are we going to keep ‘em down on the farm?
on farms in Victoria is bringing back wildlife, according
to Deakin researchers Dr Rohan Clarke and Associate Professor
The findings, which come at the end of a three-year study
into ways to help native wildlife survive and prosper in farmland,
were presented at the Ecological Society of Australia’s
annual conference in Sydney in November.
The study identified positive trends for various species,
but especially for woodland birds.
The research has also confirmed for the first time that as
native bush land declines in farm landscapes, the populations
of woodland birds also decrease.
Sixty species of woodland birds were recorded in the study
but those farmland areas with little remaining bush often
supported fewer than 20 of these species.
Re-vegetation and restoration of farm landscapes also provided
benefits for other wildlife included in the study such as
frogs, native mammals and butterflies. Many of the detected
species were making use of the re-vegetation, supporting the
notion that farm landscapes can provide important habitat
opportunities for local wildlife.
Dr Clarke and Associate Professor Andrew Bennett looked at
43 farming areas, each eight kilometres in size, in the Glenelg
Hopkins catchment in western Victoria where farms are predominantly
sheep and wheat based.
“There is no doubt that birds that specialise in woodland
habitats are in trouble, but re-vegetation is helping turn
things around,” Dr Clarke said. “The total amount
of cover is the key driver for the recovery of woodland birds
and any increase in the amount is of benefit.”
The study focused on ways to improve habitat for wildlife
on working farms.
“It is not about bringing back the bush wholesale, rather
it’s about improving opportunities for wildlife while
maintaining farm productivity,’’ Dr Clarke said.
The researchers sampled areas that featured different stages
of re-vegetation – some farms were recently re-vegetated
and some were replanted over 50 years ago.
Dr Clarke said it was positive to see that there had been
a lot of re-vegetation undertaken in the region, through the
hard work of many individuals and various community schemes.
“We found that as natural bush or remnants of natural
bush declines in farms, the number of woodland birds decreases
– this has never been demonstrated before,’’
“When re-vegetation is undertaken the number of woodland
bird species occupying these areas rebounds.”
Birds returning to re-vegetated areas included the Superb
Fairy-wren, the Redcapped Robin and the White-throated Treecreeper.
It was also found that the older the re-vegetation, the better
the response of woodland birds.
“There are real time lags involved with re-vegetation
and at least some of the effort needs to be viewed as an investment
in the future– for example hollow production may take
more than 100 years. However, there are also many immediate
benefits and some animals do come back straight away; for
example Blue Wren and many of the honeyeaters come back quickly,’’
Dr Clarke said.
For an earlier Deakin Research article on the work of Dr Rohan