Utilisation of seed resources by small mammals : a two-way interaction

Elmouttie, David (2009) Utilisation of seed resources by small mammals : a two-way interaction. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Within the Australian wet tropics bioregion, only 900 000 hectares of once continuous rainforest habitat between Townsville and Cooktown now remains. While on the Atherton Tableland, only 4% of the rainforest that once occurred there remains today with remnant vegetation now forming a matrix of rainforest dispersed within agricultural land (sugarcane, banana, orchard crops, townships and pastoral land). Some biologists have suggested that remnants often support both faunal and floral communities that differ significantly from remaining continuous forest. Australian tropical forests possess a relatively high diversity of native small mammal species particularly rodents, which unlike larger mammalian and avian frugivores elsewhere, have been shown to be resilient to the effects of fragmentation, patch isolation and reduction in patch size. While small mammals often become the dominant mammalian frugivores, in terms of their relative abundance, the relationship that exists between habitat diversity and structure, and the impacts of small mammal foraging within fragmented habitat patches in Australia, is still poorly understood. The relationship between foraging behaviour and demography of two small mammal species, Rattus fuscipes and Melomys cervinipes, and food resources in fragmented rainforest sites, were investigated in the current study. Population densities of both species were strongly related with overall density of seed resources in all rainforest fragments. The distribution of both mammal species however, was found to be independent of the distribution of seed resources. Seed utilisation trials indicated that M.cervinipes and R.fuscipes had less impact on seed resources (extent of seed harvesting) than did other rainforest frugivores. Experimental feeding trials demonstrated that in 85% of fruit species tested, rodent feeding increased seed germination by a factor of 3.5 suggesting that in Australian tropical rainforest remnants, small mammals may play a significant role in enhancing germination of large seeded fruits. This study has emphasised the role of small mammals in tropical rainforest systems in north eastern Australia, in particular, the role that they play within isolated forest fragments where larger frugivorous species may be absent.

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ID Code: 30239
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Mather, Peter & Williamson, Ian
Keywords: small mammals, food sources, seed
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 04 Feb 2010 04:25
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:54

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