One of Australia’s rarest rodents, the water mouse, has already been found during the largest fauna (animal) monitoring project to be undertaken in Sunshine Coast Council managed environmental reserves.
The $570,000, four-year project will tell council exactly what wildlife is living in these reserves and help to improve conservation management.
Split into stages, the first two years of the project will focus on data gathering when specialist crews will monitor ten reserves across the Coast to track and record the normally elusive creatures that call the Sunshine Coast home.
This information will then be used to develop a fauna monitoring program so council can best manage its environmental reserves, helping to improve conservation management into the future.
The second round of seasonal surveys began this week at Bells Creek Riparian Reserve and Ben Bennett Bushland Reserve in Caloundra and already ecologists have sighted the water-mouse, found in only three areas of Australia.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said the Environment Levy funded monitoring project is a great example of how council is working towards a sustainable environment for our region.
“It’s not enough to simply buy land, although this is a major component, we also need to know what species are living in our reserves,” the Mayor said.
“This knowledge will help us to create tailored management plans to suit the plants and animals living at each site.
“Monitoring at this scale on council managed reserves has never been done before, and has been made entirely possible by Sunshine Coast residents contributing to the Environment Levy.
“And the wins aren’t just environmental; economically this will assist in promoting the unique fauna values of this region for a range of interests including education, research and tourism.
“Going forward we will be working closely with environmental experts and consulting with the likes of the Queensland Museum to spearhead some exciting research projects for the Sunshine Coast.”
Division 2 Councillor Tim Dwyer said surveying began in December 2013 with results providing some interesting insights into our local fauna.
“During the summer survey for Bells Creek, ecologists found a population of the vulnerable water-mouse, which ranked as a high priority for conservation,” Cr Dwyer said.
“Council has paired this information with the discovery of an unexpected, high number of introduced black rats, and will now investigate whether they are a threat to the native water mouse and adapt reserve management accordingly.
“Work has only just begun and already it’s giving us useful information which may prevent the loss of important species from our reserves.”
A further six reserves will be surveyed to complete this component of the monitoring program.
Residents can follow the project on council’s website and view videos and photos of reserve fauna.
The project is divided up into stages:
Stage1: Fauna Surveys of 10 sites which when added to our existing fauna survey data will give us a better understanding of what animals are living in the reserves.
Stage 2: Develop a fauna monitoring program which will monitor the health of our reserves into the future. This will be innovative and may involve schools and community groups in a citizen science component.
Stage 3: Establish a consistent and accessible database of fauna records.
Reserves included in the monitoring project
1. Ben Bennett Bushland Park, Caloundra
2. Upper Mooloolah Nature Refuge, Balmoral Ridge
3. Mooloolah River Nature Refuge, Glenview
4. Bells Creek Riparian Reserve, Pelican Waters
5. Doonan Wetland Nature Refuge, Doonan
6. Bobbie Sattler Nature Refuge, Bells Creek
7. Coochin Creek Esplanade, Coochin Creek
8. Glasshouse Mountains Environmental Reserve, Glasshouse Mountains
9. Doonan Creek Environmental Reserve, Peregian Springs
10.Buderim Forest Park Nature Refuge, Buderim
Key Findings from round one of fauna monitoring (December 2013)
Ben Bennett Bushland Park
A high density and abundance of ground dwelling mammals have been found including the yellow footed antechinus (antechinus flavipes). This species is susceptible to habitat fragmentation yet interestingly has been found in this relatively small, highly isolated reserve which is surrounded by urban development. This suggests Ben Bennett Bushland Park is even more ecologically significant than previously thought.
Fact: the male of this species engages in such frenzied mating that its immune system becomes compromised; resulting in stress related death before it is one year old!
Upper Mooloolah Nature Refuge
There has been an unconfirmed sighting of the endangered Coxen Fig parrot. Field ecologists will undertake a follow up ‘tree watch’ to confirm their sighting. This is one of the smallest and least known Australian parrots. It is a highly endangered subspecies of the Double-eyed Fig Parrot. The main cause of the decline in range and population is the clearing of lowland rainforests and logging of rainforest trees.
Fact: In 2000 it was estimated that there are no more than 100 mature individuals of the subspecies left, with the population severely fragmented and continuing to decline
Bells Creek Riparian Reserve
The endangered water mouse has been found in the Bells Creek Riparian Reserve. The water mouse is found in only three areas of Australia. It is listed as Vulnerable in Queensland and is ranked nationally as a high priority for conservation. This little critter weighs in at around 40g and dines on crabs, shellfish, mud lobsters and marine flatworms. Little is known about the life cycle and breeding patterns of this species. Since their food and nutrients are generally found amongst the mangroves, the lifespan of the water mouse is highly dependent upon the preservation of the mangrove forest.
Fact: The water mouse is one of Australia’s rarest rodents and weighs just 40g—the same as a wafer bar of chocolate.