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Eucalypt plantations in NSW, Vic have important role in habitat for endangered bird species, finds DPI study

Posted by gmarkets on 5 October, 2007

Species of woodland-dependent birds whose numbers have been declining were finding new homes in plantings of eucalypts and shrubs, reported Agriculture Today (27/10/2007, p.7).

Survey of plantations: NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) forest biodiversity researchers have surveyed 120 eucalypt plantations in southwestern NSW and north­ern Victoria and found they were providing useful habitat for at least 10 declining bird species. These included the Speckled Warbler, Red-capped Robin and Rufous Whistler. Most of the original forest and woodland cover in these areas had been cleared for agriculture, and what remained was fragmented and often disturbed. However, over the last 30 years, eucalypts and native shrubs have been planted exten­sively to provide a range of envi­ronmental benefits.

Biological diversity: NSW DPI forest biodiversity research leader, Dr Rod Kav­anagh, said the survey was undertaken to determine the extent to which these plantings could improve biological diver­sity in agricultural landscapes. “We sampled birds at 120 sites encompassing the range of patch sizes, stand ages and structural conditions for both planted areas and nearby forest remnants to assess their poten­tial as habitat. These were com­pared with surrounding pad­docks. Eucalypt plantings were found to provide significant improve­ments in bird population densi­ty, compared with cleared or sparsely treed paddocks. Mixed eucalypt and shrub plantings contained similar bird communities to remnant native forest and woodland in the region,” Dr Kavanagh said.

Important role to play: Factors found to be important for the presence of birds includ­ed the size of the patch, its age and distance from remnant for­est and woodland. Larger remnants and plantings – those more than five hectares in area – had more species and more individuals than smaller patches of similar vegetation. Older plantings, aged between 10 and 25 years, had more indi­viduals and species than younger plantings. ‘Habitat connectivity’, the distance from remnant forest, was an important variable influencing bird species richness in eucalypt plantations. Dr Kavanagh said eucalypt plantings of all shapes and sizes, but especially those larger than five hectares, were found to have an important role to play in providing habitat for many bird species.

Contact: Rod Kavanagh, West Pennant Hills (02) 9872 0160. Email: rodk@sf.nsw.gov.au

Agriculture Today, 27/10/2007, p. 7

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