Effects of intense wildfires on the nesting ecology of oviparous montane lizards

Richard Shine*, Gregory P. Brown, Melanie J. Elphick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In midsummer 2002–2003, intense wildfires raged through the Brindabella Range of south-eastern Australia, including sites where we have studied the ecology of scincid lizards (especially Bassiana duperreyi) for decades. Data-loggers measured the thermal regimes experienced by eggs during these fires (revealing lethally high temperatures in nests under logs in the forest but minimal effect in nests under rocks in clearings). Eggs from forest-clearing nests hatched successfully. Reproductive output of lizards in one area was reduced in the years post-fire (perhaps because of inadequate food [insect] abundance to fuel female reproduction) but soon recovered. The fires reduced vegetation density and thus increased the availability of sun-exposed rocks that serve as potential nest sites. However, the magnitude and duration of these effects differed among sites. Five years after these intense fires, canopy openness (and thus, sunlight penetration to create thermally suitable nest sites) was indistinguishable from pre-fire conditions. Our data reveal strong spatial heterogeneity both in the immediate effects of fire on lizard reproduction and in longer-term post-fire changes in habitat quality. Surprisingly, these intense wildfires had only transitory and local effects on nest-site availability for the heliothermic lizards that we study, but impacts likely were more severe on sympatric taxa that depend upon moist cool microhabitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)756-767
Number of pages12
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume41
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • nest-site availability
  • reproduction
  • Scincidae
  • thermal biology

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