Planned burning may increase predation risk by changing ground-layer habitat complexity and reducing the availability of refugia from predators. We investigated the relationship between observed patterns of native fauna distributions, habitat structure and predator control to inform management about the possible impact the use of fire might have on biodiversity conservation across the landscape. 4
The influence of fire, fox control and habitat on the presence of native mammals 2 Methods 2.1 Study Site The pattern of occurrence of native mammals and predators (red fox and feral cat) was investigated in late spring through to summer 2010/11 using heat-in-motion activated digital cameras in East Gippsland across areas with and without long-term sustained fox control (Figure 1). The Southern Ark fox control project has been in operation since 2003 over a large area of East Gippsland. Fox control is undertaken using 1080 Fox- Off baits spaced at 1 km intervals along roads and tracks. Baits are checked and replaced on a six-week rotation across the operations area. Legend " Camera Locations 20 km x 20 km Landscapes ! Southern Ark Bait Stations ! Towns Roads Public Land " Figure 1. Study area showing location of 20 km x 20 km landscape grids, the Southern Ark fox control bait stations (roughly east of the Snowy River) and the location of camera survey sites. Across these areas, the two most common Ecological Vegetation Divisions (EVDs; Long et al . 2003) are Tall Mixed Forest (EVD 7) and Grassy/Heathy Dry Forest (EVD 3). EVDs are a grouping of Ecological Vegetation Classes into broadly similar communities of vegetation (Cheal 2010). Both these EVDs will be subject to increased rates of planned burning in the coming years in order to meet increased fuel reduction burning targets. Based primarily on time-since-fire, Cheal (2010) divided EVDs into various vegetation growth stage classes. In both Tall Mixed Forest and Grassy/Heathy Dry Forest there are five classes (Table 1) though durations vary. 5
The influence of fire, fox control and habitat on the presence of native mammals Table 1. Vegetation growth stages (Cheal 2010) within EVD 3 and EVD 7 used in this study. EVD Growth Stage Years After Fire EVD 3 Grassy/Heathy Dry Forest Juvenility 0.5–2.5 Adolescence 2.5–10 Maturity 10–35 Waning 35–45 Senescence 45+ EVD 7 Tall Mixed Forest Juvenility 0.75–2.75 Adolescence 2.78–8 Vigorous Maturity 8–20 Stasis 20–60 Waning 60+ 2.2 Camera Site Selection Camera site selection followed the method used by Muir et al . (2013). A grid of 20 km x 20 km landscapes were located across the study area (Figure 1) inside and outside the Southern Ark fox control area. Landscapes that contained more than 20 ha of each vegetation growth stage (see Table 2) were selected. This landscape layer was used to identify the vegetation growth stage combinations, creating a landscape/vegetation growth stage/fox control, no fox control layer. A spatially random point was located within each of the vegetation growth stage/fox control, no fox control categories within each landscape.
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- Jeff Miller