This study investigated associations between the relative abundance of the threatened ngwayir (western ringtail possum, Pseudocheirus occidentalis ) and anthropogenic disturbances at local and landscape scales within the publicly-managed jarrah ( Eucalyptus marginata ) forests of south-western Australia. Logging, fire, fox ( Vulpes vulpes ) control and forest fragmentation were investigated in relation to the relative abundance of ngwayir at 90 sites within an area of 285,000 ha east of Manjimup; the location of the last remaining substantial population of ngwayir in jarrah forest. Overall, ngwayir abundance was greatest in areas with limited anthropogenic disturbance. At the local-scale, ngwayir abundance was negatively associated with greater fire intensity. At the landscape-scale, it was positively associated with fox control and negatively associated with forest fragmentation and distance from non-remnant vegetation (i.e., agriculture and tree plantations). Abundance was also greatest in predominantly unlogged landscapes and in forests that had been regrowing for an average of 40 years since the landscape was most recently logged, in other words, where logging was historically least intense. Interactions between fox control efforts and forest fragmentation were also important. This study emphasises the importance of conducting research at appropriate spatial scales and to account for the synergistic effects of the causes of decline. An adaptive management approach to the mitigation of the agents of decline is recommended. Indirect evidence indicates that high value habitat for ngwayir has in all likelihood been selectively cleared for agriculture, owing to its fertile and productive nature. Habitat loss is, therefore, also likely to be a major cause of the modern decline of the species. While many jarrah forest areas that support remaining high abundances of the ngwayir have been incorporated into reserves, conservation of ngwayir habitat and populations outside reserves also will be essential for the recovery and long-term viability of the species.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2006
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