Artificial refuges to combat habitat loss for an endangered marsupial predator: How do they measure up?

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Abstract

One technique used to combat the growing global species extinction crisis has been to create artificial refuges—human‐made replacements for natural refuges destroyed during habitat modification. However, there is limited knowledge of how closely artificial refuges replicate the natural refuges they seek to replace. Mining threatens many species worldwide through large‐scale habitat modification, and artificial refuges have been proposed as a method to offset the resulting habitat loss. Here, we examined the microclimatic, physical, and biotic characteristics of natural dens occupied by the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus )—an endangered marsupial threatened by habitat loss—and compared these to (a) superficially similar unoccupied crevices, and (b) artificial dens created by mining companies for northern quolls. Northern quolls occupied natural dens that were cooler and deeper than unoccupied crevices, likely to avoid lethal air temperatures as well as predators. Artificial dens provided similar thermal properties to occupied dens, but lacked key characteristics in having shallower den cavities, less complex surrounding habitat, increased feral cat visitation, and less small mammal prey compared to occupied dens. This study highlights the need to consider multiple facets when constructing artificial refuges, in order to avoid perverse outcomes, such as inadequate shelter, increased predation, and food shortages.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere204
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Volume2
Issue number6
Early online date29 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

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