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Bairnsdale, United States

Forested ecosystems of south-eastern Australia now differ physically, compositionally and functionally from their condition prior to European settlement. Understanding these changes, and how native species and entire ecosystems have responded, is crucial for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management. Here I argue that a combination of limited historical information and a knowledge base biased towards modern ecological studies has resulted in a distorted perception of ecosystem condition, hindering the instigation of effective biodiversity conservation measures. This argument is based on recently obtained information about changes to the non-volant mammal community, which reveals relatively recent but underreported ecological changes, including major declines in species distribution and abundance, shifts in niche utilization and associated disruption of ecosystem functions. Ultimately, many mammal species are being denied the capacity to function to the extent they did historically. Following this re-assessment, it is evident that current forest management does not adequately address contemporary conservation dilemmas posed by detrimental ecosystem changes. This is especially salient when most of the factors responsible for causing changes to the mammal community are still active and include forest management and utilization activities. Therefore, additional conservation measures are essential to meet forest stewardship and biodiversity conservation obligations. For the health, functionality and sustainability of forested ecosystems, native mammal species must be capable of functioning to their ecological potential and occupy their original niche. This will be facilitated by the suppression of threatening processes (primarily exotic species), ensuring ecologically sensitive fire regimes and the reintroduction/translocation of missing species. The recovery or restoration of forest functionality based on mammal conservation should have wide-scale benefits for biodiversity conservation. © 2014 Ecological Society of Australia.

Bilney R.J.,PO Box 988
Victorian Naturalist | Year: 2013

Surveys of 49 Warm Temperate Rainforest gullies in East Gippsland identifi ed discrete populations of Yellowwood Acronychia oblongifolia in 34 gullies. Antler rubbing of Yellow-wood by Sambar Cervus unicolor was obvious and widespread in all 34 gullies. Eight gullies were randomly selected to assess the extent of antler rubbing to 100 Yellow-wood plants in each gully (50 plants close to two randomly generated locations). Across all eight gullies an average of 64.6% (± 17.7 sd; range 36-92%) of Yellow-wood individuals were antler rubbed, with 51.0% (± 17.8 sd; range 18-80%) subjected to severe rubbing (>50% ringbarking), with mortality recorded at 30.3% (± 14.0 sd; range 6-52%). Yellow-wood with stems in the range 30-150 mm diameter at breast height (DBH) were subjected to the highest rates of antler rubbing (73-81%), with smaller stems (10-16 mm DBH) suff ering the highest rates of mortality. Sambar represent a major threat to the long-term persistence of Yellowwood and rainforest communities in East Gippsland. (The Victorian Naturalist 130 (2) 2013, 68-74).

Norman Wakefield wrote two papers published in The Victorian Naturalist in 1960 that examined four subfossil deposits from caves in the Buchan district, East Gippsland, Victoria. Wakefield suggested that Eastern Quolls Dasyurus viverrinus were responsible for their accumulation in two caves, M-27 and M-28 (cave tag numbers). There is, however, limited evidence to support Wakefield's conclusion. Instead, there is convincing evidence that the Sooty Owl Tyto tenebricosa was responsible. This is based on the structural integrity of the sub-fossil bones, apparent digestive erosion on bones (indicating partial digestion and regurgitation by owls), characteristics of the caves, location of sub-fossils, surrounding habitat, body size-range of mammals within the sub-fossil deposits and known feeding ecology of all owl species. This is an important finding because analysis of the prehistoric and contemporary Sooty Owl diet can provide valuable information for our understanding of the small mammal palaeocommunity, recent declines and mammal conservation.

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