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

The effects of fire-driven succession and rainfall on small mammals in spinifex grassland at Uluru National Park, Northern Territory

P Masters

Wildlife Research 20(6) 803 - 813
Published: 1993


Fire-driven succession and a period of high rainfall had a pronounced effect on the distribution and abundance of small mammals inhabiting spinifex grassland in Uluzu National Park from 1987 to 1990. Species richness and abundance were generally higher on sites burnt in 1976, where six species (Pseudomys hermannsburgensis, Pseudomys desertor, Mus domesticus, Dasycercus cristicauda, Ningaui ridei and Sminthopsis youngsoni) were caught more frequently. Two species (Notomys alexis and Sminthopsis hirtipes) were more abundant on sites burnt in 1986. Murid rodent numbers fluctuated substantially following high rainfall. The number of individuals increased 100-fold, and species richness increased from two to four when P. desertor and M. domesticus appeared in the second year of the study. In contrast, captures of dasyurid marsupials increased only slightly over the three years, with the most dramatic increase occurring for D. cristicauda. This study highlights the importance of fire as a management tool. Patch burning within spinifex grasslands maximises species diversity of small mammals by ensuring that suitable successional states are present at all times. This is particularly important for species that are restricted in their distribution, such as D. cristicauda


© CSIRO 1993

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