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Flinders University of South Australia (2017)

Conservation ecology of Slater’s skink (Liopholis slateri) in central Australia

Treilibs Claire Elsa

Titre : Conservation ecology of Slater’s skink (Liopholis slateri) in central Australia

Auteur : Treilibs Claire Elsa

Université de soutenance : Flinders University of South Australia

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2017

Résumé partiel
The varied habitats of arid Australia have a diverse and specialised fauna that have evolved a range of life history strategies to persist in this arid environment. Desert river floodplain habitats are geomorphologically distinctive from their non-mesic counterparts. For surface-dwelling animals in these floodplain habitats, persistence is a trade-off between the advantages of relatively abundant food resources and the costs of episodic surface disturbances from infrequent, but unpredictable, rainfall. Riverine environments, as a whole, are threatened by invasive C4 grasses and dramatic changes in fire regimes. How terrestrial species persist in these high-risk habitats is not well understood. Slater’s skink, Liopholis slateri, is a desert floodplain specialist, and it is endangered ; the species has been recorded, relatively recently, at floodplain sites where it now no longer occurs. Land managers and ranger groups are investing in conserving L. slateri, but both ecological knowledge of, and survey protocols for the species are limited.

In this research, I sought to understand how L. slateri persists in disturbance-prone floodplain habitats. I focused my research on one population at Orange Creek. My aims were to (a) develop survey methods specific to L. slateri, and (b) use these methods to investigate the spatial dynamics, burrow occupancy, and fine-scale habitat use of a local population over four years.

I explored the use of photographic identification for L. slateri and compared the matching abilities of independent observers using a multi-choice key, with an automated computer algorithm, on a set of test photos. While neither independent observers nor computer matching had 100% accuracy, both systems sufficiently replicated my identifications, demonstrating the reliability of the technique for smaller populations. Future studies might consider using a combination of the two methods for individual identification of larger populations.

Mots clés : conservation, non-invasive, lizard, photo-identification, desert

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