The value of countryside elements in the conservation of a threatened arboreal marsupial petaurus norfolcensis in agricultural landscapes of South-Eastern Australia-The disproportional value of scattered trees

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Abstract

Human activities, particularly agriculture, have transformed much of the world's terrestrial environment. Within these anthropogenic landscapes, a variety of relictual and semi-natural habitats exist, which we term countryside elements. The habitat value of countryside elements (hereafter termed 'elements') is increasingly recognised. We quantify the relative value of four kinds of such 'elements' (linear roadside remnants, native vegetation patches, scattered trees and tree plantings) used by a threatened Australian arboreal marsupial, the squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis). We examined relationships between home range size and the availability of each 'element' and whether the usage was relative to predicted levels of use. The use of 'elements' by gliders was largely explained by their availability, but there was a preference for native vegetation patches and scattered trees. We found home range size was significantly smaller with increasing area of scattered trees and a contrasting effect with increasing area of linear roadside remnants or native vegetation patches. Our work showed that each 'element' was used and as such had a role in the conservation of the squirrel glider, but their relative value varied. We illustrate the need to assess the conservation value of countryside elements so they can be incorporated into the holistic management of agricultural landscapes. This work demonstrates the disproportional value of scattered trees, underscoring the need to specifically incorporate and/or enhance the protection and recruitment of scattered trees in biodiversity conservation policy and management.

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Crane, M. J., Lindenmayer, D. B., & Cunningham, R. B. (2014). The value of countryside elements in the conservation of a threatened arboreal marsupial petaurus norfolcensis in agricultural landscapes of South-Eastern Australia-The disproportional value of scattered trees. PLoS ONE, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0107178

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