, 167:873 | Cite as

Fire management to combat disease: turning interactions between threats into conservation management

  • Helen M. ReganEmail author
  • David A. Keith
  • Tracey J. Regan
  • Mark G. Tozer
  • Naomi Tootell
Conservation ecology - Original Paper


As the number and intensity of threats to biodiversity increase, there is a critical need to investigate interactions between threats and manage populations accordingly. We ask whether it is possible to reduce the effects of one threat by mitigating another. We used long-term data for the long-lived resprouter, Xanthorrhoea resinosa Pers., to parameterise an individual-based population model. This plant is currently threatened by adverse fire regimes and the pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi. We tested a range of fire and disease scenarios over various time horizons relevant to the population dynamics of the species and the practicalities of management. While fire does not kill the disease, it does trigger plant demographic responses that may promote population persistence when disease is present. Population decline is reduced with frequent fires because they promote the greatest number of germination events, but frequent fires reduce adult stages, which is detrimental in the long term. Fire suppression is the best action for the non-seedling stages but does not promote recruitment. With disease, frequent fire produced the highest total population sizes for shorter durations, but for longer durations fire suppression gave the highest population sizes. When seedlings were excluded, fire suppression was the best action. We conclude that fire management can play an important role in mitigating threats posed by this disease. The best approach to reducing declines may be to manage populations across a spatial mosaic in which the sequence of frequent fires and suppression are staggered across patches depending on the level of disease at the site.


Phytophthora cinnamomi Xanthorrhoea resinosa Fire Population dynamics Long-lived resprouter 



This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Grant NSF-DEB-0824708 awarded to HMR. We thank Rebecca Swab and Clara Bohorquez for running simulations and creating some of the figures, and Erin Conlisk, Rebecca Swab and Colin Yates for comments on a previous draft of this manuscript. We declare that the experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which the experiments were performed.

Supplementary material

442_2011_2029_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (134 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 133 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen M. Regan
    • 1
    Email author
  • David A. Keith
    • 2
    • 3
  • Tracey J. Regan
    • 4
  • Mark G. Tozer
    • 2
  • Naomi Tootell
    • 5
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  2. 2.NSW Office of Environment and HeritageHurstvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Wetlands and Rivers CentreUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia
  4. 4.School of BotanyThe University of MelbourneVictoriaAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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