This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.
Predators and genetic fitness: key threatening factors for the conservation of a bettong species.
Globally, many wildlife species are declining and an increasing number are threatened by extinction or are extinct. Active management is generally required to mitigate these trends and population viability analysis (PVA) enables different scenarios to be evaluated and informs management decisions. Based on population parameters obtained from a threatened bettong, the woylie (Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi), we developed and validated a PVA model. We identified the demographic and genetic responses to different threatening factors and developed a general framework that would facilitate similar work in other bettong species. The two main threatening processes are predation by introduced animals and its interaction with reduced fitness (for example due to inbreeding depression). Although predation alone can drive a decline in certain circumstances (e.g. when predation success is independent from population density), synergistically, predation and reduced fitness (which can be caused by inbreeding depression stress, or a disease) can be particularly relevant, especially for small populations. The minimum viable population size was estimated at 1 000-2 000 individuals. In addition, the models identified that research into age-specific mortality rates and predation rates by introduced animals should be the focus of future work. The PVA model created here provides a basis to investigate threatening processes and management strategies in woylie populations and other extant bettong species, given the ecological and physiological similarities amongst these threatened species.
PC17002 Accepted 05 February 2017
© CSIRO 2017