Vertebrate Fauna Recolonization of Restored Bauxite Mines—Key Findings from Almost 30 Years of Monitoring and Research

Authors


  • Conflict of Interest Statement: O. G. Nichols is a paid fauna consultant to Alcoa, while C. D. Grant is a paid employee of Alcoa.

Address correspondence to C. D. Grant, email Carl.Grant@alcoa.com.au

Abstract

Studies into the processes of vertebrate fauna colonization of Alcoa’s restored bauxite mines began around 1975. This recognized the key role of vertebrate fauna in jarrah forest ecosystem processes, and also the fact that some species were rare, so priority was given to determining their status in unmined forest, and promoting their return to restored areas following mining. Long-term studies have since taken place on mammals, birds, and reptiles both in unmined forest and in restored areas of varying ages and techniques. Mammal recolonization varies between species depending on species’ food and shelter requirements and their distribution and abundance in the surrounding forest. Birds rapidly recolonize and 95% of species have been recorded in restoration. Bird community structure changes with restoration type and age, and in current restoration, it is similar to that of unmined forest by the age of 10 years. Studies on reptiles have shown that 21 of 24 species have recolonized. The remaining three include one legless lizard and two snakes, all of which feed on small vertebrates (e.g., skinks) and require shelter in the form of logs, stumps, and coarse woody debris. Some other reptile species consistently occur in restoration in lower densities than in unmined forest, and current studies are investigating the causes of this. Together, studies on these three vertebrate fauna groups have provided valuable, complementary information on their habitat requirements, and the extent to which Alcoa’s restoration program has been successful in reestablishing this important component of the jarrah forest’s biodiversity.

Ancillary