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Cook C.N.,University of Queensland | Wardell-Johnson G.,Curtin University Australia | Keatley M.,Parks Victoria | Gowans S.A.,University of Ballarat | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Applied Ecology

An important step in the conservation of biodiversity is to identify what exists, its quantity and its quality (i.e. condition). This can be a daunting task at the landscape-scale, so vegetation communities are often used as surrogates for biodiversity. Satellite imagery has improved our ability to rapidly measure vegetation parameters but the need for calibration still requires rapid and cost-effective on-ground condition assessment. Some management agencies address this need by using visual condition assessments, with unknown consequences for the different purposes of condition data. It is therefore vital to examine the comparability of visual and systematic condition assessment methods to guide their use in conservation decision making. We compared visual assessments of vegetation condition with more systematic and higher resolution on-ground assessments, using a method where both assessments were made for the same quadrats. We determined both the condition parameters observers respond to when making visual assessments of condition, and the consequences of any differences for the application of these data. We found that visual assessment of vegetation condition broadly represented measured assessments of the same vegetation, but that observers simplify their assessments by responding to only some of the measured condition parameters. No consistent trends were found in the parameters observers responded to across the different vegetation types sampled.. Synthesis and applications. We conclude that visual estimates of vegetation condition are only of sufficient resolution to replace more expensive, high-resolution assessments at a landscape-scale, when condition results are combined over multiple areas and vegetation types. Visual assessment methods potentially can provide an efficient measure of overall condition for conservation management agencies where practitioners can make assessments of condition in the course of their daily management activities - an important step forward. At smaller scales, idiosyncratic effects render visual estimates highly variable when compared with systematic condition assessments. This variability, especially among vegetation types, suggests that more systematic assessments are necessary when management decisions require higher-resolution estimates of changes in individual condition parameters, such as when measuring the success of individual management actions. These findings provide a valuable guide for selecting the most appropriate approach for the different objectives of condition assessments for biodiversity conservation. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 British Ecological Society. Source

Aussavy M.,National Veterinary School of Toulouse | Bernardin E.,National Veterinary School of Toulouse | Corrigan A.,Parks Victoria | Hufschmid J.,University of Melbourne | Beveridge I.,University of Melbourne
Australian Mammalogy

Helminth parasites of Macropus fuliginosus, M. giganteus, M. rufogriseus and Wallabia bicolor were examined in a region of western Victoria, Australia, where all four species of hosts are sympatric. M. fuliginosus and M. giganteus shared most of their parasites while the helminth communities of M. rufogriseus and W. bicolor were distinctive. The sympatric distribution of the host species studied provides evidence in support of the hypothesis that the differences between the parasite communities of M. fuliginosusM. giganteus compared with those of M. rufogriseus and W. bicolor are due to parasite specificity rather than to host ecological differences. However, lack of detailed data on the ecological differences of these hosts in areas of sympatry prevents more precise conclusions being drawn on the reasons for the distinctiveness of the parasite communities. © 2011 Australian Mammal Society. Source

Paplinska J.Z.,University of Melbourne | Taggart D.A.,University of Adelaide | Corrigan T.,Parks Victoria | Eldridge M.D.B.,College St | And 2 more authors.
Biological Conservation

Use of DNA from museum samples is a powerful tool to directly establish historical ESU boundaries in areas where populations of a species have been extirpated. The brush-tailed rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) has suffered extensive reductions in range and population size since European settlement in Australia. Populations of this species have been grouped into three putative evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) which were likely once contiguous along the south-east coast of Australia. However, there is currently a gap of ∼320. km between extant populations of the southern and central ESUs. Conservation plans for the brush-tailed rock-wallaby include re-introductions of animals to locations within their former range. In order to preserve the historic geographic integrity of the genetic lineages within the species, it is necessary to map the boundary between the southern ESU and central ESU to allow more informed management decisions about which lineages should be used to re-stock specific geographic locations. We have extracted DNA from samples from museum specimens that come from locations between the southernmost extant colony of the central ESU and the remaining wild colony of the southern ESU. We sequenced a 177. bp interval of the left domain of the mitochondrial DNA control region and used phylogenetic analysis to group obtained sequences with previously published sequences belonging to the three ESUs. We have extended the range of the central ESU southwards and the range of the southern ESU northwards such that the gap between the ESUs is now approximately 160. km. We recommend that, where suitable historical museum collections exist, this technique be incorporated into re-introduction plans for other threatened species. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Johnstone K.,University of Sydney | Miller K.,Deakin University | Antos M.,Parks Victoria
Conservation and Society

This study explored whether the plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus), a species lacking the criteria outlined in the traditional flagship model, is a suitable local flagship for the Northern Plains Grasslands of Victoria in Australia. Questionnaires and telephone interviews were used to survey residents and natural resource management professionals and volunteers ('NRM participants') in communities living close to the Northern Plains Grasslands. Questionnaires were completed by 146 residents and 69 NRM participants, and 15 interviews were conducted. Results suggest that a significant proportion of the local community was aware of, and valued, the plains-wanderer, and that the species is currently functioning as an effective flagship for the region. Recommendations are provided for the future selection of flagship species in ecosystems where traditional flagships are not present. © 2015 Johnstone et al. Source

Forsyth D.M.,Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research | Gormley A.M.,Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research | Gormley A.M.,Landcare Research | Woodford L.,Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research | Fitzgerald T.,Parks Victoria
Wildlife Research

Context Despite large mammals being an important component of many ecosystems, there is little information on the impacts of fire on large mammal populations. Aims We evaluated the effects of the large-scale high-severity 'Black Saturday' fires of 7 February 2009 on occupancy and abundances of an invasive large mammal, the sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), in south-eastern Australia. Methods The effects of the Black Saturday fires on the abundance of sambar deer were assessed using repeated annual counts of faecal pellets during 200711 in Kinglake National Park, which was burnt, and in Mount Buffalo National Park, which was not burnt. Pre-fire occupancy was modelled from data collected at 80 4-km2 cells using three survey methods. The same survey methods were used at 15 burnt (n≤9 sampled pre-fire) and 15 unburnt (n≤5 sampled pre-fire) cells 1624 months after Black Saturday. Because multiple surveys were performed in each cell, we used a Bayesian statespace site-occupancy model to partition changes in the probability of occupancy from changes in the probability of detection. Key results Counts of sambar deer pellets increased linearly during 200711 in the unburnt Mount Buffalo National Park. Pellet counts also increased linearly in Kinglake National Park from 2007 to 2008, and then decreased (to zero) following Black Saturday; pellet counts increased again in 2010 and 2011. Sambar deer occupancy was weakly reduced (from 0.99 to 0.88) in burnt cells 1624 months after Black Saturday, but was little changed in unburnt cells (from 0.99 to 0.98). Conclusions We conclude that the abundance of sambar deer was substantially reduced by the large-scale high-severity Black Saturday fires, but that most burnt habitat was reoccupied 1624 months later. Implications There is concern about the negative impacts of invasive sambar deer on native biodiversity, particularly immediately post-fire. Our study suggests that it takes at least 8 months before sambar deer recolonise areas burnt by a large-scale high-severity fire; however, a risk-averse approach would be to act (e.g. by erecting fences or culling) sooner than that. © 2012 CSIRO. Source

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