Correlates of recent declines of rodents in northern and southern Australia: habitat structure is critical

Lawes, Michael J., Fisher, Diana O., Johnson, Chris N., Blomberg, Simon P., Frank, Anke S. K., Fritz, Susanne A., McCallum, Hamish, VanDerWal, Jeremy, Abbott, Brett N., Legge, Sarah, Letnic, Mike, Thomas, Colette R., Thurgate, Nikki, Fisher, Alaric, Gordon, Iain J. and Kutt, Alex (2015) Correlates of recent declines of rodents in northern and southern Australia: habitat structure is critical. PloS One, 10 6: 1-17. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0130626

Author Lawes, Michael J.
Fisher, Diana O.
Johnson, Chris N.
Blomberg, Simon P.
Frank, Anke S. K.
Fritz, Susanne A.
McCallum, Hamish
VanDerWal, Jeremy
Abbott, Brett N.
Legge, Sarah
Letnic, Mike
Thomas, Colette R.
Thurgate, Nikki
Fisher, Alaric
Gordon, Iain J.
Kutt, Alex
Title Correlates of recent declines of rodents in northern and southern Australia: habitat structure is critical
Journal name PloS One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2015-06-25
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0130626
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 10
Issue 6
Start page 1
End page 17
Total pages 17
Place of publication San Francisco, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Language eng
Subject 1300 Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
1100 Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Abstract Australia has experienced dramatic declines and extinctions of its native rodent species over the last 200 years, particularly in southern Australia. In the tropical savanna of northern Australia significant declines have occurred only in recent decades. The later onset of these declines suggests that the causes may differ from earlier declines in the south. We examine potential regional effects (northern versus southern Australia) on biological and ecological correlates of range decline in Australian rodents. We demonstrate that rodent declines have been greater in the south than in the tropical north, are strongly influenced by phylogeny, and are consistently greater for species inhabiting relatively open or sparsely vegetated habitat. Unlike in marsupials, where some species have much larger body size than rodents, body mass was not an important predictor of decline in rodents. All Australian rodent species are within the prey-size range of cats (throughout the continent) and red foxes (in the south). Contrary to the hypothesis that mammal declines are related directly to ecosystem productivity (annual rainfall), our results are consistent with the hypothesis that disturbances such as fire and grazing, which occur in non-rainforest habitats and remove cover used by rodents for shelter, nesting and foraging, increase predation risk. We agree with calls to introduce conservation management that limits the size and intensity of fires, increases fire patchiness and reduces grazing impacts at ecological scales appropriate for rodents. Controlling feral predators, even creating predator-free reserves in relatively sparsely-vegetated habitats, is urgently required to ensure the survival of rodent species, particularly in northern Australia where declines are not yet as severe as those in the south.
Keyword Extinction risk
Small mammals
Invasive mesopredator
Tropical marsupials
Conservation status
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Grant ID LP100100033
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article # e0130626

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 8 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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