag between the distributions of species and the geographic distributions of their climatic envelopes, exposing species to the risk of extinction. Climate also governs the resilience of species and ecosystems to disturbance, such as wildfire. Here we use species distribution modelling and palaeoecology to assess and test the impact of vegetation–climate disequilibrium on the resilience of an endangered fire‐sensitive rainforest community to fires. First, we modelled the probability of occurrence of Athrotaxis spp. and Nothofagus gunnii rainforest in Tasmania (hereon “montane rainforest”) as a function of climate. We then analysed three pollen and charcoal records spanning the last 7,500 cal year BP from within both high (n = 1) and low (n = 2) probability of occurrence areas. Our study indicates that climatic change between 3,000 and 4,000 cal year BP induced a disequilibrium between montane rainforests and climate that drove a loss of resilience of these communities. Current and future climate change are likely to shift the geographic distribution of the climatic envelopes of this plant community further, suggesting that current high‐resilience locations will face a reduction in resilience. Coupled with the forecast of increasing fire activity in southern temperate regions, this heralds a significant threat to this and other slow growing, poorly dispersed and fire sensitive forest systems that are common in the southern mid to high latitudes.


Mariani, M., Fletcher, M., Haberle, S., Chin, H., Zawadzki, A., & Jacobsen, G. (2019). Climate change reduces resilience to fire in subalpine rainforests. Global Change Biology, 25(6), 2030-2042.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 28, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 25, 2019
Publication Date 2019-06
Deposit Date Mar 1, 2019
Publicly Available Date Mar 26, 2020
Journal Global Change Biology
Print ISSN 1354-1013
Electronic ISSN 1365-2486
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 6
Pages 2030-2042
Keywords Climate change, palaeoecology, rainforest, resilience, subalpine
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Mariani, M, Fletcher, M‐S, Haberle, S, Chin, H, Zawadzki, A, Jacobsen, G. Climate change reduces resilience to fire in subalpine rainforests. Glob Change Biol. 2019; 00: 1– 13, which has been published in final form at
This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


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