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Biodiversity

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms including the different plants, animals and micro organisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystems they form. It is usually considered at three different levels: ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity.

The biodiversity of the Central Tablelands contributes significantly to the economy providing a basis for agricultural production such as foods, fibre, fertilisers and other chemicals, genetic material and even some medical materials. These are 'direct values' of biodiversity. The biodiversity in the region supports maintenance of essential ecosystem services such as the water cycle and provision of clean air. These are 'indirect values' of maintaining a biologically diverse and healthy region.

In addition, the biodiversity of the Central Tablelands has an unquantifiable 'future value'. This could be for uses of species or genetic diversity yet to be discovered. As social values change, what is not valued today might be highly valued in the future. It is with this in mind that we recognise the importance of maintaining the biodiversity assets for future generations.

Project - Movement of ground-dwelling fauna through fragmented agricultural landscapes

Conducted by: Nicole Hansen and Katherina Ng, PhD scholars, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, ACT.

Overview

The project commenced in 2014.  It is a landscape-scale project being run in the Lachlan catchment to study the movement of ground-dwelling fauna in fragmented temperate woodland landscapes.

The project primarily targets reptiles, amphibians, small mammals (Nicole) as well as ground invertebrates, namely beetles, spiders and ants (Kat).

To maintain biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, millions of dollars are expended annually on habitat restoration and corridor establishment. However, the effectiveness of these expensive conservation actions hinges on unconfirmed assumptions about how animals move through these landscapes. With growing pressure to increase agricultural production, it is a national priority to discover the connectivity and habitat needs of fauna in these complex and changing human-natural systems. Our project aims to significantly advance ecological concepts about the matrix (non-habitat areas) by examining what type of changes in the matrix can promote or limit animal movement and if we can manipulate the matrix to encourage movement.

Movement patterns, abundance and survivorship of targeted fauna are examined using transects extending from remnant native vegetation patches into four contrasting matrix treatments (recently planted native vegetation, added course woody mulch, rested from cropping or pasture, cropped). By understanding how matrix structure and quality affects movement and diversity, findings from this project will discover whether recently planted corridors can improve connectivity, or whether temporary changes in the matrix, such as fallowing or applying woody mulch, can promote movement without taking land out of production. Our findings would inform land-use planning, policy development, restoration and stewardship payments that help maintain an ecologically sustainable agricultural sector while reducing isolation of preferred habitats.

Funding providers

This project is supported by Central Tablelands LLS through funding from the Australian Government. Funding has also been provided from Central West LLS for equipment and technical assistance. Project resources and additional operational costs have been supported by the Lake Cowal Foundation, and Mount Mulga Pastoral Company.

The project is supervised by Prof Don Driscoll (Deakin Uni), Prof David Lindenmayer (ANU), Dr Milton Lewis, Mr Angus Arnott (Central Tablelands LLS), Dr Sarina Macfadyen and Dr Sue McIntyre (CSIRO).

More information

Nicole Hansen

Phone: 02 6125 6777