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Patchy prescribed fire has variable effects on invasive predators and their native prey
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  • Darcy Watchorn,
  • Tim S. Doherty,
  • Barbara Wilson,
  • Mark Garkaklis,
  • Don Driscoll
Darcy Watchorn
Deakin University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Tim S. Doherty
The University of Sydney
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Barbara Wilson
Deakin University
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Mark Garkaklis
State of the Environment Pty Ltd
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Don Driscoll
Deakin University
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Abstract

In many parts of the world, climate change is increasing the likelihood of severe wildfire in protected areas, while planned burns are occurring more frequently in an attempt to manage risk. These fires shape animal communities by altering resource availability and species interactions, including between predators and prey. In Australia, there is particular concern that native prey species may experience elevated post-fire predation by introduced feral cats (Felis catus) and European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). We tested how a prescribed fire, vegetation, and other habitat variables affected the activity of cats, foxes, and the native mammal community in southeastern Australia. We used camera traps to quantify mammal activity before and after a prescribed burn, and statistically tested how the fire interacted with key habitat variables to affect mammal activity. We found little evidence that the prescribed fire influenced the activity of cats and foxes and no evidence of an effect on macropod or small mammal (<800 g) activity. Medium-sized mammals (800–2,000 g) were negatively associated with prescribed fire extent. The lack of response of cats and foxes to the prescribed burn is a positive outcome from a fire management perspective. Nonetheless, we recommend future experiments use GPS trackers to record fine-scale movements of cats, foxes, and their native prey in temperate ecosystems immediately following prescribed fires the best inform effective management within protected areas.
17 Oct 2023Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
17 Oct 2023Assigned to Editor
17 Oct 2023Submission Checks Completed
28 Oct 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
13 Nov 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending