Grey-headed Flying-foxes in orchards: a collaborative project on damage estimates, contributing factors and mitigation strategies - triumphs and tribulations of flying-fox conservation and management in NSW
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K.L. McClelland, P.J.S. Fleming, P.J. Malcolm, 2011. "Grey-headed Flying-foxes in orchards: a collaborative project on damage estimates, contributing factors and mitigation strategies - triumphs and tribulations of flying-fox conservation and management in NSW", The Biology and Conservation of Australasian Bats, Bradley Law, Peggy Eby, Daniel Lunney, Lindy Lumsden
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The Grey-headed Flying-fox, Pteropus poliocephalus, is listed as a threatened species in NSW, Victoria and nationally. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is a key species in maintaining forest ecosystems through the pollination of native trees and the dispersal of rainforest seeds. This threatened species is unique in that it is also recognised as a horticultural pest, predominantly in coastal orchards of south-eastern Australia. In times of native resource (pollen, nectar and rainforest fruits) shortage, flying-foxes are known to utilise commercial fruit crops. As such, the species is affected by control techniques employed by horticulturists to mitigate flying-fox damage, including shooting and netting.
The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change and the NSW Department of Primary Industries are working collaboratively to investigate flying-fox damage to commercial crops, quantify the levels of flying-fox damage (temporally and spatially), determine the factors contributing to trends in crop damage, and assess the effectiveness of mitigative measures employed by horticulturists to reduce flying-fox damage. The project is funded for two financial years through the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust Strategic Reserve funding and State Government contributions (cash and in-kind), and addresses several recovery actions of the draft National Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox. The project proposal was also strongly supported by the NSW Flying-fox Consultative Committee.
The project commenced in October 2006 and focuses on commercial crops in the western Sydney Basin. To date (May 2007), preliminary evaluations have been conducted, including total yield loss, damaged fruit (including that specifically attributable to flying-foxes and birds), flying-fox crop visitation indices and crop architecture. These parameters will be compared throughout the fruit season across different stone fruit and apple crop types and between netted and unnetted crops to examine spatial and temporal trends. The process of establishing and implementing the collaborative project is discussed, within the framework of flying-fox conservation and management in NSW.