Hurstville Grove, Australia
Hurstville Grove, Australia

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Moir M.L.,University of Melbourne | Vesk P.A.,University of Melbourne | Keith D.A.,NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service | Hughes L.,Macquarie University | McCarthy M.A.,University of Melbourne
Conservation Biology | Year: 2010

Coextinction is a poorly quantified phenomenon, but results of recent modeling suggest high losses to global biodiversity through the loss of dependent species when hosts go extinct. There are critical gaps in coextinction theory, and we outline these in a framework to direct future research toward more accurate estimates of coextinction rates. Specifically, the most critical priorities include acquisition of more accurate host data, including the threat status of host species; acquisition of data on the use of hosts by dependent species across a wide array of localities, habitats, and breadth of both hosts and dependents; development of models that incorporate correlates of nonrandom host and dependent extinctions, such as phylogeny and traits that increase extinction-proneness; and determination of whether dependents are being lost before their hosts and adjusting models accordingly. Without synergistic development of better empirical data and more realistic models to estimate the number of cothreatened species and coextinction rates, the contribution of coextinction to global declines in biodiversity will remain unknown and unmanaged. © 2010 Society for Conservation Biology.

Murphy M.J.,NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service | Shea M.,College Street
Molluscan Research | Year: 2013

The Pilliga forest in northern inland New South Wales, Australia, is one of the largest surviving remnants of native forest on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range. The Pilliga landscape is a challenging environment for molluscs, dominated by dry sclerophyll forest and with limited and largely ephemeral aquatic habitats. A field survey of the area in 2006-2012 identified a surprisingly rich and relatively intact aquatic native molluscan fauna with five species of bivalves in three families and nine species of freshwater gastropods (four families), including some rare species and range extensions. The native land snail fauna comprised 18 species (six families), including an unusually rich pupillid fauna with nine species. Some range extensions are recorded and some species are narrow-range endemics. The distributions of many aquatic and terrestrial species were correlated with geology or soil type. Introduced molluscs were predominantly found in anthropogenic habitats and include two freshwater gastropods (two families) and nine terrestrial snails and slugs (eight families). This study provides insight into the original molluscan fauna of the western slopes prior to landscape-scale agricultural development and provides a benchmark for future reference. © 2013 © 2013 The Malacological Society of Australasia and the Society for the Study of Molluscan Diversity.

Moir M.L.,University of Melbourne | Vesk P.A.,University of Melbourne | Keith D.A.,NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service | Mccarthy M.A.,University of Melbourne | Hughes L.,Macquarie University
Conservation Biology | Year: 2011

Invertebrates with specific host species may have a high probability of extinction when their hosts have a high probability of extinction. Some of these invertebrates are more likely to go extinct than their hosts, and under some circumstances, specific actions to conserve the host may be detrimental to the invertebrate. A critical constraint to identifying such invertebrates is uncertainty about their level of host specificity. We used two host-breadth models that explicitly incorporated uncertainty in the host specificity of an invertebrate species. We devised a decision protocol to identify actions that may increase the probability of persistence of a given dependent species. The protocol included estimates from the host-breadth models and decision nodes to identify cothreatened species. We applied the models and protocol to data on 1055 insects (186 species) associated with 2 threatened (as designated by the Australian Government) plant species and 19 plant species that are not threatened to determine whether any insect herbivores have the potential to become extinct if the plant becomes extinct. According to the host-breadth models, 18 species of insect had high host specificity to the threatened plant species. From these 18 insects, the decision protocol highlighted 6 species that had a high probability of extinction if their hosts were to become extinct (3% of all insects examined). The models and decision protocol have added objectivity and rigor to the process of deciding which dependent invertebrates require conservation action, particularly when dealing with largely unknown and speciose faunas. ©2011 Society for Conservation Biology.

Wolf I.D.,NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service | Wolf I.D.,University of New South Wales | Wohlfart T.,NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Landscape and Urban Planning | Year: 2014

As our populations become more urbanised, public green space will assume key functions in the promotion of the health and well-being of the populace. We assessed the beneficial outcomes of physical activities undertaken in Australian national parks using a questionnaire-based survey combined with GPS tracking of walkers, hikers, and runners. We estimated energy expenditure of park visitors based on GPS tracking trip data using two different estimation methods. Park visitors perceived considerable improvement in numerous health and well-being indicators; many of which increased with increasing activity levels. We found that hikers burned the greatest amount of net energy (916 kcal) as they preferred more difficult tracks with greater slopes, followed by runners (790 kcal) and walkers (450 kcal). For many walkers and hikers, physical activity was incidental to other activities such as sightseeing, socialising, and experiencing nature; such activities, thus, deserve highlighting when promoting attributes of parks and other public green spaces. GPS tracking allowed for sampling a broad population of park visitors at a participation rate of 80%, and the calculation of additional trip characteristics such as trip distance and velocity. Identifying health and well-being benefits via an inter-disciplinary approach using GPS tracking data to determine the intensity and spatio-temporal distributions of physical activity in relation to different park infrastructure is a promising area for attention to raise awareness of the direct benefits of visiting public green spaces. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Nichols P.W.B.,University of Western Sydney | Morris E.C.,University of Western Sydney | Keith D.A.,NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Austral Ecology | Year: 2010

Planning for the restoration of degraded ecosystems has a strong basis in facilitation successional theory, which, as applied in restoration practice, states that planting of structurally dominant tree species will assist the entry of other native species into a restored community. In Australia, tree planting has been widely applied in restoration of grassy woodland ecosystems. Trees have been postulated to reduce the cover and diversity of weed species, thus facilitating recolonization of native woodland species (indirect facilitation). The expected outcomes of this process include reduced species richness and abundance of exotic plant species and increased species richness and abundance/dominance of natives in areas beneath tree canopies, with these trends strengthening with time. To assess whether this was occurring, we carried out a comparative analysis of species assemblages found underneath and outside of planted tree canopies in sites replanted with juvenile canopy tree species 3-5 or 8-10 years previously. We sampled revegetated stands of Cumberland Plain Woodland, an endangered ecological community in Western Sydney, Australia. We found that neither the number nor abundance of native ground layer species beneath canopies increased as a result of trees being planted at sites of both ages. Where seed is limited, we predicted an increase in abundance of existing native species under planted tree canopies. On this point, the results were mixed and showed some natives with an increased abundance while others decreased. Exotic species richness showed the reverse of the expected pattern, being greater under tree canopies. These findings lend no support to the theory of indirect facilitation. We conclude that simple facilitation models may be inadequate to support planning of grassy woodland restoration and that those models incorporating successional time lags and restoration barriers are likely to be more informative about the development of communities initiated by tree planting. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 Ecological Society of Australia.

Murphy M.J.,NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Victorian Naturalist | Year: 2011

The Pilliga Scrub is a large semi-arid woodland area in northern inland New South Wales with limited freshwater habitats and a frequent scarcity of surface water. A survey of the area's decapod crustacean fauna in 2009-2010 identified five species: the crayfsh Cherax destructor (Parastacidae), crab Austrothelphusa transversa (Parathelphusidae), shrimps Caridina mccullochi and Paratya australiensis (Atyidae) and prawn Macrobrachium australiense (Palaemonidae). Te decapod diversity is low at the species level but relatively high at the family level, and reflects the location of the Pilliga Scrub in a transitional zone between faunal assemblages of southern and northern Australia. Cherax destructor and Austrothelphusa transversa are well suited to the variable aquatic conditions in the Pilliga Scrub and can survive prolonged drought in burrows. Caridina mccullochi, Paratya australiensis and Macrobrachium australiense, in contrast, are dependent on surface water at all life cycle stages, and their survival in the Pilliga Scrub relies on the few small permanent waterholes along larger intermittent streams or, if these dry out, re-colonisation from downstream perennial river channels during occasional stream few events. An increase in aridity due to anthropogenic climate change could result in the local extinction of these three species, representing a 60% reduction in local decapod species diversity.

The Pilliga forest is the largest surviving woodland remnant in the agriculture-dominated landscape of the New South Wales inland western slopes and this study describes the area's contribution to supporting shorebird communities in Australia. Key shorebird habitats in the Pilliga forest area include ephemeral wetlands and dry woodlands as well as dry farmland and ground tanks. Sixty diurnal surveys in the Pilliga forest over a 22 month period in 2011-2013 recorded four resident shorebirds, Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius, Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops, Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles and Banded Lapwing Vanellus tricolor, one migratory shorebird, Latham's Snipe Gallinago hardwickii, and two nomadic shorebirds, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and Red-kneed Dotterel Erythrogonys cinctus. A review of data from secondary sources identified records of another two nomadic shorebirds, Australian Painted Snipe Rostratula australis (in 2003) and Australian Pratincole Stiltia isabella (in 1981). The nomadic Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae has also been recorded nearby (in 1992 and 1993) and may occasionally occur in the Pilliga forest.

Murphy M.J.,NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Stilt | Year: 2015

The New South Wales (NSW) Central Coast in south-eastern Australia has valuable habitats for shorebirds but also has a large and rapidly increasing human urban population. Low tide and high tide surveys at three proximate intertidal coastal rock platforms in the Norah Head area in 2013- 2014 identified nine species of migratory shorebirds and four species of Australian resident shorebirds. Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis, Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres and Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea were the most common species. Records of four additional shorebird species (three migratory and one Australian resident) dating from the period 1997-2015 were obtained from secondary sources. The total recorded shorebird community of the Norah Head rock platforms comprises 17 species, of which eight are considered regular visitors and nine are vagrant or occasional visitors. Human recreational use of these rock platforms was assessed. There appeared to be a negative relationship between the average level of human activity on each rock platform and both the diversity and number of shorebirds recorded there. It is proposed that differences in local-scale physical attributes and local context of the rock platforms, such as accessibility over the tidal cycle and walking distance from public vehicle access, influence the level of human activity and, in turn, affect the level of shorebird usage. This study illustrates the noteworthy habitat value of coastal rock platforms on the NSW Central Coast and the likely influence of anthropogenic disturbance levels on shorebird use of this habitat. © AWSG.

Seven sandstone caves in the Pilliga forest in northern inland New South Wales, were identified as diurnal roosting sites used by the Eastern Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus megaphyllus.The population of R. megaphyllus in the Pilliga forest is considered to be of regional conservation significance, being on the western inland edge of the species' Australian distribution in a bioregion predominantly devoted to agriculture. Data derived from diurnal counts of roosting bats in the seven caves over the period 2007-2014 is presented here, together with a description of the caves and a review of the spatial and temporal distribution of local records of the species. Rhinolophus megaphyllus is an uncommon resident in the Pilliga forest with the core area of distribution coinciding with the most topographically rugged areas in the south-eastern and eastern parts of the forest. The roosting caves were between 10 and 30 m deep with bats generally occupying the darkest available recesses. All of the caves had either restricted entrances into or restricted dimensions within the roosting chamber.The maximum colony size noted during diurnal counts was nine bats, although observations of bats emerging at dusk indicated that under-estimation during diurnal counts was likely. Roosting R. megaphyllus were alert and active from late August to mid June and were generally inactive in July, remaining motionless with wings closely furled. Additional microchiropteran species co-habiting caves in the Pilliga forest were the Large-eared Pied Bat Chalinolobus dwyeri and Eastern Cave Bat Vespadelus troughtoni.

The widespread Common Dunnart Sminthopsis murina is typically only infrequently found during trapping studies. Pitfall trapping is generally considered a more reliable trapping method for dunnarts than Elliott-type box traps, but is often time consuming and labour-intensive. This short paper documents incidental records of S. murina detected using artificial shelter objects established during herpetofauna surveys in the Pilliga forest, in northern inland New South Wales, and discusses the potential value of this survey technique as a complement to conventional trapping methods when conducting surveys for dunnarts.

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