International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

What factors influence rapid post-fire site re-occupancy? A case study of the endangered Eastern Bristlebird in eastern Australia

David B. Lindenmayer A C , Chris MacGregor A , Jeff T. Wood A , Ross B. Cunningham A , Mason Crane A , Damian Michael A , Rebecca Montague-Drake A , Darren Brown A , Martin Fortescue B , Nick Dexter B , Matt Hudson B and A. Malcolm Gill A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Fenner School of Environment and Society, W K Hancock Building West (Bldg 43), The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

B Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Jervis Bay Village, Jervis Bay Territory, ACT 2540, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 18(1) 84-95
Submitted: 12 March 2007  Accepted: 8 May 2008   Published: 17 February 2009


We quantified the post-fire recovery of the endangered Eastern Bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus) at Booderee National Park, south-eastern Australia. Occurrence was recorded on 110 sites a year before, and for 3 years after a major unplanned fire in 2003. Although the Eastern Bristlebird is thought to be sensitive to wildfire, data indicated that the species either persisted continuously on burned sites or returned to previously occupied sites within 2 years. Post-fire site occupancy was associated with several factors: (1) pre-fire site occupancy; (2) vegetation type; (3) spatial heterogeneity in fire and the amount of unburned vegetation surrounding a site; and (4) site-level vegetation structure (e.g. diversity of understorey and midstorey plants). The most likely mechanism underpinning rapid re-occupancy was movement by resident birds to unburned parts elsewhere within their territories. The addition of intensive feral predator baiting within the present study suggests that predation may have a more important effect on populations after unplanned fires than formerly recognised. Our results have significant implications for fire management in areas where the Eastern Bristlebird occurs. Care should be taken with back-burning during unplanned fires and the spatial and temporal arrangement of prescribed fires to ensure unburned vegetation remains as refugia to facilitate bird persistence.

Additional keywords: avifauna, south-eastern Australia, vegetation management.


The current project on the Eastern Bristlebird is part of a major study in Booderee National Park. It is funded by the Australian Research Council, the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and the Department of Defence. The strong support of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community is also most gratefully acknowledged and we are privileged to work on land that is co-managed by them. Scott Surridge, Peter Cochrane and Con Boekel have been important supporters of this project since its inception. Counts of birds were completed through the generous assistance of highly experienced expert volunteers from the Canberra Ornithologists Group. In particular, we thank Bruce Lindenmayer, Jenny Bounds, Martin Moffat, Terry Munro, Peter Fullager and Chris Davey.


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