Category Archives: Victoria

New research shows lyrebirds move more litter and soil than any other digging animal

SUPERB-LYREBIRD-crAlexMaisey

WHEN YOU THINK of lyrebirds, what comes to mind may be the sound of camera clicks, chainsaws and the songs of other birds. While the mimicry of lyrebirds is remarkable, it is not the only striking feature of this species.

ABOVE: Male Superb Lyrebird in display.  Alex Maisey, Author provided.

In research just published, we document the extraordinary changes that lyrebirds make to the ground layer in forests in their role as an ecosystem engineer.

Ecosystem engineers change the environment in ways that impact on other species. Without lyrebirds, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places.

Male lyrebird in full tail display.  Alex Maisey

What is an ecosystem engineer?

Ecosystem engineers exist in many environments. By disturbing the soil, they create new habitats or alter existing habitats, in ways that affect other organisms, such as plants and fungi.

A well-known example is the beaver, in North America, which uses logs and mud to dam a stream and create a deep pond. In doing so, it changes the aquatic habitat for many species, including frogs, herons, fish and aquatic plants. Other examples include bandicoots and bettongs.

The Superb Lyrebird acts as an ecosystem engineer by its displacement of leaf litter and soil when foraging for food. Lyrebirds use their powerful claws to rake the forest floor, exposing bare earth and mixing and burying litter, while seeking invertebrate prey such as worms, centipedes and spiders.


Read more:
Our helicopter rescue may seem a lot of effort for a plain little bird, but it was worth it


To study the role of the lyrebird as an engineer, we carried out a two-year experiment in Victoria’s Central Highlands, with three experimental treatments.

First, a fenced treatment, where lyrebirds were excluded from fenced square plots measuring 3m wide.

Second, an identical fenced plot but in which we simulated lyrebird foraging with a three-pronged hand rake (about the width of a lyrebird’s foot). This mimicked soil disturbance by lyrebirds but without the birds eating the invertebrates that lived there.

The third treatment was an unfenced, open plot (of the same size) in which wild lyrebirds were free to forage as they pleased.

Over a two-year period, we tracked changes in the litter and soil, and measured the amount of soil displaced inside and outside of these plots.

A colour-banded female lyrebird in Sherbrooke Forest, Victoria. Her powerful claws are used for foraging in litter and soil.  Meghan Lindsay

Lyrebirds dig up a lot of dirt

On average, foraging by wild lyrebirds resulted in a staggering 155 tonnes per hectare of litter and soil displaced each year throughout these forests.

To the best of our knowledge, this is more than any other digging vertebrate, worldwide.

To put this in context, most digging vertebrates around the world, such as pocket gophers, moles, bandicoots and bettongs, displace between 10–20 tonnes of material per hectare, per year.

To picture what 155 tonnes of soil looks like, imagine the load carried by five medium-sized 30 tonne dump trucks — and this is just for one hectare!

But how much does an individual lyrebird displace? At one study location we estimated the density of the lyrebird population to be approximately one lyrebird for every 2.3 hectares of forest, thanks to the work of citizen scientists led by the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Study Group.

Based on this estimate, and to use our dump truck analogy, a single lyrebird will displace approximately 11 dump trucks of litter and soil in a single year.

Lyrebirds dig up a lot of dirt in forests.

Changes to the ground layer

After two years of lyrebird exclusion, leaf litter in the fenced plots was approximately three times deeper than in the unfenced plots. Soil compaction was also greater in the fenced plots.

Where lyrebirds foraged, the soil easily crumbled and the litter layer never fully recovered to a lyrebird-free state before foraging re-occurred.

This dynamic process of disturbance by lyrebirds has been going on for millennia, profoundly shaping these forests. For organisms such as centipedes, spiders and worms living in the litter and soil, the forest floor under the influence of lyrebirds may provide new opportunities that would not exist in their absence.

Terraced soil where litter has been removed and roots exposed by foraging lyrebirds.  Alex Maisey

An ecosystem ravaged by fire

The Australian megafires of 201920 resulted in approximately 40% of the Superb Lyrebird’s entire distribution being incinerated, according to a preliminary analysis by BirdLife Australia.

So great was the extent of these fires that the conservation status of the lyrebird has been thrown into question. That the conservation status has fallen — from “common” to potentially being “threatened” — from a single event is deeply concerning.


Read more:
After the bushfires, we helped choose the animals and plants in most need. Here’s how we did it
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Loss of lyrebird populations on this scale will have potentially far-reaching effects on forest ecology.

In the face of climate change and a heightened risk of severe wildfire, understanding the role that species such as the Superb Lyrebird play in ecosystems is more important than ever.

Without lyrebirds, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places, with impacts extending well beyond the absence of their glorious song to other animals who rely on these “ecosystem engineers”.The Conversation

Alex Maisey, PhD Candidate, La Trobe University and Andrew Bennett, Professor of Ecology, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

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Historic Court win (Vic) for threatened possum, Regional Forests Agreements

VicForest-court-win-august2020

AWPC has learned:

THE FEDERAL COURT just delivered final orders for our historic win for Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum that protects the forests subject to the case from logging! 

Although the court reached its conclusion in this case in May, until today it had not yet decided how the judgement would apply practically. 

IMAGES (from L): Greater Glider, Steve Parish; Steve Meacher, President, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum; Leadbeater’s Possum, Dan Harley. SOURCE.

Justice Mortimer’s orders today grant final injunctions to protect the 66 areas of forest home to the threatened Greater Glider and critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum subject to the case. 

The judge also made formal declarations of unlawful logging by VicForests in those 66 areas and ordered VicForests pay Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum’s costs of running the case.  

This is huge and sets a national precedent!

This case will have national implications for species threatened by logging under Regional Forest Agreements across the country which will now face much greater scrutiny. 

Just yesterday, the Bob Brown Foundation launched a similar Federal Court case, challenging logging under Regional Forest Agreements in Tasmania’s forests. 

We echo the sentiments of our client, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum below: 

“We are immensely grateful to the public for the donations that have enabled us to pay the costs of mounting a case on this scale and to all those who have worked on the case and supported us in so many ways on this long and challenging journey. 

And to the surveying team from WOTCH and the expert witnesses who provided an unassailable body of detailed evidence.” 

This is the first time the Federal Court has granted a final injunction to prevent logging of threatened wildlife habitat and the first time Victoria’s logging industry — the largest in Australia — has been held to account under federal environment law for its devastating impacts on endangered wildlife.  

The outcome of this case demonstrates that properly enforcing our environment laws is critical to stem the loss of wildlife in this country. 

We are so thrilled that the Greater Glider and Leadbeater’s Possum in these areas of forest can rest easy for now — protecting these areas of habitat is vital to their recovery.  

We hope this is a message to all industry and governments across the country that if they flout the law at the expense of our threatened wildlife, the community will hold them to account in court.

 

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Sometimes sad and unfair things happen (Vic)

wombat-ill-treatment-Chris-Lehmann

I HAVE BEEN TREATING this wombat for sarcoptic mange since early June. The 2nd major treatment was yesterday afternoon, when myself and the local landowners were enjoying seeing the improved condition and alertness of this animal. She was definitely on the road back to normal.

Julie, who is the landowner, contacted me this afternoon because she found our dear wombat dead on the grass. Someone had deliberately run over her while she was eating grass. The tyre tracks are pretty obvious.

— Chris Lehmann, Facebook post. 23 July 2020

 

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Three days at a border fireground (Vic, NSW)

corryong-fire-grounds

AWPC committee member and long-time wildlife rescuer Chris Lehmann spent three days on the post-fire ground between between Victoria and NSW around Albury and Corryong in early February.  Here is his first hand initial report and also a youtube clip from that journey.

The new AWPC committee supports all community efforts to help bring emergency assistance, including food and water drops, to fire survivors as well as to areas that are so dry that animals have lost their natural sustenance (and that might burn next!)

State governments in Victoria and NSW have yet to take leadership or action on helping the wildlife survivors bar a few well-publiced food drops to endangered wallabies.

Landholders and the wider community, including volunteers from overseas are leading the way with generosity and dedication.


My first expression of what I saw at Corryong:

Longing for life

We spent 3 days in the fire grounds of Corryong, some 30 days after Corryong was evacuated because of the fire storms that had destroyed Woormargama, Burrowa, Pine, and Mittamatite Forests plus much of the farmland and many homes around.

We were searching for life.

Mt Mittamatite is a local mountain forest covering about 100 square kms. There might have been 100,000+ furred and feathered animals living on just Mt Mittamatite. Now, 30 days later, as a result of daily searches (over the last few weeks) well into the early hours of the morning, a local wildlife carer estimates there is 50–100 animals surviving there.

He has identified the very few patches of forest that have enough cover and dregs of food for survival and has committed to providing water and food for those few survivors. Those 50–100 kangaroos, wallabies and wombats will be the genesis of the recovery of the mountain.

Life is there, we found it — but the lack of water and good food is too real.

We need to support these animals for a few months. On Tuesday we [sent] 30–40 bags of carrots up to Bellaboo Wildlife Shelter who will lead the water station and food drop effort.

 


A 2nd report from the Corryong Fire Grounds, February 2020.

(Click above text to link to the written post on the Kangaloola Wildlife Shelter Inc. Facebook page.)

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BREAKING NEWS: Vic Govt lifts moratorium

AS THE BUSHFIRES continue to kill kangaroos, The Victorian State Government has lifted their emergency moratorium of the commercial killing of kangaroos.

No wildlife assessment has been completed.
The number of surviving kangaroos is unknown.

Write directly to the Victorian Premier Daniel Andres today to voice your concerns
daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au
Or phone directly (03) 9651 5000

#ShameAustralia
#KangaroosAlive
#AnimalWelfare

 

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Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary (NSW, Vic)

cobargo-wildlife-sanc-jan2020

We join Sara Tilling and Gary Henderson once more, this time Sara talks about grief and loss and rebuilding the future from the caravan that is to be their temporary home. There is an impassioned thank you for the many of you from around the world that have given the support and kindness that will make a new future possible.

“Like us, all living creatures don’t want to die and will fight to survive. Sometimes despite all odds we hang in there, not yet ready to leave for many reasons. Maybe just because you find someone that is prepared to sit with you, love you and give it their all to help you. To give you the strength to fight.”
— Sara Tilling

The money donated to the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary will be spent on rebuilding the wildlife care and rehabilitation infrastructure and equipment, compounds, sheds and the like. Money will also be spent on revegetating the property with the native plant species that will help to give the animals who come to live at the sanctuary in the future, the very best chance of a happy and successful life. There is a vast amount of work to be done.

You can assist in this work by donating HERE.

NOTE: Why it is critically important to donate to people and organisations working on the front line of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Australia.

Sara mentions the attitudes of governments in Australia to wildlife and conservation. What has occurred over the last few days is telling. Some good, some very bad.

The Commonwealth Government of Australia (Canberra) has pledged $50 million to assist wildlife in the firegrounds across this vast continent. The states most impacted at this time are New South Wales (Cobargo), Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. The $50 million in funding will be split between an expert advisory panel and community groups and Koalas will be a focus for restoration efforts, with as much as 30 per cent of Koala habitat destroyed. We shall see what happens.

In New South Wales, where some 8.5 million hectares have been destroyed and whose current government’s attitudes to wildlife conservation are nothing less than egregious appear to be planning on businesses as usual with no changes to lax wildlife laws or the level of commercial or other permits being issued. “DPIE will be monitoring fire and harvesting activity within the commercial management zones and will be engaging with commercial harvesters and animal dealers that may operate within the affected zones,” the spokesperson said. “Our goal is to ensure that Kangaroo populations remain ecologically sustainable.”

In Victoria, the Victorian Government, although details and how these are to be enforced are vague, has suspended its relatively new and doomed Kangaroo Pet Food Industry. The commercial wildlife industry in Victoria is doomed because much of the populations of species being exploited are now gone because of the large numbers of animals killed in the last few years. As far as I can tell the Victorian Government has no plans to put a stop to the vast scale culling of wildlife it claims to be a nuisance or overabundant. In Victoria in the ten-year period 2009-2018 inclusive a total of 32,147 of these ATCW permits (not commercial) were issued for Australian species covering 1,513,605 animals across 82 native species including for 26,507 Wombats, in addition Wombats are unprotected in much of the state and killing them does not require a permit. This Government describes Koalas as overabundant (nonsense).

While not formally announced, the Victorian Government (its Ministers) have also flagged their intention to proceed with this year’s Duck shooting season despite the devastating impact on waterbird populations in Australia from heat events, long term and severe drought and now the horrific fires. South Australia has already announced that despite the devastating fires it will proceed with its Duck shooting season.

Too little too late

An area not that much smaller than Greece, has been destroyed in Australia over the last few weeks and because the firegrounds are so vast, the wildlife that does survive is in immediate danger of starvation and dehydration, all food has gone, and water sources, if they remain, are contaminated. The Australian Veterinary Association is desperately calling on the Victorian Government to airdrop food into inaccessible, bushfire-affected land in Victoria to save starving wildlife.

“Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the Government was taking expert advice to get the best outcome for native wildlife and biodiversity. “We’re considering supplementary feeding for threatened species in targeted areas if and when it’s appropriate and safe to do so,” she said.

As President of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council I have called on the government to stop all wildlife killing activities and to begin food drops with immediate effect. Towards the end of 2019 it looked to me, with all the disasters and potential disasters that we describe here, that the Victorian Government were ‘culling’ wildlife in state and national parks in Victoria. The response I received beyond the usual spin was as follows:

“If you require any more detailed information at this stage, we encourage you to submit your query through our Freedom of Information Process”.

Something to hide perhaps?

Australia’s ABC report that “Animals Australia director Lyn White said some species in fire-affected areas were critically endangered such as the mountain pygmy-possum and brush-tailed rock-wallaby found in Gippsland. The charity offered $100,000 to the Victorian Government last week to help purchase food, but said they have not received a response to the offer”.

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