Experimental rock outcrops reveal continuing habitat disturbance for an endangered Australian snake
Protected areas are commonly viewed as safe havens for endangered species. To test this notion, we experimentally constructed small rock outcrops for the endangered broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) within a national park near Sydney, Australia. Rock outcrops provide vital shelter sites during the cooler months of the year. Constructed rock outcrops (3 × 5 m) were placed at 11 paired sites located near (≤250 m) and far from (>400 m) walking tracks and roads. Eight of our 22 rock outcrops were disturbed by people over a 15-month period. Disturbance consisted of displacement of some rocks or complete destruction of the outcrop. Disturbed outcrops occurred up to 450 m from a walking track or road. Disturbance to natural outcrops has also been observed in this park. This demonstrates a continuing decline in the quality of this snake's habitat. Twenty of our rock outcrops were colonized by velvet geckos (Oedura lesueurii), the primary prey of this snake. One broad-headed snake was found in one outcrop. According to these findings, attempts to restore the habitat of this endangered snake should be centered on sites located ≥500 m from a walking track or road. Our study highlights the value of targeted experiments that precede larger-scale habitat restoration.
Goldingay, RL & Newell, DA 2000, 'Experimental rock outcrops reveal continuing habitat disturbance for an endangered Australian snake', Conservation Biology, vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 1908-1912.
The definitive version is available at http://www.blackwellpublishing.com, http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.99458.x
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