How do we conserve the squirrel glider in Brisbane's urban matrix?
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Forested habitat has been extensively cleared in south-east Queensland. We used the Alex computer program to conduct a preliminary population viability analysis (PVA) for squirrel glidersPetaurus norfolcensis living in a set of habitat fragments, embedded in an urban matrix in Brisbane. Our basic aim was to guide management to ensure the long-term persistence of the squirrel glider in this region. Corridors linking the fragments in our study area are poorly vegetated and many are cut by arterial roads. Five remnants that we believe define the likely limit of glider dispersal (the glider metapopulation), had an unacceptably high probability of glider extinction after 100 years. When catastrophes such as wildlfire of modest frequency (1 in 20 years) were included, the probability of extinction increased. It appears that large nearby remnants must be functionally linked to the metapopulation to ensure long-term persistence. This may require some novel approaches to habitat restoration to achieve. The habitat quality of all connecting corridors must be enhanced to reduce mortality during dispersal. Edge effects such as tree die-back are also likely to reduce the available cover of habitat over time and will need to be managed. Our review of the life history of the squirrel glider has highlighted how poor our understanding is of most components that form important inputs to a PVA. The significance of this was evident by increasing annual mortality above the approximate values used. This led to a marked increase in the probability of metapopulation extinction, suggesting predictions should be viewed with caution. Further detailed field studies are needed to refine the use of PVA for the squirrel glider.