74 The devil in the detail: Detecting impacts of fire on fauna

Friday, August 7, 2009
Exhibit Hall NE & SE, Albuquerque Convention Center
Rosalind Blanche , LASR Consulting, Tolga, Australia
Leasie Felderhof , Firescape Science, Atherton, Australia
Background/Question/Methods

Reliable methods are needed to monitor the impacts of fire regimes. Our study aimed to develop a procedure for simultaneously detecting positive and negative effects of fire on fauna. Bird species richness and abundance were surveyed at recently burnt and long unburnt paired sites in six large fire scars in the Mount Isa Inlier bioregion of north west Queensland, Australia. Expert opinion was consulted to classify the bird species recorded according to their vulnerability to fire. Paired  t-tests were used to compare the composition of the bird communities at recently burnt and long unburnt sites.

Results/Conclusions

There were 71 bird species observed in the field and these were separated into four fire vulnerability categories. Burnt sites had significantly fewer species and lower abundance of birds in the most fire vulnerable category but significantly higher total bird abundance and abundance of birds in the least fire vulnerable category than unburnt sites. There was no significant difference in the total number of species, or in the individual abundances of three vulnerable species, at burnt and unburnt sites. The results show that analysing species in vulnerability categories reveals effects of fire that may not be evident otherwise. The method is a valuable innovation for fire monitoring and one that could contribute to the information available for ecologically oriented fire management decisions.

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