Friday, 23 February 2018

Carefully managed fire can promote rare savanna species


February 14, 2018, University of York

Carefully managed fires generate the maximum diversity of birds and mammals in savannas, new research from the University of York suggests.

In the first continent-wide study of the effects of fire on bird and mammal diversity in the African savanna environment, researchers have found that increasing "pyrodiversity" boosts the variety of species of mammals by around 20% and of birds by 30% in savannas with high rainfall.

The researchers observed that varied burning regimes enabled geographically rare birds such as the Rufous-tailed Weaver and the Black-bellied Sunbird to live alongside more common species.

They now hope to be able to provide conservationists and local populations with guidance and advice on how to use fire as an effective tool.

Lead author of the study, Dr Colin Beale from the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: "Fire is often viewed as homogeneous, but in reality there is a range of different fires characterised by variation in size, intensity, season and frequency of burning. We found that in wet savanna increasing the range of different types of fire in an area allows a wider number of species to thrive.

"Fire is widely thought to have a negative impact on the environment, but in African savannas hominids have been setting a variety of fires for around a million years so fire is something the ecosystem has co-evolved with and adapted to."


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