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

Response of a shrubland mammal and reptile community to a history of landscape-scale wildfire

Tim S. Doherty A D , Robert A. Davis A , Eddie J. B. van Etten A , Neil Collier B C and Josef Krawiec A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Natural Sciences, Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup WA 6027, Australia.

B Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science, Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup WA 6027, Australia.

C Current address: Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University, Scharnhorstrasse 1, 21335, Lueneburg, Germany.

D Corresponding author. Email: t.doherty@ecu.edu.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 24(4) 534-543 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF14115
Submitted: 27 June 2014  Accepted: 24 November 2014   Published: 2 February 2015

Abstract

Fire plays a strong role in structuring fauna communities and the habitat available to them in fire-prone regions. Human-mediated increases in fire frequency and intensity threaten many animal species and understanding how these species respond to fire history and its associated effect on vegetation is essential to effective biodiversity management. We used a shrubland mammal and reptile community in semiarid south-western Australia as a model to investigate interactions between fire history, habitat structure and fauna habitat use. Of the 15 species analysed, five were most abundant in recently burnt habitat (8–13 years since last fire), four were most abundant in long unburnt areas (25–50 years) and six showed no response to fire history. Fauna responses to fire history were divergent both within and across taxonomic groups. Fire management that homogenises large areas of habitat through either fire exclusion or frequent burning may threaten species due to these diverse requirements, so careful management of fire may be needed to maximise habitat suitability across the landscape. When establishing fire management plans, we recommend that land managers exercise caution in adopting species-specific information from different locations and broad vegetation types. Information on animal responses to fire is best gained through experimental and adaptive management approaches at the local level.

Additional keywords: Australia, fire management, lizard, prescribed fire, rodent, wildfire.


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