Diets of native and introduced mammalian herbivores in shrub-encroached grassy woodland, south-eastern Australia

Effective management of sympatric mammalian herbivore populations requires an understanding of interspecific interactions. At Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria, sympatric native and introduced mammalian herbivores are thought to be contributing to modification of shrub-encroached Coastal Grassy Woodland. We estimated the diets of the five terrestrial mammalian herbivore species present using microhistological techniques. The diets of introduced hog deer (Axis porcinus) and native swamp wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) consisted mainly of dicots. The diet of introduced European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) contained similar proportions of monocots and dicots. The diets of native eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) and native common wombats (Vombatus ursinus) consisted mainly of monocots but kangaroos also consumed moderate amounts of dicots. Deer and wallabies consumed more native plants than did the other species and rabbits consumed more exotic plants than did all other species except kangaroos. Diet breadth was narrowest for kangaroos and broadest for swamp wallabies and hog deer. Overlap in food use by the five herbivores was high, particularly between deer and wallabies, and between kangaroos and both rabbits and wombats. Our results suggest that the potential impacts of native and introduced species on the vegetation of Coastal Grassy Woodland are similar, and that the entire herbivore assemblage will need to be managed to increase fine fuel loads if fire is used as a restoration tool.

Author Naomi E. Davis, Graeme Coulson and David M. Forsyth
Date 17/11/2008
Year 2008
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 35
Number 7
Institution University of Melbourne
Department Department of Zoology
Pages 684?694
Notes Notes
ISBN/ISSN DOI: 10.1071/WR08042
Region VIC