Category Archives: Publications

Beyond spatial overlap: harnessing new technologies to resolve the complexities of predator–prey interactions

Authors: Justin P Suraci, Justine A Smith, Simon Chamaillé-Jammes, Kaitlyn M Gaynor, Menna Jones, Barney Luttbeg, Euan G Ritchie, Michael J Sheriff, and Andrew Sih

Published in: Oikos

Abstract

Predation risk, the probability that a prey animal will be killed by a predator, is fundamental to theoretical and applied ecology. Predation risk varies with animal behavior and environmental conditions, yet attempts to understand predation risk in natural systems often ignore important ecological and environmental complexities, relying instead on proxies for actual risk such as predator–prey spatial overlap.

Here we detail the ecological and environmental complexities driving disconnects between three stages of the predation sequence that are often assumed to be tightly linked: spatial overlap, encounters and prey capture. Our review highlights several major sources of variability in natural predator–prey systems that lead to the decoupling of spatial overlap estimates from actual encounter rates (e.g. temporal activity patterns, predator and prey movement capacity, resource limitations) and that affect the probability of prey capture given encounter (e.g. predator hunger levels, temporal, topographic and other environmental influences on capture success). Emerging technologies and statistical methods are facilitating a transition to a more spatiotemporally detailed, mechanistic understanding of predator–prey interactions, allowing for the concurrent examination of multiple stages of the predation sequence in mobile, free-ranging animals.

We describe crucial applications of this new understanding to fundamental and applied ecology, highlighting opportunities to better integrate ecological contingencies into dynamic predator–prey models and to harness a mechanistic understanding of predator–prey interactions to improve targeting and effectiveness of conservation interventions.

Suraci JP, Smith JA, Chamaillé‐Jammes S, Gaynor KM, Jones M, Luttbeg B, Ritchie EG, Sheriff MJ, Sih A (2022) Beyond spatial overlap: harnessing new technologies to resolve the complexities of predator–prey interactions. Oikos PDF DOI

Australia’s biodiversity crisis and opportunity

Author: Euan G Ritchie

Published in: Science (Letters)

Australia is failing to meet its international obligations to conserve its unique native biodiversity and ecosystems. Most of Australia’s plants and animals are found nowhere else on Earth, but since colonization about 230 years ago, at least 100 endemic species have been driven to extinction, and 17 ecosystems spanning the continent are now showing signs of collapse. Many more species face the same grim fate, with more than 1900 species and ecological communities currently listed as of conservation concern under Australia’s centerpiece environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Numerous reports demonstrate that Australia is simply not doing enough to address key threats to biodiversity, including land clearing and urbanization, invasive species, altered fire regimes, pollution, disease, and climate change. Despite being a member of the G20, Australian federal and state government environmental spending is well short of what’s required to reverse the nation’s biodiversity extinction trajectory.

A stark example of this failure is the newly announced priority threatened species list. Just 100 threatened species — fewer than 6% of the country’s listed threatened species — are earmarked for conservation attention and AUS $10 million of new funding, equating to about $100,000 per species. Of Australia’s Critically Endangered or Endangered species, only 2 of 25 frog species (8%), 7 of 53 invertebrate species (13.2%), and 28 of 776 plant species (3.6%) make the priority list.

Stronger environmental laws, combined with a substantial increase in investment in environmental and conservation spending, will not only benefit Australia’s biodiversity but also undoubtedly deliver substantial social, cultural, and economic benefits. The international community is moving to implement a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and heads of state recently met at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to chart a course to avert the climate change crisis deepening. Australia must be a leader of change, not a laggard.

Ritchie EG (2022) Australia’s biodiversity crisis and opportunity. Science PDF DOI

Twenty important research questions in microbial exposure and social equity

Authors: Jake M Robinson, Nicole Redvers, Araceli Camargo, Christina A Bosch, Martin F Breed, Lisa A Brenner, Megan A Carney, Ashvini Chauhan, Mauna Dasari, Leslie G Dietz, Michael Friedman, Laura Grieneisen, Andrew J Hoisington, Patrick F Horve, Ally Hunter, Sierra Jech, Anna Jorgensen, Christopher A Lowry, Ioana Man, Gwynne Mhuireach, Edauri Navarro-Pérez, Euan G Ritchie, Justin D Stewart, Harry Watkins, Philip Weinstein, Suzanne L Ishaq

Published in: mSystems (American Society for Microbiology)

Abstract

Social and political policy, human activities, and environmental change affect the ways in which microbial communities assemble and interact with people. These factors determine how different social groups are exposed to beneficial and/or harmful microorganisms, meaning microbial exposure has an important socioecological justice context. Therefore, greater consideration of microbial exposure and social equity in research, planning, and policy is imperative.

Here, we identify 20 research questions considered fundamentally important to promoting equitable exposure to beneficial microorganisms, along with safeguarding resilient societies and ecosystems. The 20 research questions we identified span seven broad themes, including the following:

  1. sociocultural interactions;
  2. Indigenous community health and well-being;
  3. humans, urban ecosystems, and environmental processes;
  4. human psychology and mental health;
  5. microbiomes and infectious diseases;
  6. human health and food security; and
  7. microbiome-related planning, policy, and outreach.

Our goal was to summarize this growing field and to stimulate impactful research avenues while providing focus for funders and policymakers.

Robinson JM, Redvers N, Camargo A, Bosch CA, Breed MF, Brenner LA, Carney MA, Chauhan A, Dasari M, Dietz LG, Friedman M, Grieneisen L, Hoisington AJ, Horve PF, Hunter A, Jech S, Jorgensen A, Lowry CA, Man I, Mhuireach G, Navarro-Pérez E, Ritchie EG, Stewart JD, Watkins H, Weinstein P, Ishaq SL (2022) Twenty Important Research Questions in Microbial Exposure and Social Equity. mSystems PDF DOI 

Creating testable questions in practical conservation: a process and 100 questions

Authors: William J Sutherland, Jake M Robinson, David C Aldridge, Tim Alamenciak, Matthew Armes, Nina Baranduin, Andrew J Bladon, Martin F Breed, Nicki Dyas, Chris S Elphick, Richard A Griffiths, Jonny Hughes, Beccy Middleton, Nick A Littlewood, Roger Mitchell, William H Morgan, Roy Mosley, Silviu O Petrovan, Kit Prendergast, Euan G Ritchie, Hugh Raven, Rebecca K Smith, Sarah H Watts, and Ann Thornton

Published in: Conservation Evidence

Summary

It is now clear that the routine embedding of experiments into conservation practice is essential for creating reasonably comprehensive evidence of the effectiveness of actions. However, an important barrier is the stage of identifying testable questions that are both useful but also realistic to carry out without a major research project. We identified approaches for generating such suitable questions. A team of 24 participants crowdsourced suggestions, resulting in a list of a hundred possible tests of actions.

Sutherland WJ, Robinson JM, Aldridge DC, Alamenciak T, Armes M, Baranduin N, Bladon AJ, Breed MF, Dyas N, Elphick CS, Griffiths RA, Hughes J, Middleton B, Littlewood NA, Mitchell R, Morgan WH, Mosley R, Petrovan SO, Prendergast K, Ritchie EG, Raven H, Smith RK, Watts SH & Thornton A (2022) EDITORIAL Creating testable questions in practical conservation: a process and 100 questions. Conservation Evidence PDF DOI

Compounding and complementary carnivores: Australian bird species eaten by the introduced European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus

Authors: John C Z Woinarski, Alyson M Stobo-Wilson, Heather M Crawford, Stuart J Dawson, Chris R Dickman, Tim S Doherty, Patricia A Fleming, Stephen T Garnett, Matthew N Gentle, Sarah M Legge, Thomas M Newsome, Russell Palmer, Matthew W Rees, Euan G Ritchie, James Speed, John-Michael Stuart , Eilysh Thompson, Jeff Turpin and Brett P Murphy

Published in: Bird Conservation International

Abstract

Two introduced carnivores, the European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus, have had extensive impacts on Australian biodiversity. In this study, we collate information on consumption of Australian birds by the fox, paralleling a recent study reporting on birds consumed by cats.

We found records of consumption by foxes on 128 native bird species (18% of the non-vagrant bird fauna and 25% of those species within the fox’s range), a smaller tally than for cats (343 species, including 297 within the fox’s Australian range, a subset of that of the cat). Most (81%) bird species eaten by foxes are also eaten by cats, suggesting that predation impacts are compounded.

As with consumption by cats, birds that nest or forage on the ground are most likely to be consumed by foxes. However, there is also some partitioning, with records of consumption by foxes but not cats for 25 bird species, indicating that impacts of the two predators may also be complementary. Bird species ≥3.4 kg were more likely to be eaten by foxes, and those <3.4 kg by cats.

Our compilation provides an inventory and describes characteristics of Australian bird species known to be consumed by foxes, but we acknowledge that records of predation do not imply population-level impacts. Nonetheless, there is sufficient information from other studies to demonstrate that fox predation has significant impacts on the population viability of some Australian birds, especially larger birds, and those that nest or forage on the ground.

Woinarski JCZ, Stobo-Wilson AM, Crawford HM, Dawson SJ, Dickman CR, Doherty TS, Fleming PA, Garnett ST, Gentle MN, Legge SM, Newsome TM, Palmer R, Rees MW, Ritchie EG, Speed J, Stuart JM, Thompson E, Turpin J, Murphy BP (2021) Compounding and complementary carnivores: Australian bird species eaten by the introduced European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus. Bird Conservation International PDF DOI 

A brief history of the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus): a systematic review

Authors: Harry A Moore, Judy A Dunlop, Chris J Jolly, Ella Kelly, John C Z Woinarski, Euan G Ritchie, Scott Burnett, Stephen van Leeuwen, Leonie E Valentine, Mitchell A Cowan, and Dale G Nimmo.

Published in: Australian Mammalogy

Abstract

In response to Australia’s current extinction crisis, substantial research efforts have been targeted towards some of the most imperilled species. One such species is the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), a marsupial predator that has recently suffered substantial declines in range and is now listed as Endangered.

We conducted a systematic review of all literature relevant to the conservation and ecology of northern quolls. We reviewed 143 studies, including research articles, government and industry reports, theses, and books, and quantified research effort in terms of topic, location, and publication period. We then summarised research relevant to northern quoll taxonomy, genetics, distribution, habitat associations, diet, reproduction, movement, threats, management, and Indigenous knowledge. Research effort was higher between 2011 and 2020 than the previous four decades combined.

Northern quolls in the Northern Territory were the most studied, followed by the Pilbara, the Kimberley, and Queensland populations. Most studies focused on northern quoll distribution and habitat, management, and threats – primarily cane toads, predation, and fire.

We conclude with a non-exhaustive list of ten future research directions. If pursued, these future research directions should provide information critical to managing and conserving northern quolls.

Moore HA, Dunlop JA, Jolly CJ, Kelly E, Woinarski JCZ, Ritchie EG, Burnett S, van Leeuwen S, Valentine LE, Cowan MA, Nimmo DG (2021) A brief history of the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus): a systematic review. Australian Mammalogy PDF DOI

Sharing meals: Predation on Australian mammals by the introduced European red fox compounds and complements predation by feral cats

Authors: Alyson M Stobo-Wilson, Brett P Murphy, Heather M Crawford, Stuart J Dawson, Chris R Dickman, Tim S Doherty, Patricia A Fleming, Matthew N Gentle, Sarah M Legge, Thomas M Newsome, Russell Palmer, Matthew W Rees, Euan G Ritchie, James Speed, John-Michael Stuart, Eilysh Thompson, Jeff Turpin, and John C Z Woinarski

Published in: Biological Conservation

Abstract

Two introduced carnivores, the European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus, have had, and continue to have, major impacts on wildlife, particularly mammals, across Australia. Based mainly on the contents of almost 50,000 fox dietary samples, we provide the first comprehensive inventory of Australian mammal species known to be consumed by foxes, and compare this with a similar assessment for cats.

We recorded consumption by foxes of 114 species of Australian land mammal (40% of extant species), fewer than consumed by cats (173 species). Foxes are known to consume 42 threatened mammal species (50% of Australia’s threatened land mammals and 66% of those within the fox’s Australian range). Reflecting the importance of mammals in their diet, foxes are known to consume a far higher proportion of Australian mammal species (40%) than of Australian birds (24%) and reptiles (16%).

Both foxes and cats were most likely to consume medium-sized mammals, with the likelihood of predation by foxes peaking for mammals of ca. 280 g and by cats at ca. 130 g. For non-flying mammals, threatened species had a higher relative likelihood of predation by foxes than non-threatened species. Using trait-based modelling, we estimate that many now-extinct Australian mammal species had very high likelihoods of predation by foxes and cats, although we note that for some of these species, extinction likely pre-dated the arrival of foxes. These two predators continue to have compounding and complementary impacts on Australian mammals. Targeted and integrated management of foxes and cats is required to help maintain and recover the Australian mammal fauna.

Stobo-Wilson AM, Murphy BP, Crawford HM, Dawson SJ, Dickman CR, Doherty TS, Fleming PA, Gentle MN, Legge SM, Newsome TM, Palmer R, Rees MW, Ritchie EG, Speed J, Stuart J-M, Thompson E, Turpin J, Woinarski JCZ (2021) Sharing meals: Predation on Australian mammals by the introduced European red fox compounds and complements predation by feral cats. Biological Conservation PDF DOI

Reptiles as food: predation of Australian reptiles by introduced red foxes compounds and complements predation by cats

Authors: Alyson M Stobo-Wilson, Brett P Murphy, Sarah M Legge, David G Chapple, Heather M Crawford, Stuart J Dawson, Chris R Dickman, Tim S Doherty, Patricia A Fleming, Matthew Gentle, Thomas M Newsome, Russell Palmer, Matthew W Rees, Euan G Ritchie, James Speed, John-Michael Stuart, Eilysh Thompson, Jeff Turpin, and and John C Z Woinarski

Published in: Wildlife Research

Abstract

Context: Invasive species are a major cause of biodiversity loss across much of the world, and a key threat to Australia’s diverse reptile fauna. There has been no previous comprehensive analysis of the potential impact of the introduced European red fox, Vulpes vulpes, on Australian reptiles.

Aims: We seek to provide an inventory of all Australian reptile species known to be consumed by the fox, and identify characteristics of squamate species associated with such predation. We also compare these tallies and characteristics with reptile species known to be consumed by the domestic cat, Felis catus, to examine whether predation by these two introduced species is compounded (i.e. affecting much the same set of species) or complementary (affecting different groups of species).

Methods: We collated records of Australian reptiles consumed by foxes in Australia, with most records deriving from fox dietary studies (tallying >35 000 samples). We modelled presence or absence of fox predation records against a set of biological and other traits, and population trends, for squamate species.

Key results: In total, 108 reptile species (~11% of Australia’s terrestrial reptile fauna) have been recorded as consumed by foxes, fewer than that reported for cats (263 species). Eighty-six species have been reported to be eaten by both predators. More Australian turtle species have been reported as consumed by foxes than by cats, including many that suffer high levels of predation on egg clutches. Twenty threatened reptile species have been reported as consumed by foxes, and 15 by cats. Squamate species consumed by foxes are more likely to be undergoing population decline than those not known to be consumed by foxes. The likelihood of predation by foxes increased with squamate species’ adult body mass, in contrast to the relationship for predation by cats, which peaked at ~217 g. Foxes, but not cats, were also less likely to consume venomous snakes.

Conclusions: The two introduced, and now widespread, predators have both compounding and complementary impacts on the Australian reptile fauna.

Implications: Enhanced and integrated management of the two introduced predators is likely to provide substantial conservation benefits to much of the Australian reptile fauna.

Stobo-Wilson AM, Murphy BP, Legge SM, Chapple DG, Crawford HM, Dawson SJ, Dickman CR, Doherty TS, Fleming PA, Gentle M, Newsome TM, Palmer R, Rees MW, Ritchie EG, Speed J, Stuart J-M, Thompson E, Turpin J, Woinarski JCZ (2021) Reptiles as food: predation of Australian reptiles by introduced red foxes compounds and complements predation by cats. Wildlife Research PDF DOI

Diet of the introduced red fox Vulpes vulpes in Australia: analysis of temporal and spatial patterns

Authors: Patricia A Fleming, Heather M Crawford, Alyson M Stobo-Wilson, Stuart J Dawson, Christopher R Dickman, Shannon J Dundas, Matthew N Gentle, Thomas M Newsome, Julie O’Connor, Russell Palmer, Joanna Riley, Euan G Ritchie, James Speed, Glen Saunders, John-Michael D Stuart, Eilysh Thompson, Je! M Turpin, John C Z Woinarski

Published in: Mammal Review

The red fox Vulpes vulpes is one of the world’s most widespread carnivores. A key to its success has been its broad, opportunistic diet. The fox was introduced to Australia about 150 years ago, and within 30 years of its introduction was already recognised as a threat to livestock and native wildlife.

We reviewed 85 fox diet studies (totalling 31693 samples) from throughout the species’ geographic range within Australia. Mammals were a major component of fox diet, being present in 70 ± 19% of samples across n = 160 locations. Invertebrates (38 ± 26% n = 130) and plant material (26 ± 25% n = 123) were also both staple foods and often the dominant food category recorded. Birds (13 ± 11% n = 137) and reptiles (10 ± 15% n = 132) were also commonly reported, while frogs were scarcely represented (1.6 ± 3.6% n = 111) in fox diet studies.

Biogeographical differences reveal factors that likely determine prey availability. Diet composition varied with ecosystem, level of vegetation clearing and condition, and climate zone.

Sample type (i.e. stomach versus scat samples) also significantly influenced reporting of diet composition. Livestock and frogs were underrepresented in records based on analysis of scats, whereas small mammals (native rodents, dasyurid marsupials, and bats) were more likely to be recorded in studies of scats than in studies of stomach contents.

Diet varied seasonally, reflecting activity patterns of prey species and food availability. This synthesis also captures temporal shifts in fox diet over 70 years (1951–2020), as foxes have switched to consuming more native species in the wake of successful broadscale biological control of the invasive European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus.

Diet analyses, such as those summarised in this review, capture the evidence required to motivate for greater control of foxes in Australia. This synthesis also highlights the importance of integrated pest species management to meet biodiversity conservation outcomes.

Fleming PA, Crawford HM, Stobo‐Wilson AM, Dawson SJ, Dickman CR, Dundas SJ, Gentle MN, Newsome TM, O’Connor J, Palmer R, Riley J, Ritchie EG, Speed J, Saunders G, Stuart JD, Thompson E, Turpin JM, Woinarski JCZ (2021) Diet of the introduced red fox Vulpes vulpes in Australia: analysis of temporal and spatial patterns. Mammal Review PDF DOI

Fire and its interactions with other drivers shape a distinctive, semi-arid ‘mallee’ ecosystem

Authors: Michael F Clarke, Luke T Kelly, Sarah C Avitabile, Joe Benshemesh, Kate E Callister, Don A Driscoll, Peter Ewin, Katherine Giljohann, Angie Haslem, Sally A Kenny, Steve Leonard, Euan G Ritchie, Dale G Nimmo, Natasha Schedvin, Kathryn Schneider, Simon J Watson, Martin Westbrooke, Matt White, Michael A Wouters, and Andrew F Bennett

Published in: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

Abstract

Fire shapes ecosystems globally, including semi-arid ecosystems. In Australia, semi-arid ‘mallee’ ecosystems occur primarily across the southern part of the continent, forming an interface between the arid interior and temperate south. Mallee vegetation is characterized by short, multi-stemmed eucalypts that grow from a basal lignotuber. Fire shapes the structure and functioning of mallee ecosystems.

Using the Murray Mallee region in south-eastern Australia as a case study, we examine the characteristics and role of fire, the consequences for biota, and the interaction of fire with other drivers.

Wildfires in mallee ecosystems typically are large (1000s ha), burn with high severity, commonly cause top-kill of eucalypts, and create coarse-grained mosaics at a regional scale. Wildfires can occur in late spring and summer in both dry and wet years. Recovery of plant and animal communities is predictable and slow, with regeneration of eucalypts and many habitat components extending over decades. Time since the last fire strongly influences the distribution and abundance of many species and the structure of plant and animal communities.

Animal species display a discrete set of generalized responses to time since fire. Systematic field studies and modeling are beginning to reveal how spatial variation in fire regimes (‘pyrodiversity’) at different scales shapes biodiversity. Pyrodiversity includes variation in the extent of post-fire habitats, the diversity of post-fire age-classes and their configuration.

At regional scales, a desirable mix of fire histories for biodiversity conservation includes a combination of early, mid and late post-fire age-classes, weighted toward later seral stages that provide critical habitat for threatened species. Biodiversity is also influenced by interactions between fire and other drivers, including land clearing, rainfall, herbivory and predation.

Extensive clearing for agriculture has altered the nature and impact of fire, and facilitated invasion by pest species that modify fuels, fire regimes and post-fire recovery.

Given the natural and anthropogenic drivers of fire and the consequences of their interactions, we highlight opportunities for conserving mallee ecosystems. These include learning from and fostering Indigenous knowledge of fire, implementing actions that consider synergies between fire and other processes, and strategic monitoring of fire, biodiversity and other drivers to guide place-based, adaptive management under climate change.

Clarke MF, Kelly LT, Avitabile SC, Benshemesh J, Callister KE, Driscoll DA, Ewin P, Giljohann K, Haslem A, Kenny SA, Leonard S, Ritchie EG, Nimmo DG, Schedvin N, Schneider K, Watson SJ, Westbrooke M, White M, Wouters MA, Bennett AF (2021) Fire and its interactions with other drivers shape a distinctive, semi-arid ‘mallee’ ecosystem, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution PDF DOI

Assessing the benefits of integrated introduced predator management for recovery of native predators

Authors: Tim S Jessop, Ben Holmes, Arvel Sendjojo, Mary O Thorpe, and Euan G Ritchie

Published in: Restoration Ecology

Abstract

Increasingly threatened species and their habitats require multiple successful management actions to ensure persistence. Introduced predator exclusion and suppression programs are key conservation actions used to retain or restore Australian ecosystems. Nevertheless, few direct comparisons are made to ascertain the individual and combined efficacy of multiple introduced predator conservation actions to benefit biodiversity. When colocated, both management actions could generate additive conservation benefits that greatly assist the recovery or persistence of threatened native species.

Varanid lizards are key functional components in Australian predator guilds and could benefit, via ecological release, when introduced predator management actions are successful. Here we tested the effects of a colocated predator-exclusion fence and lethal fox baiting on varanid site occupancy in a semiarid protected area.

Varanid site occupancy was higher at sites inside (Ψ = 0.90 ± 0.26) compared to sites outside (Ψ = 0.61 ± 0.28) the introduced predator-proof fenced enclosure. There was only weak evidence of increased varanid site occupancy at fox baited sites (Ψ = 0.037 ± 0.024) compared to nonfox baited (Ψ = 0.00) sites.

Overall, colocated introduced predator management actions achieved some additive benefits via possible spillover fencing effects for native mesopredator populations. However, most potential benefits to varanid populations outside of the predator-proof fenced enclosure were absent due to unsuccessful lethal-baiting effects on fox populations. The predator-proof fenced enclosure nevertheless provides important habitat refugia for future source populations for reintroduction once adjacent protected areas become suitable.

Jessop TS, Holmes B, Sendjojo A, Thorpe MO, Ritchie EG (2021) Assessing the benefits of integrated introduced predator management for recovery of native predators. Restoration Ecology PDF DOI

A rocky heart in a spinifex sea: occurrence of an endangered marsupial predator is multiscale dependent in naturally fragmented landscapes

Authors: Harry A Moore, Damian R Michael, Euan G Ritchie, Judy A Dunlop, Leonie E Valentine, Richard J Hobbs, and Dale G Nimmo

Published in: Landscape Ecology

Abstract

Context

Research on the impacts of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation has dominated landscape ecology for decades, yet our understanding of what drives species’ distributions in naturally fragmented landscapes remains limited.

Objectives

We aimed to

  1. determine whether rocky patches embedded within a ‘matrix’ of fire prone grasslands act as naturally fragmented landscapes for an endangered marsupial predator, the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), and
  2. reveal the extent to which within-patch, patch, landscape variables, and matrix condition drive the occurrence of northern quolls.

Methods

We deployed remote sensing cameras for a total of 200 nights, at 230 sites spanning rocky and grassland habitats across 6000 km2 of the Pilbara bioregion of Western Australia. We examined the influence of within-patch, patch, landscape variables, and matrix condition on northern quolls using Generalised Linear Mixed Models.

Results

We found strong evidence that northern quoll habitat is naturally fragmented, observing higher occurrence and abundance of quolls in rocky patches than the surrounding grassland matrix. Within rocky patches, quolls were more likely to use patches with higher vegetation cover and den availability (within-patch), lower amounts of edge habitat relative to patch area (patch), and larger amounts of surrounding rocky habitat (landscape). When quolls entered the matrix, they tended to remain in areas with high vegetation cover, close to rocky patches.

Conclusions

Species occurrence in naturally fragmented landscapes is influenced by factors operating at multiple scales. Rocky habitats are naturally fragmented and vital to the conservation of a range of taxa around the world, including the northern quoll.

Moore HA, Michael DR, Ritchie EG, Dunlop JA, Valentine LE, Hobbs RJ, Nimmo DG (2021) A rocky heart in a spinifex sea: occurrence of an endangered marsupial predator is multiscale dependent in naturally fragmented landscapes. Landscape Ecology PDF DOI

Combating ecosystem collapse from the tropics to the Antarctic

Authors: Dana M Bergstrom, Barbara C Wienecke, John van den Hoff, Lesley Hughes, David B Lindenmayer Tracy D Ainsworth, Christopher M Baker, Lucie Bland, David M J S Bowman, Shaun T Brooks, Josep G Canadell, Andrew J Constable, Katherine A Dafforn, Michael H Depledge, Catherine R Dickson Norman C Duke, Kate J Helmstedt, Andrés Holz, Craig R Johnson, Melodie A McGeoch, Jessica Melbourne‐Thomas, Rachel Morgain, Emily Nicholson, Suzanne M Prober, Ben Raymond, Euan G Ritchie, Sharon A Robinson, Katinka X Ruthrof, Samantha A Setterfield, Carla M Sgrò, Jonathan S Stark, Toby Travers, Rowan Trebilco, Delphi F L Ward, Glenda M Wardle, Kristen J Williams, Phillip J Zylstra, and Justine D Shaw

Published in: Global Change Biology

Abstract

Globally, collapse of ecosystems—potentially irreversible change to ecosystem structure, composition and function—imperils biodiversity, human health and well‐being.

We examine the current state and recent trajectories of 19 ecosystems, spanning 58° of latitude across 7.7 M km², from Australia’s coral reefs to terrestrial Antarctica.

Pressures from global climate change and regional human impacts, occurring as chronic ‘presses’ and/or acute ‘pulses’, drive ecosystem collapse. Ecosystem responses to 5–17 pressures were categorised as four collapse profiles—abrupt, smooth, stepped and fluctuating.

The manifestation of widespread ecosystem collapse is a stark warning of the necessity to take action.

We present a three‐step assessment and management framework (3As Pathway Awareness, Anticipation and Action) to aid strategic and effective mitigation to alleviate further degradation to help secure our future.

Bergstrom DM, Wienecke BC, Hoff J, Hughes L, Lindenmayer DB, Ainsworth TD, Baker CM, Bland L, Bowman DMJS, Brooks ST, Canadell JG, Constable AJ, Dafforn KA, Depledge MH, Dickson CR, Duke NC, Helmstedt KJ, Holz A, Johnson CR, McGeoch MA, Melbourne‐Thomas J, Morgain R, Nicholson E, Prober SM, Raymond B, Ritchie EG, Robinson SA, Ruthrof KX, Setterfield SA, Sgrò CM, Stark JS, Travers T, Trebilco R, Ward DFL, Wardle GM, Williams KJ, Zylstra PJ, Shaw JD (2021) Combating ecosystem collapse from the tropics to the Antarctic. Global Change Biology PDF DOI

Broadening the ecology of fear: non-lethal effects arise from diverse responses to predation and parasitism

Authors: David R Daversa, Ryan F Hechinger, Elizabeth Madin, Andy Fenton, Anthony I Dell, Euan G Ritchie, Jason Rohr, Volker HW Rudolf, and Kevin D Lafferty

Published in: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Abstract

Research on the ‘ecology of fear’ posits that defensive prey responses to avoid predation can cause non-lethal effects across ecological scales. Parasites also elicit defensive responses in hosts with associated non-lethal effects, which raises the longstanding, yet unresolved question of how non-lethal effects of parasites compare with those of predators.

We developed a framework for systematically answering this question for all types of predator–prey and host–parasite systems. Our framework reveals likely differences in non-lethal effects not only between predators and parasites, but also between different types of predators and parasites.

Trait responses should be strongest towards predators, parasitoids and parasitic castrators, but more numerous and perhaps more frequent for parasites than for predators. In a case study of larval amphibians, whose trait responses to both predators and parasites have been relatively well studied, existing data indicate that individuals generally respond more strongly and proactively to short-term predation risks than to parasitism.

Apart from studies using amphibians, there have been few direct comparisons of responses to predation and parasitism, and none have incorporated responses to micropredators, parasitoids or parasitic castrators, or examined their long-term consequences.

Addressing these and other data gaps highlighted by our framework can advance the field towards understanding how non-lethal effects impact prey/host population dynamics and shape food webs that contain multiple predator and parasite species.

Daversa DR, Hechinger RF, Madin E, Fenton A, Dell AI, Ritchie EG, Rohr J, Rudolf VHW, Lafferty KD (2021) Broadening the ecology of fear: non-lethal effects arise from diverse responses to predation and parasitism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences PDF DOI

Evaluating participatory modeling methods for co‐creating pathways to sustainability

Authors: E A Moallemi, F J de Haan, M Hadjikakou, S Khatami, S Malekpour, A Smajgl, M Stafford Smith, A Voinov, R Bandari, P Lamichhane, K K Miller, E Nicholson, W Novalia, E G Ritchie, A M Rojas, M A Shaikh, K Szetey, and B A Bryan

Published in: Earth’s Future

The achievement of global sustainability agendas, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, relies on transformational change across society, economy, and environment that are co‐created in a transdisciplinary exercise by all stakeholders. Within this context, environmental and societal change is increasingly understood and represented via participatory modeling for genuine engagement with multiple collaborators in the modeling process. Despite the diversity of participatory modeling methods to promote engagement and co‐creation, it remains uncertain what the extent and modes of participation are in different contexts, and how to select the suitable methods to use in a given situation.

Based on a review of available methods and specification of potential contextual requirements, we propose a unifying framework to guide how collaborators of different backgrounds can work together and evaluate the suitability of participatory modeling methods for co‐creating sustainability pathways.

The evaluation of method suitability promises the integration of concepts and approaches necessary to address the complexities of problems at hand while ensuring robust methodologies based on well‐tested evidence and negotiated among participants. Using two illustrative case studies, we demonstrate how to explore and evaluate the choice of methods for participatory modeling in varying contexts.

The insights gained can inform creative participatory approaches to pathway development through tailored combinations of methods that best serve the specific sustainability context of particular case studies.

Moallemi EA, de Haan FJ, Hadjikakou M, Khatami S, Malekpour S, Smajgl A, Smith MS, Voinov A, Bandari R, Lamichhane P, Miller KK, Nicholson E, Novalia W, Ritchie EG, Rojas AM, Shaikh MA, Szetey K, Bryan BA (2021) Evaluating Participatory Modeling Methods for Co‐creating Pathways to Sustainability. Earth’s Future PDF DOI

Training future generations to deliver evidence‐based conservation and ecosystem management

Authors: Harriet Downey, Tatsuya Amano, Marc Cadotte, Carly N Cook, Steven J Cooke, Neal R Haddaway, Julia P G Jones, Nick Littlewood, Jessica C Walsh, Mark I Abrahams, Gilbert Adum,, Munemitsu Akasaka, Jose A Alves, Rachael E Antwis, Eduardo C Arellano, Jan Axmacher, Holly Barclay, Lesley Batty, Ana Benítez‐López, Joseph R Bennett, Maureen J Berg, Sandro Bertolino, Duan Biggs, Friederike C Bolam Tim Bray, Barry W Brook, Joseph W Bull, Zuzana Burivalova, Mar Cabeza, Alienor L M Chauvenet Alec P Christie, Lorna Cole, Alison J Cotton, Sam Cotton, Sara A O Cousins, Dylan Craven, Will Cresswell, Jeremy J Cusack, Sarah E Dalrymple, Zoe G Davies, Anita Diaz, Jennifer A Dodd, Adam Felton, Erica Fleishman, Charlie J Gardner, Ruth Garside, Arash Ghoddousi, James J Gilroy, David A Gill, Jennifer A Gill, Louise Glew, Matthew J Grainger, Amelia A Grass, Stephanie Greshon, Jamie Gundry Tom Hart, Charlotte R Hopkins, Caroline Howe, Arlyne Johnson, Kelly W Jones, Neil R Jordan, Taku Kadoya, Daphne Kerhoas, Julia Koricheva, Tien Ming Lee, Szabolcs Lengyel, Stuart W Livingstone Ashley Lyons, Gráinne McCabe, Jonathan Millett, Chloë Montes Strevens, Adam Moolna, Hannah L Mossman, Nibedita Mukherjee, Andrés Muñoz‐Sáez, Nuno Negrões, Olivia Norfolk, Takeshi Osawa Sarah Papworth, Kirsty J Park, Jérôme Pellet, Andrea D Phillott, Joshua M Plotnik, Dolly Priatna Alejandra G Ramos, Nicola Randall, Rob M Richards, Euan G Ritchie, David L Roberts, Ricardo Rocha Jon Paul Rodríguez, Roy Sanderson, Takehiro Sasaki, Sini Savilaakso, Carl Sayer, Cagan Sekercioglu Masayuki Senzaki, Grania Smith, Robert J Smith, Masashi Soga, Carl D Soulsbury, Mark D Steer, Gavin Stewart, E F Strange, Andrew J Suggitt, Ralph R J Thompson, Stewart Thompson, Ian Thornhill, R J Trevelyan, Hope O Usieta, Oscar Venter, Amanda D Webber, Rachel L White, Mark J Whittingham Andrew Wilby, Richard W Yarnell, Veronica Zamora, William J Sutherland

Published in: Ecological Solutions and Evidence

Abstract

To be effective, the next generation of conservation practitioners and managers need to be critical thinkers with a deep understanding of how to make evidence‐based decisions and of the value of evidence synthesis.

If, as educators, we do not make these priorities a core part of what we teach, we are failing to prepare our students to make an effective contribution to conservation practice.

To help overcome this problem, we have created open access online teaching materials in multiple languages that are stored in Applied Ecology Resources. So far, 117 educators from 23 countries have acknowledged the importance of this and are already teaching or about to teach skills in appraising or using evidence in conservation decision‐making. This includes 145 undergraduate, postgraduate or professional development courses.

We call for wider teaching of the tools and skills that facilitate evidence‐based conservation and also suggest that providing online teaching materials in multiple languages could be beneficial for improving global understanding of other subject areas.

Downey H, Amano T, Cadotte M, Cook CN, Cooke SJ, Haddaway NR, Jones JPG, Littlewood N, Walsh JC, Abrahams MI, Adum G, Akasaka M, Alves JA, Antwis RE, Arellano EC, Axmacher J, Barclay H, Batty L, Benítez‐López A, Bennett JR, Berg MJ, Bertolino S, Biggs D, Bolam FC, Bray T, Brook BW, Bull JW, Burivalova Z, Cabeza M, Chauvenet ALM, Christie AP, Cole L, Cotton AJ, Cotton S, Cousins SAO, Craven D, Cresswell W, Cusack JJ, Dalrymple SE, Davies ZG, Diaz A, Dodd JA, Felton A, Fleishman E, Gardner CJ, Garside R, Ghoddousi A, Gilroy JJ, Gill DA, Gill JA, Glew L, Grainger MJ, Grass AA, Greshon S, Gundry J, Hart T, Hopkins CR, Howe C, Johnson A, Jones KW, Jordan NR, Kadoya T, Kerhoas D, Koricheva J, Lee TM, Lengyel S, Livingstone SW, Lyons A, McCabe G, Millett J, Strevens CM, Moolna A, Mossman HL, Mukherjee N, Muñoz‐Sáez A, Negrões N, Norfolk O, Osawa T, Papworth S, Park KJ, Pellet J, Phillott AD, Plotnik JM, Priatna D, Ramos AG, Randall N, Richards RM, Ritchie EG, Roberts DL, Rocha R, Rodríguez JP, Sanderson R, Sasaki T, Savilaakso S, Sayer C, Sekercioglu C, Senzaki M, Smith G, Smith RJ, Soga M, Soulsbury CD, Steer MD, Stewart G, Strange EF, Suggitt AJ, Thompson RRJ, Thompson S, Thornhill I, Trevelyan RJ, Usieta HO, Venter O, Webber AD, White RL, Whittingham MJ, Wilby A, Yarnell RW, Zamora V, Sutherland WJ (2021) Training future generations to deliver evidence‐based conservation and ecosystem management. Ecological Solutions and Evidence PDF DOI

Beyond species counts for assessing, valuing, and conserving biodiversity: response to Wallach et al. 2019

Authors: Ninon FV Meyer, Niko Balkenhol, Trishna Dutta, Maarten Hofman, Jean‐Yves Meyer, Euan G Ritchie, Charlotte Alley, Chad Beranek, Cassandra K Bugir, Alex Callen, Simon Clulow, Michael V Cove, Kaya Klop‐Toker, Omar R Lopez, Michael Mahony, Robert Scanlon, Sandeep Sharma, Elen Shute, Rose Upton, Emy Guilbault, Andrea S Griffin, Edwin Hernández Pérez, Lachlan G Howell, John‐Paul King, Dean Lenga, Patrick O Donoghue, and Matt W Hayward

Published in: Conservation Biology

Abstract

Combining native and non‐native species to evaluate biodiversity is overly simplistic and may undermine the conservation of ecosystems.

Meyer NFV, Balkenhol N, Dutta T, Hofman M, Meyer J, Ritchie EG, Alley C, Beranek C, Bugir CK, Callen A, Clulow S, Cove MV, Klop‐Toker K, Lopez OR, Mahony M, Scanlon R, Sharma S, Shute E, Upton R, Guilbault E, Griffin AS, Hernández Pérez E, Howell LG, King J, Lenga D, O Donoghue P, Hayward MW (2020) Beyond species counts for assessing, valuing, and conserving biodiversity: response to Wallach et al. 2019. Conservation Biology PDF DOI

Dietary variation of an endangered mycophagous mammal in novel and remnant habitats in a peri-urban landscape

Authors: Sarah J Maclagan, Terry Coates, Austin O’Malley, and Euan G Ritchie

Published in: Austral Ecology

Abstract

Understanding how fundamental aspects of species’ ecology, such as diet, are affected in human‐dominated landscapes is vital for informing management and conserving biodiversity – particularly where species influence important ecosystem functions. Digging, mycophagous (‘fungus‐eating’) mammals play various such roles, including the dispersal of hypogeal (‘truffle‐like’) fungi.

The endangered, mycophagous southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus obesulus: Peramelidae) persists in a peri‐urban landscape south‐east of Melbourne, Australia, where it occupies both ‘novel’ habitats (linear strips of vegetation along roadsides, drains and railway lines) and ‘remnant’ habitats (larger blocks of native vegetation) within dedicated conservation areas. It remains unknown how bandicoot diet, including the diversity of hypogeal fungi, varies between these habitat types, yet this could have important conservation implications.

Our study aimed to (i) compare the diet of I. o. obesulus at novel and remnant sites; and (ii) attain knowledge of hypogeal fungal diversity in these different contexts. We collected 133 bandicoot scats over 23 months and examined both broad diet composition and diversity of fungi consumed.

Bandicoot diet differed between site types; in particular, ants were more prominent in scats from remnant sites, while millipedes and seeds were more prominent in scats from novel sites. All scats contained fungal spores, with hypogeal taxa comprising at least 35 of the 78 ‘morphotypes’ found at novel sites and 28 of the 59 detected at remnant sites. Fewer samples were collected at remnant sites, but they appeared to contain a greater richness of hypogeal fungi per scat. We did not detect any differences in fungal composition between site types. However, our sampling effort was insufficient to estimate true morphotype richness at either site type.

Our study highlights the adaptable generalist diet of the southern brown bandicoot, as well as the likely under‐appreciated diversity of hypogeal fungi that can occur in highly modified, novel ecosystems.

Maclagan SJ, Coates T, O’Malley A, Ritchie EG (2020) Dietary variation of an endangered mycophagous mammal in novel and remnant habitats in a peri‐urban landscape. Austral Ecology PDF DOI

A guide to ecosystem models and their environmental applications

Authors: William L Geary, Michael Bode, Tim S Doherty, Elizabeth A Fulton, Dale G Nimmo, Ayesha I T Tulloch, Vivitskaia J D Tulloch, and Euan G Ritchie

Published in: Nature Ecology & Evolution

Abstract

Applied ecology has traditionally approached management problems through a simplified, single-species lens. Repeated failures of single-species management have led us to a new paradigm — managing at the ecosystem level. Ecosystem management involves a complex array of interacting organisms, processes and scientific disciplines. Accounting for interactions, feedback loops and dependencies between ecosystem components is therefore fundamental to understanding and managing ecosystems.

We provide an overview of the main types of ecosystem models and their uses, and discuss challenges related to modelling complex ecological systems. Existing modelling approaches typically attempt to do one or more of the following: describe and disentangle ecosystem components and interactions; make predictions about future ecosystem states; and inform decision making by comparing alternative strategies and identifying important uncertainties.

Modelling ecosystems is challenging, particularly when balancing the desire to represent many components of an ecosystem with the limitations of available data and the modelling objective. Explicitly considering different forms of uncertainty is therefore a primary concern.

We provide some recommended strategies (such as ensemble ecosystem models and multi-model approaches) to aid the explicit consideration of uncertainty while also meeting the challenges of modelling ecosystems.

Geary WL, Bode M, Doherty TS, Fulton EA, Nimmo DG, Tulloch AIT, Tulloch VJD, Ritchie EG (2020) A guide to ecosystem models and their environmental applications. Nature Ecology & Evolution PDF DOI

Consequences of information suppression in ecological and conservation sciences

Authors: Don A Driscoll, Georgia E Garrard, Alexander M Kusmanoff, Stephen Dovers, Martine Maron, Noel Preece, Robert L Pressey, and Euan G Ritchie

Published in: Conservation Letters

Abstract

Suppressing expert knowledge can hide environmentally damaging practices and policies from public scrutiny.

We surveyed ecologists and conservation scientists from universities, government, and industry across Australia to understand the prevalence and consequences of suppressing science communication.

Government (34%) and industry (30%) respondents reported higher rates of undue interference by employers than did university respondents (5%). Internal communications (29%) and media (28%) were curtailed most, followed by journal articles (11%), and presentations (12%). When university and industry researchers avoided public commentary, this was mainly for fear of media misrepresentation, while government employees were most often constrained by senior management and workplace policy. One third of respondents reported personal suffering related to suppression, including job losses and deteriorating mental health.

Substantial reforms are needed, including to codes of practice, and governance of environmental assessments and research, so that scientific advice can be reported openly, in a timely manner and free from interference.

Driscoll DA, Garrard GE, Kusmanoff AM, Dovers S, Maron M, Preece N, Pressey RL, Ritchie EG (2020) Consequences of information suppression in ecological and conservation sciences. Conservation Letters PDF DOI