Estimating forest habitat complexity in relation to time since fire


1) CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, Private Bag 10, Clayton South, Victoria 3169, Australia (Email:

2) CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology, GPO Box 284, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia


Forest structure does not form an even distribution over forested landscapes; rather, it produces a mosaic or patchwork pattern. ‘Habitat complexity scores’ provide a method of describing changes in vegetation biomass and, when assessed at randomly located plots, a frequency distribution of habitat can be developed. The frequency distribution can be used to describe characteristics of the pattern of habitat complexity, such as the mean and heterogeneity of habitat over the whole forest. In the present paper, a historical sequence of habitat complexity scores collected from 99 sites over an 18-year period was used. The frequency distribution of the habitat complexity scores was fitted using a binomial distribution and the parameters of the binomial distribution were modelled to provide a relationship between the frequency of different habitat environments across the landscape and the time since wildfire. In most cases, the binomial distributions fitted the observed data significantly. The relationship between the binomial parameters and the time since fire was found to be highly significant (P<0.01). Habitat complexity scores were predicted from the model solely as a function of time since fire, allowing both retrospective and future predictions of the distribution of habitats to be undertaken.