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Biodiversity conservation in urban gardens – Pets and garden design influence activity of a vulnerable digging mammal

Kristancic, A.R., Kuehs, J., Richardson, B.B., Baudains, C.ORCID: 0000-0001-8340-864X, Hardy, G.E.St.J. and Fleming, P.A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0626-3851 (2022) Biodiversity conservation in urban gardens – Pets and garden design influence activity of a vulnerable digging mammal. Landscape and Urban Planning, 225 . Art. 104464.

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Residential gardens can provide essential opportunities for native wildlife and represent a valuable way of creating new habitats. Bandicoots (marsupial family Peramelidae) are medium-sized digging mammals that play a valuable role in maintaining ecosystem health; retaining these important ecosystem engineers across urban landscapes, including in private gardens, can have enormous conservation benefits. Urbanisation is a significant threat for some bandicoot species, and therefore understanding the factors associated with their activity can help guide urban landscape and garden design. To identify key features associated with the activity of a local endemic bandicoot species, the quenda (Isoodon fusciventer), we carried out a camera trap survey of front and back yards for 65 residential properties in the City of Mandurah, Western Australia. We compared quenda activity with biotic and abiotic factors that could indicate potential predation risk (activity of domestic dogs Canis familiaris and cats Felis catus, and the presence of artificial or natural protective cover), food availability (including deliberate or inadvertent supplementary feeding, provision of water, and diggable surfaces) and garden accessibility (distance to bushland, permeability of boundary fencing, and garden position). Supplementary feeding was strongly associated with quenda activity. Quenda were also more active in back yards, and in gardens where there was greater vegetation cover. Of concern, quenda activity was positively associated with cat activity, which could reflect that straying pet cats are attracted to gardens that harbour wildlife populations, including quenda. Furthermore, almost half of the gardens showed cat activity despite only a small sample of the surveyed residents owning a pet cat. Results of this study can help guide the design of residential gardens to increase useful habitat for these important digging mammals. Vegetation, wood mulch and semi-permeable fencing can provide valuable resources needed to support the persistence of quendas across the rapidly changing urban landscape mosaic, where natural and managed (e.g., gardens and parks) green spaces are becoming less common and more isolated.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2022 Elsevier B.V.
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