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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgements

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.

References

  1. Akaike H (1973) Information theory and an extension of the maximum likelihood principle. In: Petrov BN, Csaki F (eds) Second international symposium on information theory. Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, pp 267–281Google Scholar
  2. Akaike H (1985) Prediction and entropy. In: Atkinson A, Fienberg SE (eds) A celebration of statistics. Springer, New York, pp 1–24Google Scholar
  3. Burbidge AA, McKenzie NL (1989) Patterns in the modern decline of Western Australia’s vertebrate fauna: causes and conservation implications. Biol Conserv 50:143–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (1998) Model selection and inference: a practical information––theoretic approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Carlson PC, Tanner GW, Wood JM, Humphrey SR (1993) Fire in key deer habitat improves browse, prevents succession, and preserves endemic herbs. J Wildl Manage 57:914–928CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christensen PES (1980) The biology of Bettongia penicillata Gray, 1837, and Macropus eugenii (Desmarest, 1817) in relation to fire. Bulletin no. 91, Forests Department of Western AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  7. Claridge AW, Barry SC (2000) Factors influencing the distribution of medium-sized ground-dwelling mammals in southeastern mainland Australia. Austral Ecol 25:676–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Converse SJ, White GC, Block WM (2006) Small mammal responses to thinning and wildfire in ponderosa pine-dominated forest of the southwestern United States. J Wildl Manage 70:1711–1722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fearn S (1998) A range extension for the scrub python Morelia amethistina (Serpentes: Boidae): a record from Magnetic Island, North Queensland. Herpetofauna 28:39–40Google Scholar
  10. Franklin AB (2002) Exploring ecological relationships in survival and estimating rates of population change using program MARK. In: Field R, Warren RJ, Okarma H, Sievert PR (eds) Wildlife, land, and people: priorities for the 21st century. Proceedings of the second international wildlife management congress. The Wildlife Society, Bethesda, pp 290–296Google Scholar
  11. Gill AM (1981) Adaptive responses of Australian vascular plant species to fires. In: Gill AM, Groves RH, Noble IR (eds) Fire and the Australian biota. Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, pp 243–271Google Scholar
  12. How RA, Hillcox SJ (2000) Brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula, populations in south-western Australia: demography, diet and conservation status. Wildl Res 27:81–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2003) IUCN red list of threatened species (2003) International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Gland, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  14. Isaac JL (2005) Life history and demographics of an island possum. Aust J Zool 53:195–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson CN (2002) Determinants of loss of mammal species during the late quaternary ‘megafauna’ extinctions: life history and ecology, but not body size. Proc R Soc Lond B 269:2221–2227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Johnson CN (2007) Australia’s mammal extinctions: a 50000-year history. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  17. Johnson CN, Delean S, Balmford A (2002) Phylogeny and the selectivity of extinction in Australian marsupials. Anim Conserv 5:135–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kerle JA (1998) The population dynamics of a tropical possum, Trichosurus vulpecula arnhemensis Collett. Wildl Res 25:171–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kerle JA (2001) Possums: the brushtails, ringtails and greater glider. UNSW, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  20. Kerle JA, Foulkes JN, Kimber RG, Papenfus D (1992) The decline of the brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula (Kerr 1798), in arid Australia. Rangeland J 14:107–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Letnic M (2002) Long distance movements and the use of fire mosaics by small mammals in the Simpson desert, central Australia. Aust Mammal 22:125–134Google Scholar
  22. Letnic M (2003) The effects of experimental patch burning and rainfall on small mammals in the Simpson desert, Queensland. Wildl Res 30:547–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lindenmayer DB, Possingham HP (1995) Modelling the impacts of wildfire on the viability of metapopulations of the endangered Australian species of arboreal marsupial, Leadbeater’s possum. Forest Ecol Manag 74:197–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lunney D, O’Neill L, Matthews A, Sherwin WB (2002) Modelling mammalian extinction and forecasting recovery: koalas at Iluka (NSW, Australia). Biol Conserv 106:101–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Melzer A, Carrick F, Mekhorst P, Lunney D, John BS (2000) Overview, critical assessment, and conservation implications of koala distribution and abundance. Conserv Biol 14:619–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moreno S, Villafuerte R (1995) Traditional management of scrubland for the conservation of rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and their predators in Doñana National Park, Spain. Biol Conserv 73:81–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pardon LG, Brook BW, Griffiths AD, Braithwaite RW (2003) Determinants of survival for the northern brown bandicoot under a landscape-scale fire experiment. J Anim Ecol 72:106–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2004) Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. Short J, Smith A (1994) Mammal decline and recovery in Australia. J Mamm 74:288–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Silveira L, Rodrigues FHG, Jacomo ATA, Filho JAFD (1999) Impact of wildfires on the megafauna of Emas National Park, central Brazil. Oryx 33: 108–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Smith EP (2002) BACI design. In: El-Shaarawi AH, Piegorch WW (eds) Encyclopedia of environmetrics. Wiley, Chichester, pp 141–148Google Scholar
  32. Stewart-Oaten A, Murdoch WW, Parker KR (1986) Environmental impact assessment: “pseudoreplication” in time? Ecology 67:929–940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stewart-Oaten A, Bence JR, Osenberg CW (1992) Assessing the effects of unreplicated perturbations: no simple solutions. Ecology 73:1396–1404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tomor BM, Owen-Smith N (2002) Comparative use of grass regrowth following burns by four ungulate species in the Nylsvley Nature Reserve, South Africa. Afr J Ecol 40:201–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Valentine LE, Schwarzkopf L, Johnson CN, Grice AC (2007) Burning season influences the response of bird assemblages to fire in tropical savannas. Biol Conserv 137:90–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Van der Ree R, Loyn RH (2002) The influence of time since fire and distance from fire boundary on the distribution and abundance of arboreal marsupials in Eucalyptus regnans-dominated forest in the Central highlands of Victoria. Wildl Res 29:151–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Vernes K (2000) Immediate effects of fire on survivorship of the northern bettong (Bettongia tropica): an endangered Australian marsupial. Biol Conserv 96:305–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wayne AF, Cowling A, Lindenmayer DB, Ward CG, Vellios CV, Donnelly CF, Calver MC (2006) The abundance of a threatened arboreal marsupial in relation to anthropogenic disturbances at local and landscape scales in Mediterranean-type forests in south-western Australia. Biol Conserv 127:463–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Whelan RJ (1995) The ecology of fire. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  40. White GC, Burnham KP (1999) Program MARK: survival estimation from populations of marked animals. Bird Study 46 [Suppl]:S120–S139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wilson BA, Friend GR (1999) Responses of Australian mammals to disturbance factors: a review. Aust Mammal 21:87–105Google Scholar
  42. Winter JW, Allison FR (1980) The native mammals of Cape York Peninsula––changes in status since the 1948 Archbold expedition. In: Stevens NC, Bailey A (eds) Contemporary Cape York Peninsula Royal Society of Queensland, Brisbane, pp 31–47Google Scholar
  43. Woinarski JCZ, Milne DJ, Wanganeen G (2001) Changes in mammal populations in relatively intact landscapes of Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. Austral Ecol 26:360–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations