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Habitat utilisation by terrestrial vertebrates in the jarrah forest: investigation into spatial patterns of distribution and abundance at landscape and regional scales.
This research represents an investigation into the factors that influence the distribution and abundance of multiple vertebrate species in the jarrah forest at a microhabitat, landscape and regional scale. This has direct relevance to how fauna, fire and vegetation are managed in the Upper Warren. There are two main aims of this research. Firstly, to conduct a baseline survey of the small-medium terrestrial vertebrate fauna in and outside Perup Sanctuary. Secondly, to investigate how fauna of the jarrah forest respond to habitat. In order to achieve these aims, five objectives have been identified;
1) Identify which small-medium mammal, reptile and amphibian species are present in the Perup area and estimate each species’ abundance
2) Investigate if there is a response to habitat at a community level
3) Investigate if there is a response to habitat at a species level
4) Document habitat use of woylies at a landscape scale
5) Investigate spatial and temporal patterns of the distribution and abundance of woylies at a regional scale and their habitat associations.
The rationale behind these objectives is two-pronged:
Firstly, our knowledge of the ecology of small-medium vertebrate fauna of the south west jarrah forest is limited. The distribution of many species in the jarrah forest is patchy and reasons for this remain unclear. It is a common ecological concept that there is not an even distribution of organisms across the landscape, but rather some areas have disproportionate levels of diversity (Lindenmayer et al. 2009). This could be because some areas of the landscape are more important for certain species as they provide essential resources necessary for the completion of aspects of that species’ life history (Lindenmayer et al. 2009). The identification of these critical habitat characteristics is necessary to improve our understanding of fauna of the jarrah forest.
Secondly, as there are potentially negative impacts on fauna from human driven activities in the jarrah forest (e.g. prescribed burning, logging and Perup Sanctuary construction), responsible management requires knowledge of the ecology of species to act as evidence when developing strategies that will mitigate these threats. This ensures that effective strategies are developed based on the ecology of species and limited resources are utilised appropriately. By identifying important habitat characteristics which support diversity, areas which possess these qualities can become targets for management resources. Applying resources in this way, so that the areas with the highest conservation value (i.e. those which support large levels of diversity) receive greatest attention, will maximise the returns from management actions. Investment into high value areas can benefit a greater number of species than investment in other less critical habitats.
This research aims to provide vital baseline information about the status of small-medium terrestrial vertebrate populations in the Perup area soon after the construction of Perup Sanctuary (PS). This information will be used as a reference to measure future changes in these populations and identify the impact the sanctuary has on fauna. This will inform evidence-based management actions for PS and also other fenced conservation areas. This study will investigate the ecology of small-medium vertebrates in the Perup area, with particular focus on how species are distributed in the landscape. This will substantially improve our knowledge of the ecology of these species but also enable the identification of areas with high levels of diversity where resources should be directed. This study will be the first to calculate a home range estimate for woylies in the Upper Warren region in over three decades (Christensen, 1980) which will provide important information not only in terms of the impact the sanctuary has on woylie ecology, but also information that can be used in the investigation of the recent decline in woylie abundance in the Upper Warren. Finally, this study will conduct a retrospective analysis of the spatial and temporal distribution and abundance of woylie in the Upper Warren which has not previously been attempted.