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Reptile responses to fire and the risk of post-disturbance sampling bias
journal contributionposted on 2012-06-01, 00:00 authored by Don DriscollDon Driscoll, A L Smith, S Blight, J Maindonald
Altered fire regimes are a driver of biodiversity decline. To plan effective management, we need to know how species are influenced by fire and to develop theory describing fire responses. Animal responses to fire are usually measured using methods that rely on animal activity, but animal activity may vary with time since fire, potentially biasing results. Using a novel approach for detecting bias in the pit-fall trap method, we found that leaf-litter dependent reptiles were more active up to 6 weeks after fire, giving a misleading impression of abundance. This effect was not discovered when modelling detectability with zero-inflated binomial models. Two species without detection bias showed early-successional responses to time since fire, consistent with a habitat-accommodation succession model. However, a habitat specialist did not have the predicted low abundance after fire due to increased post-fire movement and non-linear recovery of a key habitat component. Interactions between fire and other processes therefore must be better understood to predict reptile responses to changing fire-regimes. We conclude that there is substantial bias when trapping reptiles after fire, with species that are otherwise hard to detect appearing to be abundant. Studies that use a survey method based on animal activity such as bird calls or animal movements, likely face a similar risk of bias when comparing recently-disturbed with control sites.
JournalBiodiversity and conservation
Pagination1607 - 1625
LocationAmsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication classificationC1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article
Copyright notice2012, Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Read the peer-reviewed publication
Adaptive managementBiological legaciesDisturbance regimeKeystone speciesPrescribed burningState and transition modelScience & TechnologyLife Sciences & BiomedicineBiodiversity ConservationEcologyEnvironmental SciencesBiodiversity & ConservationEnvironmental Sciences & EcologyFUEL REDUCTION TREATMENTSSMALL MAMMAL COMMUNITIESSOUTH-EASTERN AUSTRALIATROPICAL SAVANNASHABITAT STRUCTURELONG-TERMNORTHERN-TERRITORYPOPULATION-SIZEPRESCRIBED FIRE