Evaluating the role of fire disturbance in structuring small reptile communities in temperate forests

Hu, Yang, Urlus, Jake, Gillespie, Graeme, Letnic, Michael and Jessop, Tim S. 2013, Evaluating the role of fire disturbance in structuring small reptile communities in temperate forests, Biodiversity and conservation, vol. 22, no. 9, pp. 1949-1963, doi: 10.1007/s10531-013-0519-z.

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Title Evaluating the role of fire disturbance in structuring small reptile communities in temperate forests
Author(s) Hu, Yang
Urlus, Jake
Gillespie, Graeme
Letnic, Michael
Jessop, Tim S.ORCID iD for Jessop, Tim S. orcid.org/0000-0002-7712-4373
Journal name Biodiversity and conservation
Volume number 22
Issue number 9
Start page 1949
End page 1963
Total pages 15
Publisher Springer
Place of publication Berlin, Germany
Publication date 2013-08
ISSN 0960-3115
1572-9710
Summary Fire is an integral disturbance shaping forest community dynamics over large scales. However, understanding the relationship between fire induced habitat disturbance and biodiversity remain equivocal. Ecological theories including the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH) and the habitat accommodation model (HAM) offer predictive frameworks that could explain faunal responses to fire disturbances. We used an 80 year post-fire chronosequence to investigate small reptile community responses to fires in temperate forests across 74 sites. First, we evaluated if changes in species richness, abundance and evenness post-fire followed trends of prior predictions, including the IDH. Second, using competing models of fine scale habitat elements we evaluated the specific ways which fire influenced small reptiles. Third, we evaluated support for the HAM by examining compositional changes of reptile community post-fire. Relative abundance was positively correlated to age post-fire while richness and evenness showed no associations. The abundance trend was as expected based on the prior prediction of sustained population increase post-disturbance, but the trend for richness contradicted the prediction of highest diversity at intermediate levels of disturbance (according to IDH). Abundance changes were driven mainly by changes in overstorey, ground layer, and shelter, while richness and evenness did not associate with any vegetation parameter. Community composition was not strongly correlated to age since fire, thus support for the HAM was weak. Overall, in this ecosystem, frequent fire disturbances can be detrimental to small reptiles. Future studies utilizing approaches based on species traits could enhance our understanding of biodiversity patterns post-disturbance.
Language eng
DOI 10.1007/s10531-013-0519-z
Field of Research 060207 Population Ecology
050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
050204 Environmental Impact Assessment
0501 Ecological Applications
0502 Environmental Science And Management
0602 Ecology
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2013, Springer
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30081806

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