Project: Ecosystem Interaction

The influence of fire severity on faunal persistence

Over half of all terrestrial systems require fire to maintain ecological integrity. In regions where fire is a frequent disturbance, there is ongoing pressure on the community to evolve and adapt to a specific fire regime. However, with the changes in global climate and shifting fire weather patterns, the traditional boundaries of where and how fires occur are shifting. These changes pose a significant threat to wildlife, particularly the increase in fire severity. Variations in fire severity with changing climate create biologically distinct habitat changes that have the potential to provoke strong shifts in community dynamics. Investigating how fire impacts animals is challenging because they are mobile, have diverse recovery mechanisms, and exhibit highly variable habitat requirements. However, understanding how fire severity affects landscapes, and in turn, fauna is essential for effective wildlife conservation. 

This project aims to investigate how fire severity impacts fauna occurrence, habitat structure, and species mechanisms of recovery on both a local and global scale. Answering these questions will involve two approaches: a systematic review and field studies. During this project, we will consolidate the global impacts of varying fire severity on individual species’ abundance metrics using a systematic review procedure. Species responses to fire severity will be categorized using a functional trait framework to assess which behaviors and life histories increase species’ vulnerability to fire. To investigate the impacts of fire severity at a regional scale, we will delve into how fire severity influences both the recovery of habitat structure and the occurrence of wildlife. We will then use a focused field experiment to explore species’ mechanisms of recovery building from the systematic review results. Ultimately, this research will strengthen our collective understanding of how changing fire regimes, and in particular fire severity, will impact species now and in the future.

Project timeline: 05/2023 – 12/2026

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