Use of habitat by mammals in eastern Australian forests: are common species important in forest management?
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Chris R. Dickman, Tracey E. Steeves, 2004. "Use of habitat by mammals in eastern Australian forests: are common species important in forest management?", Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna, Daniel Lunney
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Censuses were taken of three common species of small mammals at forest sites in four regions in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Numbers of Agile AntechinusAntechinus agilis were best predicted by indices of abundance of tree hollows and invertebrate food resources, whereas numbers of Brown AntechinusAntechinus stuartii were associated most consistently with tree hollows and then numbers of logs and coexisting Bush RatsRattus fuscipes. Rats were not associated consistently with any single habitat components, but generally favoured sites of high vegetation density with litter or logs providing ground-level cover.Rattus fuscipes was the only species to show a difference in abundance between forest types, being 2.6 times more numerous in tall open-forest than open-forest in one study area. Radio-tracking confirmed that the habitat components most strongly associated with the local abundance ofA. stuartii andR. fuscipes were used as day time shelters by each species.
Because the three study species are common in forest environments in eastern Australia, they are not considered important from perspectives of conservation or management. However, in local areas where common species reach high numbers, they will be more important in controlling energy, nutrient and resource flows than rare species, and are more likely to be involved in interaction webs and co-evolutionary relationships with suites of other species. The tree hollows, logs and other habitat components associated with high local abundances of our common study species are also components required by many less common and threatened species of vertebrates. In view of these observations, we suggest that ‘hot spots’ of common species may act as uniquely important indices of local resource and species richness, and thus of local forest quality. An exciting and profitable line of research would be to compare the performance of a ‘common species index’ with more traditional measures of forest quality such as presence of threatened species, species richness or structure-based indicators.