Driessen, MM and Jarman, PJ and Visoiu, M and Dewar, E, Mammal responses to moderate-intensity planned burning in a small, isolated woodland reserve, Wildlife Research, 48, (6) pp. 561-576. ISSN 1035-3712 (2021) [Refereed Article]
Aims: To document changes in the activity of native and introduced mammal species in response to planned burns in a small, isolated woodland reserve in Tasmania.
Methods: Over a 10-year period, mammal activity was monitored before and after two separate moderate-intensity planned burns in 20-ha management blocks and in unburnt blocks of similar size by using live-trapping and camera-trapping. Vegetation density was monitored concurrently, and we also searched burnt areas for animals killed by fire.
Key results: The activity of most mammal populations was largely unaffected by the two planned burns. However, during one of the burns, over 20 rufous-bellied pademelons were directly killed as a result of a need to conduct a backburn. The population recovered after 3 years. The activity of red-necked wallabies, common brushtail possums and short-beaked echidnas generally increased across the whole study area during the 10-year monitoring period. Limited evidence suggests that eastern barred bandicoot and European rabbit activity increased after fire. No swamp rat activity was recorded in burnt areas following the planned burns. Unexpectedly they did not recolonise burnt areas and also ceased to be active in control areas for the last 3 years of the study; we hypothesise that this may be due to the increased dryness and thinning of vegetation.
Conclusions: We found that most of the mammal populations within this small, isolated reserve were resilient to the planned burning program, with no or limited short-term effect for all but one species. The absence of swamp rats from burnt or unburnt areas for the last 3 years of our study suggests that factors other than fire are also affecting this species.
Implications: Planned burning is an important tool for biodiversity conservation, but its use needs to be underpinned by empirical data because mammal fire responses are likely to be site-, time- and context-specific.