There has been much recent debate in Australia over whether lethal control of dingoes incurs environmental costs, particularly by allowing increase of populations of mesopredators such as red foxes and feral cats. Allen et al. (2013) claim to show in their recent study that suppression of dingo activity by poison baiting does not lead to mesopredator release, because mesopredators are also suppressed by poisoning. We show that this claim is not supported by the data and analysis reported in Allen et al.'s paper.
Predation and fire shape the structure and function of ecosystems globally. However, studies exploring interactions between these two processes are rare, especially at large spatial scales. This knowledge gap is significant not only for ecological theory, but also in an applied context, because it limits the ability of landscape managers to predict the outcomes of manipulating fire and predators. We examined the influence of fire on the occurrence of an introduced and widespread mesopredator, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), in semi-arid Australia. We used two extensive and complimentary datasets collected at two spatial scales. At the landscape-scale, we surveyed red foxes using sand-plots within 28 study landscapes - which incorporated variation in the diversity and proportional extent of fire-age classes - located across a 104 000 km2 study area. At the site-scale, we surveyed red foxes using camera traps at 108 sites stratified along a century-long post-fire chronosequence (0-105 years) within a 6630 km2 study area. Red foxes were widespread both at the landscape and site-scale. Fire did not influence fox distribution at either spatial scale, nor did other environmental variables that we measured. Our results show that red foxes exploit a broad range of environmental conditions within semi-arid Australia. The presence of red foxes throughout much of the landscape is likely to have significant implications for native fauna, particularly in recently burnt habitats where reduced cover may increase prey species' predation risk.
1. Patterns of species richness often correlate strongly with measures of energy. The more individuals hypothesis (MIH) proposes that this relationship is facilitated by greater resources supporting larger populations, which are less likely to become extinct. Hence, the MIH predicts that community abundance and species richness will be positively related. 2. Recently, Buckley & Jetz (2010, Journal of Animal Ecology, 79, 358-365) documented a decoupling of community abundance and species richness in lizard communities in south-west United States, such that richer communities did not contain more individuals. They predicted, as a consequence of the mechanisms driving the decoupling, a more even distribution of species abundances in species-rich communities, evidenced by a positive relationship between species evenness and species richness. 3. We found a similar decoupling of the relationship between abundance and species richness for lizard communities in semi-arid south-eastern Australia. However, we note that a positive relationship between evenness and richness is expected because of the nature of the indices used. We illustrate this mathematically and empirically using data from both sets of lizard communities. When we used a measure of evenness, which is robust to species richness, there was no relationship between evenness and richness in either data set. 4. For lizard communities in both Australia and the United States, species dominance decreased as species richness increased. Further, with the iterative removal of the first, second and third most dominant species from each community, the relationship between abundance and species richness became increasingly more positive. 5. Our data support the contention that species richness in lizard communities is not directly related to the number of individuals an environment can support. We propose an alternative hypothesis regarding how the decoupling of abundance and richness is accommodated; namely, an inverse relationship between species dominance and species richness, possibly because of ecological release.
Fire is both a widespread natural disturbance that affects the distribution of species and a tool that can be used to manage habitats for species. Knowledge of temporal changes in the occurrence of species after fire is essential for conservation management in fire-prone environments. Two key issues are: whether postfire responses of species are idiosyncratic or if multiple species show a limited number of similar responses; and whether such responses to time since fire can predict the occurrence of species across broad spatial scales. We examined the response of bird species to time since fire in semiarid shrubland in southeastern Australia using data from surveys at 499 sites representing a 100-year chronosequence. We used nonlinear regression to model the probability of occurrence of 30 species with time since fire in two vegetation types, and compared species responses with generalized response shapes from the literature. The occurrence of 16 species was significantly influenced by time since fire: they displayed six main responses consistent with generalized response shapes. Of these 16 species, 15 occurred more frequently in mid- or later-successional vegetation (> 20 years since fire), and only one species occurred more often in early succession (< 5 years since fire). The models had reasonable predictive ability for eight species, some predictive ability for seven species, and were little better than random for one species. Bird species displayed a limited range of responses to time since fire; thus a small set of fire ages should allow the provision of habitat for most species. Postfire successional changes extend for decades and management of the age class distribution of vegetation will need to reflect this timescale. Response curves revealed important seral stages for species and highlighted the importance of mid- to late-successional vegetation (> 20 years). Although time since fire clearly influences the distribution of numerous bird species, predictive models of the spatial distribution of species in fire-prone landscapes need to incorporate other factors in addition to time since fire.
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