The Blue Mountains water skink (Eulamprus leuraensis; Scincidae) is restricted to less than 40 fragmented swamp sites, all within the Blue Mountains and Newnes Plateau areas of New South Wales, Australia. Climate change is expected to increase fire frequency in the area, potentially degrading habitat quality for this endangered reptile. We quantified lizard abundances in 12 swamps using standardized surveys, and constructed a Global Information System (GIS) database to determine fire-histories for each swamp since 1967. The abundance of Blue Mountains water skinks was negatively correlated with fire frequency, but not with time since fire. Indirect impacts of fire (mediated via shifts in vegetation density, moisture levels, prey availability and post-fire predation) may be more important than direct effects in these cool, moist habitats. Although lizards were less common in swamps close to urban areas, and less common in frequently burnt areas, viable populations of this endangered reptile still persist even in anthropogenically disturbed swamps and in swamps that have experienced up to four fires in 20 years. Future research could usefully extend these analyses to other swamps in the locality, and explore the broader impacts of fire regimes on the distinctive flora and fauna of this threatened ecological community.
- fire frequency
- threatened species