Build it and some may come: early stage habitat restoration may initially favour herbivore return

Sophie Cross, Sean Tomlinson, Michael Craig, Philip Bateman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Rates of habitat destruction are increasing globally, and recent years have seen a growing focus on returning lands degraded through anthropogenic activities to functional and sustainable ecosystems. Animals provide a range of services critical to healthy ecosystems, yet in assessments of restoration progress they are often assumed to return passively following the reinstatement of native flora and vegetation. Aims and methods: We used remote sensing camera traps to assess the impact of early stage habitat restoration on the structure and diversity of fauna communities on a mine site in the Mid West region of Western Australia. We aimed to assess whether early stage habitat restoration supports animal communities with similar diversity and community structure (foraging guilds) to those found in reference, unmined vegetation. Key results: Although early stage habitat restoration facilitated the establishment of animal communities with similar diversity to that of the reference vegetation; the foraging guilds using restoration vegetation differed significantly from those in the reference vegetation. Early stage restoration was particularly attractive to herbivores but may lack some key resources, for example leaf litter, course woody debris, and appropriate refuge sites, necessary for the return of granivores, insectivores, and omnivores. Conclusions and implications: It is unlikely that early stage habitat restoration will support a similar species composition to established restoration, but it is crucial to monitor restoration along a trajectory to ensure efforts do not ultimately fail. Assessing the responses of fauna from a range of guilds and trophic levels is critical to determining whether habitat restoration is effectively returning functional and self-sustaining animal communities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPacific Conservation Biology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022


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