How Might Terrestrial Arthropod Assemblages Have Changed After the Dramatic Decline of Critical Weight Range (CWR) Mammals in Australia? Using Reintroductions at Scotia Sanctuary as a Model for Pre-European Ecosystems

Heloise Gibb

Abstract


In Australia, populations of mammals within the critical weight range (CWR) of 35 to 5500 g have been severely affected by European settlement, with twenty-two species having become extinct over the past 200 years. Many highly threatened CWR mammals, such as bilbies, bandicoots and numbats, are insectivorous or omnivorous, and invertebrates comprise a significant portion of their diet. Additionally, such mammals cause significant disturbance to arthropod habitats through burrowing and engage in a range of other interactions with arthropods, including mutualisms, parasitism and competition. The loss of this trophic level is thus likely to have had considerable impacts on arthropods. Here, I consider the potential effects of the dramatic decline of native omnivores on the abundance, diversity, composition, morphology and functional roles performed by arthropods. I also discuss reintroductions such as that at Scotia Sanctuary in western NSW and other conservation sites as a model for understanding the pre-European state of arthropod-CWR mammal interactions.

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