Category Archives: Comic Strip

Invasive shrub re-establishment following management has contrasting effects on biodiversity

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Effective control of an invasive species is frequently used to infer positive outcomes for the broader ecosystem. In many situations, whether the removal of an invasive plant is of net benefit to biodiversity is poorly assessed. We undertook a 10-year study on the effects of invasive shrub management (bitou bush, Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata) on native flora and fauna in a eucalypt forest in south-eastern Australia. Bitou bush eradication is a management priority, yet the optimal control regime (combination of herbicide spray and fire) is difficult to implement, meaning managed sites have complex management histories that vary in effectiveness of control. Here we test the long-term response of common biodiversity indicators (species richness, abundance and diversity of native plants, birds, herpetofauna and small mammals) to both the management, and the post-management status of bitou bush (% cover). While average bitou bush cover decreased with management, bitou bush consistently occurred at around half of our managed sites despite control efforts. The relationship between biodiversity and bitou bush cover following management differed from positive, neutral or negative among species groups and indicators. Native plant cover was lower under higher levels of bitou bush cover, but the abundance of birds and small mammals were positively related to bitou bush cover. Evidence suggests that the successful control of an invader may not necessarily result in beneficial outcomes for all components of biodiversity.

For the actual science of this story, you should definitely read the paper and contact the authors if you have any questions.

Understanding predator densities for successful co‐existence of alien predators and threatened prey

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The high failure rate of threatened species translocations has prompted many managers to fence areas to protect wildlife from introduced predators. However, conservation fencing is expensive, restrictive and exacerbates prey naïveté reducing the chance of future co‐existence between native prey and introduced predators. Here, we ask whether two globally threatened mammal species protected in fenced reserves, with a history of predation‐driven decline and reintroduction failure, could co‐exist with introduced predators. We defined co‐existence as population persistence for at least 3 years and successful recruitment. We manipulated the density of feral cats within a large fenced paddock and measured the impact on abundance and reproduction of 353 reintroduced burrowing bettongs and 47 greater bilbies over 3 years. We increased cat densities from 0.038 to 0.46 per square km and both threatened species survived, reproduced and increased their population size. However, a previous reintroduction trial of 66 bettongs into the same paddock found one red fox (Vulpes vulpes), at a density of 0.027 per square km, drove the bettong population extinct within 12 months. Our results show that different predator species vary in their impact and that despite a history of reintroduction failure, threatened mammal species can co‐exist with low densities of feral cats. There may be a threshold density below which it is possible to maintain unfenced populations of reintroduced marsupials. Understanding the numerical relationships between population densities of introduced predators and threatened species is urgently needed if these species are to be re‐established at landscape scales. Such knowledge will enable a priori assessment of the risk of reintroduction failure thereby increasing the likelihood of reintroduction success and reducing the financial and ethical cost of failed translocations.

For the actual science of this story, you should definitely read the paper and contact the authors if you have any questions.

The impact of cattle grazing regimes on tropical savanna bird assemblages

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Globally, agricultural land use is implicated in the decline of avifauna. In rangelands (areas used for livestock grazing), bird community responses to grazing can be complex, species‐specific and scale dependent. A greater understanding of bird responses to grazing will lead to more meaningful management recommendations. Continue reading The impact of cattle grazing regimes on tropical savanna bird assemblages

Predicting invasion risk of 16 species of eucalypts using a risk assessment protocol developed for Brazil

 

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Risk analyses are predictive systems designed to detect the risk of invasion by non‐native species. Although eucalypts are often considered moderately invasive given the extent of cultivation on a global scale, some species are widely recognized as invasive for transforming and impacting natural areas in several countries. Continue reading Predicting invasion risk of 16 species of eucalypts using a risk assessment protocol developed for Brazil

Responses of invasive predators and native prey to a prescribed forest fire

Fire shapes biome distribution and community composition worldwide, and is extensively used as a management tool in flammable landscapes. There is growing concern, however, that fire could increase the vulnerability of native fauna to invasive predators. Continue reading Responses of invasive predators and native prey to a prescribed forest fire

BREAKING NEWS! Small birds indifferent to miner cull

Most Australian species have been significantly disadvantaged by the massive losses of habitat that has occurred over the last 200 years of colonisation. This includes many of our native birds. However, some native species have actually flourished in this altered landscape, increasing in abundance and influence. This includes the notorious Yellow-throated Miner.  Continue reading BREAKING NEWS! Small birds indifferent to miner cull

Fire. Warming. Fire. Warming…. SHRUBS!

Everyone enjoys a little walk around the Australian Alps. It’s pretty amazing up there. Sphagnum bogs, snowgums, grasslands and heathy veg are scattered across the rolling hills. But it’s the top of these hills that climate change is going to hit the hardest.  Continue reading Fire. Warming. Fire. Warming…. SHRUBS!

Coroner points the finger over recent extinctions

The death of a person is usually followed up with an investigation. People generally want to know the what, when, where and how the death happened. This is particularly important when the death is untimely or suspicious. People are really keen to find out who was responsible or at fault….and of course dish out some punishment. What about when an entire species dies?  Continue reading Coroner points the finger over recent extinctions