Koalas use young Eucalyptus plantations in an agricultural landscape on the Liverpool Plains, New South Wales
By Rodney P. Kavanagh and Matthew A. Stanton
Dr Rod Kavanagh was Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Forest Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 100, Beecroft, NSW 2119, Australia. He is now Principal Research Ecologist with Niche Environment and Heritage, PO Box W36, Parramatta, NSW 2150 (Email: ) and Visiting Fellow at the Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra.
Matthew Stanton was Ecologist at the Forest Science Centre, NSW Department of Primary Industries, and is now Sustainability Officer with The Hills Shire Council, PO Box 75, Castle Hill, NSW, 1765, Australia. This study was part of a broader program looking at the role of eucalypt plantations in restoring habitat for wildlife in agricultural landscapes.
Revegetation within cleared farming landscapes offers the potential to restore habitat for many woodland dependent species that have declined since European settlement. Most species of arboreal marsupials require hollows for breeding and diurnal shelter, a resource that is usually available only in old trees; however, this constraint does not apply to the Koala. In this study, we describe the occupancy and use of young (4- to 7-year old) eucalypt plantations by Koalas in a predominantly cleared landscape used for intensive cropping and grazing. We compare Koala occupancy in 27 eucalypt plantations, 5 paddocks and 11 remnant forest and woodland sites, and we report the relative usage of these three land cover types by two adult male Koalas that were radio-tracked for 5 and 7 months using GPS transmitters. Koalas were recorded using young eucalypt plantations at 7 sites and remnant forest and woodland at 7 sites. Both radio-collared Koalas used eucalypt plantations more than expected based on the availability of this land cover type in their home-ranges. Occupancy of young eucalypt plantations and remnant patches by Koalas was strongly influenced by the proximity of these sites to remnant vegetation.