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    The strong inter-dependence between terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, mediated by the character of vegetation and landscapes, can have significant impacts to freshwater species. A changing climate towards hotter and drier climates is already increasing fire frequencies and severity around the world. The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is an iconic freshwater Australia species, facing increasing threats since European colonisation and with a distribution which coincides with fire prone areas. While some evidence suggest platypuses are resilience to fires, the combination of severe wildfires and reduced water availability may significantly impact platypus populations. In this short communication we investigated the effects of fire on platypus populations in two rivers, following an extreme drought, comparing burnt and unburnt in adjacent river catchments, with similar habitat and geomorphology. Findings suggests significantly low platypus numbers in burned sites compared to those on the unburnt river, as well as to known densities across the species' range. Whether the fires directly impacted platypuses remains undetermined but the timing of the fires as well as an extreme drought likely impacted recruitment as we did not record any juvenile males on both rivers. Platypuses are increasingly under threat from direct and indirect human developments across much of their range and increased frequency and severity of fires and droughts will further strain the viability of platypus populations, particularly in small streams more likely to dry out. Improving the resilience of platypus populations and their freshwater environments to both droughts and fires needs to become a priority. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

    Citation

    Gilad Bino, Tahneal Hawke, Richard T Kingsford. Synergistic effects of a severe drought and fire on platypuses. The Science of the total environment. 2021 Mar 01;777:146137


    PMID: 33684764

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