Understanding how animals use our plantings is key to creating best-practice revegetation techniques that will save our declining wildlife.
Bio·R is committed to research that uses science to save species. Part of this involves studying the different species that use the reconstructed habitat we have created. We can use these data to observe how the wildlife changes as our restoration projects develop over the coming years, allowing us to improve our techniques to meet the needs of animals of conservation concern. We study mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates using several survey techniques.
After putting considerable effort into restoring habitat at Frahns Farm, Monarto, we are interested in monitoring the smaller animals, such as small mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates, that are using different areas of the property to see how the wildlife community changes as the habitat establishes, and to provide baseline data for future comparison and research.
We have installed 16 pitfall lines at Frahns Farm. Pitfall lines comprise 10 pits, where each pit is a length of polypipe tubing that is sunken in the ground, with the top flush with the surface. During surveys, we open the pits and string a foot-high fibreglass fence between the ten pits. Critters moving through the area bump into the fence, sidle along it and then drop down to the bottom of the pits. The traps are checked every morning and evening, with the animals identified and then released.
Pitfall lines allow us to survey the hard-to-see animals that call Frahns Farm home, especially secretive lizards, tiny invertebrates and nocturnal mammals that are normally tricky to find.
Roof tile surveys are another simple and effective method for surveying the reptile fauna of an area, hinging on the fact that skinks, snakes, legless lizards and geckos all love sheltering under warm, flat surfaces on a cool day.
A single roof tile placed on the ground will soon be colonised by a range of scaly inhabitants and, scattered across Frahns Farm, Monarto, they provide a nifty and an easily repeatable way to monitor different reptiles across the property.
Birds are easier to find than most animals, so they can tell us a great deal about how effective reconstructed habitat is over time, and what components of those habitats are most beneficial.
One method to achieve this is the “area bird search” technique, where an area is systematically searched and the species, number and location of every single bird there at the time is recorded. On Cygnet Park Sanctuary on Kangaroo Island, and Frahns Farm at Monarto, the Bio·R team uses this method to regularly survey the birds inhabiting these woodlands.
It’s a big effort but this hard work has allowed us to accumulate an extensive database of records for a suite of woodland species that call these properties home. In particular, we can see how establishing vegetation brings in a whole new suite of bird species, especially declining species, as it matures.
For example, in 2009, less than 1000 birds were using Cygnet Park Sanctuary but, following the planting of 200 species and 350,000 individual plants, some 4000 birds now call this property home. This illustrates the positive outcomes for woodland birds of our reconstructed habitats.
Through our research ties with The University of Adelaide, projects studying “home ranges” of birds have been undertaken, often involving radio tracking of individuals and assiduously following them over many days to see how they are using their habitat.
This research has found that the home ranges of many woodland birds are tens of hectares in size. For some species, like the Restless Flycatcher and Varied Sittella, more than a hundred hectares of usable habitat is needed. Consequently, reconstruction of habitat in the order of tens of hectares is needed to benefit many of our woodland birds.
All of this research helps to guide the new habitat we reconstruct by providing guidelines on plant species, planting arrangements and importantly the sizes of the patches that birds use and need.
If you’re as keen as we are to see what critters live on our properties, we have opportunities to help with our pitfall trapping and roof tile surveys. We run these activities annually, so follow us on social media or sign up to our newsletter to be notified of the next volunteer opportunities.
We’ll keep you updated about local volunteer opportunities, Bio·R news and more.
June 10-11, 17-18 & 24-25