Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Use fire suppression/control

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two out of three before-and-after studies, from Australia and the UK, found that five species of bird (including noisy scrub-bird, the target species of one study) increased following fire suppression measures.
  • A before-and-after study in the USA found that open habitat species declined in a pine forest site after fire exclusion, whilst mesic woodland species appeared. A before-and-after study from the UK found that five bird species declined following fire suppression.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A before-and-after study in 1967-1981 in loblolly pine Pinus taeda-shortleaf pine P. echinata woodland at Tall Timbers Research Station, Florida, USA (Engstrom et al. 1984), found the breeding bird community changed dramatically in an 8.6 ha plot from which fire was was excluded for 15 years. The plot was burned in March 1967, after which fire excluded, with annual burns in the surrounding woodland. Species of more open habitat (e.g. blue grosbeak Passerina caerulea and Bachman\'s sparrow Aimophila aestivalis) disappeared within five years of fire exclusion although abundance of species peaked during the ‘brushy’ stage (years 3-7) and mesic woodland species (e.g. wood thrush Hylocichla mustelina) appeared following sub-canopy development. The total number of species recorded regularly in the plot fluctuated between 15 and 29 species. Numbers of red-cockaded woodpecker Picoides borealis declined (over the site as a whole) over the study period.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A before-and-after study in Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve (4,637 ha), Western Australia, Australia (Smith 1996), found that the local population of noisy scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus increased from 45 to 189 singing males over a period of 25 years following the implementation of fire prevention measures from 1970 to 1994, which excluded wildfires. The population also expanded outwards from its initial stronghold to colonise new areas.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A before-and-after study in 2000-2006 on a grouse moor in Dunfries and Galloway, south Scotland (Baines et al. 2008), found that five bird species decreased following the discontinuation of moor management in 2000, whilst four increased. Before 2000, the moor underwent rotational burning and red foxes Vulpes vulpes, carrion crows Corvus corone, stoats Mustela erminea and weasels M. nivalis were controlled.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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