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The impact of dieback caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi on the abundance of mardo (Antechinus flavipes) in the jarrah forest of Western Australia

Armistead , R.J., Garkaklis, M. and Hardy, G.E.St.J. (2004) The impact of dieback caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi on the abundance of mardo (Antechinus flavipes) in the jarrah forest of Western Australia. In: 50th Australian Mammal Society Meeting, 5 - 8 July, Tanunda, South Australia.

Abstract

The introduced soil-borne plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi is a cause of plant death, known as dieback, which has resulted in widespread habitat destruction and fragmentation in the jarrah forest of Western Australia, The pathogen kills many native plant species throughout a wide range of habitat types in south-west of Western Australia. In areas favourable to the pathogen, plant death is quickly followed by altered vegetation structure and floristic diversity. Furthermore, many of the plant species killed by P. cinnamomi provide nesting sites, refuge, foraging and nutrient resources to small mammal communities. The importance of vegetation structure and habitat that provides nesting and nutrients to small mammals is well known in eastern Australia. However, no detailed studies have examined the potential effects of this pathogen on native mammals in Western Australia. In this study the abundance and ecology of the commonly occurring mardo, Antechinus flavipes was assessed in highly disturbed diseased, and disease-free areas. A significant (X2 value of 11.07, d.f.=5, p<0.05) difference mardo abundance was observed between each area. Sixty-eight individual mardos were captured, 50 of these were in the disease-free areas and only 18 on the diseased areas. The number of captures also varied between areas, with 221 captures in the disease-free sites and 61 in the diseased areas. These results suggest that plant death caused by P. cinnamomi has a detrimental affect on the abundance of the mardo. These results are alarming and give strong evidence of how this pathogen can cause severe, localised declines in mammal abundance.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Notes: Poster presentation
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/7153
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