Causes of reintroduction failure of the brown treecreeper: Implications for ecosystem restoration


Corresponding author.


Reintroductions are conducted to re-establish a self-sustaining population of a species and contribute to ecosystem restoration. The brown treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus) reintroduction into two nature reserves in the Australian Capital Territory in south-eastern Australia failed to meet its predetermined criteria for success. This occurred despite prior habitat restoration within the reserves where reintroduction occurred. Low survival of reintroduced brown treecreepers, particularly due to predation by native predators, has previously been highlighted as a key factor in the failure of the programme. We compared bird behaviour and habitat characteristics between the reintroduction reserves and the sites where brown treecreepers were sourced (which support stable brown treecreeper populations). We did not identify an indication of significantly higher predation pressure in the reintroduction reserves in comparison with the source sites. However, our results revealed that reintroduced individuals may be more vulnerable to predation because of an increased flight time to reach a refuge area. This was a result of a significantly lower number of refuge areas in logs and trees and a higher number of shrubs (which may obstruct escape paths and hinder detection of predators) in the reintroduction reserves compared with the source sites. We identified a lower ground foraging habitat quality in the reintroduction reserves because of lower numbers of ant mounds and lower areas of forageable ground. However, brown treecreepers were able to disperse extensively throughout the reserves and settle in areas with generally higher-quality foraging habitat. Therefore, the negative effect of low ground foraging habitat quality would have been most pronounced immediately after release. This study emphasizes the inherent complexities of species reintroductions and ecosystem restoration. Despite experimental restoration activities within the reintroduction reserves, there were still deficiencies in habitat quality. We emphasize that further habitat restoration is required within these reserves to achieve more complete restoration.