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Ecological study of the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) in the southern forests of south west WA
Focusing on the southern forests and associated ecosystems, this project will first investigate the reliability, repeatability, precision and utility of the current abundance estimate methodology for quokkas to determine the most cost effective and quantitative technique(s) for population abundance estimation. Having done so, further research will focus on the fundamental ecological requirements and factors affecting the distribution and abundance of quokkas at the landscape scale, habitat selection and movement patterns at both a local and landscape scale and the effect of fire on the species in the southern forest. This project will produce innovative knowledge on basic information that is critical to the conservation and management of quokkas in the southern forest.
While there has been considerable research into the ecology of the quokka population on Rottnest Island and some work completed for the northern jarrah forest population, no documented research has been undertaken on quokkas in the southern forests.
Quokkas in the southern forest are potentially at risk from a number of processes including predation by the red fox and feral cat, habitat destruction by feral pigs, inappropriate fire regimes and timber harvesting. Landscape structure and greater habitat connectivity in the southern forest suggest that quokkas in the southern forest are more likely to move between habitat patches in a functioning meta-population. If this is the case, then the southern forest population of quokkas is likely to be important in terms of genetic diversity and resilience to disturbances and demographic fluctuations. It is important that the southern forest habitat is managed appropriately and this is very difficult in the absence of relevant ecological information.