Changes in small native animal populations following control of European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) by warren ripping in the Australian arid zone

Article


Elsworth, P., Berman, D. and Brennan, M.. 2019. "Changes in small native animal populations following control of European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) by warren ripping in the Australian arid zone." Wildlife Research. 46 (4), pp. 343-354. https://doi.org/10.1071/WR18088
Article Title

Changes in small native animal populations following control of European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) by warren ripping in the Australian arid zone

ERA Journal ID3020
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsElsworth, P. (Author), Berman, D. (Author) and Brennan, M. (Author)
Journal TitleWildlife Research
Journal Citation46 (4), pp. 343-354
Number of Pages12
Year2019
PublisherCSIRO Publishing
Place of PublicationAustralia
ISSN1035-3712
1448-5494
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1071/WR18088
Web Address (URL)https://bioone.org/journals/wildlife-research/volume-46/issue-4/WR18088/Changes-in-small-native-animal-populations-following-control-of-European/10.1071/WR18088.short
Abstract

Context: European rabbits have a great impact on native vegetation and small vertebrates in Australia. Rabbits consume vegetation and promote invasive plants and invasive predators, and compete directly and indirectly with native animals suppressing those populations. Aims: We explored the changes in small native vertebrates and invertebrates following the removal of rabbits. Methods: Warren ripping was undertaken on a property in south-western Queensland at four sites and the results of pitfall trapping were compared with four nearby paired control sites. Invertebrates and small mammals were counted in pitfall traps, and bird surveys were conducted in all treatment and control sites. Key results: Following a rabbit-control program, we observed a four-fold increase in the number of dunnarts trapped in treatment plots, whereas no change was observed in control plots. The spring following the rabbit-control program also saw an increase in some lizards in treatment plots. Conclusions: The presence of rabbits in arid-zone Australia can suppress native animal populations. Implications: Many species of small native mammals and lizards rely on food sources that fluctuate greatly with environmental conditions. The presence of rabbits altering the landscape, supporting introduced predators, reducing vegetation and, therefore, insects, adds increased pressure for insectivorous species. Rabbit control through warren ripping in arid-zone Australia is an effective method to reduce rabbit numbers, and allowed for an increase in small vertebrates in treated areas.

Keywordsbiodiversity; dunnarts; pest management
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020410407. Wildlife and habitat management
Byline AffiliationsDepartment of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland
Institute for Agriculture and the Environment
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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