The influence of urban encroachment on squirrel gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis): effects of road density, light and noise pollution

Mitchell Francis, Peter Spooner, Alison Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Loss and degradation of habitat from urban development is a key threat to the squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis), because its distribution coincides where most people live in Australia. Squirrel gliders are known to occur in or around urban fringes where native vegetation is retained; however, little is known about specific anthropogenic factors that may affect their persistence. Aims: We investigated the relative influence of biophysical and urban factors on the use of large hollow-bearing Eucalyptus trees, which are a key resource for squirrel gliders. The study was located in a typical urban growth area located in southern New South Wales. Methods: A stratified random sampling approach was used to survey squirrel gliders in urban and rural areas. Infrared, motion-sensor cameras were placed in 34 selected trees for 17 nights to record squirrel glider occupancy and activity. Data on urban (e.g. light and noise pollution levels, road and housing density) and biophysical (e.g. tree height, hollow-bearing tree density, vegetation cover) variables were recorded at each survey tree. Data were statistically analysed using general linear modelling approaches.Key results: Squirrel gliders were detected more frequently in the rural matrix (23.4% of camera trap-nights) than in urban areas (9.5%). Model results showed that tree height, and the distance to neighbouring trees, had a significant influence on the occurrence and activity of squirrel gliders. Road density and light pollution were included in 'best' models to explain glider activity (a negative influence), and noise pollution negatively influenced glider occurrence. Although gliders used large trees in both urban and rural areas, activity generally decreased as levels of urbanisation increased. Conclusions and implications: Access to and availability of key resources such as tall, hollow-bearing trees is critical for gliders to persist in urban environments. Squirrel gliders
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-333
Number of pages10
JournalWildlife Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


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