Fire mosaics and reptile conservation

We’ve had a new paper published online early in Conservation Biology. This is a paper arising from my PhD research into the ecology of semi-arid lizard communities in Australia (related work here and here).

The paper focuses on a fire management strategy used throughout the world called patch-mosaic burning (‘PMB’, see this excellent review for more info). Despite the fact that PMB is clearly a spatial management strategy, few studies have examined how the spatial attributes of fire mosaics (e.g. their extent and composition) influence biodiversity (but see here and here).

We used a whole-landscape approach to address this question. We selected 28 landscapes that represented a gradient in possible approaches to patch-mosaic burning, from landscapes dominated by a single fire-age class to landscapes with a diversity of fire ages. We then surveyed for reptiles in ten sites nested within each landscape (n = 280 sites overall), allowing a direct comparison of the fauna in different fire mosaics.

Nine of the 22 species modelled were influenced by the amount of a fire-age within a landscape, suggesting that the properties of fire mosaics are an important driver of species distributions in fire-prone regions. The direction of species’ responses pointed to the importance of large areas of mid-successional vegetation (~30 years post fire in mallee).

If you would like a reprint feel free to send me an email (