An ecological assessment of secondary poisoning risk in the Australian sugarcane industry

Ward, Daniel John (2008) An ecological assessment of secondary poisoning risk in the Australian sugarcane industry. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Rodenticide use in agriculture can lead to the secondary poisoning of avian predators. Currently the Australian sugarcane industry has two rodenticides, Racumin® and Rattoff®, available for in-crop use but, like many agricultural industries, it lacks an ecologically-based method of determining the potential secondary poisoning risk the use of these rodenticides poses to avian predators. The material presented in this thesis addresses this by: a. determining where predator/prey interactions take place in sugar producing districts; b. quantifying the amount of rodenticide available to avian predators and the probability of encounter; and c. developing a stochastic model that allows secondary poisoning risk under various rodenticide application scenarios to be investigated. Results demonstrate that predator/prey interactions are highly constrained by environmental structure. Rodents used crops that provided high levels of canopy cover and therefore predator protection and poorly utilised open canopy areas. In contrast, raptors over-utilised areas with low canopy cover and low rodent densities, but which provided high accessibility to prey. Given this pattern of habitat use, and that industry baiting protocols preclude rodenticide application in open canopy crops, these results indicate that secondary poisoning can only occur if poisoned rodents leave closed canopy crops and become available for predation in open canopy areas. Results further demonstrate that after in-crop rodenticide application, only a small proportion of rodents available in open areas are poisoned and that these rodents carry low levels of toxicant. Coupled with the low level of rodenticide use in the sugar industry, the high toxic threshold raptors have to these toxicants and the low probability of encountering poisoned rodents, results indicate that the risk of secondary poisoning events occurring is minimal. A stochastic model was developed to investigate the effect of manipulating factors that might influence secondary poisoning hazard in a sugarcane agro-ecosystem. These simulations further suggest that in all but extreme scenarios, the risk of secondary poisoning is also minimal. Collectively, these studies demonstrate that secondary poisoning of avian predators associated with the use of the currently available rodenticides in Australian sugar producing districts is minimal. Further, the ecologically-based method of assessing secondary poisoning risk developed in this thesis has broader applications in other agricultural systems where rodenticide use may pose risks to avian predators.

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ID Code: 31325
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Williamson, Ian & Mather, Peter
Keywords: sugarcane industry, poisoning, ecological assessment
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Mar 2010 05:13
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2017 14:40

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