Reptiles in urban remnants are threatened with extinction by increased fire frequency, habitat fragmentation caused by urban development, and competition and predation from exotic species. Understanding how urban reptiles respond to and recover from such disturbances is key to their conservation. We monitored the recovery of an urban reptile community for five years following a summer wildfire at Kings Park in Perth, Western Australia, using pitfall trapping at five burnt and five unburnt sites. The reptile community recovered rapidly following the fire. Unburnt sites initially had higher species richness and total abundance, but burnt sites rapidly converged, recording a similar total abundance to unburnt areas within two years, and a similar richness within three years. The leaf-litter inhabiting skink Hemiergis quadrilineata was strongly associated with longer unburnt sites and may be responding to the loss of leaf litter following the fire. Six rarely-captured species were also strongly associated with unburnt areas and were rarely or never recorded at burnt sites, whereas two other rarely-captured species were associated with burnt sites. We also found that one lizard species, Ctenotus fallens, had a smaller average body length in burnt sites compared to unburnt sites for four out of the five years of monitoring. Our study indicates that fire management that homogenises large areas of habitat through frequent burning may threaten some species due to their preference for longer unburnt habitat. Careful management of fire may be needed to maximise habitat suitability within the urban landscape.
Field of Research
050202 Conservation and Biodiversity 060208 Terrestrial Ecology MD Multidisciplinary
Socio Economic Objective
961010 Natural Hazards in Urban and Industrial Environments
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