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The effects of fire on grassland bird communities of Barberspan, North West Province, South Africa

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Considering the frequent nature of fires and resultant drastic change in habitat following fire, research on the effects of fire on birds in the grasslands of South Africa is surprisingly scarce. For at least five months after burns we followed the changes in bird species composition, species richness and densities of two controlled burns and one accidental fire at the Barberspan Nature Reserve in grasslands that had not been burned or grazed in 10 years. Compared with the control areas, species richness and densities increased in the burned areas immediately following the burns, with more species and birds recruited to the burned areas than were lost. Immediate post-burn opportunists tended to be larger species, and the biomass increase mirrored the increases in species richness and densities in burned areas. Avian species richness, densities and biomass tended to return to the initial conditions after a number of months. Although the bird communities from two controlled-burns differed before the burns, they converged to a characteristic immediate post-burn composition. Five months after the burns however, the bird communities reflected a pre-burn composition. Indications were that birds in an area larger than that burned were affected. Mosaic burning, with shifting large and small patches, should be considered on a landscape scale.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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