Evaluating modelled wildlife corridors for the movement of multiple arboreal species in a fragmented landscape
Context: In highly fragmented landscapes, arboreal mammals are limited by their ability to move and disperse between core habitats. Connectivity modelling for multiple species allows scientists to identify the most efficient movement and/or dispersal pathway(s) to prioritise for conservation efforts. Objectives: In this study, we evaluated the most cost-effective corridor pathway for eight species of arboreal mammals, with particular emphasis on an endangered population of greater gliders (Petauroides volans). Methods: We use species distribution modelling and circuit theory to calculate connectivity in the landscape for each species. An all-species corridor was then modelled using a least cost path analysis. The final corridor was evaluated for all species through ground-truthing accessible segments. Results: We identified that some segments of the corridor had low suitability for highly specialised species, and those with tree hollow requirements for denning. The all-species corridor also utilised an artificial crossing structure over a highway, and monitoring of this rope bridge found only two species (sugar gliders; Petaurus breviceps and ringtail possums; Pseudocheirus peregrinus) used the structure on occasion. Thus, the modelled corridor pathway was not suitable for all species, rather it was found to be more suitable for generalist species such as sugar gliders, ringtail possums, brown antechinus; Antechinus stuartii and brushtail possums; Trichosurus vulpecula. Conclusions: Our study exemplifies the importance of ground-truthing in connectivity conservation studies to ensure conservation outcomes are realised. Furthermore, we provide detailed recommendations for relevant conservation managers, to improve the usage of these existing habitat corridors by arboreal species.
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NSW Environmental Trust