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

Contrasting mammal responses to vegetation type and fire

D. B. Lindenmayer A D , C. MacGregor A , A. Welsh B , C. Donnelly A , M. Crane A , D. Michael A , R. Montague-Drake A , R. B. Cunningham A , D. Brown A , M. Fortescue C , N. Dexter C , M. Hudson C and A. M. Gill A

A Fenner School of Environment and Society, W.K. Hancock Building [43], The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

B Centre for Mathematics and Analysis, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

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

D Corresponding author. Email: david.lindenmayer@anu.edu.au

Wildlife Research 35(5) 395-408 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR07156
Submitted: 28 September 2007  Accepted: 11 April 2008   Published: 19 August 2008


The response of terrestrial mammals and arboreal marsupials to past burning history as well as a year prior to, and then for 4 years after, a major wildfire in 2003 at Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay Territory was quantified. The present study encompassed extensive repeated surveys at a set of 109 replicated sites stratified by vegetation type and fire history. It was found that most species exhibited significant differences in presence and abundance between major vegetation types. Detections of long-nosed bandicoot (Perameles nasuta) increased significantly in all vegetation types surveyed, in both burnt and unburnt areas. Temporal patterns in captures of three species of small mammals (bush rat (Rattus fuscipes), swamp rat (Rattus lutreolus) and brown antechinus (Antechinus stuartii)) showed a trend for lower numbers of captures on burnt sites compared with unburnt sites. Three species of arboreal marsupials, common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), greater glider (Petauroides volans) and common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), were moderately common and all showed marked differences in abundance between vegetation types. Whereas P. peregrinus and P. volans exhibited a temporal decline between 2003 and 2006, T. vulpecula exhibited a general increase from 2003 levels. However, arboreal marsupial responses did not appear to be directly fire related.

Additional keywords: arboreal marsupials, fire, medium-sized mammals, small terrestrial mammals, south-eastern Australia, vegetation.


Andersen A. N., Cook G. D., and Williams R. J. (Eds) (2003). ‘Fire in Tropical Savannas: the Kapalga Experiment.’ (Springer: New York.)

Andersen A. N. Cook G. D. Corbett L. K. Douglas M. M. Eager R. W. Russell-Smith J. Setterfield S. A. Williams R. J. Woinarski J. C. Z. 2005 Fire frequency and biodiversity conservation in Australian tropical savannas: implications from the Kapalga fire experiment. Austral Ecology 30 155 167 DOI

Baker J. French K. Whelan R. J. 2002 The edge effect and ecotonal species: bird communities across a natural edge in southeastern Australia. Ecology 83 3048 3059

Bennett A. F. Lumsden L. F. Alexander J. S. A. Duncan P. E. Johnson P. G. Robertson P. Silveira C. E. 1991 Habitat use by arboreal marsupials along an environmental gradient in north-eastern Victoria. Wildlife Research 18 125 146

Bowman D. M. (1999). ‘Australian Rainforests. Islands of Green in a Land of Fire.’ (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Bradstock R. A., and Cohn J. (2002). Fire regimes and biodiversity in semi-arid mallee ecosystems. In ‘Flammable Australia: The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent’. (Eds R. A. Bradstock, J. E. Williams and A. M. Gill.) pp. 238–258. (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Bradstock R. A., Williams J. E., and Gill A. M. (Eds) (2002). ‘Flammable Australia: The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent.’ (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Braithwaite L. W. (1984). The identification of conservation areas for possums and gliders in the Eden woodpulp concession district. In ‘Possums and Gliders’. (Eds. A. P. Smith and I. D. Hume.) pp. 501–508. (Surrey Beatty and Sons: Sydney.)

Braithwaite L. W., Austin M. P., and Catling P. C. (1995). Forest and woodland communities. In ‘Jervis Bay. A Place of Cultural, Scientific and Educational Value. Kowari 5’. pp. 91–98. (Australian Nature Conservation Agency: Canberra.)

Burbidge A. A. McKenzie N. L. 1989 Patterns in modern decline of Western Australia’s vertebrate fauna: causes and conservation implications. Biological Conservation 50 143 198 DOI

Bureau of Meteorology (2007). Climate statistics for Australian locations: Jervis Bay (Point Perpendicular lighthouse). Available online at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_068034.shtml [Verified July 2008].

Chambers L. K. Dickman C. R. 2002 Habitat selection of the long-nosed bandicoot Parameles nasuta (Mammalia: Peramelidae), in a patchy urban environment. Austral Ecology 27 334 342 DOI

Cho G. (1995). The Jervis Bay environment. In ‘Jervis Bay. A Place of Cultural, Scientific and Educational Value. Kowari 5’. pp. 3–8. (Australian Nature Conservation Agency: Canberra.)

Christensen P., Recher H., and Hoare J. (1981). Responses of open forest to fire regimes. In ‘Fire and the Australian Biota’. (Eds A. M. Gill, R. H. Groves and I. R. Noble.) pp. 367–394. (Australian Academy of Science: Canberra.)

Coops N. C. Catling P. C. 2002 Prediction of the spatial distribution and relative abundance of ground-dwelling mammals using remote sensing imagery and simulation models. Landscape Ecology 17 173 188 DOI

Costermans L. (2002). ‘Native Trees and Shrubs of South-eastern Australia,’ 2nd edn. (Rigby: Sydney.)

Debus S. J. S. 1997 A survey of the raptors of Jervis Bay National Park. Australian Birds 30 29 44

Debus S. J. S. Chafer C. J. 1994 The powerful owl Ninox strenua in New South Wales. Australian Birds 28 S21 S38

Enoksson B. Angelstam P. Larsson K. 1995 Deciduous forest and resident birds: the problem of fragmentation within a coniferous forest landscape. Landscape Ecology 10 267 275

Fox B. J. 1982 Fire and mammalian secondary succession in an Australian coastal heath. Ecology 63 1332 1341 DOI

Fox B. J. Taylor J. E. Thompson P. T. 2003 Experimental manipulation of habitat structure: a retrogression of the small mammal succession. Journal of Animal Ecology 72 927 940 DOI

Franklin J. F. Lindenmayer D. B. MacMahon J. A. McKee A. Magnusson J. Perry D. A. Waide R. Foster D. R. 2000 Threads of continuity: ecosystem disturbances, biological legacies and ecosystem recovery. Conservation Biology in Practice 1 8 16 DOI

Friend G. R. 1993 Impact of fire on small vertebrates in mallee woodlands and heathlands of temperate Australia: a review. Biological Conservation 65 99 114 DOI

Harrington G. N. Sanderson K. D. 1994 Recent contraction of wet sclerophyll forest in the wet tropics of Queensland due to invasion by rainforest. Pacific Conservation Biology 1 319 327

Higgs P. Fox B. J. 1993 Interspecific competition: a mechanism for rodent succession after fire in wet heathland. Australian Journal of Ecology 18 193 201

Ingwersen F. (1977). Regeneration of vegetation after fire at Jervis Bay and its implications for management. M.Sc. Thesis, Australian National University, Canberra.

Kavanagh R. P. 1988 The impact of predation by the powerful owl Ninox strenua on a population of the greater glider Petauroides volans. Australian Journal of Ecology 13 445 450 DOI

Kavanagh R. P. (1997). ‘Ecology and Management of Large Forest Owls in South-eastern Australia.’ (University of Sydney: Sydney.)

Kavanagh R. P. Lambert M. J. 1990 Food selection by the Greater Glider, Petauroides volans: is foliar nitrogen a determinant of habitat quality? Australian Wildlife Research 17 285 299 DOI

Kavanagh R. P., and Stanton M. A. (2002). Response to habitat fragmentation by the powerful owl (Ninox strenua), sooty owl (Tyto tenebricosa), masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) and other nocturnal fauna in southeastern Australia, In ‘Ecology and Conservation of Owls’. (Eds I. Newton, R. Kavanagh, J. Olsen and I. Taylor.) pp. 265–277. (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne.)

Kearney N. Handasyde K. Ward S. Kearney M. 2007 Fine-scale microhabitat selection for dense vegetation in a heathland rodent, Rattus lutreolus: insights from intraspecific and temporal patterns. Austral Ecology 32 315 325 DOI

Kemper C. M. 1990 Small mammals and habitat disturbance in open forest of coastal New South Wales. I. Population parameters. Australian Wildlife Research 17 195 206 DOI

Kinnear J. E. Sumner N. R. Onus M. L. 2002 The red fox in Australia – an exotic predator turned biocontrol agent. Biological Conservation 108 335 359 DOI

Landres P. B. Verner J. Thomas J. W. 1988 Ecological uses of vertebrate indicator species: a critique. Conservation Biology 2 4 316 328 DOI

Lavazanian E. Wallis R. Webster A. 1994 Diet of powerful owls (Ninox strenua) living near Melbourne, Victoria. Wildlife Research 21 643 646 DOI

Letnic M. 2003 The effects of experimental patch burning and rainfall on small mammals in the Simpson Desert, Queensland. Wildlife Research 30 547 563 DOI

Lindenmayer D. B. Cunningham R. B. Pope M. Donnelly C. F. 1999 The response of arboreal marsupials to landscape context: a large-scale fragmentation study. Ecological Applications 9 594 611 DOI

Lindenmayer D. B. Margules C. R. Botkin D. 2000 Indicators of forest sustainability biodiversity: the selection of forest indicator species. Conservation Biology 14 941 950 DOI

May S. A. (2001). Aspects of the ecology of the cat, dog and fox in the south-east forests of NSW. Ph.D. Thesis, The Australian National University, Canberra.

McCullagh P., and Nelder J. A. (1989). ‘Generalised Linear Models,’ 2nd edn. (Chapman and Hall: New York.)

Mills K. (1995). Natural Vegetation. In ‘Jervis Bay. A Place of Cultural, Scientific and Educational Value. Kowari, 5’. pp. 71–81. (Australian Nature Conservation Agency: Canberra.)

Monamy V. Fox B. J. 2000 Small mammal succession is determined by vegetation density rather than time elapsed since disturbance. Austral Ecology 25 580 587 DOI

Murray A. J., Poore R. N., and Dexter N. (2006). ‘Project Deliverance – The Response of ‘Critical Weight Range’ Mammals to Effective Fox Control in Mesic Forest Habitats in Far East Gippsland, Victoria.’ (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment: Melbourne.)

Newsome A. E. McIIroy J. C. Catling P. C. 1975 The effects of extensive wildfire on populations of twenty ground vertebrates in south-east Australia. Proceedings of the Ecological Society of Australia 9 107 123

Noble I. R. Slatyer R. O. 1980 The use of vital attributes to predict successional changes in plant communities subject to recurrent disturbances. Vegetatio 43 5 21

Orell P. 2004 Fauna monitoring and staff training: Western Shield Review. Conservation Science 5 51 95

Pardon L. G. Brook B. W. Griffiths A. D. Braithwaite R. W. 2003 Determinants of survival for the Northern Brown Bandicoot under a landscape fire experiment. Journal of Animal Ecology 72 106 115

Peakall R. Lindenmayer D. B. 2006 Genetic insights into population recovery following experimental perturbation in a fragmented landscape. Biological Conservation 132 520 532 DOI

Roberts M. W. Dexter N. Meek P. Hudson M. Buttemer W. A. 2006 Does baiting influence the relative composition of the diet of foxes. Wildlife Research 33 481 488 DOI

Russell B. G. Smith B. Augee M. L. 2003 Changes to a population of common ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) after bushfire. Wildlife Research 30 389 396 DOI

Smith A. P. Quin D. G. 1996 Patterns and causes of extinction and decline in Australian conilurine rodents. Biological Conservation 77 243 267 DOI

Spencer R.-J. Cavanough V. C. Baxter G. S. Kennedy M. S. 2005 Adult free zones in small mammal populations: response of Australian native rodents to reduced cover. Austral Ecology 30 868 876 DOI

Stoddart D. M. Braithwaite R. W. 1979 A strategy for utilisation of regenerating heathland habitat by the Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus: Marsupialia, Peramelidae). Journal of Animal Ecology 48 165 179 DOI

Sutherland E. F. Dickman C. R. 1999 Mechanisms of recovery after fire by rodents in the Australian environment: a review. Wildlife Research 26 405 419 DOI

Taws N. (1998). Fire and vegetation management in Jervis Bay Territory. Report, Environment Australia, Canberra.

Tilley S. 1982 The diet of the powerful owl, Ninox strenua, in Victoria. Australian Wildlife Research 9 157 175 DOI

Triggs B. Brunner H. Cullen J. M. 1984 The food of fox, dog and cat in Croajingalong National Park, south-eastern Victoria. Australian Wildlife Research 11 491 499 DOI

Wayne A. F. (2005). The ecology of the Koomal (Trichosurus vulpecula hypoleucus) and Ngwayir (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) in the Jarrah forests of south-western Australia. Ph.D. Thesis, The Australian National University, Canberra.

Wayne A. F. Cowling A. Ward C. Vellios C. V. Lindenmayer D. B. Donnelly C. F. Rooney J. F. 2006 The abundance of a threatened arboreal marsupial in relation to anthropogenic disturbances at local and landscape scales in Mediterranean-type forests in south-western Australia. Biological Conservation 127 463 486 DOI

Whelan R. J. (1995). ‘The Ecology of Fire.’ (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Whelan R., Rodgerson L., Dickman C. R., and Sutherland E. F. (2002). Critical life cycles of plants and animals: developing a process-based understanding of population changes in fire-prone landscapes. In ‘Flammable Australia: The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent’. (Eds R. A. Bradstock, J. E. Williams and A. M. Gill.) pp. 94–124. (Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.)

Williams D. G. (1995). Heaths and scrubs. In ‘Jervis Bay. A Place of Cultural, Scientific and Educational Value. Kowari, 5’. pp. 83–90. (Australian Nature Conservation Agency: Canberra.)

Woinarski J. C. Z. (1999). Fire and Australian birds: a review. In ‘Australia’s Biodiversity – Responses to Fire’. (Eds A. M. Gill, J. C. Z. Woinarski and A. York.) Biodiversity Technical Paper No. 1. pp. 55–112. (Environment Australia: Canberra.)

Export Citation