Effects of desert wildfires on desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) and other small vertebrates

Southwestern Naturalist
By: , and 



We report the results of standardized surveys to determine the effects of wildfires on desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) and their habitats in the northeastern Mojave Desert and northeastern Sonoran Desert. Portions of 6 burned areas (118 to 1,750 ha) were examined for signs of mortality of vertebrates. Direct effects of fire in desert habitats included animal mortality and loss of vegetation cover. A range of 0 to 7 tortoises was encountered during surveys, and live tortoises were found on all transects. In addition to desert tortoises, only small (<1 kg) mammals and reptiles (11 taxa) were found dead on the study areas. We hypothesize that indirect effects of fire on desert habitats might result in changes in the composition of diets and loss of vegetation cover, resulting in an increase in predation and loss of protection from temperature extremes. These changes in habitat also might cause changes in vertebrate communities in burned areas.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Effects of desert wildfires on desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) and other small vertebrates
Series title Southwestern Naturalist
DOI 10.1894/0038-4909(2003)048<0103:EODWOD>2.0.CO;2
Volume 48
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher Southwestern Association of Naturalists
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 8 p.
First page 103
Last page 110
Country United States
State Arizona, Utah
County Pima County, Pinal County, Washington County
Other Geospatial Beaver Dam Mountains, Mojave Desert, Rincon Mountains, Saguaro National Park, Santa Catalina Mountains, Santan Mountains, Sonoran Desert
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details