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A multi-taxa assessment of biodiversity change after single and recurrent wildfires in a Brazilian Amazon forest

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Biotropica
Issue number2
Volume48
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)170-180
Publication statusPublished
Early online date8/10/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In the last decades, due to human land management that uses fire as a tool, and due to abnormal droughts, many tropical forests have become more susceptible to recurrent wildfires with negative consequences for biodiversity. Yet, studies are usually focused on few taxa and rarely compare different fire frequencies. We examined if the effects of single and recurrent fires are consistent for leaf litter ants, dung beetles, birds (sampled with point-counts PC and mist net-MN), saplings, and trees. Recurrent fires had a great effect on forest structure, reducing live tree biomass and number of lianas, and increasing canopy openness and numbers of saplings alive. Recurrent fires had consistently stronger effects on species richness and composition across all sample groups than single fires, except ants. Birds and plants were more grouped in the congruence analysis. The average dissimilarities between control and recurrent-burned forest were higher than between control and once-burned forest for all sample groups, furthermore birds and vegetation communities in recurrent-burned forest are almost entirely dissimilar from the unburned forest. While beta diversity of ants, birds (MN), and trees was not affected by the frequency of fire, it changed for dung beetles, birds (PC), and saplings. Effects of fire on faunal community structure were more due to indirect effects, through vegetation, than through the fire itself. These results reinforce the effect of single and recurrent fires on tropical forests, and highlight the mechanisms acting behind them. Policy-makers need to explicitly address protection of tropical forests from wildfires in conservation planning.