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Foraging activity by the southern brown bandicoot as a mechanism for ecosystem services

Valentine, L., Ruthrof, K., Anderson, H., Bretz, M., Hardy, G. and Fleming, P. (2012) Foraging activity by the southern brown bandicoot as a mechanism for ecosystem services. In: Ecological Society of Australia, Annual Conference, 3 - 7 December, Melbourne, Australia.


Background/question/methods: Mammals that forage for food by biopedturbation can alter the biotic and abiotic characteristics of their habitat, potentially influencing ecosystem structure and function. Bandicoots, bilbies, bettongs and potoroos are the primary digging mammals in Australia, although the majority of these species have declined throughout their range. Our study examined the foraging activity of the southern brown bandicoot, a persisting digging Australian mammal. The amount of soil displaced and physical structure of foraging pits were examined from moulds of fresh foraging pits. We recorded soil water repellency and soil moisture levels along the foraging pit profile and adjacent undug soil. We also examined seedling germination in artificially dug and undug sites.

Results/conclusions: An individual southern brown bandicoot created 45 new foraging pits per night, and could displace approximately 3.4 tonnes of soil each year. Soil water repellency was highest on undug earth, and varied throughout the profile of a foraging pit. Soil moisture was greatest along the slope of the foraging pit. Seedling germination of native species was highest in artificially dug sites compared to undug controls. Southern brown bandicoots can displace substantial amounts of soil and their foraging pits create a microhabitat that facilitates higher germination of native plant species. The digging activities of this species are likely to contribute towards ecosystem processes, and the persistence of bandicoots may play an important role in maintaining the health and function of our woodlands and forests.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Forest and Woodland Health
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