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Data from: Modelling variability in the fire-response of an endangered bird to improve fire-management

Citation

Verdon, Simon; Watson, Simon; Clarke, Michael (2020), Data from: Modelling variability in the fire-response of an endangered bird to improve fire-management, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.r530142

Abstract

Conservation managers regularly burn vegetation to regenerate habitat for fire-dependent species. When determining the time-since-fire at which to burn, managers model change in a species’ occurrence over time, post-fire (fire-response curve) and identify the time-since-fire associated with decline in occurrence. However, where species exhibit variability in their fire-response across space, using a single fire-response curve to determine the timing of burns may lead to burning habitat at an inappropriate time-since-fire. We tested if elevation, local topography, soil properties, vegetation type or evapotranspiration affect the fire-response of the endangered mallee emu-wren Stipiturus mallee and its hummock-grass habitat Triodia scariosa in south-eastern Australia (n= 217). Previous work on the mallee emu-wren found a unimodal fire-response with decline in occurrence at ~30-50 years-since-fire and a time-window of occurrence of ~30 years. We found that time-since-fire and elevation interact to affect the mallee emu-wren fire-response. At high elevations (55-98 m), mallee emu-wrens declined in occurrence at ~50 years-since-fire, with a time-window of occurrence of 20-40 years. However, at low elevations (28-55 m), mallee emu-wrens showed no decline in occurrence with increasing time-since-fire with a time-window of occurrence of up to 107 years. Extent cover of Tall T. scariosa showed similar patterns to the mallee emu-wren, indicating that vegetation structure is a likely driver of variability in the mallee emu-wren fire-response. We speculate that the effect of low elevation is mediated by increased soil nutrient and water availability for key plants. We used our findings to map the appropriate time-since-fire at which to burn to regenerate habitat for the mallee emu-wren across the study-region. We recommend no burning for regeneration across one-third of potential habitat, because the mallee emu-wren showed no decline in occurrence in these areas. We recommend managers model variability in species’ fire-responses across space to improve the timing of burns for regeneration.

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