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Managing rock outcrops to improve biodiversity conservation in Australian agricultural landscapes

Authors

  • Damian R. Michael,

  • David B. Lindenmayer,

  • Ross B. Cunningham


Damian Michael, David Lindenmayer and Ross Cunninghamare from the Fenner School of Environment and Society (Hancock Building (43), Biology Place, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia; Tel: +61 2 61250654; Email: damian.michael@anu.edu.au). The research was undertaken in response to a lack of information on the conservation value of small, insular rock outcrops and the need to manage this habitat to enhance biodiversity conservation in Australian agricultural landscapes.

Abstract

Summary  Rocky outcrops are prominent geological features in agricultural landscapes worldwide. Reptiles are a major component of these habitats and some species are restricted to, and more abundant on, rocky outcrops than in remnant vegetation. Rock outcrops are important to reptiles because they provide resources that are often limited in the surrounding landscape (e.g. micro-gradients in climatic conditions, basking- and retreat-sites). However, there is a knowledge gap in the literature addressing the conservation value of small, rocky outcrops. Management may be necessary to reverse habitat degradation in these systems. We identify four key areas of management that need to be addressed to improve outcrop habitat values and enhance biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes. Specific actions involve: (i) protecting outcrops from processes that cause damage to rock microhabitat, (ii) monitoring and managing changes in vegetation structure to maintain thermally suitable environments, (iii) applying integrated pest animal control and (iv) improving matrix management to enhance inselberg function and landscape connectivity. Further research is required to evaluate the efficacy of different management regimes on outcrop biota. We hope this paper will provide the stimulus for land managers to incorporate rocky outcrops in future biodiversity conservation programmes.

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