Naural Values Update

Outstanding native mammal research in the Grampians wins award

A team of researchers from Deakin University has been recognised on World Environment Day for their outstanding research investigating the effects of fire and climatic changes on native mammals in the Grampians National Park.

The Nancy Millis Science in Parks Award recognises outstanding contributions to fostering excellence in applied science for the benefit of park management.

Parks Victoria Chief Executive, Dr Bill Jackson said: “This long-term research and monitoring project is greatly improving our understanding about how native mammals respond to major climatic changes and fires in the Grampians landscape. The research is directly helping to guide how we manage the park to help protect native mammals in this region.”

The project began in 2008, to investigate how small mammals re-colonised after the bushfires that affected the park in 2006. It then evolved into an ongoing program and each year since, 36 sites throughout the Grampians National Park have been monitored by Deakin University honours students. During this time, nearly 5,500 small mammals have been trapped, recorded and released, giving detailed information about the factors that are important for their survival after periods of flood, drought and fire.

“This has been a remarkable team effort, led by Deakin University’s Associate Professor John White, Dr Raylene Cooke and Dr Dale Nimmo and including work by 13 Honours students over the past seven years.  Such long-term scientific monitoring projects are rare but highly valuable for helping us to understand what’s happening in our parks and ecosystems, particularly in a changing climate.

“The data collected has given us important insights into the native mammals’ ‘boom and bust’ cycles that are weather dependant. Detailed maps using satellite images have shown the importance of wet gullies for refuges and maintaining healthy native mammal populations. The research has also shown that the Grampians is a much more ‘rainfall driven’ area than previously thought and rainfall is a key factor for these small mammals’ survival after fire, drought and flood.

“I congratulate the team who have worked closely with Parks Victoria staff locally and are making a real difference to how we manage the park. This includes how and where Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) run planned burn and fire ecology works and pest predator control programs such as fox baiting to best protect the native mammals,” said Dr Jackson.

“Caring for our parks is a complex task that involves many challenges including climate change. We need strong partnerships, innovative solutions and a good scientific understanding of how best to tackle these issues and care for these important natural environments and their inhabitants. Dr Jackson said the project is part of Parks Victoria’s Research Partners Program that fosters collaborative applied research with universities and other research organisations.”

Key findings of the research to date include:

  • For the first time, the Grampians has been shown to be a rainfall driven ‘boom-bust’ system for native mammals. The research has shown the relative importance of factors such as annual rainfall as a major influence for these species to survive after drought, flood and fire. This is directly helping to guide when and where fire and pest predator management programs are run within the park to help protect the native mammals.
  • Small mammal refuges have been identified using the monitoring data and long-term satellite imagery. These include wet gullies and areas that maintain moisture even in dry seasons which the research has found are important for maintaining healthy mammal populations in the Grampians.
  • Evidence from the study indicates that small mammals recolonise from within fire affected areas. It was previously not understood how mammals re-colonise intensely bushfire affected landscapes, and whether this happens from adjoining non-affected sites or whether they survive within the burnt areas. It has been shown that different habitat elements are important for different mammal species to survive post fire, including the presence of rock-outcrops, large trees or small unburnt areas for refuge.

FOGGS are proud that we have been supportive of this important project in several ways. We have financially supported students as they visit the Grampians to conduct the research and we have been inviting them to present their findings to us. Last issue we had reports from two of the researchers and we look forward to hearing from Susannah Hale  sometime early next year.

We are very happy that, despite the funding shortfalls, in our Park the commitment to scientific research has remained  such a priority. Thanks Mike, Dave, Ryan and Ben.

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Quoll recorded on remote camera near Henham track as part of this research (most likely the same one recorded previously).

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