Fire severity and landscape context effects on arboreal marsupials

D. B. Lindenmayer, W. Blanchard, L. McBurney, D. Blair, S. C. Banks, D. Driscoll, A. L. Smith, A. M. Gill

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Abstract

Although fire is a major form of natural disturbance worldwide, both fire-derived landscape context effects and the impacts of fire severity are poorly known for many species. To address this knowledge gap, we quantified the response of Australian arboreal marsupials to: (1) the spatial effects of fire, (2) fire severity, and (3) fire impacts on the availability of critical nesting resources - hollow-bearing trees.We identified substantial differences among species in response to fire severity and landscape-scale fire. The Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) and the endangered Leadbeater's Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) were extremely rare on burned sites irrespective of fire severity. In addition, these two species declined with the amount of burned forest in the surrounding landscape even when their habitat remained unburnt. The Mountain Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus cunninghami) and the Greater Glider (Petauroides volans) both occurred on burned and unburned sites. The Greater Glider responded negatively to fire severity at the site level and also negatively to the amount of forest burned in the surrounding landscape. The abundance of the Mountain Brushtail Possum was lowest on sites subject to moderate severity fire.On unburned sites, the presence and abundance of virtually all species was characterised by a common positive response to the availability of nesting resources in hollow-bearing trees.Our findings underscore the importance of management practices to better protect species that decline after fire. These include conserving areas of unburned forest, particularly those with hollow-bearing trees which are critical nest sites for arboreal marsupials. These recommendations are currently the opposite of existing management practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume167
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes

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Lindenmayer, D. B., Blanchard, W., McBurney, L., Blair, D., Banks, S. C., Driscoll, D., Smith, A. L., & Gill, A. M. (2013). Fire severity and landscape context effects on arboreal marsupials. Biological Conservation, 167, 137-148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2013.07.028