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The influence of fire and climate on small mammal populations in the Grampians-Gariwerd National Park
thesisposted on 2023-06-07, 00:26 authored by Marcello Bold
Fire and climate play a critical role in shaping natural ecosystems. Australia is predicted to experience turbulent climatic conditions over the next decade, such as increased frequency and intensity of wildfire and severe drought events, due to anthropogenic climate change. There is a lack of knowledge of how temperate systems will respond to a changing climate. This research was carried out in the Grampians-Gariwerd National Park (GGNP) as part of the Grampians-Gariwerd long-term fire, climate and biodiversity experiment, a long-term research project surveying small mammal species across 36 sites throughout the GGNP since 2008. We examined how fire, rainfall, underlying productivity, and vegetation structure influenced small mammal populations throughout the GGNP to determine the impact of a changing climate on small mammal communities through time. Fire, rainfall, and the underlying productivity within the system were identified as the main drivers of species occurrence throughout the GGNP, with our findings highlighting native species preference for high rainfall conditions and environments with a high underlying productivity, and an ideal fire age-class of 15 years. Long-term studies are critical for developing a robust understanding of small mammal responses to changes in fire and climatic regimes. The complexity of the interactions between fire, rainfall, and underlying productivity and their strong influence on small mammal occurrence highlights the need to considered rainfall and underlying productivity into management actions. Native species face an uncertain future as the frequency and intensity of drought and wildfire events are predicted to increase under climate change, likely resulting in future declines of small mammal communities throughout the GGNP and other temperate systems across south-eastern Australia.