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Do Thinning and Burning Sites Revegetated after Bauxite Mining Improve Habitat for Terrestrial Vertebrates?

Authors


M. D. Craig, email M.Craig@murdoch.edu.au

Abstract

Thinning and burning forests established on revegetated mine pits in jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forests of south-west Australia is being considered as a management option to accelerate succession in sites with excessive tree densities. To assess the impact of thinning and burning on reptiles and small mammals, we installed trapping grids in eight thinned and burned sites, each paired with untreated controls. Of the eight pairs, four were in rehabilitated sites (planted with nonlocal species) and four were in restored sites (seeded with local species). Thinning and burning had no significant impact on the small mammal community, although Cercatetus concinnus was more abundant in rehabilitated sites. In contrast, thinning and burning significantly increased reptile abundance and species richness, with two species (Morethia obscura and Menetia greyii) only recorded in thinned and burned sites. We concluded that thinning and burning was a successful management option in revegetated mine pits in jarrah forests, particularly because reptile communities created by thinning and burning were more similar to those in unmined forest. Although published studies for comparison are few, we expect thinning and burning to have generally positive effects on reptile communities in forest ecosystems where fire is an important disturbance agent. Our study emphasizes the importance of monitoring revegetated areas over time periods sufficient to detect deviations from desired successional trajectories, so that management options, such as thinning and burning, can be implemented if required.

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