ANIMAL RESPONSES TO BUSHFIRE Research into the movement of animals in fire-prone landscapes is helping to better understand hownative species survive and recover from the devastation of bushfire. The study led byARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient based at Charles Sturt University, Associate Professor Dale Nimmo, and 27 colleagues fromvarious institutions, considered howfire affects animal movement from daily foraging bouts to infrequent dispersal events, and annual migrations. The researchers found that different species have a range of abilities to detect a fire including smelling smoke, recognising the sound of fire and sensing fire chemicals, as well as detecting infrared radiation fromfires. Once an animal becomes aware of an approaching fire, the decision to stay or flee is not always based on instinct. In the days andweeks following the passage of a fire, the researchers found that some native animals have learned to minimise movement to avoid predation in the burned landscape, but other species make bad decisions to move when they should stay put. ‘As the 2019–20 bushfire season made brutally clear, climate change is increasing the scale and intensity of bushfires. This reduces the number of small refuges such as fallen logs, increases the distance animals must cover to find newhabitat, and leaves fewer cues to direct them to safer places,’ Associate Professor Dale Nimmo says. ‘Filling in the knowledge gaps might lead to newways of helpingwildlife adapt to our rapidly changingworld.’
WHILE MANY ANIMALS FLEE ONCOMING FIRE, OTHERS PREFER TO STAY PUT, SEEKING REFUGE IN WOMBAT BURROWS OR UNDER ROCKS. FROM THESE SAFE REFUGES, ANIMALS CAN REPOPULATE THE CHARRED LANDSCAPE AS IT RECOVERS.
UNDERSTANDING THE NATURALWORLD
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