Physiological stress in koala populations near the arid edge of their distribution

Davies, Nicole Ashley, Gramotnev, Galina, McAlpine, Clive, Seabrook, Leonie, Baxter, Greg, Lunney, Daniel, Rhodes, Jonathan R. and Bradley, Adrian (2013) Physiological stress in koala populations near the arid edge of their distribution. PLoS One, 8 11: e79136.1-e79136.12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079136

Author Davies, Nicole Ashley
Gramotnev, Galina
McAlpine, Clive
Seabrook, Leonie
Baxter, Greg
Lunney, Daniel
Rhodes, Jonathan R.
Bradley, Adrian
Title Physiological stress in koala populations near the arid edge of their distribution
Journal name PLoS One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2013-11
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0079136
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 8
Issue 11
Start page e79136.1
End page e79136.12
Total pages 12
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Abstract Recent research has shown that the ecology of stress has hitherto been neglected, but it is in fact an important influence on the distribution and numbers of wild vertebrates. Environmental changes have the potential to cause physiological stress that can affect population dynamics. Detailed information on the influence of environmental variables on glucocorticoid levels (a measure of stress) at the trailing edge of a species’ distribution can highlight stressors that potentially threaten species and thereby help explain how environmental challenges, such as climate change, will affect the survival of these populations. Rainfall determines leaf moisture and/or nutritional content, which in turn impacts on cortisol concentrations. We show that higher faecal cortisol metabolite (FCM) levels in koala populations at the trailing arid edge of their range in southwestern Queensland are associated with lower rainfall levels (especially rainfall from the previous two months), indicating an increase in physiological stress when moisture levels are low. These results show that koalas at the semi-arid, inland edge of their geographic range, will fail to cope with increasing aridity from climate change. The results demonstrate the importance of integrating physiological assessments into ecological studies to identify stressors that have the potential to compromise the long-term survival of threatened species. This finding points to the need for research to link these stressors to demographic decline to ensure a more comprehensive understanding of species’ responses to climate change.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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