Population Ecology

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 101–109 | Cite as

Demographic responses of an arboreal marsupial, the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), to a prescribed fire

  • Joanne L. Isaac
  • Leonie E. Valentine
  • Brett A. Goodman
Original Article


We investigated demographic responses of the common brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula, a medium-sized arboreal marsupial, after a prescribed fuel reduction burn on Magnetic Island, tropical north Queensland, Australia. Possums were live-trapped every month for 14 months before the fire and 11 months after the fire in both the burnt and unburnt areas; measurements of individuals were taken each month and demographic parameters were modelled using capture–mark–recapture data. Significant differences between the burnt and unburnt sites were found following the fire; recruitment was lower in the unburnt area, where population size also declined. In the burnt area, population size and recruitment displayed a tendency to increase after the fire, while capture probability declined, suggesting that an influx of new individuals, attracted to re-sprouting vegetation, had resulted in trap saturation. There was no detectable effect of the fire on survival, and no fire-induced mortalities were observed. We conclude that a low-intensity, prescribed, fuel-reduction burn had no obvious negative consequences for this possum population.


Arboreal mammal Capture–mark–recapture Population Prescribed fire Recruitment Survival 



We would like to thank John Winter and A. Tulloch for comments. Chris Johnson and Andrew Krockenberger provided supervision and advice throughout the all stages of the project; Xavier Lambin provided office space and facilities; Bryan Leighton, Nick Mann, Euan Ritchie and Dan Salkeld helped in the field. The Australian Research Council and James Cook University provided funding for the project, and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service issued permits.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne L. Isaac
    • 1
  • Leonie E. Valentine
    • 1
  • Brett A. Goodman
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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