Improving ecological processes – the learning curve

Reinforcing the need for land managers to better understand and improve ecological processes, the positives and negatives of dingoes and exclusion fences made the news this week.

ABC’s Radio National interviewed Dr Thomas Newsome, from University of Sydney, who is calling for a renewed study on the ecological role of the dingo. Lamenting that ‘current management isn’t working and our conservation initiatives are failing’, he and others are proposing a ‘bold experiment’.

The proposal is to shift some 270 kilometres of the 5,500+ km dingo fence, so the species can re-occupy Sturt National Park, in the far north-west corner of NSW. Based on current evidence, the outcome, should the proposal progress, is a reduction in the numbers of kangaroos, emus, goats, foxes and cats. The idea is to observe what happens in the park and presumably to see if the numbers of small marsupials increase.

The largest obstacle to any conservation proposal, bold or other wise, are NSW government land managers, in this case the National Parks and Wildlife Service. So it will be interesting to see if there is any reaction, supportive or otherwise, from the NSW government.

Part of the Murrah River exclosure fence

Part of the Murrah River exclosure fence

In the ACT, radio 666 ABC reported on studies finding more than 100 reptiles have died over the past 18 months at Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve. The reserve has an 11.5 km fence and as previously reported on this blog, ACT Parks and Recreation have been re-introducing Bettongs and other species into the area.

According to the reserve website, the fence has a similar in design to the Murrah feral exclusion fence pictured above. However the photo on the ABC’s website indicates at least some lengths of the fence have two layers of rabbit netting on the bottom, making it very difficult and dangerous for many snakes and lizards to get through.

However, most of the reptiles found dead were eastern long-necked turtles, that rabbit netting by itself will exclude. This issue would seem to have a fairly easy solution, because turtles can get through a quite narrow gap, that a cat or fox is unlikely to. The solution could be strategically placed gaps at the bottom of the fence so turtles can get in and out.

Conveniently, this fits in with completing the fence at the Murrah, so improved turtle egress can be included when modifying the section across the swamp, aimed at making it a bit more resistant to flood damage.

Less of a convenience are the wombat gates, as more than half of these were made to weigh 3 kilograms. Recent research has found 2 kgs is adequate, so some modifications will be required.


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