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

Colin Michael Beale, Colin John 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


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
Pages (from-to)557-567
Number of pages11
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number4
Early online date14 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by CNRS and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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

Cite this