Pyrodiversity interacts with rainfall to increase bird and mammal richness in African savannas

Colin M. Beale, Colin J. Courtney Mustaphi, Thomas A. Morrison, Sally Archibald, T. Michael Anderson, Andrew P. Dobson, Jason E. Donaldson, Gareth P. Hempson, James Probert, Catherine L. Parr

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Fire is a fundamental process in savannas and is widely used for management. Pyrodiversity, variation in local fire characteristics, has been proposed as a driver of biodiversity although empirical evidence is equivocal. Using a new measure of pyrodiversity (Hempson et al.), we undertook the first continent-wide assessment of how pyrodiversity affects biodiversity in protected areas across African savannas. The influence of pyrodiversity on bird and mammal species richness varied with rainfall: strongest support for a positive effect occurred in wet savannas (> 650 mm/year), where species richness increased by 27% for mammals and 40% for birds in the most pyrodiverse regions. Range-restricted birds were most increased by pyrodiversity, suggesting the diversity of fire regimes increases the availability of rare niches. Our findings are significant because they explain the conflicting results found in previous studies of savannas. We argue that managing savanna landscapes to increase pyrodiversity is especially important in wet savannas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-567
Number of pages11
JournalEcology letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Bats
  • INLA
  • birds
  • conservation
  • fire
  • fire management
  • mammals
  • protected areas


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