PROJECT TITLE: Fitz-Stirling Fauna Recovery Operational Plan
PROJECT MANAGER: Angela Sanders, Ecologist SW WA
Bush Heritage Australia is engaged with a wide collaborative network of professional colleagues and with multiple landowners in an ambitious connectivity conservation program across the Fitz-Stirling landscape between the Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River National Parks. The program addresses aspects of habitat extent and connectivity - primarily a spatial consideration - and habitat condition, and is focused on the application of strategies to reduce key threats to those.
Habitat Extent and Connectivity
Habitat loss and fragmentation are key threats to extent and connectivity respectively. Bush Heritage’s program through the past two decades has concentrated on securing remaining habitat through purchase or partnership, enhancing habitat extent and connectivity through ecological restoration, and comprehensive monitoring of key attributes of vegetation and fauna to determine trends in habitat condition.
Threats to Habitat Condition
The key threats consistently identified across the duration of the project are predation of native fauna by foxes and feral cats, and climate change. The latter is outside our scope of control at program level, though we can incorporate resilience considerations into our restoration design, for example.
Integrated management of foxes and feral cats has not been possible until now, because a readily-available means of cat control at landscape scale has not been available. Keenly aware of unintended adverse consequences of fox control on its own, with ‘meso-predator release’ of feral cats a key concern, we have run very limited predator control operations to date.
The Fauna Restoration Project
Availability of ‘Eradicat’ baits, emerging information on feral cat ecology across the Fitz-Stirling landscape, close collaboration with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions feral cat experts, and presence of the Michael Tichbon Field Station as an operational base, places us now in an ideal position to progress a strategy of landscape-scale integrated feral animal control across multiple tenures in the central Fitz-Stirling. A project area has been selected, comprising approximately 37,000 hectares and including the Corackerup and Peniup Nature Reserves and Bush Heritage Australia’s ChereninupReserve, shown in the mapsat Page 4&5.
Supported by our ongoing ecological outcomes monitoring program, augmented by additional project-specific monitoring, and run across five years to account for the response lags that characterise many ecological interactions, the project will for the first time seriously tackle the feral predator threat in the Fitz-Stirling landscape.
The collaborative and very tight project design ensures that we will be reporting specific outcomes for benefits to target native species, and building a platform of invaluable experience and data on management action and ecological response.
Key Measures of Success
- A successful outcome will be an increase in the occupancy of native herbivores, Black-gloved and Tammar Wallabies, in the project area.
Occupancy is often used as a metric for estimating various species’ occurrence and is a function of abundance. Wallabies are selected as an indicator because we have a robust monitoring method and baseline data.
- A highly successful outcome will be an increase in biomass of small vertebrates (mammals and reptiles) preyed on by foxes and cats.
Fauna trapping usually returns low capture results meaning statistical analysis is limited. Using total biomass (weight) of captured species enables a more robust analysis to be carried out.
- Outstanding success will be increased detection, using cameras, of a key species and top-level native predator, the Chuditch.
Over the past 10 years of monitoring on conservation properties in the Fitz-Stirling region there has been one Chuditch detected, in 2019 on Peniup Nature Reserve. With increased predator control, a key indicator of project success in the longerterm will be annual detections of Chuditch at a level to be determined during the project planning.
- Outstanding success will be successful reintroduction of species that have become locally extinct, including Red-tailed Phascogales.
This is a long-term goal that is dependent on the reduction of introduced predators (cats and foxes) to create the conditions necessary for successful reintroduction.
SCOPE OF WORK
The project requires an operational plan that will guide all predator control and monitoring activities over the five-year project duration. The plan will include:
1) Detailed pre and post control monitoring program, including methods, timing, and data analysis (impact assessment).
2) Detailed feral animal (Fox, Feral Cat, Rabbit) control program integrated over 37,000ha, including methods, timing and data analysis (outcomes assessment).
Development of the plan will require close liaison with the following:
- Bush Heritage SW WA Ecologist
- Dept Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions staff
- Fitzgerald Biosphere Group staff individual land holders
- Other individuals and organisations as required
1) Detailed operational plan that will form the basis of all feral predator control and monitoring activities over the five- year project.
2) Maps showing location of baiting and monitoring sites
3) Timetable and Critical Path for implementation, showing key tasks, task dependencies, task durations and resource requirements.
- Budget – a limit of $20,000 ex GST has been set
- Timeframe –A draft Operational Plan including Outputs 1) to 3) above is to be provided to the Project Manager by April 20 2020, with the final plan provided by May 15 2020
The proposal is to demonstrate an understanding of client requirements showing the proposed method of handling the project, including regular consultation with the client.
The proposal should be submitted no later than February 28 2020 and delivered to the Project Manager via email.
Queries relating to this project should be directed to the Project Manager.
Ecologist SW WA
Mobile: 0459 190 288