Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Characteristics of mammal communities in Tasmanian forests: exploring the influence of forest type and disturbance history

Erin M. Flynn A B E , Susan M. Jones A , Menna E. Jones A , Gregory J. Jordan B D and Sarah A. Munks A B C

A School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

B Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 12, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

C Forest Practices Authority, 30 Patrick Street, Hobart, Tas. 7000, Australia.

D School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 55, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: Erin.Flynn@utas.edu.au

Wildlife Research 38(1) 13-29 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR10025
Submitted: 13 February 2010  Accepted: 17 September 2010   Published: 15 March 2011

Abstract

Context: With increasing pressure worldwide on forest habitat, it is crucial to understand faunal ecology to effectively manage and minimise impacts of anthropogenic habitat disturbance.

Aims: This study assessed whether differences in forest type and disturbance history were reflected in small to medium mammal communities found in Tasmania’s production forests.

Methods: Trapping was conducted in spring and summer, and autumn and winter during 2007–08 at four dry Eucalyptus forest sites (two regenerating after harvest and two in relatively undisturbed forest) in south-east Tasmania, and four wet Eucalyptus forest sites (two regenerating after harvest and two in relatively undisturbed forest) in north-east Tasmania. All sites were embedded within a matrix of mature or older aged regenerating forest.

Key results: Thirteen mammal species were recorded across all sites. There was no difference in species diversity or richness between forest type or disturbance regime, but species composition differed. Total number of individual animals and captures was influenced strongly by forest type and disturbance history, with most animals captured in the dry disturbed forest sites. Abundance of some species (e.g. bettongs and potoroos) was higher in disturbed sites than undisturbed sites. Brushtail possum numbers (adults and offspring), however, were lower in disturbed sites and populations displayed a male biased adult sex ratio and lower breeding frequency. Habitat structural complexity and vegetation diversity within core sites, and age structure of the forest in the surrounding landscape did not vary significantly, indicating that broad resource (food and refuge) availability was equivalent across sites.

Conclusions: In general, the small to medium mammals in this study did not appear to be significantly affected by forest harvesting in the medium term.

Implications: Although past harvesting altered the abundance of some habitat features (e.g. canopy cover, basal area of trees, and tree hollow availability), we suggest that the availability of such features in the surrounding landscape may mitigate the potential effects of disturbance on the species for which such habitat features are important.


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