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You are here: Home / News & Events / News / Fire Lines Volume 12 Issue 3

Fire Lines Volume 12 Issue 3

May-August 2022 Vol. 12 (3)

Original Source

Research Brief

Fire exclusion and fire return interval affect small mammal populations in longleaf pine forests

Authors: L. Mike Connor, Angela Holland, and Gail Morris

The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystems of the southeastern US provide important habitat for numerous plant and animal species of conservation concern. Frequent fire is an essential element of the longleaf pine ecosystem and without it, plant and animal diversity has been shown to decline with time since last fire. In this study, the authors investigated the impacts of fire exclusion in comparison to a biennial prescribed fire management regime on the abundance and richness of small mammals at The Jones Center at Ichauway in southwest Georgia, USA. The study area had an overstory dominated by mature longleaf pine and an understory dominated by wiregrass (Aristida stricta) and dense native herbaceous vegetation. The study involved annual baited live-trap sampling of small mammals beginning in 2001 and concluding in 2014. Sample sites were either burned every two years (reference condition) or excluded from fire (experimental treatment) beginning in 2003. 

Overall, 219 individual small mammals (representing 6 species) were detected during the two-year pre-treatment sampling period, and 680 small mammals (representing 9 species) were detected during the twelve-year post-treatment sampling period. Data analysis showed that species richness was similar between burned and fire excluded plots during the pre-treatment sampling period. Following twelve-years of fire exclusion, species richness did not change, but abundance and the minimum number known alive (MNKA) metric showed that fire-exclusion decreased small mammal abundance. Specific species, however, responded differently, with some species showing no impact by fire exclusion (cotton mouse, Southern flying squirrel) and others declining due to a lack of fire (hispid cotton rat, house mouse). 

The authors suggest that continued fire exclusion would likely have led to decreases in small mammal species-richness as open-pine dominated vegetation changed to a close-canopied hardwood forest.

Conner, M. L., Holland, A., and Morris, G. (2022). Fire exclusion and fire return interval affect small mammal populations in longleaf pine forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 520 (15), 120352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120352

New SFE Fact Sheet

Bees and Fire: How Does Fire in Longleaf Pine
Savannas Affect Bee Communities?

A new fire science fact sheet synthesizes the science on the relationships between native bees and fire in the longleaf pine ecosystems of the southeastern US. Developed by Nicole Mitchell, Sarah Anderson Weaver, and Dr. Raelene M. Crandall at the University of Florida / IFAS, the full-color fact sheet includes species-specific profiles for some of the most common bees in the region.

Read more...