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Does forest restoration in fragmented landscapes provide habitat for a wide-ranging carnivore?

McGregor, R.A., Stokes, V.L. and Craig, M.D. (2014) Does forest restoration in fragmented landscapes provide habitat for a wide-ranging carnivore? Animal Conservation, 17 (5). pp. 467-475.

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The loss of suitable macro- and microhabitats can negatively affect an animal's ability to persist in an area, ultimately leading to range contractions. The western quoll Dasyurus geoffroii is a wide-ranging Australian carnivore that has suffered a catastrophic range contraction since European settlement, partly due to landscape fragmentation. Bauxite mining in the jarrah forest of south-western Australia, where western quoll currently persist, disturbs and fragments large areas, potentially reducing habitat available to quolls. We examined macro- and microhabitat use by western quolls in fragmented landscapes containing remnants of unmined jarrah forest and bauxite mine restoration to determine the impacts of this fragmentation on its ecology. Specifically, we aimed to identify the microhabitats required by western quoll for denning and movement and if post-mining restored forests provided these microhabitats. Quolls used restoration of varying ages for denning. They were adaptable in den substrates used, selecting subterranean burrows associated with surface rocks in restoration where preferred substrates used in unmined forest (hollow logs and stumps) were less available. Logs were also an important microhabitat used by quolls to traverse through unmined forest and we recommend more logs are restored post-mining. Our results suggest that post-mining restoration provides a permeable matrix for western quolls, and individuals quickly re-colonize restored areas and use available habitat, particularly for denning. Important microhabitats such as logs, stumps and large hollow-bearing trees are relatively sparse in restored forest. Our study does not explicitly consider the potential effects of this on quoll survival and demography so further studies of breeding success and long-term survival across multiple generations of quoll are recommended. We concluded that forest restoration can be an important strategy in managing fragmented landscapes for wide-ranging species by providing pathways for movement, habitat for re-colonization and improved landscape connectivity for these species.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Copyright: © 2014 The Zoological Society of London
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