This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.
Experimental designs for studying small mammal responses to fire in North American conifer forests
Fires are dominant disturbances in coniferous forests across North America. As fires increase in size and severity with climate change, it is critical to understand and forecast how forest mammals respond to these altered post-fire landscapes. Because fires vary in size, severity, and landscape context, it is also important to understand the experimental designs and response variables ecologists use to address post-fire responses of mammals. We analyzed 48 papers published from 1988-2015 that examined responses of small mammals to natural or prescribed fire in North American conifer forests. These papers used different experimental contrasts (e.g. comparison of burned/unburned sites, time series, within-fire heterogeneity). Most studies (89.6%) presented species richness or abundances of common species as their major response variable(s), but abundances were often derived via index methods rather than estimators. Many studies did not fully describe the fires that were examined; these omissions make it more difficult to interpret and compare results among studies. The limited scope of inference presented by the papers in this review leads us to recommend a minimal set of information that should be presented about each fire studied. We conclude by outlining how different experimental designs and response variables can be used for effective inference. We thus highlight major pathways forward for examining responses of small forest mammals to the important changes in fire regime that are occurring.
WF16223 Accepted 10 March 2017
© CSIRO 2017