Name: Mateus CP
Biodeserts supervisors: Santos X
Title: The effect of multiple fires on the reptile community at Peneda-Gerês NP
Institution: University of Porto
Fire is a common disturbance in many ecosystems around the world with profound effects on diversity and composition of communities. Fire is the most important disturbance in Iberian landscapes, often dominated by fire-prone ecosystems resulting from a long evolutionary association with fire. However, resilient organisms to fire are not adapted to fire per se, but rather to a particular fire regime, being the increasing in fire frequency and extension observed presently the true disturbances. In this scenario, conservation of biodiversity depends on understanding responses to fire in animal communities. Fire opens the habitat, what will benefit animals adapted to post-fire open habitat conditions. However, frequent repeated fires would retain the vegetation structure in early successional stages and animal species that depend on mature vegetation structure for provision of fit habitat will not develop in those conditions. Reptiles appear to show this strong response to habitat structure. We examined the effect of repeated-fire regimes on the reptile community at the Peneda-Gêres National Park, an area with a long history of fires. We surveyed reptiles in five sites affected by fires occurred in different periods and frequencies and compared with respective unburnt part in the edge of each one. Each transect was surveyed 8 times, and we observed 588 reptile specimens from 10 species. In general, unburned transects had higher species richness and lower total abundance than their respective burned pairs. However, some transect pairs did not follow this general rule, suggesting than the fire history (number of fires and time since last fire) as well as the habitat structure previous to the last fire can also drive the response of communities to fire disturbances.