Wildfires in eastern Australia have resulted in many commentators calling for more frequent and widespread use of fires to reduce fuel loads. Irrespective of the merits of the various wildfire control methods, the impacts of fire on biota can be complex and are not well understood. Inappropriate fire regimes have contributed to the extinction of two species and three subspecies of birds. They are also a major threat to more than 50 additional bird species and nearly 20 plant species.
There is remarkably little data on the long-term impacts of fire. A major research and management challenge exists to identify ecologically appropriate fire regimes for different vegetation types and groups of biota inhabiting those vegetation types. This project aims to overcome this challenge by quantifying changes in vertebrate biota within vegetation subject to alternate burning strategies. The project is a retrospective and prospective longitudinal study of the effects of fire on mammals, birds and reptiles inhabiting a range of vegetation types. It takes place in Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay.
In late 2003 an unplanned fire burnt a large proportion of Booderee National Park, including many newly constructed monitoring sites. This unplanned event provided an important opportunity to measure fauna response to wildfire. Many animals survived the fire event and live in the recovering vegetation.
The work in the Jervis Bay Project encompasses a range of studies. These include:
- Long-term monitoring work on the responses to fire of birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs, and plants.
- Bandicoot response to burnt environments
- Ringtail Possum nesting habits
- Diamond Python spatial ecology
- The impacts of spatial heterogeneity in vegetation cover on mammals and birds
- The impacts of fire on amphibians
- The spatial ecology and genetics of small terrestrial mammals
- The effects of urbanisation on vertebrates