Wind turbine-induced fires at a wind energy facility in California, USA, provided an opportunity to study the before and after effects of fire on a population of protected Agassiz’s desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) in the Sonoran Desert, a species and ecosystem poorly adapted to fire. We compared annual activity areas (AAs) of tortoises in 2011 and 2013, before and after two 2012 fires, with those of tortoises in adjacent areas unaffected by the same fires. Tortoises in both AAs affected by fire or unaffected by fire occupied the same general AAs in 2013, after the fires, as they did in 2011, before the fires. Some tortoises had both their 2011 and 2013 AAs completely or almost completely within the areas burned by the 2012 fires, despite the proximity of unburned habitat. None of the tortoises with 2011 AAs subsequently unaffected by the 2012 fires shifted their AAs into burned habitat in 2013. For the fire-affected group of tortoises, the mean percentages of 2011 and 2013 AAs burned by the 2012 fires were not significantly different, showing fidelity to the burned areas. Tortoises in both groups generally occupied consistent AAs, even post fire, placing them at potential risk of exposure to unfavourable burned habitat.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) activity areas are little changed after wind turbine-induced fires in California|
|Series title||International Journal of Wildland Fire|
|Contributing office(s)||Southwest Biological Science Center|