Small Mammal Use of the Burn Perimeter Following a Chaparral Wildffire in Southern California
Borchert, Mark I.
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Abstract.--Wildfires in southern California chaparral burn at high intensities and often cover thousands of hectares. Some small mammals survive the fire while others colonize from scattered unburned islands and from intact vegetation bordering the main fire perimeter. For ten years (2002-2011) we live-trapped two grids and used the number of captures to examine post-fire small mammal use of a narrow 65-m zone straddling the high-contrast edge between burned and unburned chaparral on the perimeter of a high-intensity wildfire. Results indicate that agile kangaroo rats (Dipodomys agilis) were captured more often in open, burned areas than in unburned chaparral. Deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) were captured equally in burned and unburned chaparral but did not show an affinity for either habitat or the edge of the burn. Pinyon mice (Peromyscus truei) were captured most often in unburned chaparral throughout the study but were prevalent on the burn edge in years one and four. In the first year post-fire, California mice (Peromyscus californicus) were captured more frequently in unburned than burned chaparral but in years four and five, captures shifted toward the edge and then into the burn areas in year nine. We did not find evidence that any of the four species were dedicated edge specialists in this study. Neither pinyon mice nor California mice appeared to be permanent residents of the burns in the first ten years post-fire. We suggest that future research on post-fire small mammal succession in chaparral would benefit from chronosequence studies that give a more comprehensive, long term picture of succession.