Raking over the ashes: assessing the impact of fire on native fauna in the aftermath of Australia’s 2019-2020 fires

Christopher R. Dickman, Pat Hutchings, Brad Law, Daniel Lunney

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The 2021 annual forum of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW raked over the ashes of the unprecedented “Black Summer” bushfires of 2019–2020 in eastern and southern Australia to assess how forest ecosystems and their constituent fauna had fared. This paper provides an overview of the 21 studies that were presented at the forum, now as papers in this theme edition of Australian Zoologist. All the authors were unanimous in their agreement about the unparalleled extent and severity of the fires and the magnitude of their ecological impacts. Whereas much of the focus of the 2019–2020 fires was on vertebrates, significant research was also carried out on a diverse range of invertebrate taxa. The studies of the invertebrate groups found that different taxa respond variably to fire and also emphasised the difficulties in judging the full impact of the fires due to taxonomic impediments. An underlying theme in almost all studies was that long-term and broad-scale monitoring of fauna and faunal habitats is essential if we are to build a robust understanding of how animals respond to fire, and in turn how managers can mitigate the impacts of fire in future. Such monitoring will need to incorporate the effects of other disturbance factors, such as habitat fragmentation, drought, salvage logging and longwall mining, that interact with fire, and also trial new methods to track and assist fauna to cope with the changing fire regimes. Several studies advocated the use of novel and emerging technologies to achieve better monitoring of fauna, while others proposed mapping of large scale, as well as micro-refuges, to maximise fire resilience, or the use of supplementary resources such as nest boxes and artificial roosts to replace those lost in fires. We concur with all the authors that a critically important way to protect and manage our native fauna is through expanded and sustained research and monitoring programs, and by making the key results available to managers and policy makers via peer-reviewed publication.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)643-653
    Number of pages11
    JournalAustralian Zoologist
    Volume42
    Issue number2
    Early online date31 Aug 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Keywords

    • bushfire
    • climate change
    • fauna monitoring
    • greater glider
    • invertebrates
    • long-term studies
    • threatened species
    • tree hollows
    • vertebrates
    • wildfire

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