Forum provides annual SWOT analysis for Otways threatened species

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The annual Otways Threatened Species Research Forum brings together researchers, land managers, and other interested parties from across the Otways to share the latest threatened species research being undertaken across the national park, state forests and on private land. 

It’s a fabulous chance for colleagues to connect and share information and to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for threatened species the Otways. 

After cancelling last year’s forum due to Covid, we were one day away from this year’s forum when we were forced to move it online – but in one of those rare silver linings this meant we were able to share the forum with so many more people, with close to 150 people listening in over the two online sessions.

If you weren’t able to attend, or want to revisit any of the talks, both sessions were recorded and the talks are available here.

In the first session we heard:

  • How we’re getting more detailed data on Long-nosed Potoroos response to fire by attaching GPS collars to them and monitoring how they use the landscape before and after planned burns in the Carlisle Heath.
  • How camera grids are giving us a detailed overview of how species, including natives like potoroos and ferals such as foxes and cats, are using planned burn blocks before and after fire.
  • Whether it’s possible to achieve fuel hazard reduction and conservation at the same time. Testing how different burn scenarios can minimise the impact of wildfire in the Carlisle Heath, and the impact on Long-nosed Potoroos.
  • Whether controlling predators like foxes can help make small mammals like potoroos and bandicoots more resilient to fire.
  • How camera traps and scats are helping track down the Pookila (New Holland Mouse), Koonoomoo (Smokey Mouse) and Tooarrana (Broad-toothed Rat), which are known from the Otways but rarely seen.

The second session focused in on some threats, covering:

  • How data, modelling and fancy new technology – like LiDAR scanners – are helping DELWP plan their fuel reduction burns in the Otways. Their analysis includes information on fuel hazard, but also about threatened species, biodiversity, weeds and from traditional owners.
  • How fire effects Long-nosed Potoroos – using insights gained from the University of Melbourne’s interactive web-based tool for assessing relationships between species, fire and habitat.
  • How we balance bike activity with biodiversity in conservation areas as mountain biking becomes increasingly popular. For example, phytophthora, which causes vegetation dieback, has been a huge consideration in the design and upgrade of trails in Forrest.
  • How lizards, birds, snakes and small mammals have all been making use of the protection offered by post-fire refuges in the Otways. These artificial shelters are being tested by Deakin University PhD candidate Darcy Watchorn to see if they help small mammals persist after fire.
  • How identifying priority protection areas and developing management interventions in these areas will be crucial in protecting plant and animal biodiversity from ‘dieback’ caused by phytophthora in the Otways.
  • How to protect the small mammals of the Otways, we need to know where they are. Barbara Wilson and her team have pulled a lot of data together and are undertaking surveys where there are gaps, to identify where some of the most vulnerable are holding on, as a part of the Wild Otways Initiative.
  • How knowledge is power and monitoring as a part of the Wild Otways Initiative is helping control feral pigs and their impact on Otways ecosystems and threatened species.