Managing habitat for mycophagous (fungus-feeding) mammals: a burning issue?
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In the past two decades the ecological relationships among mycophagous (fungus-feeding) mammals and their fungal food resources have been variously investigated. An unresolved issue stemming from this research is the importance of fire in creating and enhancing fungal supply for animals such as potoroos, bettongs and bandicoots. Some authors have suggested fire is a major positive influence, because it stimulates fruit-body production by fungi and is therefore necessary for mycophagous mammals to survive. However, careful review of relevant literature identifies no clear pattern in effects of fire on the wide range of hypogeous fungi eaten by mammals. Evidence of a ‘co-evolutionary relationship’, as some authors have implied, is also ambiguous. We are concerned that some land management agencies, which use prescribed fire for hazard reduction or silvicultural purposes, selectively use speculative data about fire effects on hypogeous fungi to further justify the fire regimes they ordinarily apply. A series of rigorous studies is necessary to better understand the effects of fire on the fruiting of hypogeous fungi and how that influences populations of mycophagous mammals.