Arid Recovery

Olympic, Australia

Arid Recovery

Olympic, Australia
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Pedler R.D.,Water and Natural Resources | Lynch C.E.,Arid Recovery
Australian Field Ornithology | Year: 2016

The Flock Bronzewing Phaps histrionica has declined significantly and undergone a northward range contraction in inland Australia since European settlement. In the southern parts of its range, including central northern South Australia, it is uncommonly recorded during times of significant ephemeral vegetation response, triggered by sustained above-average rainfall. In late 2013, while core habitats in Queensland were in extended drought and much of arid South Australia received below-average rainfall, an area of ∼10 000 km2 between Roxby Downs and Lake Eyre South supported tens of thousands of Flock Bronzewings, with evidence of widespread successful breeding during September and October and contemporary range expansions of 150 km to the south and west. Through a network of local pastoralists, mining workers and biologists we collated >80 field observations from >40 observers across this region. Direct evidence of predation by Cats Felis catus was detected at a nest-site and in the stomach of a cat shot in the area. Seeds of annual shrubs Trichodesma and Phyllanthus species dominated the crop contents of two dead fledgling Bronzewings that were collected opportunistically. Although the Flock Bronzewing is well known for its irruptive nature, the magnitude and southerly extent of this sustained irruption are unprecedented in the literature and in the living memory of local observers. This event exemplifies the remarkable ability of arid-adapted birds to locate and exploit localised productive habitat within vast dynamic and stochastic landscapes, in this case recruiting new individuals to the population despite widespread unfavourable conditions within their core range. © 2016, Bird Observers Club of Australia (BOCA). All rights reserved.

Read J.,Arid Recovery | Read J.,University of Adelaide | Eldridge S.,Environment and the Arts
Rangeland Journal | Year: 2010

A single procedure that land managers can readily use to simultaneously monitor populations of multiple pest animal species would enhance capacity to effectively manage environmental impacts in the Australian rangelands. Such a procedure should be efficient and provide a standard for data collection, enabling meaningful evaluation of changes through time. This study compared the efficiency of two indices, namely spotlight counts and a variety of passive activity indices, for detecting rabbit, cat, fox and dingo activity. Spotlight counts were more practical for estimating rabbit activity but were poor indicators of cat, fox or dingo activity. Records of animal tracks on discrete 200m dirt road segments with favourable substrate and separated by at least 2km are considered optimal for collectively monitoring relative changes through time in rabbit, cat, fox and dingo activity. © Australian Rangeland Society 2010.

Moseby K.E.,University of Adelaide | Hill B.M.,Arid Recovery | Lavery T.H.,University of Queensland
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Reintroduction programs for threatened species often include elaborate release strategies designed to improve success, but their advantages are rarely tested scientifically. We used a set of four experiments to demonstrate that the influence of release strategies on short-term reintroduction outcomes is related to both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. We compared different reintroduction strategies for three mammal species in an arid environment where exotic mammalian predators were removed. Wild greater stick-nest rats selected vegetation shelter sites with greater structural density than captive-bred rats, travelled further from the release site and experienced lower rates of mortality. In comparison, there was no difference in mortality or movement between wild and captive-bred greater bilbies. Burrowing bettongs and greater bilbies were also subjected to immediate and delayed release strategies and whilst no difference was detected in bilbies, bettongs that were subjected to delayed releases lost less weight and took less time to establish burrows than those that were immediately released. Interspecific differences in treatment response were attributed to predation risk, the nature of the release site, and behavioural traits such as shelter investment and sociality. Our varied results highlight the inadequacies of review articles focusing on optimum release protocols due to their attempt to generalise across species and release sites. We provide an example of a predictive model to guide future release strategy experimentation that recognises the range of intrinsic and extrinsic factors influencing reintroduction outcomes. We encourage researchers to treat programs experimentally, identify individual site and species characters that may influence release strategies and record data on movements, mortality, weight dynamics, and settling times and distances. The inherent issues of small sample size and low statistical power that plague most reintroduction experiments suggests there is also a need for increased standardisation and publication of data sets to enable appropriate meta-analyses to occur. © 2014 Moseby et al.

Moseby K.E.,University of Adelaide | Read J.L.,University of Adelaide | Paton D.C.,University of Adelaide | Copley P.,Khan Research Laboratories | And 2 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

Ten reintroduction attempts were conducted in and around the Arid Recovery Reserve in northern South Australia between 1998 and 2008. Five locally-extinct mammal species and one reptile species were reintroduced into a fenced Reserve where cats, foxes and rabbits were excluded. Reintroductions of the nationally threatened greater stick-nest rat, burrowing bettong, greater bilby and western barred bandicoot were all considered successful based on short and medium-term success criteria. These criteria included continued survival after 8. years, increased distribution across the large Reserve and, most importantly, recovery after a drought event. The trial reintroductions of the numbat and woma python into the Reserve were unsuccessful due to predation by native avian and reptilian predators respectively. Outside the Reserve, where cats and foxes were present but controlled through poison baiting, reintroduction attempts of the greater bilby and burrowing bettong were unsuccessful. High mortality was attributed to cat and fox predation with dingoes also contributing to post-release mortality in bettongs. However, a reintroduction of burrowing bettongs into a fenced area with low rabbit and cat abundance has, to-date, met short-term and medium-term success criteria. Results suggest that the absence or severe restriction of exotic mammalian predators was the critical factor responsible for the success of the mammal reintroductions. Determining thresholds of predator activity below which successful reintroduction of threatened species can occur, are needed to improve the science of reintroduction biology in Australia. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Moseby K.E.,University of Adelaide | Hill B.M.,Arid Recovery
Wildlife Research | Year: 2011

Context Feral cats and foxes pose a significant threat to native wildlife in the Australian arid zone and their broadscale control is required for the protection of threatened species. Aims The aim of this research was to trial aerial poison baiting as a means of controlling feral cats and foxes in northern South Australia. Methods Eradicat baits or dried meat baits containing 1080 poison were distributed by air over areas of 650 to 1800km2 in trials from 2002 to 2006. Different baiting density, frequency, bait type and area were trialled to determine the optimum baiting strategy. Baiting success was determined through mortality of radio-collared animals and differences in the track activity of cats and foxes in baited and unbaited areas. Key results Quarterly aerial baiting at a density of 10 baits per square km successfully controlled foxes over a 12-month period, while annual baiting led to reinvasion within four months. Despite the majority of radio-collared cats dying after baiting, a significant decline in cat activity was only recorded during one of the eight baiting events. This event coincided with extremely dry conditions and low rabbit abundance. Rabbit activity increased significantly in baited areas over the study period in comparison with control areas. Conclusions Despite trialling different baiting density, frequency and area over a five-year period, a successful long-term baiting strategy for feral cats could not be developed using Eradicat baits or dried meat baits. Implications Broadscale control of feral cats in the arid zone remains a significant challenge and may require a combination of control methods with flexible delivery times dependent on local conditions. However, it is doubtful that current methods, even used in combination, will enable cat numbers to be reduced to levels where successful reintroductions of many threatened wildlife species can occur. © 2011 CSIRO.

Moseby K.E.,University of Adelaide | Read J.L.,University of Adelaide | Galbraith B.,Arid Recovery | Munro N.,Arid Recovery | And 2 more authors.
Wildlife Research | Year: 2011

Context Poison baits are often used to control both foxes and feral cats but success varies considerably. Aims This study investigated the influence of bait type, placement and lures on bait uptake by the feral cat, red fox and non-target species to improve baiting success and reduce non-target uptake. Methods Six short field trials were implemented during autumn and winter over a five-year period in northern South Australia. Key results Results suggest that poison baiting with Eradicat or dried kangaroo meat baits was inefficient for feral cats due to both low rates of bait detection and poor ingestion rates for baits that were encountered. Cats consumed more baits on dunes than swales and uptake was higher under bushes than in open areas. The use of auditory or olfactory lures adjacent to baits did not increase ingestion rates. Foxes consumed more baits encountered than cats and exhibited no preference between Eradicat and kangaroo meat baits. Bait uptake by native non-target species averaged between 14 and 57% of baits during the six trials, accounting for up to 90% of total bait uptake. Corvid species were primarily responsible for non-target uptake. Threatened mammal species investigated and nibbled baits but rarely consumed them; however, corvids and some common rodent species ingested enough poison to potentially receive a lethal dose. Conclusions It is likely that several factors contributed to poor bait uptake by cats including the presence of alternative prey, a preference for live prey, an aversion to scavenging or eating unfamiliar foods and a stronger reliance on visual rather than olfactory cues for locating food. Implications Further trials for control of feral cats should concentrate on increasing ingestion rates without the requirement for hunger through either involuntary ingestion via grooming or development of a highly palatable bait. © 2011 CSIRO.

James A.I.,University of New South Wales | Eldridge D.J.,University of New South Wales | Koen T.B.,Climate Change and Water | Moseby K.E.,Arid Recovery
Biological Invasions | Year: 2011

Habitat modifying species can play crucial roles in ecosystem function. Invasive engineers may assume these roles where native engineers have been lost from the system. We compared the dynamics of the foraging pits of an invasive engineer, the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) with two native mammals, the greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) and the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur). Foraging pits are small surface depressions created by animals when they forage for seeds, bulbs, roots, invertebrates and fungi. We measured foraging pit density and turnover, and density and richness of plant seedlings in pits and adjacent surfaces across three landforms representing a gradient in resource availability inside (bilbies and bettongs), and outside (rabbits only) a reserve in an arid Australian shrubland over 2 years. Pits of the native engineers contained 80% more seedlings (11. 2 plants m-2) than rabbit pits (6. 22 plants m-2). Further, rabbit pits supported 3. 6-times fewer seedlings than equivalent non-pit surfaces outside the exclosure. Only one plant species was restricted entirely to pits. The reserve had more foraging pits and greater turnover than outside, but contrary to prediction, pit effects on seedling density were no greater in the more resource-limited dunes. There were some strong temporal and landscape effects on pit density and species composition, but generally trends were similar inside and outside the reserve. Overall, despite their functional similarities, invasive rabbits created fewer pits that were less favourable patches for seedlings than those of native engineers. Our work suggests that a suite of ecosystem processes associated with fertile patch creation has potentially been lost with the extirpation of bilbies and bettongs. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Moseby K.E.,University of Adelaide | Neilly H.,Arid Recovery | Read J.L.,University of Adelaide | Crisp H.A.,Arid Recovery
International Journal of Ecology | Year: 2012

An increase in mesopredators caused by the removal of top-order predators can have significant implications for threatened wildlife. Recent evidence suggests that Australia's top-order predator, the dingo, may suppress the introduced cat and red fox. We tested this relationship by reintroducing 7 foxes and 6 feral cats into a 37km 2 fenced paddock in arid South Australia inhabited by a male and female dingo. GPS datalogger collars recorded locations of all experimental animals every 2 hours. Interactions between species, mortality rates, and postmortems were used to determine the mechanisms of any suppression. Dingoes killed all 7 foxes within 17 days of their introduction and no pre-death interactions were recorded. All 6 feral cats died between 20 and 103 days after release and dingoes were implicated in the deaths of at least 3 cats. Dingoes typically stayed with fox and cat carcasses for several hours after death and/or returned several times in ensuing days. There was no evidence of intraguild predation, interference competition was the dominant mechanism of suppression. Our results support anecdotal evidence that dingoes may suppress exotic mesopredators, particularly foxes. We outline further research required to determine if this suppression translates into a net benefit for threatened prey species. © 2012 Katherine E. Moseby et al.

Moseby K.E.,University of Adelaide | Cameron A.,Arid Recovery | Crisp H.A.,Arid Recovery
Animal Behaviour | Year: 2012

Many threatened species' reintroductions in Australia fail because of predation by introduced cats and foxes. We attempted to improve reintroduction outcomes by training greater bilbies, . Macrotis lagotis, to recognize cats as predators. The movement and behaviour of trained and control bilbies were compared in both a predator-free environment and in an area where cats and foxes were present. Trained bilbies within the predator-free environment moved significantly further, used more burrows with more entrances and changed burrows more frequently than untrained control animals. Trained bilbies also moved burrows when presented with olfactory predator stimuli while control bilbies did not. However, when bilbies were reintroduced to an area where predators were present, there was no difference in survival, movement or burrow use between trained and control bilbies. Both groups exhibited high survival rates in the first 6. months after release. In the presence of predators, both trained and control bilbies appeared to be more predator-aware possibly because of control bilbies learning from trained conspecifics or cohabiting rabbits or through inadvertent contamination of control animals during training. Results suggest that bilbies can be taught to recognize exotic predators but this may not necessarily translate into improved reintroduction success in the wild. Further investigation into cultural and filial transfer of antipredator behaviour is recommended. © 2012 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

James A.I.,University of New South Wales | Eldridge D.J.,University of New South Wales | Moseby K.E.,Arid Recovery
Journal of Arid Environments | Year: 2010

Many animals create soil surface depressions (pits) while foraging for subterranean resources. Foraging pits typically fill with litter, organic debris and seed, retain moisture, and become hotspots for plant germination. This study aimed to examine whether artificial foraging pits, which mimic those created by Greater bilbies (Macrotis lagotis) and Burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur), develop into patches of enhanced plant germination due to accumulation of leaf litter, or whether physical characteristics of the pits such as temperature and soil moisture influence germination, irrespective of the presence of litter. Compared with the soil surface, significantly more plants germinated in artificially-created foraging pits, irrespective of whether they received added litter. Daytime temperatures were 17-31% (7-11 °C) cooler in foraging pits than on the adjacent soil surface, and pits retained significantly more moisture up to 5 days after rainfall. Our results suggest that the mesic conditions in foraging pits may be more important in promoting germination of vascular plants than the presence of litter. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.

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