Using monitors to monitor mine site restoration: How does Australia’s largest lizard species respond to mine site restoration?

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Sophie Cross

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Globally, the increasing rates of mine site discontinuations are resulting in the need for immediate implementation of effective biodiversity and conservation management strategies. Over 60 000 mines across Australia have been identified as discontinued, yet despite restoration being a legislative requirement, the number of these sites confirmed as restored and officially closed is extremely low. Monitoring vegetation structure and condition is a common method of assessing restoration success, however monitoring animal responses is relatively uncommon. Animals are generally assumed to return to pre-disturbance abundances following the return of vegetation (Field of Dreams hypothesis; ‘build it and they will come’). In practice, recovering animal biodiversity and community structure can be some of the most difficult components to achieve and asses following the restoration of degraded sites. Using VHF and GPS tracking, and the T-LoCoH method of home range construction, we assessed the behavioural responses of a sub-adult female perentie (Varanus giganteus) to habitat change and differing thermal environments presented in reference and restoration vegetation at a Mid-West Western Australian mine site. We highlight a reduction of vegetation cover and spatial heterogeneity as a major constraint to the movements and behavioural ecology of the perentie, and hence although restoration may be facilitating return, behavioural use of restoration vegetation differs from that in the reference vegetation. Understanding the complex interactions between animals, and their behavioural responses to their environment is fundamental to their conservation in the face of ever-increasing rates of human induced habitat change and degradation.

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Society for Ecological Restoration