Hypotheses arising from a population recovery of the Western Ringtail PossumPseudocheirus occidentalis in fire regrowth patches in a stand ofAgonis flexuosa trees in south-western Australia
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Barbara A. Jones, Catherine E. Meathrel, Michael C. Calver, 2004. "Hypotheses arising from a population recovery of the Western Ringtail PossumPseudocheirus occidentalis in fire regrowth patches in a stand ofAgonis flexuosa trees in south-western Australia", Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna, Daniel Lunney
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Published and unpublished reports aboutPseudocheirus occidentalis (Western Ringtail Possum) in the stand ofAgonis flexuosa (peppermint trees) at Locke (near Busselton, Western Australia) indicated that it was common in the mid 1960s, rare in the mid 1980s and abundant in the early 1990s. This local decline and recovery occurred against a background of pastoralism from the 1960s to the 1980s, patch fires in the early 1980s and an increase in the abundance of introduced foxesVulpes vulpes from the 1970s onwards. There are three main hypotheses concerning the decline and recovery:
• conditions of localized, high quality browse available in anA. flexuosa regrowth mosaic after patch fire may encourage a female-biased sex ratio inP. occidentalis,
• predation byV. vulpes is less likely to have a significant impact onP. occidentalis in habitat with high continuity of the canopy,
• habitat degradation caused by pastoralism may lead to decline inP. occidentalis.
The disturbance processes in the last two hypotheses have little contemporary significance forP. occidentalis populations given the prevailing management emphasis in south-west Western Australia on controllingV. vulpes and excluding pastoralism from the conservation estate. However, the female-biased sex ratio in response to patch firing could potentially evolve into an important management tool for supporting recruitment in important or small populations ofP. occidentalis.