Aboriginal burning promotes fine-scale pyrodiversity and native predators in Australia's Western Desert

Rebecca Bliege Bird, Douglas W. Bird, Luis E. Fernandez, Nyalanka Taylor, Wakka Taylor, Dale Nimmo

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10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Both invasive mesopredators and altered fire regimes impact populations of vulnerable native species. Understanding how these forces interact is critical for designing better conservation measures for endangered species. This study draws on Indigenous ecological knowledge and practice to explore heterogeneity in faunal responses to Indigenously managed landscapes in the Western Desert of Australia. Using track plot surveys and satellite image analysis of fire histories, we find evidence that pyrodiversity increases activity measures of dingoes and monitor lizards. Dingoes were more active in recently burnt patches, while foxes were more active in slightly older burnt patches. These results add to previous work showing significant effects of pyrodiversity on kangaroo populations in the region. Together, the findings suggest that Aboriginal burning not only creates diverse niches for native animals, it helps to facilitate the ecological role of species that are themselves functionally vital. This work adds to a growing body of research suggesting that the loss of Aboriginal burning can cascade through ecosystems by transforming and simplifying ecological networks, thus contributing to the decline and extinction of vulnerable species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-118
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume219
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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