Annual trapping 2014 has been and gone for another year, with a whirlwind of excitement, animals and extreme weather conditions.
The lids are securely closed on pitfall traps, equipment is packed away, and the volunteers have all returned home. Arid Recovery internship student and database queen, Bianca, has plugged in the data from Arid Recovery’s 17th year of annual small mammal and reptile trapping.
This year’s field work was challenging, thanks to our unpredictable arid zone climate. The temperature throughout the week was in the low to mid 40s, with thunderstorms threatening on the final days of trapping. Even the wet weather and stormy conditions couldn’t put a dampener on the enthusiasm of volunteers, with some embracing the change in weather conditions with an elaborate rain dance!
A total of 110 mammals were captured in 2014, with all native mammal species caught inside the Reserve. The Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis) was the most abundant mammal species. However, the introduced House Mouse (Mus musculus) was trapped inside the Reserve and at sites beyond the fence, and was found in traps more often than other native species, the Plains Rat (Pseudomys australis) and Bolam's Mouse (Pseudomys bolami bolami).
Bec West concentrates carefully whilst processing a Lerista (Lerista labialis)
The Leristas (Lerista labialis) were by far the largest number of reptiles captured, with 143 of these slippery suckers pulled out of pits. Other common cold-blooded captures include the Royal Skink (Ctenotus regius) and the fine-looking Ford’s Dragon (Ctenophorus fordi).
In total 18 different reptile species were captured and brought back to the lab for processing. To the volunteers' delight some rarer reptile species also made an appearance, with the distinctly stripy Desert Banded Snake (Simoselaps bertholdi) and the cute Crowned Gecko (Lucasium stenodactylum) keeping the crowds smiling!
A small Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis) found in a pitfall trap
Arid Recovery’s Ecologist, Cat Lynch, was impressed with this year’s trapping efforts. “Mammal captures appeared relatively low, however comparisons with 2013 trapping data shows that we caught a few more critters this year!” remarks Cat. “A wide variety of reptile species were trapped, giving all staff and volunteers an opportunity to appreciate the unique fauna of the Roxby Downs region.”
The success of Arid Recovery’s annual trapping relies on the help of volunteers. Arid Recovery would also like to thank all of the people that kindly donated their goods and services to the annual trapping program. This includes Sodexo, Roxby Leisure Centre, Woolworths, Transpacific, RoxFM and the generous people of Roxby Downs that donated jars of peanut butter.
Arid Recovery is not just about the animals. In fact, if it wasn’t for our plants we wouldn’t have our cute bettongs and all the other animals. For this reason, it’s vital that we monitor the health of the vegetation inside the Reserve.
Flora monitoring at Arid Recovery was established right from the start, in 1997, with a range of techniques used to enable us to collect long-term data on vegetation condition, cover and species diversity inside and outside the Reserve. Now, with over 15 years of data, it gives us a great opportunity to begin analysing this data to see if we can determine trends in relation to the effects of our introduced and reintroduced herbivores, and to determine the strongest indicator species for monitoring grazing by herbivores to help trigger management actions when overgrazing occurs.
Recent analysis of this data showed that, while we have an excellent dataset, there are modifications to our monitoring that we can employ in order to get even more out of the data we collect. Over the past few months, Arid Recovery’s Ecologist, Cat Lynch, has been working with our Research Scientist and Craig Baulderstone, who previously worked at South Australia’s Pastoral Board, to further develop Arid Recovery’s flora monitoring program.
It was determined that a number of small quadrats should be set up at each of our sites to provide data on cover of flora species; data which was generally not being picked up through other methods. Craig was recently kind enough to visit Arid Recovery for a week to assist Cat with setting up the new quadrats and collecting data. With his two kids, Mick and Tom, in tow, Craig very enthusiastically trudged the dunes and swales in very hot weather to measure all the saltbush, blue bush, ruby saltbush and other weird and wonderful flora that makes Arid Recovery and the arid zone so unique.
The monitoring event was very successful, with a range of data collected that will assist us with determining the effect that our reintroduced herbivores (i.e. bettongs and stick-nest rats) have on vegetation inside the reserve, as well as the effect that introduced herbivores (i.e. rabbits) have on vegetation outside the Reserve.
We thank Craig very much for volunteering his time to assist Arid Recovery with our flora monitoring program.
Craig Baulderstone working on the vegetation quadrat