Prescribed burning as a conservation tool for management of habitat for threatened species: The quokka, Setonix brachyurus, in the southern forests of Western Australia

Kristel Bain, A. Wayne, Roberta Bencini

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    Abstract

    © IAWF 2016.Prescribed burning is frequently advocated as a means of managing habitat for threatened species. We studied effects of fire on the quokka (Setonix brachyurus), a species currently used as a focal species for planning prescribed burns in the southern forests of Western Australia. We examined (i) the recolonisation of burnt areas; (ii) the refuge value of unburnt vegetation; and (iii) fire prediction variables that may help to guide fire planning to achieve desired habitat management outcomes. We hypothesised that fire regimes promoting vegetation structure and patchiness of burnt and unburnt vegetation would result in more rapid recolonisation of burnt areas by quokkas. Occupancy modelling identified the most important variables for recolonisation as retention of vertical vegetation structure and multiple unburnt patches across >20% of the total area. These outcomes were associated with high surface moisture, low soil dryness and slow fire rates of spread. Intense wildfire resulted in complete loss of vegetation structure and a lack of unburnt patches, which contributed to these areas remaining uncolonised. Burning with high moisture differentials, maximising the effectiveness of edaphic barriers to fire, retaining unburnt vegetation and maintaining vegetation structure were found to be important elements of fire regimes in this region.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)608-617
    JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
    Volume25
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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