The impact of fire on habitat use by the short-snouted elephant shrew (Elephantulus brachyrhynchus) in North West Province, South Africa

Richard W. Yarnell, Daniel J. Metcalfe, Nigel Dunstone, Niall Burnside, Dawn M. Scott
2008 African Zoology  
Several studies have investigated the response of small mammal populations to fire, but few have investigated behavioural responses to habitat modification. In this study we investigated the impact of fire on home range, habitat use and activity patterns of the short-snouted elephant shrew (Elephantulus brachyrhynchus) by radio-tracking individuals before and after a fire event. All animals survived the passage of fire in termite mound refugia. Before the fire, grassland was used more than
more » ... ets, but habitat utilization shifted to thickets after fire had removed the grass cover. Thickets were an important refuge both pre-and post-fire, but the proportion of thicket within the home range was greater post-fire. We conclude that fire-induced habitat modification resulted in a restriction of E. brachyrhynchus movements to patches of unburned vegetation. This may be a behavioural response to an increase in predation pressure associated with a reduction in cover, rather than a lack of food. This study highlights the importance of considering the landscape mosaic in fire management and allowing sufficient island patches to remain post-fire ensures the persistence of the small mammal fauna.
doi:10.3377/1562-7020(2008)43[45:tiofoh];2 fatcat:ohmdf3dgprcpplg6mfwjalvhau