Bioturbation by a reintroduced digging mammal reduces fuel loads in an urban reserve

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Abstract

Digging animals may alter many characteristics of their environment as they disrupt and modify the ground's surface by creating foraging pits or burrows. Extensive disturbance to the soil and litter layer changes litter distribution and availability, potentially altering fuel loads. In many landscapes, including peri-urban areas, fire management to reduce fuel loads is complex and challenging. The reintroduction of previously common digging animals, many of which are now threatened, may have the added benefit of reducing fuel loads. We experimentally examined how the reintroduction of a marsupial bandicoot, quenda (Isoodon fusciventer), altered surface fuel loads in an urban bush reserve in Perth, Western Australia. Foraging activities of quenda (where they dig for subterranean food) were substantial throughout the reserve, creating a visibly patchy distribution in surface litter. Further, in open plots where quenda had access, compared to fenced plots where quenda were excluded, quenda foraging significantly reduced litter cover and litter depth. Similarly, estimated surface fuel loads were nearly halved in open plots where quenda foraged compared to fenced plots where quenda were absent (3.6 cf. 6.4 Mg/ha). Fire behavior modeling, using the estimated surface fuel loads, indicated the predicted rate of spread of fire were significantly lower for open plots where quenda foraged compared to fenced plots under both low (29.2 cf. 51.4 m/h; total fuels) and high (74.3 cf. 130.4 m/h; total fuels) fire conditions. Although many environments require fire, including the bushland where this study occurred, fire management can be a considerable challenge in many landscapes, including urban bushland reserves, which are usually small and close to human infrastructure. The reintroduction of previously common digging species may have potential value as a complimentary tool for reducing fuel loads, and potentially, fire risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02018
JournalEcological Applications
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2019

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bioturbation
mammal
litter
reintroduction
bushland
fire management
periurban area
fire behavior
animal
marsupial
burrow
infrastructure
disturbance
food

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title = "Bioturbation by a reintroduced digging mammal reduces fuel loads in an urban reserve",
abstract = "Digging animals may alter many characteristics of their environment as they disrupt and modify the ground's surface by creating foraging pits or burrows. Extensive disturbance to the soil and litter layer changes litter distribution and availability, potentially altering fuel loads. In many landscapes, including peri-urban areas, fire management to reduce fuel loads is complex and challenging. The reintroduction of previously common digging animals, many of which are now threatened, may have the added benefit of reducing fuel loads. We experimentally examined how the reintroduction of a marsupial bandicoot, quenda (Isoodon fusciventer), altered surface fuel loads in an urban bush reserve in Perth, Western Australia. Foraging activities of quenda (where they dig for subterranean food) were substantial throughout the reserve, creating a visibly patchy distribution in surface litter. Further, in open plots where quenda had access, compared to fenced plots where quenda were excluded, quenda foraging significantly reduced litter cover and litter depth. Similarly, estimated surface fuel loads were nearly halved in open plots where quenda foraged compared to fenced plots where quenda were absent (3.6 cf. 6.4 Mg/ha). Fire behavior modeling, using the estimated surface fuel loads, indicated the predicted rate of spread of fire were significantly lower for open plots where quenda foraged compared to fenced plots under both low (29.2 cf. 51.4 m/h; total fuels) and high (74.3 cf. 130.4 m/h; total fuels) fire conditions. Although many environments require fire, including the bushland where this study occurred, fire management can be a considerable challenge in many landscapes, including urban bushland reserves, which are usually small and close to human infrastructure. The reintroduction of previously common digging species may have potential value as a complimentary tool for reducing fuel loads, and potentially, fire risk.",
keywords = "bandicoot, ecosystem engineer, fire management, fire regime, plant–animal interactions, quenda, reintroduction",
author = "Ryan, {C. M.} and Hobbs, {R. J.} and Valentine, {L. E.}",
year = "2019",
month = "10",
day = "9",
doi = "10.1002/eap.2018",
language = "English",
journal = "Ecological Applications",
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T1 - Bioturbation by a reintroduced digging mammal reduces fuel loads in an urban reserve

AU - Ryan, C. M.

AU - Hobbs, R. J.

AU - Valentine, L. E.

PY - 2019/10/9

Y1 - 2019/10/9

N2 - Digging animals may alter many characteristics of their environment as they disrupt and modify the ground's surface by creating foraging pits or burrows. Extensive disturbance to the soil and litter layer changes litter distribution and availability, potentially altering fuel loads. In many landscapes, including peri-urban areas, fire management to reduce fuel loads is complex and challenging. The reintroduction of previously common digging animals, many of which are now threatened, may have the added benefit of reducing fuel loads. We experimentally examined how the reintroduction of a marsupial bandicoot, quenda (Isoodon fusciventer), altered surface fuel loads in an urban bush reserve in Perth, Western Australia. Foraging activities of quenda (where they dig for subterranean food) were substantial throughout the reserve, creating a visibly patchy distribution in surface litter. Further, in open plots where quenda had access, compared to fenced plots where quenda were excluded, quenda foraging significantly reduced litter cover and litter depth. Similarly, estimated surface fuel loads were nearly halved in open plots where quenda foraged compared to fenced plots where quenda were absent (3.6 cf. 6.4 Mg/ha). Fire behavior modeling, using the estimated surface fuel loads, indicated the predicted rate of spread of fire were significantly lower for open plots where quenda foraged compared to fenced plots under both low (29.2 cf. 51.4 m/h; total fuels) and high (74.3 cf. 130.4 m/h; total fuels) fire conditions. Although many environments require fire, including the bushland where this study occurred, fire management can be a considerable challenge in many landscapes, including urban bushland reserves, which are usually small and close to human infrastructure. The reintroduction of previously common digging species may have potential value as a complimentary tool for reducing fuel loads, and potentially, fire risk.

AB - Digging animals may alter many characteristics of their environment as they disrupt and modify the ground's surface by creating foraging pits or burrows. Extensive disturbance to the soil and litter layer changes litter distribution and availability, potentially altering fuel loads. In many landscapes, including peri-urban areas, fire management to reduce fuel loads is complex and challenging. The reintroduction of previously common digging animals, many of which are now threatened, may have the added benefit of reducing fuel loads. We experimentally examined how the reintroduction of a marsupial bandicoot, quenda (Isoodon fusciventer), altered surface fuel loads in an urban bush reserve in Perth, Western Australia. Foraging activities of quenda (where they dig for subterranean food) were substantial throughout the reserve, creating a visibly patchy distribution in surface litter. Further, in open plots where quenda had access, compared to fenced plots where quenda were excluded, quenda foraging significantly reduced litter cover and litter depth. Similarly, estimated surface fuel loads were nearly halved in open plots where quenda foraged compared to fenced plots where quenda were absent (3.6 cf. 6.4 Mg/ha). Fire behavior modeling, using the estimated surface fuel loads, indicated the predicted rate of spread of fire were significantly lower for open plots where quenda foraged compared to fenced plots under both low (29.2 cf. 51.4 m/h; total fuels) and high (74.3 cf. 130.4 m/h; total fuels) fire conditions. Although many environments require fire, including the bushland where this study occurred, fire management can be a considerable challenge in many landscapes, including urban bushland reserves, which are usually small and close to human infrastructure. The reintroduction of previously common digging species may have potential value as a complimentary tool for reducing fuel loads, and potentially, fire risk.

KW - bandicoot

KW - ecosystem engineer

KW - fire management

KW - fire regime

KW - plant–animal interactions

KW - quenda

KW - reintroduction

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DO - 10.1002/eap.2018

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JO - Ecological Applications

JF - Ecological Applications

SN - 1051-0761

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ER -