Study

Rapid increase of Australian tropical savanna reptile abundance following exclusion of feral cats

  • Published source details Stokeld D., Fisher A., Gentles T., Hill B.M., Woinarski J.C.Z., Young S. & Gillespie G.R. (2018) Rapid increase of Australian tropical savanna reptile abundance following exclusion of feral cats. Biological Conservation, 225, 213-221.

Actions

This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Create fire breaks

Action Link
Reptile Conservation

Remove or control predators using fencing and/or aerial nets

Action Link
Reptile Conservation
  1. Create fire breaks

    A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 2013–2015 in tropical savanna in the Northern Territory, Australia (Stokeld et al. 2018) found that reptile abundance remained similar in plots with fire breaks and active fire suppression compared to those with no breaks or suppression, though in fenced plots with fire breaks and suppression reptile abundance increased over time. Reptile abundance remained similar in plots with and without fire breaks (and fire suppression) that were also unfenced (2013: 0.6 reptiles/plot; 2015: 0.5 reptiles/plot; results standardised by sampling effort). In fenced areas, which all had fire breaks and suppression, average reptile abundance doubled over two years (2013: 0.3 reptiles/plot; 2015: 0.7 reptiles/plot; results standardised by sampling effort). Across all plots, reptile abundance increased with time since the last fire (0 months: 2 reptiles/plot; 50 months: 3 reptiles/plot). The effects of fire breaks and suppression and/or fencing on species richness was inconclusive (see original paper for details). Data were collected from six 64 ha plots, with two each treated with: fire breaks and suppression and no exclusion fencing, fire breaks and suppression and exclusion fencing; and no fire breaks, fire suppression or exclusion fencing. Fire breaks (8 m wide) were established around plot perimeters, and fuel reduction burning in the early dry season also took place, along with active fire suppression inside the plots (details not provided). Exclusion fences were installed in December 2013 (1,800 mm high and 550 mm below ground). Reptiles were monitored seasonally (March–April, June–July, October–November) in six transects/plot using drift fences with pitfall traps in 2013–2015.

    (Summarised by: Katie Sainsbury)

  2. Remove or control predators using fencing and/or aerial nets

    A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 2013–2015 in tropical savanna in the Northern Territory, Australia (Stokeld et al. 2018) found that erecting fencing to exclude feral cats Felis catus (and potentially other carnivores and herbivores) combined with fire suppression increased reptile abundance over time, but effects on reptile species richness were inconclusive. Average reptile abundance doubled over two years in plots with exclusion fencing and fire suppression (2013: 0.3 reptiles/plot; 2015: 0.7 reptiles/plot; results standardised by sampling effort), compared to plots without fencing (2013: 0.6 reptiles/plot; 2015: 0.5 reptiles/plot; results standardised by sampling effort). The effects of fencing and/or fire suppression on species richness was inconclusive (see original paper for details). Cat density in the study area was 0.2 cats/km2. Cats were detected at all non-fenced plots during the study. Only one cat was found and removed from a fenced plot (within one week of fence completion). Data were collected from six plots (64 ha) with two each treated with: exclusion fencing and fire suppression; no exclusion fencing but fire suppression; and no exclusion fencing or fire suppression. Exclusion fences (installed December 2013) were 1,800 mm high with a curved floppy section 450 mm at the top of the fence above ground and 550 mm below ground. Fire suppression included 8 m wide firebreaks, early dry season fuel reduction burning around external perimeters, and active fire suppression inside the plots. Reptiles were monitored seasonally (March-April, June-July, October-November) in six transects/plot using drift fences and pitfall traps in 2013–2015. Cats were monitored using camera traps. Abundance of other carnivores and herbivores in/around the study site was not monitored.

    (Summarised by: Katie Sainsbury)

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