The Carpentarian rock-rat (Zyzomys palatalis) is a critically endangered endemic rodent known from only four sandstone gorges in the southeast Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory, Australia. These gorges harbour thickets of monsoon rainforest and broadleaf woodland, surrounded by a Eucalypt savanna matrix. The long-term persistence of Z. palatalis is threatened by altered fire regimes, grazing by feral animals and stock, weed intrusion, and the stochastic hazards associated with small, fragmented populations. To assess the relative importance of these threats and develop practical management options, a population and habitat simulation model was developed, based on the best existing data. Population viability was predicted to be highly sensitive to the frequency of hot, late dry-season fires. Progressive habitat degradation (due predominantly to intense late dry-season fires) is likely to substantially reduce population size and lead to the probable extinction of the species within the next 100 years. The most effective management strategy to counteract this threat would be regular, controlled, fuel reduction burns in the vegetation around the gorge entrances during the early dry season. Establishing a new population (through translocation of captive-bred individuals) would not appreciably reduce extinction risk, but could provide valuable additional data on the impact of threats, if conducted as an adaptive management experiment.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Aug 1, 2002
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