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Successional specialization in a reptile community cautions against widespread planned burning and complete fire suppression

Smith, Annabel L., Michael Bull, C. and Driscoll, Don A. 2013, Successional specialization in a reptile community cautions against widespread planned burning and complete fire suppression, Journal of applied ecology, vol. 50, no. 5, pp. 1178-1186, doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12119.

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Title Successional specialization in a reptile community cautions against widespread planned burning and complete fire suppression
Author(s) Smith, Annabel L.
Michael Bull, C.
Driscoll, Don A.ORCID iD for Driscoll, Don A. orcid.org/0000-0002-1560-5235
Journal name Journal of applied ecology
Volume number 50
Issue number 5
Start page 1178
End page 1186
Total pages 9
Publisher Wiley
Place of publication London, Eng
Publication date 2013-10-01
ISSN 0021-8901
1365-2664
Keyword(s) disturbance
fire management
habitat accommodation model
life-history traits
mallee
prescribed burning
sampling effort
Type II error
Summary Summary: Conservation of biodiversity in fire-prone regions depends on understanding responses to fire in animal communities and the mechanisms governing these responses. We collated data from an Australian semi-arid woodland reptile community (4796 individuals captured over 6 years) to: (i) determine the ability of commonly used shorter-term (2 years) surveys to detect reptile responses to time since fire (TSF) and (ii) investigate whether ecological traits of species reliably predicted their responses to fire. Of 16 reptile species analysed, four had responses to TSF consistent with shorter-term surveys and three showed no response to TSF. Nine species had responses to TSF not detected in previous studies using smaller but substantial subsets of the same data. Among the 13 affected species, times of peak abundance ranged from 1 to 50 years after fire. Nocturnal, burrowing species tended to be early successional and leaf-litter dwellers to be late successional, but these were only weak trends. Synthesis and applications. We found only limited support for a generalizable, trait-based model of succession in reptiles. However, our study revealed that the majority of common reptile species in our study region specialize on a post-fire successional stage and may therefore become threatened if homogeneous fire regimes predominate. Our study highlights the importance of interpreting results from time- or sample-limited fire studies of reptiles with the knowledge that many ecological responses may not have been detected. In such cases, an adaptive or precautionary approach to fire management may be necessary. We found only limited support for a generalizable, trait-based model of succession in reptiles. However, our study revealed that the majority of common reptile species in our study region specialize on a post-fire successional stage and may therefore become threatened if homogeneous fire regimes predominate. Our study highlights the importance of interpreting results from time- or sample-limited fire studies of reptiles with the knowledge that many ecological responses may not have been detected. In such cases, an adaptive or precautionary approach to fire management may be necessary.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/1365-2664.12119
Field of Research 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management
0501 Ecological Applications
0502 Environmental Science And Management
0602 Ecology
Socio Economic Objective 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2013, Wiley
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30078715

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: School of Life and Environmental Sciences
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