Short-term responses of reptile assemblages to fire in native and weedy tropical savannah

Abom, Rickard, and Schwarzkopf, Lin (2016) Short-term responses of reptile assemblages to fire in native and weedy tropical savannah. Global Ecology and Conservation, 6. pp. 58-66.

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Abstract

Fire is frequently used as a management tool to reduce the cover of weeds, to reduce the amount of fuel available for future fires, and to create succession mosaics that may enhance biodiversity. We determined the influence of fire on wildlife, by quantifying reptile assemblage composition in response to fire in a weedy environment characterised by very short-term fire return intervals (<2 years). We used reptiles because they are often understudied, and are only moderately vagile compared to other vertebrates, and they respond strongly to changes in vegetation structure. We repeatedly sampled 24 replicate sampling sites after they had been unburned for two years, just prior to burning (pre-burnt), just after burning (post-burnt), and up to 15 months after burning (revegetated) and monitored vegetation structure and reptile richness, abundance and assemblage composition. Our sites were not spatially auto-correlated, and were covered by native kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra), black spear grass (Heteropogon contortus), or an invasive weed (grader grass, Themeda quadrivalvis). Reptile abundance and richness were highest when sites had been unburned for 2 years, and greatly reduced in all areas post burning. The lowest reptile abundances occurred in sites dominated by the weed. Reptile abundance and richness had recovered in all grass types 15 months after burning, but assemblage composition changed. Some species were present only in before our focus fire in native grass, and their populations did not recover even 15 months post-burning. Even in fire-prone, often-burnt habitats such as our study sites, in which faunal richness and abundance were not strongly influenced by fire, reptile assemblage composition was altered. To maintain faunal biodiversity in fire-prone systems, we suggest reducing the frequency of prescribed fires, and (if possible) excluding fire from weedy invasions if it allows native grasses to return.

Item ID: 45003
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: grader grass; invasive; native grass; prescribed fire; reptiles; Themeda quadrivalvis
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© 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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ISSN: 2351-9894
Funders: Biosecurity Queensland (BQ), Northern Gulf Resource Management Group (NGRMG)
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2016 06:47
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960505 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 100%
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