In 2011 we established a before-after control-impact (BACI) experiment to investigate the effects of a prescribed burn near the town of Lorne in the Otway Ranges on vegetation structure, animal diversity and movement in the Otway Ranges. A paper on the bird component of this study is currently in press in International Journal of Wildland Fire.
We investigated bird responses to the patchy, low severity fire at two spatial scales. Fire coverage was around 50% and the variable terrain generated a finger-like configuration of burnt patches on ridges and unburnt patches in gullies.
Our findings at the smaller scale (0.8 ha) showed that the fire resulted in increased bird diversity because a patchwork of burnt and unburnt areas provided a mosaic of habitat types in which different species occurred. Additionally, we found that the effect of fire on individual species was determined by the presence of unburnt gully refuges. In contrast, we found that birds did not respond to the fire at the larger scale (400 ha).
Although the levels of patchiness required to sustain biodiversity warrant further study, our findings highlight the importance of formally incorporating patchiness into prescribed burning for ecologically sensitive fire management.
Fire Ecology and Biodiversity at UniMelb
Bushfire Behaviour and Management at UniMelb
Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group at UniMelb
Integrated Forest Ecosystem Research at UniMelb