From the Park Desk

Rainfal DeficienciesUndoubtedly the main talking point around the National Park Office has been how dry the Landscape is, and the implications for us all. Immediately our minds and energies focus on the fire risks to our park and communities which we have had such vivid experiences of over the past 10 years. The dryness is isn’t just a here and now phenomena. We have experienced incredibly dry conditions for the past 3 years which is well illustrated by the diagram.

These conditions not only heighten the Fire risk but also place significant stress on the entire ecological system. Over the past few years, our partners at Deakin University have seen a decline in small mammals across the Grampians landscape as part of their ongoing monitoring into the effects of Fire and now climate has on small mammal populations. It is becoming more and more apparent that rainfall is a key driver for populations, and that when things are wet, we have a response in the positive. However when things are dry, and repeatedly dry, our population numbers decline and become further vulnerable to major changes in the landscape like Fire.  It is during these high stress periods that we believe our Fox baiting programs become even more important to assist small mammal populations in persisting while the climate is dry and the environmental resources are limited. One species which we are pleasantly surprised to report is persisting above our own expectations is the Smoky Mouse(Pseudomys fumeus). Recent work by Melbourne Museum(MV) and Parks Victoria in the Victoria Range has confirmed that this critically endangered Federally Listed species is persisting in isolated gullies despite the big dry and recent severe fire history. Prior to the 2013 Victoria Range fire, the Park and MV undertook the Bioscan which yielded a population of Smoky Mice in the Vic Range of 28 animals. Immediately Post fire that number reduced to 9 and then in 2014 just 3 individuals.

The survey effort in 2015 was expected to result in a challenging data set with Ranger Ben Holmes anticipating “This year [in 2015] we were going back with bated breath – we thought this would be the year that we would not catch any mice”. However 7 animals were trapped including the same 3 from the previous year which tells us that this species is able to persist despite the challenging conditions. PV believe our Grampians Ark Fox baiting program has been instrumental in providing this buffer against predation, allowing the remaining population to stabilise and survive. There’s more information and photos in an article in the Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/15/smoky-mouse-could-go-extinct-without-us-looking-say-victorian-scientists

It is both PV & MV intention to continue to monitor these populations where we can, however a recent funding application to assist in the project was denied which is a knockback for the program. Other options are now being investigated.

To all Friends of Grampians Gariwerd members, we hope you had a happy and rewarding 2015 and have great plans for 2016. For the Park, we have a massive year ahead with big initiatives like the Grampians Peaks Trail and the continuation of the Fire Recovery Program to keep us interested. I’ll continue to keep you informed about these projects at key milestones across the course of the Year.

Regards

David Roberts

Area Chief Ranger, Grampians Gariwerd

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