Fire resilience of a rare, freshwater crustacean in a fireprone ecosystem and the implications for fire management
Driessen, MM, Fire resilience of a rare, freshwater crustacean in a fireprone ecosystem and the implications for fire management, Austral Ecology, 44 pp. 1030-1039. ISSN 1442-9985 (2019) [Refereed Article]
Understanding species’ responses to fire regimes, particularly rare or threatened species, is important for land managers tasked with managing for biodiversity. Hickman's Allanaspides (Allanaspides hickmani , Anaspidesidae) is a rare, primitive, shrimp‐like crustacean, with high conservation value. It is restricted to a single catchment in the island state of Tasmania, Australia, where it occurs within moorland pools typically containing crayfish (Ombrastacoides spp.) burrows. Although its moorland habitat has a long history of firing, adverse fire regimes are a potential threat to the species. A large part of its range is subject to planned burning to help manage the detrimental effects of high‐intensity wildfires. The resilience of A. hickmani to low–moderate‐intensity fires was investigated over 13 years using a replicated before‐after‐control‐impact design. The fires resulted in an initial reduction in vegetation cover and surface water and an increase in water temperature. There was no effect of fire on A. hickmani captures 4 months after small‐scale, low‐intensity autumn burns. However, 5 months later, following an unintended larger‐scale, medium‐intensity spring burn, there was an 80–90% reduction in A. hickmani captures and their numbers did not recover until 6–9 years post‐fire. It is not known whether the reduced catch was due to a reduction in the number of A. hickmani or their movement from pools into crayfish burrows. These findings together with evidence of a varied fire history, including high‐intensity wildfires, within their range suggests that A. hickmani and its habitat are resilient to a range of fire frequencies and intensities provided that the fire regime does not degrade or lead to a complete loss of peat. Climate change predictions for warmer and drier summers in western Tasmania will increase the risk of peat loss. Planned burning is likely to be important for the protection of A. hickmani habitat from predicted adverse fire regimes.
Allanaspides hickmani, Anaspidesidae, fire resilience, short-range endemic