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Habitat management

A few large roads or many small ones? How to accommodate growth in vehicle numbers to minimise impacts on wildlife

Rhodes, JR, Lunney, D, Callaghan, J & McAlpine, CA 2014, PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 3, e91093.

This study determined how koala mortality rates would be impacted by either increasing traffic volume on existing roads, or increasing the density of the road network in Port Stephens, New South Wales. This was done using simulation models of koala movement in combination with a model of the risk of mortality when crossing a road. The authors found that the effect of increased road network density on koala mortality was higher than the effect of increased traffic density on existing roads, although both effects caused the mortality of koalas to rise. The only time that increased traffic volume had a higher impact on koala mortality than increased road density was when road density was extremely low and traffic density was extremely high.

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Conservation conflicts over burning bush in south-eastern Australia

Morrison, DA, Buckney, RT, Bewick, BJ, & Cary, GJ 1996, Biological Conservation, vol. 76, pp. 167-175.

In fire-prone regions of south-eastern Australia, nature reserves and national park managers face conflicts between fire management practices for fire hazard reduction and biodiversity preservation.  Accumulation of fuel load can reach a level that is sufficient to result in severe fires as little as two years after low-intensity fires in sclerophyll forests.  At the same time, in order to preserve woodland and shrubland communities’ species composition and structure, an inter-fire interval period of at least seven years is required. The conflicting requirements for achieving these management objectives raise serious concerns.

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Cutting the carnage: wildlife usage of road culverts in north-eastern New South Wales

Taylor, BD, & Goldingay, RL 2003, Wildlife Research, vol. 30, pp. 529-537.

Culverts may allow animals to move safely between two habitats that have been separated by a road or other linear infrastructure.  Culverts installed along the Brunswick Heads section of the Pacific Highway in New South Wales provide safe passage for local wildlife, most frequently wallabies, bandicoots and rodents.  Surveys also detected the use of culverts by arboreal mammals such as koalas and possums.  In contrast, frogs and reptiles experience less benefit from culverts than other animals as exclusion fencing is ineffective for funnelling small-bodied animals into the culvert.  Additionally, vegetation structure in and around culverts seems to influence whether or not an animal uses a culvert structure.

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Daylight saving time can decrease the frequency of wildlife-vehicle collisions

Ellis, WA, FitzGibbon, SI, Barth, BJ, Niehaus, AC, David, GK, Taylor, BD, Matsushige, H, Melzer, A, Bercovitch, FB, Carrick, F, Jones, DN, Dexter, C, Gillett, A, Predavec, M, Lunney, D & Wilson, RS 2016, Biology Letters, vol. 12, 20160632.

This study explores the benefits of implementing daylight saving time (DST) in Queensland to alter the timing of commuter traffic relative to nocturnal animal movement. Wild koalas in southeast Queensland were tracked and road crossings monitored then applied to a mathematical model. The model showed that DST could decrease collision rates by 8% on weekdays and 11% on weekends.

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Designing food and habitat trees for urban koalas: tree height, foliage palatability and clonal propagation of Eucalyptus kabiana

Truman, SJ, McMahon, TV, Grant, EL, Walton, DA, Theilemann, PH, McKinnon, AJ & Wallace, HM 2017, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, vol. 27, pp. 196-202.

Common koala food trees, such as Eucalyptus tereticornis, E. camaldulensis and Corymbia intermedia, are unsuited for planting in urban areas as they are extremely tall and are regarded by many as hazardous.  Eucalyptus kabiana, a threatened eucalypt species found naturally only on the Glasshouse Mountains, are much shorter trees.  They are highly amenable to vegetative propagation and their foliage is palatable to koalas, highlighting the species’ great potential as food and habitat trees that can create movement corridors for koalas in urban settings.

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Designing food and habitat trees for urban koalas: identifying short ecotypes of Corymbia intermedia

Trueman, SJ, McMahon, TV, Grant, EL, Walton, DA, Elliott, BB & Wallace, HM 2017, Australian Journal of Botany, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 384-388.

A short variety of a preferred koala food tree, Corymbia intermedia or ‘pink bloodwood’, may provide suitable food and shelter for koalas in urban and peri-urban areas where taller eucalypts present unacceptable risks to people and infrastructure.

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Development and field validation of a regional, management-scale habitat model: A koala Phascolarctos cinereus case study

Law, B, Caccamo, G, Roe, P, Truskinger, A, Brassil, T, Gonaslves, L, McConville, A & Stanton, M 2017, Ecology and Evolution, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 7475-7489.

Predictive habitat suitability modelling based on environmental predictor variables can accurately identify areas of koala occupancy. Using the koala as a case study, the value of regional-level distribution modelling as a tool for conservation and land management in relation to threatened, rare or cryptic species is demonstrated.

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Establishing a Eucalyptus plantation for koala food

O’Callaghan, P 1995, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

To be self-sufficient in providing food for koalas, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary established two plantation sites in 1988 and 1989. From a process of trial and error, plantation managers developed principles for best practice in establishing, maintaining and utilising Eucalyptus plantations.

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Improving habitat models and their utility in koala conservation

Cork, SJ, Hume, ID & Foley, WJ 2000, Conservation Biology, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 660-668.

Conservation efforts and decision-making for the protection of koalas are often dependent on sufficient koala habitat models, which identify geographic distributions of the species and show changes in habitat use in response to different variables over time. A review of models showed that there is a need to improve the accuracy and authority of such models for meaningful use in the decision-making process.

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Incorporating habitat mapping into practical koala conservation on private lands

Lunney, D, Matthews, A, Moon, C & Ferrier, S 2000, Conservation Biology, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 669-680.

Incorporating community and field surveys, this study mapped koala habitat in the Coffs Harbour shire at the scale required by planning authorities, with a focus on identifying remnant habitat on private land. Community survey respondents reported a total of 3309 koala sightings. Faecal pellet and field surveys were carried out at 119 sites, 37 (31%) of which had been used by koalas.

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Is there an inherent conflict in managing wildfire for people and conservation?  
Bentley, PD, & Penman, TD, 2017, International Journal of Wildland Fire, vol. 26, pp.455-468.  
 
  Wildfire poses threats to both biodiversity and humans.  Management of fire faces the dilemma of whether to prioritise focus on humans or wildlife.  The current study developed a fire simulation model to investigate how both objectives can be achieved, and found that increased burning treatment area helps reduced fire extent and burn probability, though with increased monetary cost.  

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Koalas continue to occupy their previous home-ranges after selective logging in Callitris-Eucalyptus forest

Kavanagh, RP, Stanton, MA, & Brassil, TE 2007, Wildlife Research, vol. 34, pp- 94-107.

Tree logging is one of the many processes that contribute to habitat loss for a variety of arboreal marsupials; however, sensitivity to logging may vary amongst different species. Koalas, for instance, do not require old trees for breeding or nesting as other arboreal marsupials do, but require certain tree species for food. The authors of this study investigated how selective logging affects the koalas in the Pilliga forests in north-western New South Wales, and found that tree preferences, home range sizes, home range overlap between individuals, movements, fidelity, fecundity and mortality of the koalas did not differ between logged and unlogged sites. These results suggest that selective logging does not necessarily adversely impact the conservation of koalas in the Pilliga forests.

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Modeling Species’ Distributions to Improve Conservation in Semiurban Landscapes: Koala Case Study

Rhodes, JR, Wiegand, T, McAlpine, CA, Callaghan, J, Lunney, D, Bowen, M & Possingham, HP 2006, Conservation Biology, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 449-459.

Logistic regression models can be used to show the distribution of koalas in response to the quality of natural habitat and anthropogenic impacts, and consequently to predict changes in populations in response to these variables over time. Here, this modelling approach in combination with distribution mapping techniques showed that natural habitat availability was the most important factor determining koala presence; however, anthropogenic impacts are an increasing threat to the existence of koalas in some areas, particularly at a local scale. 

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Potential 'ecological traps' of restored landscapes: koalas Phascolarctos cinereus re-occupy a rehabilitated mine site

Cristescu, RH, Banks, PB, Carrick, FN & Frère, C 2013, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 11, e80469.

The restoration of previously disturbed landscapes can provide suitable habitat for fauna.  On North Stradbroke Island, koalas recolonised areas that were previously disturbed by mining activity in as little as six years post-rehabilitation.  Rehabilitated sites possessed similar, if not better, vegetation quality and quantity to that of undisturbed areas.  Most importantly, the fitness and reproductive output of the koalas residing within these rehabilitated areas were no different to those inhabiting undisturbed sites.

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Prioritizing regions to conserve a specialist folivore: considering probability of occurrence, food resources, and climate change

Adams-Hosking, C, McAlpine, CA, Rhodes, JR, Moss, PT & Grantham, HS 2015, Conservation Letters, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 162-170.

This study identified the implications of a changing climate for koala populations across eastern Australia, predicting changes in distribution for both the koala and its preferred food trees. Such information is integral in informing conservation decisions; in particular, the recognition of priority areas for planning efforts. Under a ‘business as usual’ climate model, priority areas for conservation were shown to shift significantly, in most cases outside of the species’ existing range.

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Targeted field testing of wildlife road-crossing structures: koalas and canopy rope-bridges

Goldingay, RL & Taylor, BD 2017, Australian Mammalogy, vol. 39, pp. 100-104.

Wildlife road-crossing structures aim to provide safe passage for wildlife movement and dispersal.  A three-year targeted field test of canopy rope-bridges revealed that koalas did not utilise these structures to move between trees, instead travelling along the ground.

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Tree use by koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) after fire in remnant coastal forest

Matthews, A, Lunney, D, Gresser, S & Maitz, W 2007, Wildlife Research, vol. 34, pp. 84-93.

Resource depletion as a result of wildfire has a short-term impact on koala populations in remnant forests.  The present study revealed that koala populations at Port Stephens in New South Wales returned to utilising burnt trees shortly after intense wildfires that occurred in 1994, and some koalas were even observed using burnt trees exclusively.  Furthermore, the authors noticed differences in the preferences and uses of tree species between the sexes, breeding and non-breeding females, day time and night time, as well as between seasons.

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