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

Distance from cover affects artificial food-patch depletion by macropod herbivores

Geoffrey M. While A and Clare McArthur B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Production Forestry, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Tas. 7001, Australia.

B School of Biological Sciences, Heydon-Laurence Building (A08), University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: claremc@usyd.edu.au

Wildlife Research 33(7) 565-570 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR05063
Submitted: 6 July 2005  Accepted: 28 August 2006   Published: 15 November 2006

Abstract

Artificial food patches were used to examine whether red bellied-pademelons (Thylogale billiardierii) and Bennett’s wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus) altered their foraging behaviour in an open habitat (a young plantation) in response to distance from cover, used as a surrogate for predation risk. Analyses using the full dataset showed no significant relationship between the amount of food eaten at a station and any of the cover variables. In contrast, regression analyses of the upper bounds dataset indicated that both increased distance from windrow (2.5-m-high stacks of burnt wood) and from nearest cover (windrow or forest at plantation edge) significantly reduced the amount of food consumed at a station. This indicates that distance from cover acts as a constraint on the amount of food eaten. When the feeding-station data were overlayed onto a map of scat densities across the study site, the amount of food eaten was positively related to the density of scats of both red-bellied pademelons and Bennett’s wallabies. Our results demonstrate that these macropods trade-off increased foraging benefits in order to forage closer to protective cover. Furthermore, they represent the first time that artificial food patches, with progressively decreasing reward per search effort, have been used to assess foraging behaviour in macropods. This opens up a wide range of research opportunities aimed at examining macropod foraging, with both ecological and practical applications.


Acknowledgments

We thank Forestry Tasmania for use of the plantation at Russell (RU006), Dr Werner Hennecke for assistance with the GIS analysis, and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.


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