Interspecific competition and conservation management of continuous subtropical woodlands

Howes, Alison L. and Maron, Martine (2009) Interspecific competition and conservation management of continuous subtropical woodlands. Wildlife Research, 36 (7). pp. 617-626. ISSN 1035-3712


Large reserves have potential to provide important refugia for fragmentation-sensitive species as they lack many aspects of habitat degradation associated with fragmented regions. However, large reserves often have a history of deleterious management practices that may affect the restoration of biological diversity. One significant symptom of habitat fragmentation and disturbance in Australia is the increased occurrence of the aggressive noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala). In Queensland, however, even large continuous areas of woodland appear to be dominated by the noisy miner.
Aims. We examined the severity of this phenomenon by identifying the interactions between habitat structure, noisy miner abundance and avian assemblages in a private and a public conservation reserve in central Queensland. We investigated potential constraints on restoration of avian diversity including: (1) how changes in habitat structure as a result of grazing by feral animals and burning regimes affect bird assemblages; and (2) how the noisy miner impacts on avian assemblages in these unfragmented woodlands.
Methods. Bird surveys and habitat assessments were conducted in 49 sites on three separate occasions. Fire history and intensity of grazing pressure were determined for each site with direct and indirect observations. Sampling for lerp from insects of the family Psyllidae was also undertaken during the survey periods. A Bayesian model averaging (BMA) approach was used to model avian response to each of the habitat variables.
Key results. The noisy miner dominated most of the study area, reducing small passerine abundance and species richness. Noisy miners were advantaged where shrub cover was low and feral grazing impacts were evident. Disturbance factors including recent wildfire and heavy grazing strongly reduced small passerine bird richness and abundance. Conclusions. Reducing the abundance of this 'reverse keystone' species requires control of feral herbivore populations and modification of fire regimes to achieve a mosaic including patches with a dense shrub layer.
Implications. Deleterious interactions with competitive native species, such as noisy miners, are obstacles to bird conservation not only in fragmented landscapes but also in large, continuous woodland areas. Land managers of protected areas need to be aware of shifts in interactions among native species driven by habitat disturbance, which may ultimately affect conservation outcomes.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © CSIRO 2009. Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - USQ Other
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - USQ Other
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2011 02:18
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2014 01:44
Uncontrolled Keywords: avian diversity; Bayesian model averaging; brigalow belt; ecological restoration; feral grazing; fire regimes; manorina melanocephala; private conservation reserves
Fields of Research (2008): 05 Environmental Sciences > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050103 Invasive Species Ecology
06 Biological Sciences > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410202 Biosecurity science and invasive species ecology
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310308 Terrestrial ecology
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960404 Control of Animal Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Forest and Woodlands Environments
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