Microclimate of daytime den sites in a tropical possum: implications for the conservation of tropical arboreal marsupials

Isaac, J.L., De Gabriel, J.L., and Goodman, B.A. (2008) Microclimate of daytime den sites in a tropical possum: implications for the conservation of tropical arboreal marsupials. Animal Conservation, 11 (4). pp. 281-287.

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Tree cavities are an important shelter site for a variety of vertebrate species, including birds, reptiles and mammals. Studies indicate that in most taxa favoured tree hollows are those in larger trees and higher from the ground, generally thought to be related to decreased predation risk and a more optimal thermal environment. However, neither of these ideas has been tested definitively. Here, we investigate the microclimate of daytime den sites in tree hollows of common brushtail possums in tropical northern Australia. We compare tree and hollow characteristics of dens known to be used by possums, and those not known to be used, to determine whether possums choose trees with microhabitats with a more favourable daytime microclimate. Possums chose to den in tree hollows which were on average 1.6 °C cooler during the day, and were more buffered from temperature extremes, than other potential den locations. Important factors explaining daytime temperatures between hollows included height of the hollow, entrance width and tree diameter. Tropical arboreal marsupials have been identified as being particularly vulnerable to climate change and there are calls to identify and preserve natural refuges, such as tree hollows, which could buffer them from extreme temperatures. Our results highlight the value of older, larger hollow-bearing trees as refuges from extreme temperature, the importance of which may become critical for some temperature-sensitive species under the combined effects of continuing habitat loss and climate change.

Item ID: 5747
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1469-1795
Keywords: climate change; eucalypt; endemic mammal; rainforest; tree hollow; Wet Tropics bioregion
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2009 03:33
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 70%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069999 Biological Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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