Predicting the effects of fire on biota is important for biodiversity conservation. Time since fire is often used to predict the occurrence of fauna, yet for many species it is change in resource availability to which animals actually respond. If resource availability is only weakly related to time, prediction of fire-fauna relationships will be uncertain.
In our new paper available as an Ecological Applications Preprint, we used a large diverse landscape in the Otways to investigate relationships between ground-dwelling mammal occurrence, time since fire and habitat structure (a measure of resource availability).
We found that time since fire was moderately correlated with habitat structure yet was a poor surrogate for animal occurrence. Habitat structure was a better predictor of occurrence than time since fire for all species.
Our results suggest that time since fire is unlikely to be a useful surrogate for ground-dwelling mammals in diverse fire-prone landscapes, where biodiversity conservation will benefit from a combined understanding of (a) fauna-resource relationships and (b) the ways in which both planned fire and wildfire alter the availability of resources important to animals.
Swan, M., Christie, F.J., Sitters, H., York, A. & Di Stefano, J. (In press). Predicting faunal fire responses in heterogeneous landscapes: the role of habitat structure. Ecological Applications.
Fire Ecology and Biodiversity at UniMelb
Bushfire Behaviour and Management at UniMelb
Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group at UniMelb
Integrated Forest Ecosystem Research at UniMelb