Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The characteristics of squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) den trees in subtropical Australia

Georgia L. Beyer A , Ross L. Goldingay A C and David J. Sharpe A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University,

B PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: ross.goldingay@scu.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 56(1) 13-21 https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO08053
Submitted: 10 August 2007  Accepted: 8 April 2008   Published: 29 July 2008

Abstract

Effective management of tree-hollow-dependent wildlife requires a sound knowledge of the characteristics of the trees used for shelter or breeding. We used radio-tracking to identify the den trees of squirrel gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis) in south-east Queensland (Qld) and north-east New South Wales (NSW). Squirrel gliders used dead trees as well as 13 species of living tree for dens across the two locations. Dead trees accounted for a large percentage of dens (54% of 48 dens in Qld, and 50% of 18 dens in NSW) despite comprising only 3–10% of the forest (trees >20 cm diameter at breast height (dbh)) at each location. This preference is largely due to dead trees being more likely to contain hollows, accounting for 26–44% of available hollow-bearing trees. Mean den tree size (dbh) was 48.9 ± 2.4 cm in Qld and 62.8 ± 5.6 cm in NSW. Den entrance height averaged 6.8 ± 1.2 m in Qld and 11.9 ± 1.3 m in NSW. Fissures in the trunk and holes in branches were the most common of six hollow types used. At one location branch end hollows were ignored relative to their availability. Den entrances varied in size (2.5–12 cm wide) but most were ≤5 cm in diameter. Entrance size of hollows appears to be the hollow attribute of most importance to squirrel gliders. Monitoring of these den trees over several years revealed the collapse of three dead den trees at each location, which is equivalent to an annual loss of 3% of den trees. Further research is needed to determine whether this will lead to a future shortage of den trees.


Acknowledgements

We thank Brisbane City Council, particularly Stacey McLean, for supporting our field studies in Brisbane. Matt Dobson and Antony von Chrismar are thanked for assistance with field work. This study was conducted under approvals from the Southern Cross University animal ethics committee. The comments of two referees helped improve the manuscript.


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