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The impacts of sambar (Cervus unicolor)   The impacts of sambar (Cervus unicolor)... - PDF Document (22 M)
Access Rights Open Access
Citation Bennett, A. (2008). The impacts of sambar (Cervus unicolor) in the Yarra Ranges National Park. PhD thesis, Department of Zoology and Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, The University of Melbourne.
Handle 10187/6804
Title The impacts of sambar (Cervus unicolor) in the Yarra Ranges National Park
Creator Bennett, Ami
Date 2008
Subject / Keywords sambar, Cervus unicolor, deer, Yarra Ranges National Park, density, distribution, rubbing, browsing, forest understoreys, selective exclosures
Abstract Internationally, the impacts of deer have been widely studied, but little work has been conducted in Australia. Sambar (Cervus unicolor Kerr) were introduced to Victoria in the 1860s from Sri Lanka, and have become established throughout eastern Victoria. This study is located in the Yarra Ranges National Park, 100 km north east of Melbourne. The park primarily consists of three protected water catchments that contribute approximately 50% to Melbourne’s water supply. This study was conducted from 2005 to 2008 in the Upper Yarra and O’Shannassy catchments. Large open areas covered by forbs and grasses periodically form adjacent to the water body of the Upper Yarra reservoir. Sambar are frequently observed at the largest of these areas known as The Flats. The impacts of sambar at this locality and in other areas of the catchments were investigated.
Faecal pellet transect surveys determined that sambar occupancy and density was greatest on open flats, lower on forest edges adjacent to open flats (< 250 m), and significantly less in other forested areas of the catchment. Observations of The Flats revealed that hinds were the main demographic class represented, with a mean group size of 39 individuals, and up to 70. This is the largest aggregation of sambar ever reported anywhere in the world, and equates to an approximate density of 200 km-2 at this site.
Selective exclosures effectively differentiated the offtake of forage by sambar from that of native herbivores. Sambar contributed to the majority of offtake at The Flats, and were able to obtain a substantial proportion of their daily food requirements from this source. A culling program began in the Yarra Ranges National Park in May 2008, to reduce the large numbers of deer in the park. The cull reduced the time spent by sambar on The Flats, as determined by faecal pellet accumulation plots, and significantly reduced faecal pellet load and forage offtake.
Sambar significantly decreased relative foliage cover of shiny nematolepis (Nematolepis wilsonii), a threatened understorey tree, through their antler rubbing activities. Thrashing of shiny nematolepis saplings also significantly decreased relative foliage cover, with sambar selecting saplings with a larger stem diameter from those available. Rubbed trees and thrashed saplings experienced damage to, on average, over half the stem circumference.
Selective exclosures allowed differentiation of sambar and native herbivore browsing on forest understoreys. Browsing by sambar in high densities prevented the vertical growth of plants in the understorey, with branches above 60 cm in height most commonly browsed. Plants in the understorey were more frequently and intensely browsed in areas of high sambar density. Three species were browsed to a significantly greater extent by sambar than native herbivores: hazel pomaderris (Pomaderris aspera), prickly tea-tree (Leptospermum continentale) and prickly bush-pea, (Pultenaea juniperina). Sambar significantly reduced plant biomass in forest understoreys where they occur in high densities.
The presence of large, open herb-rich areas drives the high local densities and associated impacts of sambar within the Yarra Ranges National Park. Future areas of research are identified and management recommendations are outlined. A sustained culling program appears to be the only practical option to reduce sambar density and impacts at this locality.
Type PhD thesis
Notes © 2008 Dr. Ami Bennett
Publication Status Unpublished
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Faculty/Department Department of Zoology
Faculty/Department Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science
Institution The University of Melbourne
Collection Research Collections (UMER)
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PID 125263
Identifier Access Digital File
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