Relationship between the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) tree decline in Western Australia

Hannah Anderson, Leonie E. Valentine, Giles E.St J. Hardy, Patricia A. Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Forest canopy loss due to plant pathogens, insect or abiotic factors significantly alters habitat and resource availability for animals, which has flow-on effects for whole ecosystems. The tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) has been in decline throughout its geographic range this is likely associated with watertable and salinity changes, although a plant pathogen (Phytophthora multivora) has also been implicated. We examined the relative abundance of common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) across 12 sites (each 0.72 ha) selected on the basis of the health of dominant tuart trees (six 'healthy' and six 'declining' sites). Habitat variables (understorey, tuart dimensions and density, tree hollows, tree-to-trap distance) and tuart tree health (crown loss, epicormic regrowth) were compared with possum abundance. Possums were detected at most sites. There was no significant difference between brushtail possum numbers at 'healthy' or 'declining' sites, although marginally more possums were recorded at declining sites (5.7 ± 1.5 (s.e.), n = 6 sites) compared with healthy sites (3.3 ± 0.7 Cohen's effect size d = 0.80). Slightly higher abundance of possums was associated with sites that had a greater density of smaller-diameter but taller tuart trees. 'Declining' sites, with more epicormic regrowth and greater tree densities, may provide more palatable food resources for possums.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Mammalogy
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jul 2019

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Trichosurus vulpecula
Western Australia
Eucalyptus
regrowth
plant pathogens
pathogen
habitat availability
tree cavities
resource availability
forest canopy
Phytophthora
understory
possums
habitats
relative abundance
tree crown
insect
traps
salinity
food

Cite this

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title = "Relationship between the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) tree decline in Western Australia",
abstract = "Forest canopy loss due to plant pathogens, insect or abiotic factors significantly alters habitat and resource availability for animals, which has flow-on effects for whole ecosystems. The tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) has been in decline throughout its geographic range this is likely associated with watertable and salinity changes, although a plant pathogen (Phytophthora multivora) has also been implicated. We examined the relative abundance of common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) across 12 sites (each 0.72 ha) selected on the basis of the health of dominant tuart trees (six 'healthy' and six 'declining' sites). Habitat variables (understorey, tuart dimensions and density, tree hollows, tree-to-trap distance) and tuart tree health (crown loss, epicormic regrowth) were compared with possum abundance. Possums were detected at most sites. There was no significant difference between brushtail possum numbers at 'healthy' or 'declining' sites, although marginally more possums were recorded at declining sites (5.7 ± 1.5 (s.e.), n = 6 sites) compared with healthy sites (3.3 ± 0.7 Cohen's effect size d = 0.80). Slightly higher abundance of possums was associated with sites that had a greater density of smaller-diameter but taller tuart trees. 'Declining' sites, with more epicormic regrowth and greater tree densities, may provide more palatable food resources for possums.",
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author = "Hannah Anderson and Valentine, {Leonie E.} and Hardy, {Giles E.St J.} and Fleming, {Patricia A.}",
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month = "7",
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Relationship between the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) tree decline in Western Australia. / Anderson, Hannah; Valentine, Leonie E.; Hardy, Giles E.St J.; Fleming, Patricia A.

In: Australian Mammalogy, 03.07.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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N2 - Forest canopy loss due to plant pathogens, insect or abiotic factors significantly alters habitat and resource availability for animals, which has flow-on effects for whole ecosystems. The tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) has been in decline throughout its geographic range this is likely associated with watertable and salinity changes, although a plant pathogen (Phytophthora multivora) has also been implicated. We examined the relative abundance of common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) across 12 sites (each 0.72 ha) selected on the basis of the health of dominant tuart trees (six 'healthy' and six 'declining' sites). Habitat variables (understorey, tuart dimensions and density, tree hollows, tree-to-trap distance) and tuart tree health (crown loss, epicormic regrowth) were compared with possum abundance. Possums were detected at most sites. There was no significant difference between brushtail possum numbers at 'healthy' or 'declining' sites, although marginally more possums were recorded at declining sites (5.7 ± 1.5 (s.e.), n = 6 sites) compared with healthy sites (3.3 ± 0.7 Cohen's effect size d = 0.80). Slightly higher abundance of possums was associated with sites that had a greater density of smaller-diameter but taller tuart trees. 'Declining' sites, with more epicormic regrowth and greater tree densities, may provide more palatable food resources for possums.

AB - Forest canopy loss due to plant pathogens, insect or abiotic factors significantly alters habitat and resource availability for animals, which has flow-on effects for whole ecosystems. The tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) has been in decline throughout its geographic range this is likely associated with watertable and salinity changes, although a plant pathogen (Phytophthora multivora) has also been implicated. We examined the relative abundance of common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) across 12 sites (each 0.72 ha) selected on the basis of the health of dominant tuart trees (six 'healthy' and six 'declining' sites). Habitat variables (understorey, tuart dimensions and density, tree hollows, tree-to-trap distance) and tuart tree health (crown loss, epicormic regrowth) were compared with possum abundance. Possums were detected at most sites. There was no significant difference between brushtail possum numbers at 'healthy' or 'declining' sites, although marginally more possums were recorded at declining sites (5.7 ± 1.5 (s.e.), n = 6 sites) compared with healthy sites (3.3 ± 0.7 Cohen's effect size d = 0.80). Slightly higher abundance of possums was associated with sites that had a greater density of smaller-diameter but taller tuart trees. 'Declining' sites, with more epicormic regrowth and greater tree densities, may provide more palatable food resources for possums.

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