Too hot to trot? evaluating the effects of wildfire on patterns of occupancy and abundance for a climate-sensitive habitat-specialist

International Journal of Wildland Fire
By: , and 

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Abstract

Wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity as a result of climate change in many ecosystems; however, effects of altered disturbance regimes on wildlife remain poorly quantified. Here, we leverage an unexpected opportunity to investigate how fire affects the occupancy and abundance of a climate-sensitive habitat specialist, the American pika (Ochotona princeps). We determine the effects of a fire on microclimates within talus and explore habitat factors promoting persistence and abundance in fire-affected habitat. During the fire, temperatures in talus interstices remained below 19°C, suggesting that animals could have survived in situ. Within 2 years, pikas were widely distributed throughout burned areas and did not appear to be physiologically stressed at severely burned sites. Furthermore, pika densities were better predicted by topographic variables known to affect this species than by metrics of fire severity. This widespread distribution may reflect quick vegetation recovery and the fact that the fire did not alter the talus microclimates in the following years. Together, these results highlight the value of talus as a thermal refuge for small animals during and after fire. They also underscore the importance of further study in individual species’ responses to typical and altered disturbance regimes.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Too hot to trot? evaluating the effects of wildfire on patterns of occupancy and abundance for a climate-sensitive habitat-specialist
Series title International Journal of Wildland Fire
DOI 10.1071/WF15038
Volume 24
Issue 7
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher International Association of Wildland Fire
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 921
Last page 932
Time Range Start 2011-01-01
Time Range End 2014-12-31
Country United States
State Oregon
Other Geospatial Mt. Hood
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N