Fire Ecology, 2008
Volume 4, Issue 2
Special Issue: Fire and Wildlife Interactions
Author: Susan L. Roberts
Fire regimes and vegetation structure and composition form a direct feedback loop, where fire regimes shape patterns in the vegetation and vegetation affects fire regime attributes. For decades, researchers focused their attention on the essential relationships between fire and vegetation; however, there is a vast gap in our knowledge about the more mobile inhabitants of these habitats. What about the wildlife that depend on these plants for food and shelter? Plants and animals are also part of a feedback loop, with the actions of animals affecting vegetation structure and composition, and the vegetation structure and composition influencing animal occupancy, survival, and reproductive rates. Animals have evolved with their habitat and with the fire regime of that habitat. Yet, we know very little about the influence of fire on wildlife use patterns, survival, or reproductive success immediately following fire or throughout post-fire succession.
This special issue presents research on the direct and indirect effects of fire on various wildlife taxa inhabiting a variety of fire-prone habitats across North America. The first article, by Korb et al., opens our minds to new and exciting possibilities that wildfire can bring to wildlife ecology and conservation. In an area where over-fishing and introduction of non-natives led to the extirpation of a native fish, a wildland fire burned with sufficient severity that the subsequent post-fire ash and mud flows killed all of the non-native fish in a particular reach of a tributary of the Colorado River. Korb and her colleagues took advantage of the non-native fish kill and reintroduced a native fish that had not been present in this river basin for over 100 years.