Habitat refuge research

Some environments and ecosystems provide disproportionately more resources and habitat than others. Where these areas support productive breeding populations (i.e. well-above replacement of parents), they're known as source habitat – areas from which animals can then disperse and colonise other places.

Carp electro fishing on the Murrumbidgee RiverPeter Saunders puts carp on ice as part of pilot project on carp control at Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Other parts of the landscape provide refuge for plants and animals during times of drought, flood, fire or other extreme events. It's important to know where such refuge habitat exists and to manage it carefully.

Knowing where species may retreat or shift to under climate change becomes increasingly important for combating biodiversity loss and species decline. That’s why ecological research and conservation activities (such as fencing, weed and feral animal control) need to be coordinated to identify, monitor and better protect refuge and source habitat that's so important to the survival of our native species. In addition, identifying areas where feral animals congregate during wet or dry times may increase effectiveness of controls.

More than 20% of Australia’s remaining 386 land mammal species are threatened with extinction

This research asks:

  • What are the important refuges (drought, fire, climate change) for plants and animals and where do they occur?
  • How can we use remote-sensed data to find, define and monitor source areas and refuges?
  • How can we use refuges to increase the effectiveness of land management activities?

Case study: Critical requirements for Macquarie Perch recovery

Carp electro fishing on the Murrumbidgee River

Electro fishing for carp control at Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

A research project conducted by PhD candidate Prue McGuffie from the University of Canberra, and supported by Bush Heritage, seeks to identify spawning habitat and areas critical to survival for a nationally endangered fish, the Macquarie Perch.

Prue is working in the upper Murrumbidgee River, adjacent to Scottsdale Reserve (75km south of Canberra). A network of submerged listening stations installed along stretches of the river track daily and seasonal movement and habitat use of fish implanted with acoustic tags.

Tagged fish are also used to locate spawning areas, which will then be used to study the processes (e.g. flow, water conditions) affecting spawning, recruitment and juvenile growth.

A sister project is using the same acoustic listening network to further investigate the threat posed by common carp to the survival of endangered native fish, such as Macquarie Perch. The project is the first to track carp in an upland river system in NSW, and will determine seasonal migration patterns, population structure and interaction of carp with native species.

Bush Heritage and NSW fisheries experts will use the data to determine the best carp removal and control options to safeguard native fish in the upper Murrumbidgee River.

Key projects

Boom-bust dynamics in the arid zone

Chris Dickman with a sandy inland mouse. Photo: Aaron Greenville.

Chris Dickman with a sandy inland mouse. Photo: Aaron Greenville.

Long-term research led by Prof. Chris Dickman and Assoc. Prof. Glenda Wardle from the University of Sydney (USyd) to understand the influence of climate variability and species interactions on ecosystem functioning and resource use on Ethabuka and Cravens Peak reserves.

Response of arid-zone fauna to a flood-induced resource pulse

Bush Heritage-led research examining the response of fish, waterbirds and small mammals in the Mulligan River catchments to the once-in-a-generation floods of 2010 and 2011.

Ecology of Great Artesian Basin endemic invertebrates

University of Queensland (UQ) PhD candidate, Renee Rossini is studying the environmental factors that influence the presence and abundance of the unique invertebrate fauna that inhabit springs on Edgbaston Reserve.

Managing for biodiversity in boom and bust cycle environments

Bush Heritage sponsored PhD candidate, Justin McCann from University of New South Wales (UNSW) is commencing a project on Naree Station Reserve to understand the importance of river flows, the effects of introduced grazing species on riparian systems and the importance of Back Creek Swamp and Yantabulla wetland for waterbird populations.

Resource partitioning in honey possums and western pygmy possums

University of Western Australia (UWA) Honours student, Bianca Theyer, will look at critical habitat requirements of these species in the Fitz-Stirling section of Gondwana Link.

Charles Darwin Reserve Climate Change Observatory

Partnership with the Conservation Council of Western Australia, led by Nic Dunlop, to study the long-term impacts of climate change on several ecological indicators at this important climate transition zone.

Greater Glider in tall forest red gum, Yourka Reserve, Qld. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.

Greater Glider in tall forest red gum, Yourka Reserve, Qld. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.

Mapping rainforest patches in the northern Kimberley

University of Tasmania (UTAS) PhD candidate, Stefania Ondei is mapping the distribution of rainforest patches on Wunambal Gaambera land using remote sensing, historic aerial photo analysis, and ground assessment.

Regional occurrence and distribution of arboreal mammals in the Einasleigh Uplands

Mammal ecologist, John Winter is surveying possums and gliders on Yourka Reserve as part of a regional study on population trends and distribution.

Macquarie perch – critical requirements for recovery

University of Canberra PhD candidate, Prue McGuffie, is studying the micro-habitat requirements, recruitment biology and the influence of flow on a threatened native fish, Macquarie perch, in the Murrumbidgee River, adjacent to Scottsdale Reserve in NSW.

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