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Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 23(7)

Effect of fire on small mammals: a systematic review

Anthony D. Griffiths A C and Barry W. Brook B

A Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Casuarina, NT 0909, Australia.
B Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5095, Australia. Email: barry.brook@adelaide.edu.au
C Present address: Department of Land Resource Management, PO Box 496 Palmerston, NT 0831, Australia. Corresponding author. Email: tony.griffiths@nt.gov.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(7) 1034-1043 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF14026
Submitted: 7 March 2014  Accepted: 18 May 2014   Published: 14 August 2014

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Fire is a natural disturbance that exerts an important influence on global ecosystems, affecting vegetation distribution and structure, the carbon cycle and climate. However, human-induced changes to fire regimes may affect at-risk species groups such as small mammals. We examine the effect of fire on small mammals and evaluate the relative sensitivity to fire among different groups using a systematic review methodology that included critiquing the literature with respect to survey design and statistical analysis. Overall, small mammal abundance is slightly higher, and demographic parameters more favourable, in unburnt sites compared to burnt sites. This was more pronounced in species with body size range of 101–1000 g and with habitat requirements that are sensitive to fire (e.g. dense ground cover): in 66.6 and 69.7% of pairwise comparisons, abundance or a demographic parameter were higher in unburnt than burnt sites. This systematic review demonstrates that there remains a continued focus on simple shifts in abundance with regards to effect of fire and small mammals, which limits understanding of mechanisms responsible for change. Body size and habitat preference were most important in explaining variation in small mammal species’ responses to fire.

Additional keywords: disturbance, effect size, extinction, model selection.


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