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Eagles D.,CSIRO | Eagles D.,University of Queensland | Deveson T.,Australian Plague Locust Commission | Walker P.J.,CSIRO | And 2 more authors.
Medical and Veterinary Entomology

The introduction of novel bluetongue serotypes and genotypes into northern Australia is considered possible via the long-distance windborne dispersal of Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) vectors from Southeast Asia. Initial findings from simulation modelling of potential dispersal over a 15-year period revealed that the greatest risk for incursion of windborne Culicoides from the island of Timor into northern Australia occurs during December-March. The regions at greatest risk for incursion include the top end of the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region in Western Australia, but there is potential for more widespread dispersal into northern Australia based on Timor as the putative source. The establishment of a more pathogenic strain of the virus, or of a novel Culicoides vector introduced by such inter-continental dispersal events, could dramatically alter Australia's current bluetongue disease status. © 2011 CSIRO. Medical and Veterinary Entomology © 2011 The Royal Entomological Society. Source

Woodman J.D.,Australian Plague Locust Commission
Australian Journal of Zoology

The population dynamics of the Australian plague locust, Chortoicetes terminifera, are strongly linked to the timing and distribution of heavy rainfall events in semiarid and arid environments. While the effects of insufficient rainfall on survival are relatively well understood, little information exists on the effects of excessively wet conditions. This study aimed to quantify the survival of first-instar C. terminifera nymphs to a range of water-immersion periods and temperatures. Results show that survival is strongly dependent on immersion temperature whereby survival times ranged from time to 50% mortality (LT50)≤8.12±0.26h at 15°C to 4.93±0.30h at 25°C. Nymphs entered a coma-like state within 2min of immersion. Post-immersion recovery times were greater for longer immersion periods and longer at higher temperatures for immersion periods of >3h. These findings suggest that first-instar nymphs would be able to survive most instances of transient, localised pooling of water associated with heavy rainfall in the field. However, flooding that could trap individuals for >5h (including nymphs still underground within the egg pod before emergence to the soil surface) has the potential to cause high mortality, particularly during summer and early autumn when water temperatures may be high. © 2013 CSIRO. Source

Letnic M.,University of Western Sydney | Story P.,Australian Plague Locust Commission | Story G.,Scats About | Field J.,University of Sydney | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Mammalogy

Small mammal assemblages in the aridlands of the Southern Hemisphere often have wildly fluctuating dynamics. Previous studies have attributed these fluctuations to climate-driven pulses in food resources resulting in the switching of trophic control from bottom-up (food-limited) to top-down (predation-limited) population regulation, and vice versa. In this study we use a meta-analytic approach to evaluate the evidence for the phenomenon of switching trophic control. If shifting trophic control is a unifying phenomenon that shapes small mammal assemblages in arid Australia, we would expect the abundance and species richness of small mammals to increase with increasing primary productivity and the abundance of small mammals to decrease with increasing predator abundances, which lag behind those of small mammals. We tested these predictions using data compiled from 6 unpublished and 2 published data sets containing time series (311 years) of small mammal and predator community dynamics. Our analyses provide moderate support for the notion that switching trophic control is a unifying phenomenon shaping small mammal assemblages. Also, our results provide evidence that top-down and bottom-up control are not mutually exclusive phenomena driving desert small mammal assemblages but rather alternative ecosystem states that exist along a rainfall-driven continuum of ecosystem energy flux through time. © 2011 American Society of Mammalogists. Source

Woodman J.D.,Australian Plague Locust Commission | Woodman J.D.,Australian National University
Journal of Insect Physiology

The cold tolerance of overwintering adult Spur-throated locusts, Austracris guttulosa, was examined using measures of supercooling point relative to gender, environmental acclimation and feeding state as well as mortality for a range of sub-zero temperature exposure treatments. Freezing was lethal and supercooling points ranged from -6 to -12.8°C, but were statistically independent of fresh mass, body water content, acclimation, and/or gut content in fed and starved individuals. A significant interaction effect of gender and feeding status showed that the larger bodied females had decreased supercooling capacity with increased food material in the digestive tract. Post-freezing dissections revealed differences in the amount of freshly consumed and retained food material in the digestive tract between fed and starved individuals of each gender, which could explain this effect based on inoculation of ice crystallisation by food particles. Above supercooling temperatures, neither gender nor the rate of cooling had a significant effect on mortality. When cooled from 25°C at 0.1 or 0.5°Cmin -1 to a range of experimental minimum temperatures held for 3h, survival was ≥74% to -7°C, but declined sharply to ≤37% when cooled to -8°C or lower. Although the laboratory experiments reported here suggest that A. guttulosa is not freeze tolerant and unable to rapidly cold harden, exposure to typical cold and frosty nights that very rarely reach below -8°C as a night minimum in the field would be unlikely to cause mortality in the vast majority of overwintering aggregations. © 2012. Source

Deveson E.D.,Australian Plague Locust Commission | Deveson E.D.,Australian National University
Journal of Applied Remote Sensing

The Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC) has a mandated role in monitoring, forecasting, and managing populations of key locust species across four Australian states. Satellite normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery is used to monitor vegetation condition in locust habitat and is integrated with mapping software to support forecasting and operations within the strategic framework of APLC activities. The usefulness of NDVI data for monitoring locust habitats is tested using historical control and survey records for the Australian plague locust, Chortoicetes terminifera (Walker). In arid habitat areas, control of high-density nymphal populations was consistently associated with high and increased relative NDVI during summer and autumn, providing important information for locating possible infestations. Regression models of NDVI data and regional biogeographic factors were fitted to summer survey records of C. terminifera presence and abundance. Models identified increased vegetation greenness, measured by a one-month positive change in NDVI, as having a significant positive relationship with nymph distributions, while NDVI was significant in adult distributions. Seasonal rainfall regions and a binary habitat stratification were significant explanatory factors in all models. © 2013 The Authors. Source

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