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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 21(4)

The role of fire severity, distance from fire perimeter and vegetation on post-fire recovery of small-mammal communities in chaparral

Jay Diffendorfer A E, Genie M. Fleming B, Scott Tremor B, Wayne Spencer C and Jan L. Beyers D

A Rocky Mountain Geographic Science Center, US Geological Survey, PO Box 25046, MS 507, Denver, CO 80225, USA.
B San Diego Natural History Museum, PO Box 121390, San Diego, CA 92112, USA.
C Conservation Biology Institute, 815 Madison Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116, USA.
D USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Fire Laboratory, 4955 Canyon Crest Drive, Riverside, CA 92507, USA.
E Corresponding author. Email: jediffendorfer@usgs.gov

International Journal of Wildland Fire 21(4) 436-448 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF10060
Submitted: 26 May 2010  Accepted: 12 July 2011   Published: 20 February 2012

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Chaparral shrublands in southern California, US, exhibit significant biodiversity but are prone to large, intense wildfires. Debate exists regarding fuel reduction to prevent such fires in wildland areas, but the effects of these fires on fauna are not well understood. We studied whether fire severity and distance from unburned fire perimeter influenced recovery of the small-mammal community from 13 to 39 months after the large (1134.2 km2) Cedar fire in San Diego County. In general, neither factor influenced small-mammal recovery. However, vegetation characteristics, distance to riparian habitat and the prevalence of rocky substrate affected recovery in species-specific patterns. This indicates the effects of fire severity and immigration from outside the fire perimeter, if they occur, do so within 1 year, whereas longer-term recovery is largely driven by previously known relationships between small mammals and habitat structure. Our results, when combined with results from other studies in southern California, suggest where human lives or infrastructure are not at risk, efforts to preserve chaparral biodiversity should focus on maintaining the native plant community. Doing so may require novel management strategies in the face of an increasing human population, ignition sources and the spread of invasive exotic plants.

Additional keywords: coastal sage scrub, fire management, shrubland.


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