Successional changes in feeding activity by threatened cockatoos in revegetated mine sites
School of Natural Sciences
Context Provision of key habitat resources is essential for effectively managing species that have specific ecological requirements and occur in production landscapes. Threatened black cockatoos in the jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest of Western Australia have a wide range, so their conservation requires support from all land tenures, not just reserves. Mining in the jarrah forest temporarily removes cockatoo feeding habitat, so it is important to understand how cockatoos exploit revegetated areas for food resources. Aims We aimed to determine whether there were successional patterns in cockatoo feeding activity in revegetation aged from 4 to 23 years at three mine sites in the jarrah forest in south-Western Australia. Methods We surveyed 232 plots in revegetation to document (1) structural and floristic variation in vegetation across mine sites and revegetation ages, (2) differences in cockatoo feeding activity across mine sites and revegetation ages on the basis of feeding residues and (3) any edge effect reflecting preferential use of vegetation at the interior or exterior of mine pits. We also documented the frequency of occurrence of cockatoo food plants and feeding residues in 480 plots in unmined forest to compare with revegetated areas. Key results Marri (Corymbia calophylla) and jarrah were commonly consumed in unmined forest and Banksia and Hakea species were also fed on to a lesser extent. Revegetated mine pits provided food within 4 years and continued to do so up until the oldest plots studied (23 years). The relative importance of food plants shifted from proteaceous species in young revegetation to myrtaceous species in intermediate to older revegetation. However, extent of feeding on myrtaceous species in older revegetation did not equate to feeding rates in unmined forest, with lower frequencies recorded in revegetation. Conclusions Black cockatoos fed in revegetation at all three mine sites, despite variations in vegetation age, structure and floristics. Feeding on proteaceous and myrtaceous food plants occurred within 4 and 7 years of revegetation being established, respectively, indicating that some food resources are restored quickly after mining disturbance of the jarrah forest. Implications Our results emphasise the importance of monitoring fauna recolonisation over appropriate time scales, to understand how successional processes in revegetation influence fauna population persistence in production landscapes. © The authors 2016.