Using ecological studies to understand the conservation needs of the squirrel glider in Brisbane's urban forest-remnants

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Goldingay, RL, Sharpe, D, Beyer, GL & Dobson, MDJ 2006, 'Using ecological studies to understand the conservation needs of the squirrel glider in Brisbane's urban forest-remnants', Australian Mammalogy, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 173-186.

The publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AM06026

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This paper provides an overview of our current ecological research on squirrel gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis) living in forest-remnants within an urban matrix in south-east Queensland. We have conducted population censuses and behavioural observations primarily in one 60-ha remnant. The number of tagged gliders (minimum number known alive) in this remnant varied from 75 in 2002 when flowering trees were abundant, to 33 the following year when flowering was poor. Poor flowering led to a delay in breeding and a decline in the probability of glider survival. Feeding observations on gliders in the year of abundant flowering revealed that almost 50% of the diet was comprised of nectar and pollen derived from 10 tree species. A more detailed focus on flowering and its influence on population dynamics at several sites would be of considerable value in understanding the population ecology of this species. We assessed the viability of the subpopulations of P. norfolcensis distributed across the various remnants to allow identification of management actions that may improve viability. Viability analyses under various scenarios suggest that our focal metapopulation will have a high likelihood of extinction within the next 100 years. Predictions of population viability are sensitive to changes in life history parameter estimates. Thus, current field-work has been directed by the need for more precise empirical values. The remnants containing our metapopulation need to be functionally linked to larger nearby remnants to enable glider dispersal among sites. We need a better understanding of glider dispersal behaviour and how permeable the urban matrix might be for P. norfolcensis. Arterial roads and freeways sever connections between many remnants, requiring novel approaches to corridor provision. Future research should examine how habitat quality of the remnants changes over time due to tree die-back and wind-throw. We are investigating the potential role of nest boxes to facilitate glider dispersal and to supplement the availability of den trees. The findings of our studies should contribute to a greater understanding of the general conservation requirements of P. norfolcensis.

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