Temporal patterns in the abundance of a critically endangered marsupial relates to disturbance by roads and agriculture

Georgina J. Yeatman, A.F. Wayne, H.R. Mills, Jane Prince

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    © 2016 Yeatman et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.The aim of this study was to investigate how landscape disturbance associated with roads, agriculture and forestry influenced temporal patterns in woylie (Bettongia penicillata) abundance before, during and after periods of rapid population change. Data were collected from an area of approximately 140,000 ha of forest within the Upper Warren region in south-western Australia. Woylie abundance was measured using cage trapping at 22 grid and five transect locations with varying degrees of landscape disturbance between 1994 and 2012. We found evidence that the distribution and abundance of woylies over time appears to be related to the degree of fragmentation by roads and proximity to agriculture. Sites furthest from agriculture supported a greater abundance of woylies and had slower rates of population decline. Sites with fewer roads had a greater abundance of woylies generally and a greater rate of increase in abundance after the implementation of invasive predator control. The results of this study suggest that landscape disturbance is less important at peak population densities, but during times of environmental and population change, sites less dissected by roads and agriculture better support woylie populations. This may be due to the role these factors play in increasing the vulnerability of woylies to introduced predators, population fragmentation, weed species invasion, mortality from road collisions or a reduction in available habitat. Strategies that reduce the impact of disturbance on woylie populations could include the rationalisation of forest tracks and consolidation of contiguous habitat through the acquisition of private property. Reducing the impact of disturbance in the Upper Warren region could improve the resilience of this critically important woylie population during future environmental change.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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