Survival behaviour of swamp wallabies during prescribed burning and wildfire
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Wildlife Research, 2010, 37 (1), pp. 1 - 12
- Issue Date:
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Context. Prescribed (or controlled) burning is frequently advocated as a means of reducing fuel loads in peri-urban forests to minimise the risk of high-intensity wildfires. An important consideration in prescribed burns is the impact on native wildlife. Aims. An opportunity arose to follow the movements of radio-collared peri-urban swamp wallabies during a prescribed burn and after an unexpected wildfire in the same location a short time later. Movement data was used to assess the relative impacts of the prescribed burn and wildfire on mortality, emigration and habitat use; the behavioural responses and methods of avoidance used by swamp wallabies in response to an oncoming fire front; and the management implications for wildlife that inhabit fire-prone habitats in proximity to human settlement where wildfire mitigation is necessary. Methods. Here we report on the movements of radio-collared swamp wallabies, Wallabia bicolor, before, during and after a prescribed fire and after a wildfire on the same site 6 months later. Key results. No radio-collared swamp wallabies were killed during the prescribed burn and only one wallaby was observed to emigrate from the area post-fire. This contrasted to the wildfire where one wallaby died during or just after the fire and another perished in the post-fire environment a few months later. The wildfire also increased emigration post-fire. Conclusions. We demonstrate that wallabies can avoid fire fronts and that this avoidance behaviour may be more successful during cooler fires. The prescribed burn provided a suitable habitat for wallabies but did not result in a shift in habitat preference. Implications. Mitigation of the impact of prescribed burns on swamp wallabies may be achieved by allowing sufficient time for habitat complexity to re-establish between burns. © CSIRO 2010.
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