Restoration Techniques Need to be Improved to Conserve Wildlife
Friday, August 26, 2016
The relative influence of in situ and neighbourhood factors on reptile recolonization in post-mining restoration sites
Maggie D. Triska*, Michael D. Craig, Vicki L. Stokes, Roger P. Pech and Richard J. Hobbs
Restoration is necessary to lessen the destruction caused by mining and other disturbances, but more effort is required to improve restoration quality over time for restoration areas to provide habitat for wildlife.
Mining that removes all vegetation, and restoration aiming to put back the vegetation, have been conducted in the Jarrah forest – southwest of Perth, Australia– for nearly 30 years, creating patchwork of unmined forest and restoration of multiple ages. Researchers from the University of Western Australia assessed the quality of the restoration as habitat for reptiles by completing reptile and vegetation surveys in 104 restoration sites, aged from 3-20 years post-mining and 35 unmined sites, to represent the reference reptile community present pre-mining.
They determined that the suite of reptiles present in unmined sites was not the same as the suite of reptiles present in the restoration sites even after 20 years post-mining and restoration. Their research suggests that the factors limiting species return and survival are related to habitat complexity and how it changes over time.
“We were lucky to work in a landscape where the mining company has historically put a lot of effort into their restoration plans and wildlife monitoring which has resulted in restoration practices that are considered to be among the best anywhere in the world. However, it is still obvious that improvements to the restoration of post-mine sites can and need to be made to conserve native wildlife. Given the quality of the restoration we studied, this means the issues we identified are likely to be typical of most restoration efforts” comments lead researcher Maggie Triska.
Additionally, the rate at which reptiles returned was species specific – some returned immediately following mining, some slowly returned as the vegetation matured, some failed to return, and some returned, but then left as vegetation structure in the restoration sites changed.
Species that fail to return to restoration sites often have specialized habitat requirements which include the presence of features that take 100s of years to produce (logs, tree hollows). Unfortunately, it is unlikely they will ever return to the restoration during the lifespan of the mine unless proactive, and potentially costly, management actions are included in restoration plans, and this should be acknowledged prior to the establishment of the mine.
Species that do not return to restoration sites are easy to recognize, but species that disappear over time are more difficult for managers to identify. The researchers believe that the issue is likely to be too much vegetation, which prevents them from being able to bask in the sun to get warm and that thinning the restoration may prevent them from leaving. However, they acknowledge that more research is required to identify when and why certain species leave the restoration sites. Overall, their research supports the need to enhance restoration for many species and improve our restoration techniques further if restoration is going to help all wildlife species.
The relative influence of in situ and neighborhood factors on reptile recolonization in post-mining restoration sites (pages 517–527) Maggie D. Triska, Michael D. Craig, Vicki L. Stokes, Roger P. Pech and Richard J. Hobbs Version of Record online: 10 FEB 2016 | DOI: 10.1111/rec.12340
About Restoration Ecology
Restoration Ecology is the Society for Ecological Restoration’s bi-monthly scientific and technical peer-reviewed journal. Edited by a distinguished international panel, the journal addresses global issues in ecological restoration and communicates them to researchers and practitioners throughout the world
About the Society for Ecological Restoration
The Society for Ecological Restoration is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and re-establishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.
Marguerite Nutter, Membership and Communications Manager, SER