Does internal forest fragmentation from linear infrastructure affect core habitat for woodland birds?
The Brigalow Belt of inland Queensland has suffered extensive forest loss over the past four decades. The transformed landscape that has emerged is dominated by agriculture interspersed with large patches of forest habitat, particularly on the more elevated, poorer soils. Although the broad-scale clearing of forest has slowed considerably, a novel form of landscape transformation has recently been introduced: internal fragmentation of forest remnants by linear clearings associated with coal seam gas infrastructure. The effect of this new type of landscape pattern on wildlife is not known. However, by introducing new edge habitats throughout the forests, there is a risk of increasing the area of forest that is dominated by the native noisy miner, a hyper-aggressive bird that excludes almost all smaller birds from its territories. Interspecific aggression by the noisy miner has recently been listed as a Key Threatening Process under the EPBC Act. Following the construction stage, the linear clearings are partly regenerated primarily through allowing regrowth vegetation to recover. The extent to which this shift from wide to narrow infrastructure corridors will reverse any changes to the bird assemblage is also unknown.
The project will:
- quantify the change in patterns of forest habitat in the Brigalow Belt South as a function of infrastructure development;
- establish the relationship between woodland birds, noisy miners and internal and external edges of forest patches;
- explore the potential for passive regrowth to restore bird assemblages and reduce internal edge effects.
Funding is available to cover the field costs of this project. Applicants will need to apply for and obtain an Australian Postgraduate Award or equivalent scholarship (information available at http://www.uq.edu.au/grad-school/scholarships-and-fees).
Contact: Assoc Prof Martine Maron