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Small mammals decline with increasing fire extent in northern Australia: evidence from long-term monitoring in Kakadu National Park

Lawes, Michael J., Murphy, Brett P., Fisher, Alaric, Woinarski, John C. Z., Edwards, Andrew C. and Russell-Smith, Jeremy (2015). Small mammals decline with increasing fire extent in northern Australia: evidence from long-term monitoring in Kakadu National Park. International Journal of Wildland Fire,24(5):712-722.

Document type: Journal Article
Citation counts: Altmetric Score Altmetric Score is 14
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IRMA ID 84376995xPUB243
Title Small mammals decline with increasing fire extent in northern Australia: evidence from long-term monitoring in Kakadu National Park
Author Lawes, Michael J.
Murphy, Brett P.
Fisher, Alaric
Woinarski, John C. Z.
Edwards, Andrew C.
Russell-Smith, Jeremy
Journal Name International Journal of Wildland Fire
Publication Date 2015
Volume Number 24
Issue Number 5
ISSN 1049-8001   (check CDU catalogue  open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-84938364697
Start Page 712
End Page 722
Total Pages 11
Place of Publication Australia
Publisher C S I R O Publishing
Field of Research ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DIISR)
Abstract Small mammal (<2 kg) numbers have declined dramatically in northern Australia in recent decades. Fire regimes, characterised by frequent, extensive, late-season wildfires, are implicated in this decline. Here, we compare the effect of fire extent, in conjunction with fire frequency, season and spatial heterogeneity (patchiness) of the burnt area, on mammal declines in Kakadu National Park over a recent decadal period. Fire extent – an index incorporating fire size and fire frequency – was the best predictor of mammal declines, and was superior to the proportion of the surrounding area burnt and fire patchiness. Point-based fire frequency, a commonly used index for characterising fire effects, was a weak predictor of declines. Small-scale burns affected small mammals least of all. Crucially, the most important aspects of fire regimes that are associated with declines are spatial ones; extensive fires (at scales larger than the home ranges of small mammals) are the most detrimental, indicating that small mammals may not easily escape the effects of large and less patchy fires. Notwithstanding considerable management effort, the current fire regime in this large conservation reserve is detrimental to the native mammal fauna, and more targeted management is required to reduce fire size.
Keywords Aboriginal burning
fire frequency
fire regime
habitat simplification
patch mosaic burning
predation
tropical savanna
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF14163   (check subscription with CDU E-Gateway service for CDU Staff and Students  check subscription with CDU E-Gateway in new window)
 
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