Booderee bandicoots bounce back

Joint TERN NESP research delivers positive biodiversity and threatened species outcomes.

The southern brown bandicoot is just one of a number of high-profile endangered species that park managers have achieved protection for by weaving the scientific knowledge gained from TERN’s Jervis Bay Booderee National Park Plot Network into park management decisions (image courtesy of Natasha Robinson)

With the Australian Government’s $142.5 million National Environmental Science Programme (NESP) now in full swing we take this opportunity to revisit our discussions with hub leaders and hear about some exciting new research using TERN’s nation-wide infrastructure to protect our biodiversity.

NESP’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub is utilising the research infrastructure and expertise of TERN to manage the threats and improve recovery of threatened species.

Acting hub leader, Associate Professor Brendan Wintle of Melbourne University, says that access to TERN supported research infrastructure, long-term data and expertise from TERN associated researchers allows the hub to conduct their research more efficiently and effectively.

“Leveraging off TERN has enabled our project leaders to collaborate with Australian scientists carrying out research that fits into our six themes, and access unique ecological data sets for use in conservation research” says Brendan.

“In the field, we are using TERN’s plot networks and TERN expertise to deliver our conservation research.  We also receive advice from TERN regarding data publication policies, procedures and activities.”

“We’re also able to more effectively synthesise across regions and disciplines thanks to TERN’s nation-wide infrastructure.  This allows us to scale-up our research findings to make them more broadly applicable.”

Reintroduction success

One recent example of the positive outcomes of collaboration is the threatened species research underway at TERN’s Jervis Bay Booderee National Park Plot Network. This is one of the 12 ecological plot networks across Australia that have been actively monitored for several years, and in some cases decades, that make up TERN’s Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTERN).

NESP researchers, together with Chris MacGregor of the Australian National University, are working with park managers (Parks Australia and the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council) to reintroduce threatened species that haven’t been seen in the park since World War One.

The team has recently reintroduced eleven southern brown bandicoots, which, due to land clearing and predation by introduced red foxes, have seen a drastic reduction in their range.

“So far so good,” says Chris. “It’s been three months post-release and our monitoring indicates that they’re doing well.”

“Our camera traps have caught some of the bandicoots, so we know a little about their movements since we wound up intensive radio tracking following their release.  We plan on doing trapping in November to get more detailed data on their movements.”

Up to 10 volunteers will join Chris and his colleagues from NESP and Parks Australia in November to carry out more intensive monitoring.

“We’re hoping to learn whether or not the bandicoots have settled down and found nesting sites and, if so, how far they are from where they were released,” says Chris.

“During their first month they moved less than a kilometre so it will be really interesting to see if they’ve stayed in that area to nest or have moved further away.”

The southern brown bandicoot is just one of a number of high-profile endangered species that park managers have achieved protection for, including the eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus).

Part of the reason managers have succeeded is because they have woven the scientific knowledge gained from TERN’s Jervis Bay Booderee National Park Plot Network into park management decisions. Another is the mutually respectful relationships that have developed between the park managers, and the researchers, who have been working in the park for more than 10 years.

A key part of this partnership was the establishment in 2003 of a new program to monitor vertebrate biota. This work is now part of the TERN Booderee National Park Plot Network, which contains 130 permanent sites at which populations of small mammals, arboreal marsupials, birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants have been measured annually to date (i.e. 2003–16).

Researchers, from NESP and other agencies, are using the network to quantify the response of biodiversity to disturbance (natural and otherwise) and changes in coastal vegetation condition, and the inter-relationships between these factors. The resulting knowledge will inform the management of Booderee National Park.

The collaborative research at Jervis Bay is yet another example of Government investment in TERN enabling our top scientists to monitor, understand and manage Australia’s ecosystems more comprehensively, meaningfully and cost-effectively than ever before.

It’s also particularly pleasing to see the continuing use of TERN infrastructure by NESP’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub following former hub leader Professor Hugh Possingham’s use of researcher networks developed via TERN during the hub’s planning phase. Investing in this kind of ‘soft’ infrastructure clearly delivers more cost effective and productive science for Australia.

Keep an eye out in upcoming editions of TERN’s eNewsletter for more feature articles on NESP’s use of TERN’s critical research infrastructure, data streams and research.

  • The capture and relocation of bandicoots at Booderee NP is a collaborative project between TERN, Parks Australia, the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, Forestry Corporation of NSW, the Australian National University and the Taronga Conservation Society.
  • Data from TERN’s Jervis Bay Booderee National Park Plot Network can be found on the TERN LTERN data portal or via TERN’s improved Data Discovery Portal.

Published in TERN newsletter September 2016

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