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Data from: The disproportionate importance of long-unburned forests and woodlands for reptiles

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Dixon, Kelly M.; Cary, Geoffrey J.; Worboys, Graeme L.; Gibbons, Philip (2019). Data from: The disproportionate importance of long-unburned forests and woodlands for reptiles [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Our understanding of the impacts of time since fire on reptiles remains limited, partly because there are relatively few locations where long-term, spatially explicit fire histories are available. Such information is important given the large proportion of some landscapes that are managed with frequent prescribed fire to meet fuel management objectives. 2. We conducted a space-for-time study across a landscape in south-east Australia where the known fire history spanned 6 months to at least 96 years. Four methods were used to survey reptiles in 81 forest and woodland sites to investigate how time since fire, habitat and environmental variables affect reptile richness, abundance and composition. 3. We used generalised linear models, generalised linear mixed models, PERMANOVA and SIMPER to identify relationships between the reptile assemblage (richness, abundance and composition respectively) and time since fire, habitat and environmental variables. 4. All three reptile metrics were associated with time since fire. Reptile richness and abundance were significantly higher in sites >96 years post-fire than younger fire ages (0.5-12 years). Reptile composition at long-unburned sites was dissimilar to sites burned more recently but was similar between sites burned 0.5-2 and 6-12 years prior to sampling. 5. Synthesis and applications. Long-unburned forests and woodlands were disproportionately more important for reptile richness and abundance than areas burned 6 months to 12 years prior to sampling. This is important given that long-unburned areas represent less than 8% of our study area. Our results therefore suggest that reptiles would benefit from protecting remaining long-unburned areas from fire and transitioning a greater proportion of the study area to long-unburned. However, some compositional differences between the long-unburned sites and sites 0.5-12 years post-fire indicate that maintaining a diversity in fire ages is important for conserving reptile diversity.

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