Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

The effects of a low-intensity fire on small mammals and lizards in a logged, burnt forest

Angela M. Penn, William B. Sherwin, Daniel Lunney and Peter B. Banks

Wildlife Research 30(5) 477 - 486
Published: 04 December 2003


This study summarises the results of a patchy, low-intensity hazard-reduction burn on the small mammals and lizards of Mumbulla State Forest and Biamanga National Park. About half of the study sites in the patchwork of alternate logging regrowth and unlogged forest had been burnt in April 1999. Prior to burning (winter 1998), there were significantly more Antechinus agilis in those north-west-facing sites that burnt in 1999, than in the south-east sites that burnt. By 15 months post-burning this trend had reversed, with more A. agilis in the burnt south-east sites. In contrast, burning had an initially positive effect on the abundance of Rattus fuscipes, with significantly more in the burnt south-east than burnt north-west sites four months post-burning compared with 1998 (pre-burning). This influence of aspect may be attributable to the fact that fires generally burn more intensely on the drier north-west slopes, removing more of the leaf litter and vegetative cover and making post-fire conditions harsher. Antechinus swainsonii became extremely scarce in the forest after the burning. Twenty months post-burning (summer 2000), there were significantly more Lampropholis delicata in the unburnt sites than in the burnt sites compared with 1999 (10 months post-burn). Lampropholis guichenoti were affected to a much lesser extent and recovered quickly, and Eulamprus heatwolei were generally unaffected by the burning. The hazard-reduction burn came 19 years after a high-intensity bushfire and logging operation in this forest. The results of the two fires were similar for the two Antechinus species and the Eulamprus species but contrasted for the other species. Hazard-reduction burning is widespread and accepted as a management tool and, following the New South Wales bushfires of 1994–95 and 2001–02, will probably increase in use. Our results, however, suggest that the biodiversity impacts of burning are complex and multidirectional, posing a significant challenge to conservation managers.


© CSIRO 2003

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