Responses of Birds and Reptiles in Warrumbungle National Park after the Extensive 2013 Wildfire

Jennifer E Taylor, Murray V Ellis, Narawan Williams, Ulrike Kloecker

Abstract


In 2013 extensive wildfire burnt 90% (22104 ha) of Warrumbungle National Park in New South Wales, Australia. In 2014-2016 we assessed how species composition and abundance of birds and reptiles varied with fire severity and habitat characteristics. Of 91 bird species observed during surveys of 35 sites, 47 were more often on low severity sites. Bird species composition did not differ among vegetation communities although activity levels (species per 10 minutes) were reduced in woodland on sedimentary geology as compared with volcanic areas. With increasing fire severity bird activity and total number of species detected decreased, and species composition changed. Differences in species composition were due mainly to lower numbers of detections of small to medium-sized insectivores and nectarivores on high severity sites. Results were more complicated for the 36 species of reptiles observed during surveys than for birds. Reptile species composition varied with fire severity, geology, presence of rock outcrops and between vegetation communities. Species richness and abundance of many reptile groups, as well as the total number of individuals, decreased with increasing fire severity, but for reptiles overall and diurnal reptiles, presence of rock outcrops had a stronger effect on number of species and abundance. Differences between reptiles and birds and among reptile groups suggest that fire management for conservation needs to be at a range of scales and consider habitat attributes.

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