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Habitat preferences and the effect of habitat reduction on the quenda (Isoodon fusciventer) in an urban environment

Watson, Nicholas (2018) Habitat preferences and the effect of habitat reduction on the quenda (Isoodon fusciventer) in an urban environment. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

Habitat loss has been a large contributing factor in the decline in abundance of many fauna species in Australia. Ground-dwelling mammals are particularly susceptible to this threat and with the increase in urbanisation, there is a pressing need to conserve species that remain in these environments. The quenda (Isoodon fusciventer) is one of the remaining native mammals that persists in the metropolitan area of Western Australia. With the quenda’s recent upgrade to species level, existing information on this species is often extrapolated from eastern sub-species of the southern brown bandicoot. The metapopulation at Murdoch University has declined over recent years and the lack of research on the quenda inhibits conservation efforts.

This thesis studies the habitat preferences of the quenda population at Murdoch University and monitors the effect of vegetation removal, from fire mitigation that is currently ongoing on campus, on quenda activity. It was predicted that the vegetation removal from fire mitigation would have a negative impact on quenda activity. Also of interest was trialling different GPS attachment positions to achieve the longest consistent attachment time when using adhesive. To address these aims, a combination of camera trapping, GPS tracking and quenda diggings were used to determine micro and macrohabitat preferences of quenda. Two sites were targeted for vegetation clearing and camera traps were used to determine any change in quenda activity. Three other sites were monitored as a control.

The study found that at the microhabitat scale, quendas avoided grass, litter and canopy cover. At the macrohabitat scale, quendas preferred shrub cover with higher levels of vegetation density from 48 to 144 cm. Foraging occurred closer to grass trees and in denser vegetated areas. A decrease in quenda activity was observed in areas that experienced vegetation clearing from fire mitigation with the control areas showing an increase in activity. GPS tag positioning showed to have a small influence on attachment time with only the upper back showing a significant increase compared to the mid-flank position.

The findings suggest that dense vegetation and grass trees are vital for the quendas at Murdoch University and is similar to that of other bandicoots from the same genus. Careful management is crucial during fire mitigation to ensure that there is adequate suitable habitat during this process and into the future.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: Harry Butler Institute
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
United Nations SDGs: Goal 15: Life on Land
Supervisor(s): Bryant, Kate
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/43141
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