Seasonal resource availability and use by an endangered tropical mycophagous marsupial

Abell, Sandra E., Gadek, Paul A., Pearce, Ceridwen A., and Congdon, Bradley C. (2006) Seasonal resource availability and use by an endangered tropical mycophagous marsupial. Biological Conservation, 132 (4). pp. 533-540.

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This study highlights the importance of considering how seasonality of rainfall affects availability of resources and consequently species distributions within tropical ecosystems. The endangered northern bettong, Bettongia tropica Wakefield is thought to be restricted to habitats where seasonal availability of hypogeous fungi, their principal food resource, remains high. To test this hypothesis fungal abundance was quantified in the early wet, late wet, early dry and late dry seasons within known bettong habitat. A relationship was found between precipitation and fungal availability, with the abundance of hypogeous fungi being significantly lower in the late dry season. Fungal availability correlated strongly with the seasonal rainfall pattern determined from 74-year monthly means. This contrasts with a previous study where mycophagy, measured by faecal analysis, remained high across seasons presumably because of aseasonal rainfall during that study period. Alloteropsis semialata R.Br. (cockatoo grass) use by bettongs increased significantly during the period of low fungal availability. This suggests that the importance of cockatoo grass as an alternative food resource during annual and extended dry periods has previously been underestimated. With the frequency and intensity of drought expected to increase with global climate change, these findings have significant implications for bettong management. The important and possibly equivalent dependence of B. tropica on both hypogeous fungi and A. semialata helps to explain their habitat preference and identifies this species as a true ecotonal specialist.

Item ID: 4098
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-2917
Keywords: habitat preference; dietary ecology; ecotonal specialist; climate Change; hypogeous fungi; Bettongia tropica
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2009 06:04
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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