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Long-Term Trends in Faunal Recolonization After Bauxite Mining in the Jarrah Forest of Southwestern Australia


  Address correspondence to O. G. Nichols, email


Abstract Fauna serve a key role in many forest ecological processes. Despite this, few studies have considered long-term faunal recolonization after mining and rehabilitation of forest ecosystems. In the jarrah forest of southwestern Australia, permanent fauna monitoring sites have been established in bauxite mined areas rehabilitated in 1990 and in a range of representative unmined forest control sites. At each site mammals, birds, reptiles, and ants were surveyed in 1992, 1995, and 1998. The aims of the monitoring were to develop a better understanding of faunal recolonization trends, to produce recommendations for promoting fauna return, and to consider which techniques and fauna groups are best suited for monitoring recolonization. The results showed that successional trends varied between fauna groups. Generalist foraging mammals recolonized rapidly, whereas small predators took longer. Feral mice were initially abundant and then declined. Birds gradually recolonized, and after 8 years bird communities were very similar to those in unmined forest sites. Reptile species took longer, and after 8 years numbers of species remained lower than in unmined forests. Species richness and diversity of ants in 8-year-old rehabilitation were comparable with those of unmined forest in some rehabilitated sites but were lower in others. The composition of ant communities was still different from that of unmined sites. Ant species that only use disturbed forest declined rapidly in abundance as rehabilitation aged. The results suggest that although the rates of faunal recolonization will vary, with time most or all mammal, bird, reptile, and ant species should inhabit rehabilitated bauxite mines. The densities of many are likely to be similar to those in unmined forest, but for others it is too early to know whether this will be the case. Techniques for promoting fauna return are discussed. This study demonstrates that no single fauna group is suitable for use as an overall “indicator” of faunal recolonization; different fauna species and groups reflect different aspects of faunal succession.

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