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The impact of the decline of an iconic West Australian eucalyptus tree species, the tuart, on birds

Wentzel, J.J., Hardy, G.E.St.J., Barber, P., Craig, M. and Fleming, P.A. (2009) The impact of the decline of an iconic West Australian eucalyptus tree species, the tuart, on birds. In: 2nd European Congress of Conservation Biology Conservation biology and beyond: from science to practice, 1 - 5 September, Prague.

Abstract

Tree declines are a global phenomenon, yet little research has been conducted into the impact of tree decline on fauna. In Western Australia, clearing has reduced the tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) to less than a third of its former range and remaining trees are heavily impacted by decline of unknown cause. The disappearance of this iconic tree and subsequent impact on fauna, is a source of grave concern. We investigated the effect of tuart decline on birds by conducting species counts for 24 woodland sites dominated by tuart in various stages of decline. The presence of bird species was compared against habitat parameters: vegetation composition and structure, litter characteristics, and indices of tuart health including the extent of branch dieback, epicormic development and crown condition. Some bird nesting and feeding guilds, particularly hollow-nesters and understorey insect gleaners appear to benefit from tuart decline, possibly due to the greater diversification of resources in declining sites. Several species apparently benefiting from tuart decline are common generalists or open country species; however, increased avian diversity associated with declining sites should not be interpreted as a conservation gain, as specialist species may be detrimentally affected with major ecological consequences.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Conference Website: http://www.eccb2009.org/index.php
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/6901
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