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Using animal behaviour as a bio-indicator of restoration quality

Floyd Holmes is working at Rottnest Island for his PhD, where he is investigating whether passerine bird behaviour and breeding success can be used to assess the quality of restored habitats. Floyd studied Scarlet Robins in the Jarrah forests of south-western Australia for his honours and is now focussing on Red-capped Robins and Golden Whistlers as likely indicators of restoration quality.

Habitat destruction and degradation are causing widespread losses in biodiversity around the world. Through the use of restoration practices (facilitating and accelerating habitat successional processes), it is possible to aid the recovery of degraded ecological systems so they can maintain the ecosystem functions and services that they previously provided. However, restoration projects are often forced to rely on ad-hoc adaptive management, meaning the restored area may develop characteristics that weren’t present in the pre-disturbance state. Given that some habitat characteristics are faster recovering or easier to reintroduce than others, many restoration efforts favour some species, while providing little benefit for others. If restoration efforts are to be improved, better planning of restoration based on sound theoretical frameworks must be taken.

This investigation hopes to ascertain the use of bird behaviour as quantitative data, that can be used in conjunction with other contemporary theoretical frameworks (such as ecosystem intervention, habitat filtering and hierarchical habitat selection theory) to assess habitat quality. By quantifying the habitability of a range of areas, including heavily disturbed and fragmented areas, and assessing differences in the animals’ behaviour in each habitat type, Floyd will assess the practicality of using animal behaviour as a bio-indicator of habitat quality.

Funding agency

Birdlife Australia

Project duration

2015-2016


Researchers

Mr Floyd Holmes, PhD Student
Dr Robert Davis
Dr Eddie van Etten

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