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Mount Isa, Australia

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

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. Source

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

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. Source

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

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. Source

Campbell H.A.,University of New England of Australia | Beyer H.L.,University of Queensland | Dennis T.E.,University of Auckland | Dwyer R.G.,University of Queensland | And 9 more authors.
Science of the Total Environment

The presence and movements of organisms both reflect and influence the distribution of ecological resources in space and time. The monitoring of animal movement by telemetry devices is being increasingly used to inform management of marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we brought together academics, and environmental managers to determine the extent of animal movement research in the Australasian region, and assess the opportunities and challenges in the sharing and reuse of these data. This working group was formed under the Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (ACEAS), whose overall aim was to facilitate trans-organisational and transdisciplinary synthesis. We discovered that between 2000 and 2012 at least 501 peer-reviewed scientific papers were published that report animal location data collected by telemetry devices from within the Australasian region. Collectively, this involved the capture and electronic tagging of 12 656 animals. The majority of studies were undertaken to address specific management questions; rarely were these data used beyond their original intent. We estimate that approximately half (~. 500) of all animal telemetry projects undertaken remained unpublished, a similar proportion were not discoverable via online resources, and less than 8.8% of all animals tagged and tracked had their data stored in a discoverable and accessible manner. Animal telemetry data contain a wealth of information about how animals and species interact with each other and the landscapes they inhabit. These data are expensive and difficult to collect and can reduce survivorship of the tagged individuals, which implies an ethical obligation to make the data available to the scientific community. This is the first study to quantify the gap between telemetry devices placed on animals and findings/data published, and presents methods for improvement. Instigation of these strategies will enhance the cost-effectiveness of the research and maximise its impact on the management of natural resources. © 2015 Elsevier B.V. Source

Moseby K.E.,University of Adelaide | Hill B.M.,Arid Recovery | Lavery T.H.,University of Queensland

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. Source

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