Savanna burning for biodiversity

Fire management for faunal conservation in Australian tropical savannas

Alan Andersen, John Casimir Zichy-Woinarski, Catherine Parr

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    Tropical savannas are the world's most fire-prone biome, and savanna biotas are generally well adapted to frequent fire. However, in northern Australia there are concerns that recent increases in the frequency and extent of high-intensity fires are causing substantial declines in regional biodiversity values. In this paper we use two well-studied and contrasting faunal groups, ants and small mammals, as case studies for reviewing faunal responses to fire in Australian savannas. The Australian savanna ant fauna is dominated by arid-adapted taxa that are highly resilient to frequent fire and are not considered to be threatened by prevailing fire regimes. Indeed, frequent fire promotes ant diversity because it maintains an open habit that makes the dominant arid-adapted taxa feel at home. Long-term fire exclusion reduces ant diversity due to a marked decline in arid-adapted taxa, and favours highly generalized, more shade-tolerant taxa. In contrast, many small mammal species of high conservation value are highly sensitive to frequent fire, and there are widespread concerns that their populations are threatened by current fire management. Many of the species have shown dramatic population declines over recent decades, and, although the causes are poorly understood, there is little doubt that fire is an important contributing factor. It is likely that fire is acting synergistically with other underlying causes of decline, particularly predation by feral cats. The overall resilience of most savanna animal species in relation to frequent fire suggests that they are secure under all but the most extreme fire regimes. However, it is clear that more fire-sensitive groups such as small mammals need special fire management attention. This needs to involve less frequent and finer-scale burning, along with the protection of some large, infrequently burnt source areas.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)658-667
    Number of pages10
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Volume37
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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    fire management
    savanna
    savannas
    biodiversity
    ant
    small mammals
    small mammal
    Formicidae
    fire regime
    fire intensity
    fire ants
    population decline
    biome
    shade
    biota
    fauna

    Cite this

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    title = "Savanna burning for biodiversity: Fire management for faunal conservation in Australian tropical savannas",
    abstract = "Tropical savannas are the world's most fire-prone biome, and savanna biotas are generally well adapted to frequent fire. However, in northern Australia there are concerns that recent increases in the frequency and extent of high-intensity fires are causing substantial declines in regional biodiversity values. In this paper we use two well-studied and contrasting faunal groups, ants and small mammals, as case studies for reviewing faunal responses to fire in Australian savannas. The Australian savanna ant fauna is dominated by arid-adapted taxa that are highly resilient to frequent fire and are not considered to be threatened by prevailing fire regimes. Indeed, frequent fire promotes ant diversity because it maintains an open habit that makes the dominant arid-adapted taxa feel at home. Long-term fire exclusion reduces ant diversity due to a marked decline in arid-adapted taxa, and favours highly generalized, more shade-tolerant taxa. In contrast, many small mammal species of high conservation value are highly sensitive to frequent fire, and there are widespread concerns that their populations are threatened by current fire management. Many of the species have shown dramatic population declines over recent decades, and, although the causes are poorly understood, there is little doubt that fire is an important contributing factor. It is likely that fire is acting synergistically with other underlying causes of decline, particularly predation by feral cats. The overall resilience of most savanna animal species in relation to frequent fire suggests that they are secure under all but the most extreme fire regimes. However, it is clear that more fire-sensitive groups such as small mammals need special fire management attention. This needs to involve less frequent and finer-scale burning, along with the protection of some large, infrequently burnt source areas.",
    keywords = "ant, biodiversity, biome, biota, ecosystem resilience, endangered species, fire management, habitat conservation, savanna, small mammal, Australia, Animalia, Formicidae, Mammalia",
    author = "Alan Andersen and Zichy-Woinarski, {John Casimir} and Catherine Parr",
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    language = "English",
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    pages = "658--667",
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    }

    Savanna burning for biodiversity : Fire management for faunal conservation in Australian tropical savannas. / Andersen, Alan; Zichy-Woinarski, John Casimir; Parr, Catherine.

    In: Austral Ecology, Vol. 37, No. 6, 2012, p. 658-667.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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    T1 - Savanna burning for biodiversity

    T2 - Fire management for faunal conservation in Australian tropical savannas

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    AU - Zichy-Woinarski, John Casimir

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    N2 - Tropical savannas are the world's most fire-prone biome, and savanna biotas are generally well adapted to frequent fire. However, in northern Australia there are concerns that recent increases in the frequency and extent of high-intensity fires are causing substantial declines in regional biodiversity values. In this paper we use two well-studied and contrasting faunal groups, ants and small mammals, as case studies for reviewing faunal responses to fire in Australian savannas. The Australian savanna ant fauna is dominated by arid-adapted taxa that are highly resilient to frequent fire and are not considered to be threatened by prevailing fire regimes. Indeed, frequent fire promotes ant diversity because it maintains an open habit that makes the dominant arid-adapted taxa feel at home. Long-term fire exclusion reduces ant diversity due to a marked decline in arid-adapted taxa, and favours highly generalized, more shade-tolerant taxa. In contrast, many small mammal species of high conservation value are highly sensitive to frequent fire, and there are widespread concerns that their populations are threatened by current fire management. Many of the species have shown dramatic population declines over recent decades, and, although the causes are poorly understood, there is little doubt that fire is an important contributing factor. It is likely that fire is acting synergistically with other underlying causes of decline, particularly predation by feral cats. The overall resilience of most savanna animal species in relation to frequent fire suggests that they are secure under all but the most extreme fire regimes. However, it is clear that more fire-sensitive groups such as small mammals need special fire management attention. This needs to involve less frequent and finer-scale burning, along with the protection of some large, infrequently burnt source areas.

    AB - Tropical savannas are the world's most fire-prone biome, and savanna biotas are generally well adapted to frequent fire. However, in northern Australia there are concerns that recent increases in the frequency and extent of high-intensity fires are causing substantial declines in regional biodiversity values. In this paper we use two well-studied and contrasting faunal groups, ants and small mammals, as case studies for reviewing faunal responses to fire in Australian savannas. The Australian savanna ant fauna is dominated by arid-adapted taxa that are highly resilient to frequent fire and are not considered to be threatened by prevailing fire regimes. Indeed, frequent fire promotes ant diversity because it maintains an open habit that makes the dominant arid-adapted taxa feel at home. Long-term fire exclusion reduces ant diversity due to a marked decline in arid-adapted taxa, and favours highly generalized, more shade-tolerant taxa. In contrast, many small mammal species of high conservation value are highly sensitive to frequent fire, and there are widespread concerns that their populations are threatened by current fire management. Many of the species have shown dramatic population declines over recent decades, and, although the causes are poorly understood, there is little doubt that fire is an important contributing factor. It is likely that fire is acting synergistically with other underlying causes of decline, particularly predation by feral cats. The overall resilience of most savanna animal species in relation to frequent fire suggests that they are secure under all but the most extreme fire regimes. However, it is clear that more fire-sensitive groups such as small mammals need special fire management attention. This needs to involve less frequent and finer-scale burning, along with the protection of some large, infrequently burnt source areas.

    KW - ant

    KW - biodiversity

    KW - biome

    KW - biota

    KW - ecosystem resilience

    KW - endangered species

    KW - fire management

    KW - habitat conservation

    KW - savanna

    KW - small mammal

    KW - Australia

    KW - Animalia

    KW - Formicidae

    KW - Mammalia

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    DO - 10.1111/j.1442-9993.2011.02334.x

    M3 - Article

    VL - 37

    SP - 658

    EP - 667

    JO - Australian Journal of Ecology

    JF - Australian Journal of Ecology

    SN - 1442-9985

    IS - 6

    ER -