Which fire management strategies benefit biodiversity? A landscape-perspective case study using birds in mallee ecosystems of south-eastern Australia Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Managing fire regimes for conservation of biodiversity is a global challenge. We examined the responses of birds to fire mosaics (4-km diameter landscapes) comprising different compositions of fire age-classes, and used these results to evaluate the relative value of four contemporary strategies for fire management. These were: (1) promoting a diverse range of age-classes; (2) promoting particular age-classes for fire-sensitive species; (3) preventing reserve-scale wildfire; and (4) burning a fixed percentage (e.g. 5%) of the landscape annually. None of the 28 species examined was positively associated with landscapes with extensive recently burned (<10years) vegetation. One species was associated with landscapes with a greater diversity of age-classes while two species, including the endangered Black-eared Miner (Manorina melanotis), were associated with less diverse landscapes. Landscapes with extensive older (>35years since fire) vegetation were favoured by three species; while two species preferred those with extensive mid-age (11–35years since fire) vegetation. Our findings suggest that in semi-arid mallee ecosystems, management that results in large proportions of recently burned vegetation (e.g. by burning 5% of the landscape annually or permitting reserve-scale wildfires), or a high local diversity of age-classes, will negatively affect more bird species than they would aid. Management strategies that promote particular age-classes (i.e. mid-age and older vegetation) are likely to benefit bird species. Species-specific knowledge from a landscape perspective can refine management strategies to assist in defining the characteristics of ‘desirable’ fire mosaics for maintaining biodiversity.

publication date

  • March 2013

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