Deakin University

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Patterns of decline of small mammal assemblages in vegetation communities of coastal south-east Australia: Identification of habitat refuges

journal contribution
posted on 2023-10-23, 02:33 authored by Barbara WilsonBarbara Wilson, M J Garkaklis

Since European settlement Australian native mammals have experienced significant extinctions and severe declines in the range and abundance of populations. Longitudinal studies are required to identify declines and activate timely management. Population studies of native small mammal communities were conducted across the eastern Otway Ranges during 1975–2007; however, their subsequent status was unknown. We aimed to: compare the current occurrence and abundance of species and communities (2013–18) to those in previous decades across major vegetation communities (heathy woodland, low forest, sand heathland, headland scrub, coastal dunes and estuarine wetland), and identify change characteristics and management priorities. Live trapping was employed to assess mammals at 30 sites across seven vegetation communities. In total, 67% of sites exhibited large to severe decreases in abundance and only 3% of sites had more than four species compared to 27% in earlier decades. Declines occurred following wildfire and drought, with drivers likely to be multifactorial. While regional declines were significant, higher mammal abundance (two- to six-fold) and native species richness were recorded at coastal dune sites, indicating that this community provides important mammal refuges. Identification of refuges across the landscape and their protection from inappropriate fire and predators should be management priorities.



Australian Mammalogy




203 - 220


Melbourne, Vic.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal