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Federation University, Australia (2015)

The use of on-farm water points and artificial wildlife ponds in providing habitat for fauna in the Wimmera and Southern Mallee, Victoria, Australia

Starks, Jonathan

Titre : The use of on-farm water points and artificial wildlife ponds in providing habitat for fauna in the Wimmera and Southern Mallee, Victoria, Australia

Auteur : Starks, Jonathan

Université de soutenance : Federation University, Australia.

Grade : Master of Arts (MA) 2015

Résumé
Fauna living in arid environments face strong ecological and physiological constraints. Water is the key requirement and vertebrates exhibit a range of adaptations for survival. Some species obtain water from their diet, but those which require water to drink or as habitat must either live in or near permanent water, or move in search of water. This strongly influences the distribution and abundance of vertebrate species in arid environments. In arid agricultural landscapes, the development of artificial water sources for stock has benefited water-dependant native fauna, particularly frogs. Little is known about the effects of removal of artificial water sources in these environments. In North-western Victoria, completion of the Northern Mallee Pipeline and the proposed construction of the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline will ultimately replace over 20,000 farm dams, resulting in the widespread loss of an open water resource currently used by fauna across the Wimmera and southern Mallee. The wildlife values of the different on-farm water points in the Northern Mallee Pipeline region and the remaining Wimmera Mallee Domestic and Stock Channel System were examined. Species richness and abundance of vertebrates were surveyed at farm dams, channels and stock troughs in open paddocks, and at farm dams in Mallee woodlands. Mallee woodlands with no available water were also surveyed. Sites were surveyed once per season to determine which species were utilising the different on-farm water points and Mallee woodlands. Knowledge of their usage by different species allowed the importance of each water point type to be determined and the impact of the closure of the channel system to be assessed. The study recorded 57 vertebrate species in the Northern Mallee Pipeline region, including six reptile, 43 bird, seven mammal and zero frog species. Surveys in the Wimmera Mallee Channel/dam region recorded 74 different species, including three reptile , 57 bird, eight mammal and six frog species. Overall species richness and abundance was highest at sites with a farm dam in a Mallee woodland, and the levels of species richness and abundance were significantly higher than at sites with Mallee woodland and no available water. The differences between the two site types were due mainly to greater abundance of water- dependant species at farm dams in Mallee woodland sites. For water points in open paddocks, species richness and abundance was highest at sites with a farm dam in an open paddock and lowest at sites with a stock trough in an open paddock. The difference between the different open paddock water point types were significant, and like woodland sites, were driven by greater numbers of water-dependant species. The study also examined whether purpose-built artificial wildlife ponds could provide habitat for water-dependant fauna and whether artificial wildlife ponds could potentially maintain fauna populations after de-commissioning of the existing channel system. The results of this study showed that artificial wildlife ponds placed in Mallee woodlands can provide habitat for birds, both in the Northern Mallee Pipeline region and the Wimmera Mallee Channel/dam region. The results also showed that these wildlife ponds can support species assemblages at levels comparable to a farm dam in a Mallee woodland, demonstrating that wildlife ponds can be effective in providing a degree of ’replacement’ habitat for birds on farms. Frogs were not recorded using wildlife ponds situated in Mallee woodlands and this was considered due to the wildlife ponds being placed at least 900 metres from a nearby water source potentially too far for many frog species to disperse in an arid environment. Given these findings, the position of ponds was adjusted for the ponds installed in Black Box woodlands. Wildlife ponds in Black Box woodlands were also successful in providing habitat for birds and functioned as an important source of water for water-dependant birds in summer. Frogs were recorded using the wildlife ponds situated in Black Box woodlands and this was most likely due to their close proximity (<200 metres) to a nearby water source, as well as being located in a wetland-associated vegetation type. The success of the wildlife ponds concept has been demonstrated both in their ability to function as habitat for water-dependant fauna and through widespread community acceptance and support. With the de-commissioning of the channel and dam system removing open water sources from the farming landscape, artificial wildlife ponds installed on farms across the region could provide not just a vital habitat resource supporting water-dependant fauna, but in many areas, the only source of water for wildlife within the Wimmera and southern Mallee regions." -

Présentation

Page publiée le 4 août 2017