Weed invasion, pest animals, declining soil quality, exotic disease prevalence, declining seed dispersal and pollination rates are not just issues for farmers.
The same set of problems are faced by wildlife managers.
Rather than both sectors continuing to tackle these problems individually, and neither effectively, FAUNA’s research investigates if strategic wildlife re-introductions can be used to tackle these threats across multifunctional landscapes, 24 hrs/ day, 365 days/year delivering both on-park and on-farm benefits.
The literature surrounding the cost/benefits of using native species to effect positive change is complex, with studies suggesting that the return of a few key species, can benefit many, and effectively re-balance the ecosystem.
Benefits include bringing overabundant, secondary predators and herbivores into check, assisting the proliferation of rare species, reducing overgrazing, improving soil composition and fertility, improving water quality and penetration, enhancing pollination rates and reducing exotic disease prevalence.
In the Australian context, this field of research is relatively new, and the potential benefits would vary depending upon the species proposed, however, evidence does exist to support the existence of similar knock-on benefits.
The Grampians provides a logical case study location for this work, as conservation land manager, Parks Victoria, and wildlife researchers have already developed close working relationships with local farmers and Landcare groups establishing the cross-tenure fox 1080 poison baiting and rabbit buster programs to benefit national park wildlife and surrounding livestock production.
To address this loss of keystone species and help restore ecosystem function and the services they provide. This project will:
- Evaluate all candidate species (e.g. devils, tiger quolls, eastern quolls, phascogales), and their potential social, economic, ecosystem and agricultural costs/benefits.
- Explore the techniques needed to establish the measures and indicators required to obtain quantifiable outcomes of the role that wildlife can play in providing landscape services that benefit both the ecosystem and production.
- Develop reintroduction protocols, animal ethics and plans for re-introductions within the NP and adjacent farmland.
- Conduct a desk-top GIS and on-ground site assessment of the Grampians NP to identify high quality sites for target species re-introductions.
- Conduct trial re-introductions of highly interactive wildlife species and optimize release protocols.
- Quantify the ecosystem benefits/impacts of these re-introductions on populations of potentially susceptible native and feral herbivore species and on feral carnivore abundance.
- Establish basic bio-economic modelling around the use of strategic re-introductions to improve ecosystem health and function as it relates to the environmental and livestock production sectors.