Susannah Hale, a PhD student from Deakin University, spoke to us about the findings of a study on ‘The Effect of Fire and Climate on Small Mammals’. The study started after the 2006 Bushfires and has been running nine years. There were 36 study sites established and each are of 150 square metres. When surveying the sites, baited Elliot traps are used and are checked twice daily, captured animals being tagged, weighed and measured before release. Populations go through a boom and bust phase which are affected by the previous 18 months rainfall and the ‘time since fire’. In the years straight after fire, exotic species predominate. In the first year of the study, 85% of captures were exotics. The house mouse occupies areas quickly after fires and then declines. Four years after fire, 91% of captures were native species.
Small mammals respond strongly to ‘time since fire’; native species do better in wetter periods which are a boom phase and ‘time since fire’ is less important.
Some study sites have been affected by more than one fire as well as the floods and dry seasons.
We don’t think of the Grampians as an arid region but the boom and bust population dynamics observed in the study indicate that it is acting as an arid region. This Grampians study provides a unique data set helping to understand dynamic ecosystems.
It is hoped that monitoring can continue long term through trapping at these sites. More can be learnt about the immediate post fire responses of small mammals and the role of climate refuges in the temperate zone.
Where to now?
- continue to monitor long term trapping sites
- immediate post fire response of small mammals
- role of climate refuges in the temperate zone
- fuel and structure dynamics – climate change scenarios.
Several of us (including Susannah) continued on to the pub for a very social evening.
FOGGs have a strong commitment to encouraging and supporting research into the biodiversity of our Park. Susannah was not one of the students we supported financially, but whose work is so important and we will help followup work if needed. We hope to have at least one student presentation on our calendar each year.
Wendy & Alan Bedggood