Determinants of survival for the northern brown bandicoot under a landscape-scale fire experiment

Authors

  • L. Guy Pardon,

    Corresponding author
    1. Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin NT 0909 Australia; and *CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB 44 Winnellie, NT 0831, Australia
      Lloyd Guy Pardon, Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin NT 0909 Australia. Tel: 08 89466760; Fax: 08 89467088; E-mail: guy.pardon@ntu.edu.au
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  • Barry W. Brook,

    1. Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin NT 0909 Australia; and *CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB 44 Winnellie, NT 0831, Australia
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  • Anthony D. Griffiths,

    1. Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin NT 0909 Australia; and *CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB 44 Winnellie, NT 0831, Australia
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  • Richard W. Braithwaite

    1. Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin NT 0909 Australia; and *CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB 44 Winnellie, NT 0831, Australia
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Lloyd Guy Pardon, Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin NT 0909 Australia. Tel: 08 89466760; Fax: 08 89467088; E-mail: guy.pardon@ntu.edu.au

Summary

  • 1More than half of all Australian bandicoot species (family Peramelidae) are listed by the IUCN as extinct or threatened and changed fire regimes in arid and semi-arid Australia have been identified as an important agent in their decline. The northern brown bandicoot is currently one of Australia's most common bandicoots, but their continued persistence in the tropical savannas cannot be taken for granted. Previous studies in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory have shown this species to be prone to sudden declines in abundance, possibly linked to the occurrence of intense fires.
  • 2Here we examine the impact of four experimental fire management regimes (fire prevention, early dry season burning, late dry season burning and progressive burning several times through the dry season) on survival of the northern brown bandicoot. The analysis is based on capture–mark–recapture data obtained during a landscape-scale fire experiment conducted at Kapalga, in Kakadu National Park from 1989 to 1995.
  • 3All experimental fire treatments (including total fire exclusion) were associated with decline in survival rates over time, indicating that none of the tested approaches were appropriate for this species. Burning in the late dry season or progressively throughout the dry season produced substantially more severe declines in survival than did early dry season fires or fire exclusion.
  • 4Fire regime was found to be the most important determinant of bandicoot survival, far exceeding other factors such as gender, age, vegetation type, rainfall and season, all of which had comparatively little influence. The results demonstrate the importance of the frequency and seasonal timing of fires in determining the survival of bandicoots and suggest that spatially uniform and temporally invariant fire regimes are inappropriate for bandicoot conservation in the north Australian savannas.

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