Experimental rock outcrops reveal continuing habitat disturbance for an endangered Australian snake

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Publication details

Goldingay, RL & Newell, DA 2000, 'Experimental rock outcrops reveal continuing habitat disturbance for an endangered Australian snake',Conservation Biology, vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 1908-1912.

The definitive version is available at http://www.blackwellpublishing.com, http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.99458.x

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Protected areas are commonly viewed as safe havens for endangered species. To test this notion, we experimentally constructed small rock outcrops for the endangered broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) within a national park near Sydney, Australia. Rock outcrops provide vital shelter sites during the cooler months of the year. Constructed rock outcrops (3 × 5 m) were placed at 11 paired sites located near (≤250 m) and far from (>400 m) walking tracks and roads. Eight of our 22 rock outcrops were disturbed by people over a 15-month period. Disturbance consisted of displacement of some rocks or complete destruction of the outcrop. Disturbed outcrops occurred up to 450 m from a walking track or road. Disturbance to natural outcrops has also been observed in this park. This demonstrates a continuing decline in the quality of this snake's habitat. Twenty of our rock outcrops were colonized by velvet geckos (Oedura lesueurii), the primary prey of this snake. One broad-headed snake was found in one outcrop. According to these findings, attempts to restore the habitat of this endangered snake should be centered on sites located ≥500 m from a walking track or road. Our study highlights the value of targeted experiments that precede larger-scale habitat restoration.

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