School of Science
Background: Seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTFs) are globally important ecosystems which receive less research attention compared to tropical rainforests but are equally under serious threat. The objectives of this paper are to characterize the vegetation structure, diversity and composition of SDTF of Baluran National Park, East Java, Indonesia, and to assess the impact of burning this SDTF and its post-fire recovery. Methods: In the field, we measured floristic composition and dominance at sites with different fire histories in both SDTF and adjacent savannas of Baluran. Remote sensing image analysis was also employed using the MODIS burn area product and various thematic maps. Results: SDTF at Baluran has moderately high tree cover, is less diverse in species than rainforest, and has a prominent vegetative response to fire, especially in the tree layer. The immediate post-fire period in SDTF featured lower densities of tree seedlings and saplings, more grasses and herbs, and lower species richness than older unburned forest. Species composition varied with fire age and vegetation type, with relatively rapid recovery with time since fire evident, although there was some convergence of long-unburned savanna and SDTF sites in terms of floristics. Conclusions: The SDTF of Baluran recovers after fire principally via resprouting but also via seedling regeneration, with structural attributes returning more quickly ( < 10 years) than floristic composition ( > 10 years). We did not find consistent evidence of ecosystem transitions between SDTF and savanna despite a small number of long-unburned savanna sites having floristic similarities to dry forest (particularly in terms of characteristic tree species), and we identify the need for more study to determine the degree and mechanisms of forest–savanna transitions in the region, with a future research agenda outlined. Relatively large areas of savanna–dry forest transitions demonstrated from remote sensing analyses were primarily attributed to spread of Acacia nilotica (an alien invasive small tree or shrub) into long-unburned savanna, and its decline in areas where the species is being successfully controlled via burning and cutting. Knowledge of such ecological shifting is important for the ecosystem management, especially in terms of their usage by large mammals.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.