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A landscape-scale, applied fire management experiment promotes recovery of a population of the threatened Gouldian Finch, Erythrura gouldiae, in Australia's tropical savannas

Legge, Sarah, Garnett, Stephen, Maute, Kim, Heathcote, Joanne, Murphy, Steve, Woinarski, John C. Z. and Astheimer, Lee 2015, A landscape-scale, applied fire management experiment promotes recovery of a population of the threatened Gouldian Finch, Erythrura gouldiae, in Australia's tropical savannas, PLoS One, vol. 10, no. 10, Article Number : e0137997, pp. 1-27, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137997.

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Title A landscape-scale, applied fire management experiment promotes recovery of a population of the threatened Gouldian Finch, Erythrura gouldiae, in Australia's tropical savannas
Author(s) Legge, Sarah
Garnett, Stephen
Maute, Kim
Heathcote, Joanne
Murphy, Steve
Woinarski, John C. Z.
Astheimer, Lee
Journal name PLoS One
Volume number 10
Issue number 10
Season Article Number : e0137997
Start page 1
End page 27
Total pages 27
Publisher Public Library of Science (PLOS)
Place of publication San Francisco, Calif.
Publication date 2015
ISSN 1932-6203
Keyword(s) Science & Technology
Multidisciplinary Sciences
Science & Technology - Other Topics
CALLITRIS-INTRATROPICA BAKER,R.T.
MONSOONAL NORTHERN AUSTRALIA
KAKADU NATIONAL-PARK
YINBERRIE HILLS AREA
WET-DRY TROPICS
BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION
ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT
GRANIVOROUS BIRDS
SMALL MAMMALS
SOUTH-AFRICA
Summary Fire is an integral part of savanna ecology and changes in fire patterns are linked to biodiversity loss in savannas worldwide. In Australia, changed fire regimes are implicated in the contemporary declines of small mammals, riparian species, obligate-seeding plants and grass seed-eating birds. Translating this knowledge into management to recover threatened species has proved elusive. We report here on a landscape-scale experiment carried out by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) on Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary in northwest Australia. The experiment was designed to understand the response of a key savanna bird guild to fire, and to use that information to manage fire with the aim of recovering a threatened species population. We compared condition indices among three seed-eating bird species-one endangered (Gouldian finch) and two non-threatened (long-tailed finch and double-barred finch)-from two large areas (> 2,830 km2) with initial contrasting fire regimes ('extreme': frequent, extensive, intense fire; versus 'benign': less frequent, smaller, lower intensity fires). Populations of all three species living with the extreme fire regime had condition indices that differed from their counterparts living with the benign fire regime, including higher haematocrit levels in some seasons (suggesting higher levels of activity required to find food), different seasonal haematocrit profiles, higher fat scores in the early wet season (suggesting greater food uncertainty), and then lower muscle scores later in the wet season (suggesting prolonged food deprivation). Gouldian finches also showed seasonally increasing stress hormone concentrations with the extreme fire regime. Cumulatively, these patterns indicated greater nutritional stress over many months for seed-eating birds exposed to extreme fire regimes. We tested these relationships by monitoring finch condition over the following years, as AWC implemented fire management to produce the 'benign' fire regime throughout the property. The condition indices of finch populations originally living with the extreme fire regime shifted to resemble those of their counterparts living with the benign fire regime. This research supports the hypothesis that fire regimes affect food resources for savanna seed-eating birds, with this impact mediated through a range of grass species utilised by the birds over different seasons, and that fire management can effectively moderate that impact. This work provides a rare example of applied research supporting the recovery of a population of a threatened species.
Language eng
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0137997
Field of Research 060299 Ecology not elsewhere classified
MD Multidisciplinary
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2015, Public Library of Science (PLOS)
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30080207

Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research
Open Access Collection
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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.