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Mammal responses to spatial pattern in fire history depend on landscape context

Abstract

Context

Interactions between multiple threats are driving biodiversity loss. In human-modified landscapes, the extent to which fire regimes threaten species may depend on the configuration of native vegetation in relation to the matrix of other land uses. Despite crucial implications for fire management, interactions between spatial pattern in fire history and the matrix are unstudied.

Objectives

We used a multi-scale analysis to address two questions: do mammals respond to the landscape-context effect of the extent of older vegetation or growth-stage diversity? If so, are responses influenced by the presence of matrix?

Methods

Camera traps were used to survey mammals in the fragmented heathy woodland of southeast Australia. We quantified the percent of older vegetation, growth-stage diversity and matrix presence using 16 concentric circles centred on sites, and examined species’ responses using generalised linear models.

Results

We modelled eight species and found the responses of five species to fire history were influenced by matrix availability. Four species (three macropods and the yellow-footed antechinus, Antechinus flavipes) responded positively to growth-stage diversity when matrix was absent and vice versa, indicating that species acquire different resources from multiple growth stages in the absence of matrix. Moreover, these results suggest that using prescribed fire to create a mosaic of growth stages at scales of 80–710 ha may have positive conservation outcomes for these species.

Conclusions

Our study highlights the importance of examining the consequences of interacting threats. Consideration of landscape context in fire management may lead to better conservation outcomes for mammals in human-modified landscapes.

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Acknowledgements

This work was part of an Australian Research Council Linkage Project, supported by Parks Victoria, SA Water, the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. We acknowledge the Gunditjmara and Dja Dja Wurrung Peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we did our research and we are grateful to: Zahlia Payne for her contributions to fieldwork and photo processing; Sarah Mulhall and Annalie Dorph for assistance with site establishment; and Graeme Coulson, Sarah Garnick, Richard Hill and Peter Menkhorst for help with species identification. This research was carried out under a scientific research permit issued by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (permit number 10008227).

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Correspondence to Holly Sitters.

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Delaney, L., Di Stefano, J. & Sitters, H. Mammal responses to spatial pattern in fire history depend on landscape context. Landscape Ecol 36, 897–914 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-020-01186-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-020-01186-3

Keywords

  • Landscape heterogeneity
  • Succession
  • Fire age class
  • Landscape structure
  • Scale dependency
  • Habitat composition
  • Habitat configuration
  • Planned burning