The impact of water buffalo on the monsoon forest ecosystem in Kakadu National Park



The intensity of use of forested country in the Kakadu National Park area by feral Asiatic water buffalo can be largely predicted from the area of river floodplain in the vicinity of the site, and tree canopy cover on the site. Thus some areas of monsoon forest appear to have sustained intensive use by buffalo for over a century whereas other areas have probably been little used.

With sites exhibiting little buffalo use, mean DBH of trees increased with foliage height diversity (FHD). However, the sites more intensively used by buffalo had a lower canopy and did not exhibit any increase in mean DBH with a pronounced increase in FHD. Other vegetational relationships displayed by the two groups of sites are discussed. Comparison of the monsoon forest sites suggests that compaction of soil by buffalo has caused the death of large trees due to poor recharge of groundwater.

The two groups of monsoon forest sites exhibited a wide variety of faunal relationships with FHD. Some species appear to be favoured while others are disadvantaged to various degrees by the habitat changes caused by the buffalo. The most intensively used site appears to have exceeded a threshold in that a number of faunal trends were reversed on that site.

The impact of buffalo on some monsoon forest sites is much more fundamental than anticipated. But other sites which appear to be naturally protected by their location have experienced much less change due to buffalo.