Short‐term impacts of prescribed burning on Orange‐bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) food plant abundance

Date: 30, Jun, 2020
Author(s):   Stojanovic, D., Neeman, T., Crates, R., Troy, S., Heinsohn, R.
Publisher: Ecological Management & Restoration

Fire has important implications for the availability of suitable types of habitat for animals. Different species vary in their responses to fire, and quantifying the responses of key habitat attributes may facilitate manipulation of fire regimes to improve conditions for species of conservation concern. The Orange‐bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster prefers recently burned habitat for foraging when breeding but knowledge of how fire affects this species and its habitat is limited. We implemented a 2‐year before‐after‐control‐impact (BACI) study to quantify short‐term impacts of fire on food plants and habitat features. Relative to control sites, the four food plants we monitored in the treatment area responded differently to fire: one did not recover, two reached pre‐burn abundance after 20 months and another recovered by 1 year after fire, and by 20 months was more common in treatment sites. Relative to controls, the proportion of bare earth at treatment sites increased after fire and then gradually declined, while mean vegetation height at treatment plots declined after fire and then gradually increased. Twenty months after fire, parrots foraged on abundant regeneration of the Dwarf Everlasting (Helichrysum pumilum) and fed the seeds of this species to their nestlings. Fire alters the availability of key resources needed by breeding Orange‐bellied Parrots, and ongoing manipulation of fire regimes may relieve limitation of natural foods for this species.