Background information and definitions
Fire is an integral part of the management and natural dynamics of some ecosystems. Some habitats are naturally fire-prone while in others, habitats are shaped by long-term traditional management (Bowman 1998). Some habitats are now managed through prescribed burning, partly to reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. The timing of such burns may impact the mammal fauna with changes to different burning dates potentially being beneficial (or, at least, less damaging) to some species.
See also: Use prescribed burning.
Bowman D.M.J.S. (1998) Tansley Review No. 101. The impact of Aboriginal landscape burning on the Australian biota. New Phytologist, 140, 385–410.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 1989–1995 of a forest site in Northern Territory, Australia (Pardon et al. 2003) found that in forest burned early in the dry season, northern brown bandicoot Isoodon macrourus survival rate declined less than in forests burned late in the dry season. In early burn sites, the bimonthly survival rate fell during the study from 0.76 to 0.59 compared to a larger reduction in sites burned later in the year, from 0.78 to 0.19. Four compartments each extended across 15–20 km2. Two were burned early in the dry season (May–June) and two were burned late in the dry season (September–October, mimicking wildfire). Treatments were assigned randomly to compartments and were applied annually in 1990–1994. Bandicoots were surveyed by live-trapping in each compartment, over two nights, bimonthly, from July 1989 to May 1995.Study and other actions tested
A replicated, randomized, controlled, before-and-after study in 2001–2004 of a coniferous woodland in California, USA (Monroe & Converse 2006) found that carrying out prescribed burns in autumn did not increase small mammal abundances or biomass relative to burning in summer. Timing of burning did not significantly affect abundances of deer mice Peromyscus maniculatus or lodgepole chipmunks Neotamias speciosus or overall small mammal biomass (results presented as model outputs). Nine plots, 15–20 ha in area, were studied. Three were burned between 28 September and 28 October 2001 and three were burned on 20 or 27 June 2002. Three plots were not burned. Treatments were allocated randomly to plots. Small mammals were sampled by live-trapping over eight consecutive nights and days each year. Sampling occurred in June–August 2001 (pre-treatment) and in June–September of 2002 and 2003 and June–August 2004.Study and other actions tested