Small mammal community composition in relation to cattle grazing and associated burning in eucalypt forests of the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales
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Elizabeth M. Tasker, Christopher R. Dickman, 2004. "Small mammal community composition in relation to cattle grazing and associated burning in eucalypt forests of the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales", Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna, Daniel Lunney
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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.