Spatial ecology of the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) in the southern forests of Western Australia: Implications for the maintenance, or restoration, of functional metapopulations

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Abstract

We used radio-telemetry to investigate the home-range size and movement patterns of the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) in the southern forests of Western Australia to assess the ability of animals to move between increasingly segregated habitat patches and to identify implications for metapopulation function. We found that quokkas in this region have a much larger home range (71 ± 5.8 ha) and move larger distances (up to 10 km per night) than previously reported for this species in other regions. Temporal and sex variations in home-range size, overlap and movement patterns provided insights into the social structure, reproductive strategies and resource availability for the species in this part of its range. Quokkas moved up to 14 km between habitat patches, where these patches were connected by dense riparian vegetation. While riparian vegetation was used exclusively for movement between habitat patches, quokkas spent only 40% of their time in this ecotype. The current management paradigm of protecting linear riparian vegetation as habitat for quokkas is important for maintaining habitat connectivity, but is unlikely to meet broader habitat and spatial requirements. Management of preferred habitat as well as riparian corridors is necessary for the maintenance of a functional metapopulation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Mammalogy
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jun 2019

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