Research Project: Fire regimes and biodiversity decline in the Kimberley

Project context

Recent studies in the Northern Territory have shown declines in critical weight range (CWR) mammals (35g-5kg) and some species of birds and shrubs. Biodiversity declines in otherwise intact landscapes have been attributed to increased intensity and frequency of fires. Studies in central Australian arid environments have also highlighted the strong influence of fire, combined with introduced predators, on mammal species abundance. This evidence from both the tropical savannas and arid environments has obvious implications for northern regions in WA including the Kimberley, as these regions have also apparently undergone major shifts in fire regimes. A direct link between abundance of threatened animals and fire regimes in this region has yet to be established. This study will establish whether fire has a strong influence on abundance of threatened taxa in the north Kimberley (Mitchell River region), the last mainland stronghold for many threatened critical weight range mammal species. Studies will also address the question of how fire influences CWR mammals by analysing vegetation structure and resource dynamics.

Project aims

  • To spatially quantify the fire history in the Mitchell River and Purnululu regions.
  • To establish whether fire history influences abundance of threatened groups, particularly mammals, and to quantify re-colonisation rates for threatened species after fire.
  • To link fire history and mammal abundance with vegetation and resource community (consumers including invertebrates and small vertebrates) attributes, which might explain the effect of fire.

Related resources

Contact Information

Ian Radford