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The small mammal fauna of cattle-grazed and moderately frequently-burnt forest areas was compared with that of ungrazed forest using systematic replicated live-trapping over 18 months at 12 sites in north-eastern New South Wales. Nine species of small mammals were captured during the study. There was no difference in species richness or diversity of small mammals between grazed/burnt and ungrazed sites, but species composition did differ. The fawn-footed melomysMelomys cervinipes was found only at ungrazed sites, all of which were characterised by a dense, complex shrub understorey. In contrast, the New Holland mousePseudomys novaehollandiae, Hastings River mouseP. oralis, and common dunnartSminthopsis murina were found only at the grazed and frequently-burnt sites, which typically had an open, grassy and floristically diverse understorey. The abundance of small mammals was much higher in the ungrazed sites, due to extremely high numbers of the brown antechinusAntechinus stuartii and bush ratRattus fuscipes in most ungrazed sites. The abundances ofA. stuartii, R. fuscipes andM. cervinipes were highly correlated with overall vegetation complexity. Manipulation of cattle grazing, and more particularly fire regimes, offers a powerful tool for influencing the composition of small mammal communities, but one that must be carefully managed.

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References

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Bennett, A. F., 1993. Microhabitat use by the long-nosed potoroo, Potorous tridactylus, and other small mammals in remnant forest vegetation of south-western Victoria. Wildlife Research 20: 267-285.
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Braithwaite, R. W., 1995. Brown Antechinus. Pp. 94-97 in The Mammals of Australia, edited by R. Strahan. Reed Books, Sydney.
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Catling, P. C. and Coops, N. C., 1999. Prediction of the distribution and abundance of small mammals in the eucalypt forests of south-eastern Australia from airborne videography. Wildlife Research 26: 641-650.
Catling, P. C., Coops, N. C. and Burt, R. J., 2001. The distribution and abundance of ground-dwelling mammals in relation to time since wildfire and vegetation structure in south-eastern Australia. Wildlife Research 28: 555-564.
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Dickman, C. R., 1992. Predation and habitat shift in the house mouse, Mus domesticus. Ecology 73: 313-322.
Dickman, C. R. and Steeves, T. E., 2004. Use of habitat by mammals in eastern Australian forests: are common species important for forest management? Pp. 761-73 in Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna (2nd edition), edited by D. Lunney. Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.
Dickman, C. R. and Woodside, D. P., 1983. A test of a competition model with reference to three species of small mammals in south-eastern Australia. Oecologia 63: 127-134.
Elton, C., 1939. On the nature of cover. Journal of Wildlife Management 3: 332-338.
Elton, C. and Miller, R., 1954. The ecological survey of animal communities: with a practical system of classifying habitats by structural characters. Journal of Ecology 42: 460-496.
Finke, D. L. and Denno, R. F., 2002. Intraguild predation diminished in complex-structured vegetation: Implications for prey suppression. Ecology 83: 643-652.
Fletcher, H. L., 1977 Habitat Relationships Among Small Mammals at Petroi, North-eastern NSW. M. Nat. Res. Thesis, University of New England, Armidale.
Forestry Commission of NSW, 1993 Environmental Impact Statement: Kempsey/Wauchope Management Areas Volume 1 - Report., Sydney.
Forestry Commission of NSW 1995 Walcha-Nundle/Styx River Management Areas Environmental Impact Statement. State Forests of NSW, Pennant Hills.
Fox, B. J., 1982. Fire and mammalian secondary succession in an Australian coastal heath. Ecology 63: 1332-1341.
Fox, B. J., 1984. Small scale patchiness and its influence on our perception of animal species' habitat requirements. Pp. 162-178 in Survey Methods for Nature Conservation, edited by K. Myers, C. R. Margules and I. Musto. CSIRO, Canberra.
Fox, B. J., 1995. Common Dunnart. Pp. 150-151 in The Mammals of Australia, edited by R. Strahan. Reed Books, Sydney.
Fox, B. J. and Fox, M. D., 1978. Recolonization of coastal heath by Pseudomys novaehollandiae (Muridae) following sand mining. Australian Journal of Ecology 3: 447-465.
Fox, B. J. and Fox, M. D., 1984. Small-mammal recolonization of open-forest following sand mining. Australian Journal of Ecology 9: 241-252.
Fox, B. J. and McKay, G. M., 1981. Small mammal responses to pyric successional changes in eucalypt forest. Australian Journal of Ecology 6: 29-41.
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