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Putting it back: Woody debris in young restoration plantings to stimulate return of reptiles

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Summary

Despite active investment in restoration, some habitat features can be slow to develop on formerly degraded land and can consequently pose persistent barriers to the re-establishment of specialist species. Coarse woody debris (CWD) is a critical resource for a whole suite of animal taxa but remains an underappreciated component of some forest ecosystems and restoration activities. The extent to which recovery of animal communities can be accelerated through artificial supplementation of woody debris is poorly understood especially for highly diverse tropical forest systems. Here, we report early results from an experiment designed to manipulate CWD in young restoration plantings (0–7 year old) in tropical north-east Australia for the purposes of facilitating re-establishment of rainforest reptiles. After 1 year, we demonstrate that CWD addition within restoration plantings adjacent to remnant forest can increase the local abundance of reptiles and promote colonisation of the log-specialist Prickly Skink (Gnypetoscincus queenslandiae). These preliminary results, however, are based on observations of just 44 individual reptiles encompassing seven species. Ongoing monitoring will elucidate longer-term outcomes to enable a proper evaluation of when and where CWD addition might be most beneficial in realising restoration goals.

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