Bilbies in the fight against global warming!

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We already know well that rabbits have wreaked havoc on the Australian landscape, eating up our native plants and kicking some of our native mammals out of their homes. And those little holes that they dig all over the place that you might be unlucky enough to roll your ankle in aren’t too good for our environment either! Whilst our bilbies and bettongs dig similar holes, it has been shown they are much more beneficial for the environment.

A study completed at Lorna Glen in central Western Australia used data loggers to record temperature and humidity, amongst other things, in bilby diggings, and in areas that had not been disturbed. The results showed that the microclimate (the climate inside the bilby digging) compared to that in areas of soil that were not disturbed, was not as variable. The difference in humidity levels and temperature during the night and day, was not as great as that in other areas. For a quick over view of the findings, click here.

Arid Recovery has also completed research on the role that bilby digs play in ecosystems, and has some interesting results. The data showed there were higher levels of carbon in bilby digs, compared to those of rabbits. Our native species are helping us try combat global warming! Data about the rate of mulga germination also shows that our native fauna helps out our native flora. Rates of mulga germination are higher inside bilby digs when compared to rabbit digs or undisturbed soil. This could be due to a number of factors, possibly higher levels of nutrients in bilby digs due to exposing the deeper soil which is more fertile than the top soil, or the small hole collecting leaf litter and water, which breaks down to increase soil fertility.  

 

A graph depicting the average percentage of carbon in a bilby dig compared to the soil surface. Graph by Alex James

A graph depicting the average number of mulga seedlings in bilby digs compared to rabbit digs and the surface. Bilby digs have nearly 3 times more seedlings than rabbit digs or on the surface! Graph by Shannon Sparkes

Thanks for some of the research and findings about bilby digs and their roles as environmental engineers must go to a number of students we have hosted over the years.

Corridors for our threatened species

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Australia has quite a bit of protected area, national parks, conservation reserves and private bushland scattered across the country. Whilst this protected area is great, they kind of look like islands when you look at their locations on a map. The roads, farming country and residential areas in between these pockets make it quite difficult for animals to move between them, and disrupts natural processes such as the flow of rivers and the dispersal of seeds. Wildlife corridors could be the solution to this, and a number of other issues, and the federal government has introduced a new plan to help us develop a national wildlife corridor system.

A wildlife corridor is just what it sounds like, a link between separated patches of habitat, joining them up across the landscape. They come in many shapes and forms such as a river or creek line, a revegetated roadside or on private land where bushland may have been left along a fence to protect from erosion.

Wildlife corridors are important, as they link up otherwise isolated populations of plants and animals. This helps to maintain diversity and resilience of a species as well as opening up areas of habitat where species may not have been able to access previously. Migratory animals such as some of our birds, will be able to move safely from their homes, with a reduced risk of encountering human built dangers.

Diagram of the land use practices that can contribute to wildlife corridors. Diagram courtesy of www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/wildlife-corridors/about

The federal government has developed the National Wildlife Corridors Plan, which will reconnect the Australian landscape. For the success of this plan, it will involve cooperation and participation from landholders, community, industry and government. Communities and organisations will be able to nominate areas they wish to see added to the national wildlife corridor network. Those that fit the criteria will be approved, and could then receive priority for funding through initiatives such as Caring for our Country and the Biodiversity Fund.

For more information on the National Wildlife Corridors Plan, or to read the document head to www.environment.gov.au/wildlife-corridors  

Aussie Biodiversity

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Australia is a unique country, our climate is one of the harshest and most diverse in the world and our animals have grown special traits and physical changes to adapt to our environment.

The desert in Australia is one of the driest and hottest in the world, yet it still contains an abundance of wildlife. Animals need to know how to conserve water when there is not much around. A bilby for instance does not consume much water at all, it gets a majority of its water from the food it eats, and not only straight from the plant itself, but these animals have a special method of extracting water using metabolisation. This means that as the animal eats the food it uses small chemical reactions inside the body to digest food and get the energy they need from it, as they do so the reactions produce by-products like the exhaust from a car, these by-products include heat and water. These animals can also lose heat to stay cool such as hiding inside burrows during the day where it can become up to 45˚c, large thin ears like those found on many Australian species are effective at losing heat as well.

This photo shows the large ears of a bilby, the pores and the veins which help them to release heat from their body and cool down.

The Australian mainland has been separated from the rest of the world for millions of years so our animals have adapted on their own to become a completely unique population, kangaroo’s for instance have evolved to jump instead of walk as it takes less energy. Biodiversity is extremely important to our land as it provides a self-sustaining balance of nature which we often throw out of balance with the introduction of feral animals or pollution. So the next time you’re next to a tree or a bush spare a thought for about how important it could be as a food source or shelter for an animal.

How YOU can improve biodiversity

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

So, how many of you have checked out your backyard or your local reserve to find out just what is hiding there this biodiversity month? You may have found a lot, or maybe a little. Either way, there is plenty that you can do to protect and improve biodiversity in your backyard or local area. Below are a few ideas to try out.

  • Take a trip to your local nursery or head to the library and check out a couple of plant identification books- you might be surprised to find some of the pretty looking plants are actually native to your area. Including natives in your garden helps to attract birds and other native animals.
  • Be a responsible pet owner. Ensure your cats and dogs are de-sexed, registered and micro-chipped and you keep them contained on your property. Cats especially should be kept indoors at night, no matter how old or what you think, they can and will eat native wildlife. Constructing a cat run from some cheap wire mesh and wooden posts can be a great project for the family one weekend, and your pet cats will love it.
  • Check in with your local council, NRM board or Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources office, they should be able to provide you with some information on pest weeds in your area. There isn’t always a lot of time or money for weed management, so every little bit we can do as individuals in our own patch helps. To find out more about NRM, head to this website http://www.nrm.sa.gov.au/.
  • Have a think about where your food comes from next time you are eating out. Buying locally grown, sustainably produced goods such as fruit and vegetables not only assists in protecting biodiversity, but it is often also cheaper and better for you! http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/eatlocal/ will give you some information to help you make decisions nest time you are grocery shopping.
  • Read the label next time you are at the supermarket and check out the sustainable &/or environmentally safe products. Companies will only make what the consumers purchase. Even just a few small changes over time, like moving to a phosphate free laundry powder, or a food product with recycled packaging, can make a big difference if we all do it.
  • Do a bit of research in your local area, check out the papers, library or the council for an environmental group like Arid Recovery nearby. Many will take volunteers, even if you only have half a day to spare once a month, they will always appreciate the time you can offer. Even if you don’t think you have much to offer, you would be amazed what can be accomplished when a group of interested people get together.

               Volunteer Rowan Carroll, assisting with the release of animals during trapping at the Arid Recovery Reserve.

So, how many of these things do you already do? They aren’t too hard, they wont cost you a fortune and you might actually learn something new along the way! Let us know what you are already doing, or what you plan to do to protect your local biodiversity.

Snap a photo of the AR Big Four to win!

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Keen to snap a pic of one of our Arid Recovery Big Four? Or maybe you have recently upgraded your camera and looking for a few tips on how to take a good shot. Book in for an evening photography session at the Arid Recovery Reserve!

The Roxby Downs Amateur Arid Photography Competition is on again for 2012, with the special added category of the Arid Recovery Big Four. Photography workshops are being held at the Arid Recovery Reserve with volunteer and local camera man Travis Hague. The evening will consist of an introduction to cameras and a few tips of taking a good shot. Get snap happy if you are already a keen photographer, or this is the prime opportunity to get a few pointers from fellow photographers on how to take your best shot. Once the sun has disappeared you will be able to take part in a nocturnal spotlight tour to a viewing hide where you are guaranteed to see one of the photogenic Burrowing Bettongs. Along the way you might get lucky spotting critters such as the Western Barred Bandicoot, Greater Stick-nest Rat and Greater Bilby.

Running for approximately 3 hours each, the sessions are just $35 and include an Arid Recovery membership for each participant. Bookings are now being taken at the Roxby Downs Visitor and Information Centre, please call 08 8671 2001. Session times are as below:

Friday 21st September 5:30pm

Saturday 22nd September 5:30pm

Saturday 20th October 6:30pm

 

Photo by Ben Parkhurst, winner in 2011 Amateur Arid Photography Competition

Celebrate our threatened species

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One of our volunteers, Scott Elliott, took a look at what exactly makes a threatened species and why we in Australia should celebrate our unique flora and fauna- and protect it! What did you do today to help celebrate and protect an Aussie threatened species?

 

The importance of protecting our threatened species:

One can only marvel at what was going through the mind of Captain James Cook’s botanist, Joseph Banks, when he first set foot on Australian soil.

The young explorer would have marvelled at Australia’s astounding collection of plants and animals that occur nowhere else on Earth.

But what would Banks say if he could peer 200 years into the future and see a continent where 18 species of mammal - and more than 100 species of plant - were now extinct?

The loss of Australia’s endemic species represents the worst rate of extinction among any continent on Earth, however conservationists are now leading efforts to protect more than 700 species currently under threat.

What is a threatened species?

A threatened species refers to a population, species or ecological community deemed to be at risk of extinction in the short to medium-term future.

There’s a whole host of reasons why a species may become threatened, however loss of habitat and the introduction of alien, pest have been identified as leading causes.

The release of domesticated animals including cats, dogs, rabbits and foxes has had a devastating impact upon Australia’s mammal population while land clearing for agricultural development has taken a heavy toll on plant communities.

Even the most subtle shift in human behaviour can have a significant impact on a threatened species and each state and territory employs a different classification system and conservation act to protect threatened species.

The most important safeguards for threatened species are overseen by the Federal Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Threatened species are placed into six categories under the act:

  1. Extinct – there is no reasonable doubt that the last member of the species has died. E.g. Tasmanian Tiger.
  2. Extinct in the wild – the species is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a population well outside its past range.
  3. Critically endangered – the species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.
  4. Endangered – the species is not critically endangered but it is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
  5. Vulnerable – the species is not critically endangered or endangered but it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.
  6. Conservation dependent – the species is the focus of a specific conservation program without which the species would become vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered within a period of five years.

Arid Recovery’s work with threatened species

Arid Recovery is leading efforts to reintroduce a number of threatened species onto our reserve in South Australia’s arid lands.

Key to our approach has been a focus on restoring the original flora and fauna that occupied the Roxby Downs area via reintroductions of previously-occurring mammal communities.

Already the reserve has had significant success reintroducing western barred bandicoot, greater bilby, burrowing bettong and the greater stick-nest rat, all of which were locally extinct prior to AR’s activities.

One of the endangered animals, a Western Barred Bandicoot, being released after processing. Who would want to loose such a cute little critter?

Happy Birthday Arid Recovery!

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunday 19th of August saw the Arid Recovery gates thrown open with young and old coming to help the Arid Recovery staff and volunteers celebrate 15 successful years of Arid Recovery.

Visitors were able to take part in a range of activities, including a 4x4 tour of the Reserve which was quite popular. Participants were able to see sections of the Reserve not accessed by the general public, with commentary about the history and unique flora, fauna and landscapes of the arid zone. “The 4x4 tours were a success, a lot of local Roxby families enjoy getting out and exploring their surrounding environment. Having knowledgeable people to answer questions and point out things that most people would often miss makes it great for the whole family,” said Education and Community Officer Hannah Spronk.

Local volunteers who have been around since the inception of Arid Recovery also came out to lend a hand for the day, taking guided nature trails, sharing their stories and experiences over the last 15 years. “Without our volunteers we would not have had such a successful Open Day celebration, or have such a successful Reserve. There has been thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours put in to Arid Recovery, be they feral control, fence building, educational presentations to school groups or assisting with trapping programs. We appreciate each and every person who has contributed to the project, we wouldn’t be where we are today without them!” said Hannah Spronk, Education and Community Officer.

A big hit on the day was Macca tracker, with children assisting in radio tracking Macca the giant bilby around the Reserve. After searching high and low in piles of wood and in each and every burrow, the children eventually found him hiding out at the field station. There they helped to sing happy birthday and blow out the candles on 15 years of Arid Recovery.

Hannah would like to say thank you to all who took part in the day. “A big thank you to all our volunteers that helped out on the day, we couldn’t have done it without you. We hope everyone who came out enjoyed the day, and learnt a little bit more about Arid Recovery. Here is to another 15 years of protecting the arid zone!”

 

For more photos from the day check out our Facebook page

www.facebook.com/AridRecovery

Top Five things to do for the Environment in Roxby Downs

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Those of us living in Roxby Downs know how beautiful the red sand dunes are and how lucky we are to enjoy the relaxing calm of the Aussie outback.  With all the talk recently about the damage that can be done, we would like to highlight the good that we can all do.  Arid Recovery have compiled a list of our top five things to do in the Roxby Downs region to help our environment.

    1. Keep your pet cat on a leash.  Roxby Downs has some unique by-laws when it comes to being a pet owner, particularly cats.  All pet cats in Roxby Downs must be micro chipped and de-sexed, and proof of this presented before they are registered, just as you would a dog.  Cats must also be kept under control, so either securely in a backyard or on a leash when in public.  For more information check out our blogs from Feral Cat Month.

http://www.aridrecovery.org.au/_blog/Arid_Recovery_News/post/Cat_on_a_leash/ 

    2. Find out what plants to have in your garden.  We all know that water is a very precious resource in this country, particularly when you are living in the arid zone!  So rather than trying to replicate a small section of tropical rainforest in your backyard, why not have a chat to those at the local garden centre- a native garden will save you time and money.  Click on the link below to learn a little more about the plants that have devastating effects on the local environment when they escape from local gardens.

Fight the Weed Invaders

    3. Join Arid Recovery and visit the AR Reserve.  Becoming a member of Arid Recovery not only supports us in conserving the arid zone, but also offers you the opportunity to play your part in conservation.  Join a tour of the AR Reserve and learn more about the local flora and fauna, with a spotlight walk to the nocturnal hide afterwards, you have the chance to spot a few of the cute and furry local bettongs and bilbies.

http://www.aridrecovery.org.au/friends

http://www.aridrecovery.org.au/tours

    4. Sign up for the Roxby Downs Environment Forum.  The Environment forum gives Roxby locals the chance to have their say on environmental issues in the town and assists in the development of environmental programs throughout the region. Including the Buffel Busters program, helping keep Roxby free from buffel grass, a weed of national significance that can devastate large tracts of land and decrease the biodiversity of the arid zone. For more information about the Roxby Downs Environment Forum check out the Facebook page (go to www.facebook.com and search for Roxby Downs Environment Forum)

    5. Donate to Arid Recovery.  Not only are we protecting a number of threatened native species, we are undertaking research that is aiding conservation efforts nationwide.  Our feral proof fence has been replicated in reserves across the world and costs us $10,000.00 per kilometre to build.  Help us restore the arid zone by donating today- be that by joining as a member, adopting a little Aussie Digger or volunteering your time with us.

https://aridrecovery.worldsecuresystems.com/donate-options

 

 

A protected home for wild bilbies

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Last the largest Indigenous Protected Area in Australia was declared, creating another safe refuge for threatened species such as bilbies and another piece in the Trans- Australian Eco- Link.  The Southern Tanami Desert IPA, home to the Warlpiri speaking peoples, is larger than the state of Tasmania, covering 10.15 million hectares.  With nearly 50 IPA’s across Australia making up nearly 25% of the Australian Reserve system, this is a huge step forward for conservation.

The Tanami desert is one of the last regions in Australia to be thoroughly explored, with people not making it there until well into the twentieth century.  The area is made up of rocky plains and grasslands, the addition of this parcel of land to the Trans- Australian Eco- Link provides a vital link between southern arid zone deserts and northern tropical grasslands.

The newly declared IPA is home to a range of animals with more than 100 different types of reptile species and 70 bird species, with many flocking to the outback lakes after heavy rains.  The area is also home to a couple of other threatened, Australian inhabitants, such as the bilby, great desert skink and princess parrot.  The Southern Tanami is one of the last remaining habitats for wild bilbies, and with inclusion of the area in the Australian Reserve system, they will have a greater chance of surviving.

With the help of the Federal Government along with the Nature Conservancy, the local indigenous groups who call the area home will be able to manage the lands in their traditional way.  The introduction of feral species such as cats and foxes has had a huge impact on the ecosystem, and traditional owners are hoping to return the balance, and in the process pass on their knowledge of country to the next generation of those who will care for their country.

For more information please click on the link below.

http://www.environment.gov.au/indigenous/ipa/declared/southern-tanami.html

Celebrate NAIDOC Week

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

From the 1- 8th of July, NAIDOC Week will be celebrated across Australia, and at Arid Recovery we are getting in on the action!

With origins dating back to before the 1920s, NADOC (National Aborigines Day Observance Committee) celebrations as we know them began in 1955, as a day of mourning and celebration of culture, on the first Sunday in July each year.  With the formation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and a referendum, it was decided that the celebrations should cover a week, from the first to second Sunday in July.  In the early 1990’s, the differences between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural history was realised, and were included in the celebration, giving us NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee).

To kick celebrations off this year, a number of groups from the local Roxby Downs community have worked together with local indigenous residents to put together a celebration.  From 11am- 4pm, Richardson Place will be hosting roo tail cooking demonstrations, traditional dancing, face painting, indigenous bands and much more.  Arid Recovery will be holding a stall, with plenty of track and scat making to keep the children amused. 

The red sand surrounding Roxby Downs provides a great canvas for recording the tracks of animals, and spotting the scats they leave behind.  Not only are these scats and tracks used by the staff at Arid Recovery as part of the scientific work we do, they also played an integral role in the survival of many of the indigenous people who called this area home.  The photo above shows the gait and tracks of a bilby.  You can clearly see the two small scratch marks in the sand on the lower half of the photo, and the hind foot imprints and nail drag lines that are unique to bilbies.

For more information about NAIDOC week and celebrations happening elsewhere in Australia you can visit www.naidoc.org.au or drop in to Richardson Place this Sunday and help to celebrate NAIDOC week and the unique Aboriginal culture.

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Arid recovery is a conservation initiative supported by:
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