PhD Candidate, James Cook University
My research investigates how ground level disturbance impacts even tree dwelling reptiles
Grazing by livestock is a major land use practice throughout the world - in fact, in Australia for example, rangelands (56% by land area) outweigh land set aside for wildlife conservation (6%) (national parks, wildlife management areas) by about 9 fold. In many regions, rangelands still support a huge body of wildlife, especially if trees are not removed. Many of these areas can be used for livestock grazing AND wildlife management, if eco-friendly grazing practices are used. We can greatly increase the land area used to house and protect wildlife if we can incorporate rangelands as conservation areas.
Abstract: Large mammalian grazers can alter the biotic and abiotic features of their environment through their impacts on vegetation. Grazing at moderate intensity has been recommended for biodiversity conservation. Few studies, however, have empirically tested the benefits of moderate grazing intensity in systems dominated by native grazers. Here we investigated the relationship between (1) density of native eastern grey kangaroos, Macropus giganteus, and grass structure, and (2) grass structure and reptiles (i.e. abundance, richness, diversity and occurrence) across 18 grassland and grassy Eucalyptus woodland properties in south-eastern Australia. There was a strong negative relationship between kangaroo density and grass structure after controlling for tree canopy cover. We therefore used grass structure as a surrogate for grazing intensity. Changes in grazing intensity (i.e. grass structure) significantly affected reptile abundance, reptile species richness, reptile species diversity, and the occurrence of several ground-dwelling reptiles. Reptile abundance, species richness and diversity were highest where grazing intensity was low. Importantly, no species of reptile was more likely to occur at high grazing intensities. Legless lizards (Delma impar, D. inornata) were more likely to be detected in areas subject to moderate grazing intensity, whereas one species (Hemiergis talbingoensis) was less likely to be detected in areas subject to intense grazing and three species (Menetia greyii, Morethia boulengeri, and Lampropholis delicata) did not appear to be affected by grazing intensity. Our data indicate that to maximize reptile abundance, species richness, species diversity, and occurrence of several individual species of reptile, managers will need to subject different areas of the landscape to moderate and low grazing intensities and limit the occurrence and extent of high grazing.
Pub.: 17 Dec '14, Pinned: 28 Jul '17
Abstract: Many ecological theories are based on the concept of patches. Patches are a useful starting point for conservation efforts, but a focus on patches alone will not always achieve desired conservation outcomes. Conservation strategies in the grazing landscapes of southeastern Australia suggest that large patches of trees are widely regarded as ‘habitat’ while other forms of habitat are largely ignored. We provide data on birds and reptiles from the Nanangroe grazing landscape that illustrate the potential habitat value of areas located between large patches of trees – that is, the matrix. Despite evidence on its potential value, present conservation strategies rarely consider the matrix. Possible reasons for this bias relate to the economics of farming and the history of land use, the current environmental law framework, and also the reluctance of ecologists to study the matrix. More scientific evidence on the role of the matrix will be crucial if conservation strategies are to consider not only patches, but entire landscapes. However, for science to be relevant to land management, there is a need for new research approaches. First, an increased consideration of environmental policy and law will increase the likelihood of scientific findings being adopted by policy makers. Second, at an applied level, more practical on-ground research into farming practices and clearer communication are necessary to achieve more sustainable matrix management in Australian grazing landscapes.
Pub.: 01 Mar '05, Pinned: 28 Jul '17
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