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PLoS One. 2014 Mar 12;9(3):e91731. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091731. eCollection 2014.

Relating demographic characteristics of a small mammal to remotely sensed forest-stand condition.

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School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Many ecological systems around the world are changing rapidly in response to direct (land-use change) and indirect (climate change) human actions. We need tools to assess dynamically, and over appropriate management scales, condition of ecosystems and their responses to potential mitigation of pressures. Using a validated model, we determined whether stand condition of floodplain forests is related to densities of a small mammal (a carnivorous marsupial, Antechinus flavipes) in 60,000 ha of extant river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) forests in south-eastern Australia in 2004, 2005 and 2011. Stand condition was assessed remotely using models built from ground assessments of stand condition and satellite-derived reflectance. Other covariates, such as volumes of fallen timber, distances to floods, rainfall and life stages were included in the model. Trapping of animals was conducted at 272 plots (0.25 ha) across the region. Densities of second-year females (i.e. females that had survived to a second breeding year) and of second-year females with suckled teats (i.e. inferred to have been successful mothers) were higher in stands with the highest condition. There was no evidence of a relationship with stand condition for males or all females. These outcomes show that remotely-sensed estimates of stand condition (here floodplain forests) are relatable to some demographic characteristics of a small mammal species, and may provide useful information about the capacity of ecosystems to support animal populations. Over-regulation of large, lowland rivers has led to declines in many facets of floodplain function. If management of water resources continues as it has in recent decades, then our results suggest that there will be further deterioration in stand condition and a decreased capacity for female yellow-footed antechinuses to breed multiple times.

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