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Burning in banksia woodlands: How does the fire-free period influence reptile communities?

Valentine, L.E., Reaveley, A., Johnson, B., Fisher, R. and Wilson, B.A. (2012) Burning in banksia woodlands: How does the fire-free period influence reptile communities? PLoS ONE, 7 (4). e34448.

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Fire is an important management tool for both hazard reduction burning and maintenance of biodiversity. The impact of time since last fire on fauna is an important factor to understand as land managers often aim for prescribed burning regimes with specific fire-free intervals. However, our current understanding of the impact of time since last fire on fauna is largely unknown and likely dependent on vegetation type. We examined the responses of reptiles to fire age in banksia woodlands, and the interspersed melaleuca damplands among them, north of Perth, Western Australia, where the current prescribed burning regime is targeting a fire-free period of 8-12 years. The response of reptiles to fire was dependent on vegetation type. Reptiles were generally more abundant (e.g. Lerista elegans and Ctenophorus adelaidensis) and specious in banksia sites. Several species (e.g. Menetia greyii, Cryptoblepharus buchananii) preferred long unburnt melaleuca sites (>16 years since last fire, YSLF) compared to recently burnt sites (16 YSLF). The terrestrial dragon C. adelaidensis and the skink Morethia obscura displayed a strong response to fire in banksia woodlands only. Highest abundances of the dragon were detected in the recently burnt (<7 YSLF) and long unburnt (>35 YSLF) banksia woodlands, while the skink was more abundant in older sites. Habitats from a range of fire ages are required to support the reptiles we detected, especially the longer unburnt (>16 YSLF) melaleuca habitat. Current burning prescriptions are reducing the availability of these older habitats.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Forest and Woodland Health
School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2012 Valentine et al
Notes: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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