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Managing small remnants of native forest to increase biodiversity within plantation landscapes in the south west of Western Australia

Archibald, R.D., Craig, M.D, Bialkowski, K., Howe, C, Burgess, T.I.ORCID: 0000-0002-7962-219X and Hardy, G.E.St.J. (2011) Managing small remnants of native forest to increase biodiversity within plantation landscapes in the south west of Western Australia. Forest Ecology and Management, 261 (7). pp. 1254-1264.

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Recent expansion of industrial-scale plantations into agricultural areas in Australia has the potential to assist biodiversity conservation by rehabilitating ecosystems at the landscape scale and reducing edge effects, isolation and disturbance within remnants of native vegetation. However, the efficient management of remnants for biodiversity within a plantation estate requires knowledge of both the causes and the consequences of remnant degradation. With this in mind, we examined key ecosystem features and processes relating to soil chemistry, decomposition, native tree health and regeneration and vertebrate abundance, within small forest remnants (1-4. ha) embedded within Eucalyptus globulus plantations in south west Western Australia. Soil nutrient enrichment was significantly associated with a scale of vegetation modification in order from: (1) intact forest, (2) remnants with native understorey (UDN), (3) remnants with exotic understorey (UDE), (4) plantation and (5) pasture. We propose that, in this region, UDE remnants will often remain in a degraded state even after plantation establishment and the cessation of stock grazing. This is due, in part, to more rapid rates of nutrient turnover sustaining higher nutrient availability in the soil following the replacement of ligneous understorey plants with annual ones. Cotton strips placed in surface soils were often disintegrated in UDE remnants and largely intact in UDN remnants, indicating that decomposition was accelerated in the former. Continued tree decline and regeneration failure within UDE remnants will also reinforce the UDE condition. There was less canopy seed set and little or no seedling establishment in UDE remnants compared to UDN remnants. Therefore, management interventions to assist native tree regeneration in UDE remnants are needed. Fauna trapping highlighted the desirability of retaining, and preferably restoring, small remnants in plantations. Small native mammals were found exclusively in remnants and fewer introduced Mus musculus were present in UDN remnants. Higher numbers of native lizards were found in UDN remnants, but this result was not significant (marginally).

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Forest and Woodland Health
School of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
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