CIE Spotlight: Persistence of a threatened species in a modified alpine resort environment: the broad-toothed rat

Desley W. and Gregory H.
Desley W. and Gregory H.

TitlePersistence of a threatened species in a modified alpine resort environment: the broad-toothed rat

AuthorsWhisson, Desley A.; Holland, Greg J.; Kelly, Thomas R.

Source: JOURNAL OF MAMMALOGY, 96 (1):151-158, FEB 2015

Brief summary of the paper: Habitat change due to resort development threatens rare and endemic fauna of alpine and subalpine regions. There is an urgent need to understand species persistence in such areas.

The broad-toothed rat (Mastacomys fuscus) is a rare, specialist species found in alpine and subalpine regions of Australia. We conducted fecal pellet surveys in an alpine resort to determine the species’ distribution and habitat requirements.

Eight individuals were radiotracked to investigate movement patterns and habitat use. Fecal pellets were found in areas of dense vegetation cover up to 1 m above ground. Home ranges were small (1,488–6,106 m2) and encompassed managed indigenous vegetation on or beside ski runs.

Five individuals regularly crossed a narrow (3–5 m) cleared track. Two adult males dispersed (including traversing a wide grassy ski run) up to 1 km. The ability to cross modified areas and move throughout the landscape is proposed as a key factor facilitating the persistence of M. fuscus in the resort.

Enhancing the capacity of species to move between habitat patches should be incorporated into alpine resort management plans. Such management will become increasingly important as anthropogenic disturbance increases in alpine regions.