Movement patterns of an arboreal gecko in fragmented agricultural landscapes reveal matrix avoidance

Nicole Hansen, Don Driscol, Damian Michael, David Lindenmayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Animal movement through agricultural landscapes is critical for population persistence of species within fragmented native vegetation patches. However, perceived habitat quality and the structural changes between differing land uses within such landscapes can reduce an animal's willingness to move. Understanding when animal movement behaviour varies in response to differing habitat types is necessary for identifying barriers to movement between habitat patches. We quantified the homing success and fine‐scale movement behaviour of a patch‐dependent gecko, Gehyra versicolor, in remnant patches, three different matrix types (crop, pasture and linear plantings), and at varying distances from the edge using fluorescent powder tracking, radio‐telemetry and experimental displacement. We found displaced geckos in pasture environments orientated more strongly and moved farther into farmland after being released and, away from their home ranges in remnant patches. In contrast, we found strong homing ability of displaced animals in plantings and crop matrix types, with animals moving towards remnant patches and away from farmland. Importantly, from the 48 individuals radio‐tracked, none moved into farmland, including pastures, despite 16 individuals approaching edge habitat. Because radio‐tracked geckos did not move into pastures, or any other matrix type, movement further into pasture by displaced animals likely represents limited orientation capacity in pasture rather than preference for pasture. We conclude geckos behaviourally avoided the farmland, irrespective of the presence of complex habitat (e.g. linear plantings). Our findings suggest that, despite efforts to improve farmland quality by planting, farmland is not generally preferred compared to remnant native vegetation. Understanding habitat‐specific movement behaviour is crucial to effectively identifying barriers to animal movement and will improve our efforts to conserve regional populations of patch‐dependent species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-59
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Conservation
Volume23
Issue number1
Early online date04 Sep 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

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