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Hypotheses arising from a population recovery of the Western Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus occidentalis in fire regrowth patches in a stand of Agonis flexuosa trees in south-western Australia

Jones , B.A., Meathrel, C.E. and Calver, M.C. (2004) Hypotheses arising from a population recovery of the Western Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus occidentalis in fire regrowth patches in a stand of Agonis flexuosa trees in south-western Australia. In: Lunney, D., (ed.) Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna, 2nd edition. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Sydney, pp. 656-662.

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    Abstract

    Published and unpublished reports about Pseudocheirus occidentalis (Western Ringtail Possum) in the stand of Agonis flexuosa (peppermint trees) at Locke (near Busselton, Western Australia) indicated that it was common in the mid 1960s, rare in the mid 1980s and abundant in the early 1990s. This local decline and recovery occurred against a background of pastoralism from the 1960s to the 1980s, patch fires in the early 1980s and an increase in the abundance of foxes Vulpes vulpes from the 1970a onwards. There are three main hypotheses concerning the decline and recovery:

    • Conditions of localized, high quality browse available in an A. Flexuosa regrowth mosaic after patch fire may encourage a female-biased sex ratio in P. Occidentalis,
    • Predation by V. Vulpes is less likely to have significant impact on P. Occidentalis in habitat with high continuity of canopy,
    • Habitat degradation caused by pastoralism may lead to decline in P. Occidentalis.

    The disturbance processes in the last two hypotheses have little contempory significance for P. Occidentalis populations given the prevailing management emphasis in south-west Western Australia on controlling V. Vulpes and excluding pastoralism from the conservation estate. However, the female-biased sex ratio in response to patch firing could potentially evolve into an important management tool for supporting recruitment in important or small populations of P. Occidentalis.

    Publication Type: Book Chapter
    Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
    Publisher: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
    Publishers Website: http://www.rzsnsw.org.au/
    URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/1323
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