Underestimated and severe : small mammal decline from the forests of south-eastern Australia since European settlement, as revealed by a top-order predator

Bilney, Rohan J., Cooke, Raylene and White, John G. 2010, Underestimated and severe : small mammal decline from the forests of south-eastern Australia since European settlement, as revealed by a top-order predator, Biological conservation, vol. 143, no. 1, pp. 52-59.

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Title Underestimated and severe : small mammal decline from the forests of south-eastern Australia since European settlement, as revealed by a top-order predator
Author(s) Bilney, Rohan J.
Cooke, Raylene
White, John G.
Journal name Biological conservation
Volume number 143
Issue number 1
Start page 52
End page 59
Total pages 8
Publisher Elsevier B.V.
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication date 2010-01-01
ISSN 0006-3207
1873-2917
Keyword(s) tyto tenebricosa
predator
mammal decline
South-eastern Australia
sub-fossils
Summary In Australia, numerous small mammal species have suffered extinction or severe declines in distribution and abundance following European settlement. The extent of these declines from forested areas of south-eastern Australia, however, remains poorly understood. In this paper we use sub-fossil deposits of the sooty owl (Tyto tenebricosa tenebricosa) as a tool for understanding the diversity of the small mammal palaeocommunity. These results are compared to the contemporary sooty owl diet from the same geographical region to investigate the degree of small mammal decline following European settlement. Of 28 mammal species detected in sub-fossil deposits and considered prey items of the sooty owl at the time of European settlement, only 10 species were detected in the contemporary sooty owl diet. Numerous small mammal species have not only recently suffered severe declines in distribution and abundance but have also recently undergone niche contraction, as they occupied a greater diversity of regions and habitats at the time of European settlement. For some species our understanding of their true ecological niche and ecological potential is therefore limited. The species that underwent the greatest declines occupied open habitat types or were terrestrial. The severity of decline is also likely to have resulted in severe disruption of ecosystem functions, with wide scale ecosystem consequences. There is an urgent need to improve small mammal conservation, to maintain crucial ecosystem functions performed by small mammals. It is recommended that broad-scale exotic predator control programs are conducted which may also provide suitable conditions for the re-introduction of locally extinct species.


Language eng
Field of Research 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
Socio Economic Objective 960505 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Forest and Woodlands Environments
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
HERDC collection year 2010
Copyright notice ©2009, Elsevier Ltd.
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30031485

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