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Restoration rocks: integrating abiotic and biotic habitat restoration to conserve threatened species and reduce fire fuel load

McDougall, Alice, Milner, Richard N. C., Driscoll, Don A., Smith, Annabel L.
Biodiversity and conservation 2016 v.25 no.8 pp. 1529-1542
Poa, Themeda triandra, assets, biodiversity, fuel loading, glyphosate, habitat conservation, habitats, humans, indigenous species, introduced species, invasive species, land restoration, lizards, pesticide application, risk, rocks, threatened species, urban areas, urbanization, wildfires
With rapid urban expansion, biodiversity conservation and human asset protection often require different regimes for managing wildfire risk. We conducted a controlled, replicated experiment to optimise habitat restoration for the threatened Australian pink-tailed worm-lizard, Aprasia parapulchella while reducing fire fuel load in a rapidly developing urban area. We used dense addition of natural rock (30 % cover) and native grass revegetation (Themeda triandra and Poa sieberiana) to restore critical habitat elements. Combinations of fire and herbicide (Glyphosate) were used to reduce fuel load and invasive exotic species. Rock restoration combined with herbicide application met the widest range of restoration goals: it reduced fire fuel load, increased ant occurrence (the primary prey of A. parapulchella) in the short-term and increased the growth and survival of native grasses. Lizards colonised the restored habitat within a year of treatment. Our study documents an innovative way by which conflicts between biodiversity conservation and human asset protection can be overcome.