Fire and Fauna in Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park
Fire management in the Kimberley is very controversial. Few people have studied the effects of fire on Kimberley plants and animals.
Despite having recently received World Heritage listing, Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park still lacks a focused fire management plan. At the time of writing (October 2004) approximately one third of the 300 000 ha park (and conservation reserve) was being burnt by wildfires. This project aims to look at how animals in Purnululu find homes considering the amount of fire that burns the park.
Surveys have found three types of lizard and two types of snake not recorded before in the park. A total of 42 reptile species, 6 native rodents, 2 small marsupials and one feral cat were caught during two field trips in 2004. Spots that have been recently burnt seem to have fewer animals. More animals live in thick, unburnt spinifex.
Radiotracking of two native mice, the desert mouse,
Pseudomys desertor, and the western chestnut mouse, Pseudomys nanus, was conducted. Information on where they go and what they eat was collected.
The desert mouse was found to move in the hours before and after sunrise and sunset. It would use different areas for day and night resting spots, often up to 200m apart. The desert mouse was seen eating fresh spinifex stalks but only within thick, unburnt clumps.
The western chestnut mouse would also use regular nest sites and was tracked moving over 400m. The western chestnut mouse was seen feeding on the waste of an ant nest, presumably on discarded seeds, but may also eat grass.
Results suggest that only a few animals, such as the delicate mouse,
Pseudomys delicatulus, which is known to like disturbed areas, live in recently burnt areas. Burnt areas may not provide the food or shelter required by other species.
A variety of areas with different lengths of time since fire may support greater numbers and diversity of animals in Purnululu.
Field work in 2005 will examine change in mammal and reptile communities after a hot, late dry season fire.
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