Macquarie University
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The role of fire in coastal dune geomorphology

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:23 authored by Samuel Joel Shumack
After disturbance to protective covering, vegetated sand dunes may become bare and mobile. This thesis addresses the hypothesis that fire is a disturbance which plays a role in de-stabilising coastal dunes. Firstly, we conducted a regional scale remote sensing analysis of Landsat Thematic Mapper, Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus, and Operational Land Imager data on 31 fire-scars on coastal dunes in Western Australia (WA). We used the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index to assess medium-to-long term vegetation recovery and maximum-likelihood image classification to monitor substantial changes in bare sand area. Secondly, we surveyed recently burnt coastal dunes near Esperance to characterise the disturbance to the dunes' protective covering in terms of remnant vegetation structure, wind flow, surface characteristics, aeolian activity, and regeneration. Results suggested that a) no active dunes were initiated by 30 fires over 28 years; b) native dune vegetation regenerates well after fires, particularly within six months; c) burnt vegetation allows wind to impact the surface with minimal obstruction, but may not allow the same topographic acceleration seen on active dunes; d) remnant ground cover inhibits post-fire sand movement; and e) complex interactions between burn severity, seedbank distribution and post-fire precipitation affect regeneration, and may prolong surface exposure to wind.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. The impact of fire on sand dune stability: surface coverage and biomass recovery after fires on Western Australian coastal dune systems from 1988 to 2016 -- Chapter 3. Characterising the disturbance from fires on coastal dunes near Esperance, Western Australia: implications to dune de-stabilisation -- Chapter 4. Conclusion -- Chapter 5. References -- Chapter 6. Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 51-57 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Department of Environmental Sciences

Department, Centre or School

Department of Environmental Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Paul Hesse


Copyright Samuel Joel Shumack 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




Western Australia


1 online resource (v, 62 pages) colour illustrations

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