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Top-down control of species distributions: Feral cats driving the regional extinction of a threatened rodent in northern Australia

Davies, Hugh F., Mccarthy, Michael A., Firth, Ronald S.C., Woinarski, John C.Z., Gillespie, Graeme R., Andersen, Alan N., Geyle, Hayley M., Nicholson, Emily and Murphy, Brett P. 2016, Top-down control of species distributions: Feral cats driving the regional extinction of a threatened rodent in northern Australia, Diversity and distributions, In Press, pp. 1-12, doi: 10.1111/ddi.12522.

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Title Top-down control of species distributions: Feral cats driving the regional extinction of a threatened rodent in northern Australia
Author(s) Davies, Hugh F.
Mccarthy, Michael A.
Firth, Ronald S.C.
Woinarski, John C.Z.
Gillespie, Graeme R.
Andersen, Alan N.
Geyle, Hayley M.
Nicholson, EmilyORCID iD for Nicholson, Emily orcid.org/0000-0003-2199-3446
Murphy, Brett P.
Journal name Diversity and distributions
Season In Press
Start page 1
End page 12
Total pages 12
Publisher Wiley
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2016-12-28
ISSN 1366-9516
1472-4642
Keyword(s) Australia
Conilurus penicillatus
distribution
extinction
feral cats
predation
Summary To investigate whether feral cats influence the distribution of Australia's largest remnant population of the threatened brush-tailed rabbit-rat Conilurus penicillatus and examine whether they influenced the extinction probability of C. penicillatus over a 15-year period (2000-2015). Location: Melville Island, northern Australia. Methods: In 2015, small mammal surveys were conducted at 88 sites across Melville Island, 86 of which had previously been surveyed in 2000-2002. We used single-season occupancy models to investigate correlates of the current distribution of C. penicillatus and dynamic occupancy models to investigate correlates of C. penicillatus local extinction. Results: Our results show that C. penicillatus, which once occurred more widely across the island, is now restricted to parts of the island where feral cats are rarely detected and shrub density is high. Our results suggest that feral cats are driving C. penicillatus towards extinction on Melville Island, and hence have likely been a significant driver in the decline of this species in northern Australia more broadly. The impact of feral cats appears to be mitigated by vegetation structure. Main conclusions: The ongoing development and implementation of methods to effectively reduce feral cat densities, coupled with the management of landscape processes to maintain shrub density, through fire management and the removal of large exotic herbivores, will contribute substantially to conserving this threatened species. This study demonstrates that the distribution of species can be strongly influenced by top-down factors such as predation, thereby highlighting the importance of including biotic interactions when investigating the distribution of predation-susceptible species.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/ddi.12522
Field of Research 050103 Invasive Species Ecology
050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
05 Environmental Sciences
06 Biological Sciences
Socio Economic Objective 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2016, Wiley
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30090710

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: School of Life and Environmental Sciences
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