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Linking ecological condition and the soundscape in fragmented Australian forests

Abstract

Natural landscapes are increasingly subjected to anthropogenic pressure and fragmentation resulting in reduced ecological condition. In this study we examined the relationship between ecological condition and the soundscape in fragmented forest remnants of south-east Queensland, Australia. The region is noted for its high biodiversity value and increased pressure associated with habitat fragmentation and urbanisation. Ten sites defined by a distinct open eucalypt forest community dominated by spotted gum (Corymbia citriodora ssp. variegata) were stratified based on patch size and patch connectivity. Each site underwent a series of detailed vegetation condition and landscape assessments, together with bird surveys and acoustic analysis using relative soundscape power. Univariate and multivariate analyses indicated that the measurement of relative soundscape power reflects ecological condition and bird species richness, and is dependent on the extent of landscape fragmentation. We conclude that acoustic monitoring technologies provide a cost effective tool for measuring ecological condition, especially in conjunction with established field observations and recordings.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge Paul Roe, Michael Towsey and Jason Wimmer for technological assistance, expertise and fruitful discussion, Tom Tarrant for expert analysis of bird calls, Peter Grace for his enthusiasm in supporting bioacoustics research, and the Institute for Future Environments, QUT for funding support. We would also like to thank Teresa Eyre and Annie Kelly from the Queensland DEHP for assistance with BioCondition and access to spatial data, and Peter Young for expert advice and assistance on locating our benchmark site. We would also like to acknowledge David Williams and his colleagues, DPI, in Tatura, Victoria for early work on attempting to relate acoustics to vegetation condition. The research was never published due to limited acoustic replication as the technology was not available at that time.

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Correspondence to David Tucker.

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Tucker, D., Gage, S.H., Williamson, I. et al. Linking ecological condition and the soundscape in fragmented Australian forests. Landscape Ecol 29, 745–758 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-014-0015-1

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Keywords

  • Ecological condition
  • Soundscape
  • Acoustic monitoring
  • Landscape
  • Fragmentation
  • Patch size
  • Connectivity
  • Bird species richness