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The dynamics of small vertebrates in relation to fire in banksia woodland near Perth, Western Australia

Bamford, Michael John (1986) The dynamics of small vertebrates in relation to fire in banksia woodland near Perth, Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals present in banksia woodland, 80 km north of Perth, Western Australia, were monitored from April 1983 to March 1986, in sites last burnt O, 3, 11 and 20 years ago. In addition, two sites unburnt for about 20 years were burnt experimentally, one in autumn and one in spring. This woodland had been burnt at intervals of 15-20 years for at least the previous 40 years.

Small vertebrate diversity and abundance, invertebrate abundance and vegetation structure all showed greatest variation in the first three years after fire.

Overall 8 frog, 35 reptile, 7 small mammal and 86 bird species were recorded; most species were very uncommon. Among the common species from all groups were species which changed in abundance with increasing time after fire. Fire itself caused little direct mortality.

Frog diversity following the most intense little more than two was reduced in the first year fire studied, but varied years after fire. Reptile diversity varied within sites but showed no clear relationship with time after fire; it was, however, reduced in the first year after a spring fire. Small mammal diversity was reduced by fire and was relatively constant more than three years after fire.

Despite dramatic changes in the relative abundances of particular species, bird diversity in the first year was similar to that found more than 20 years after fire, but peaked markedly 3-6 years after fire.

As a group, reptiles were least affected by fire, probably because their ectothermic physiology allowed them to tolerate periods of inactivity. Small mammals were most affected, presumably because of their need to forage daily and their lack of mobility in comparison to the similarly endothermic birds.

The importance of fire history, and in particular the frequency of fires, in determining the vertebrate species in a region, is discussed. The responses of particular species to a single fire could be useful in establishing guidelines for the use of fire in management.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Wooller, Ron
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