A 560-hectare ecological burn was completed in Doyles River State Forest near Kangaroo Flat by Forestry Corporation of NSW last month to study the effect of fire on the Hastings River mouse as part of a long-term monitoring program for the species.
Forestry Corporation senior field ecologist Mark Drury said the controlled burn was carefully planned and closely monitored by ecologists from Forestry Corporation and researchers from the Department of Industry – Lands and Forestry to study the effect of disturbance on the endangered native mouse.
“The Hastings River mouse is a native mouse, about the size of a common rat,” Mr Drury said.
“Forestry staff rediscovered the species nearby in 1984 after it was thought to be extinct for more than 100 years.
“Studies have been done on where it can be found but there is very limited understanding of how to keep the species healthy and viable.”
Some studies are showing that an absence of forest disturbance can have detrimental impacts on the Hastings River mouse because it relies on forests which have a grassy understorey that is maintained by regular fire, as well as grazing and harvesting.
“Lack of disturbance promotes dense understorey, which appears to help the more common native bush rat to out-compete the Hastings River mouse,” said Mr Drury.
“So this hazard reduction burn will provide important insight into how the species reacts to controlled fire.
“It is part of a long-term study, where Forestry Corporation ecologists are using a combination of trapping by ecology staff and monitoring with surveillance cameras before and after burning or harvesting in a number of known Hastings River mouse haunts to study how the animals respond as well as how predators might impact on the endangered mouse,” he said.
The study is being supervised by Dr Brad Law from the Forest Science Unit in the Department of Industry – Lands and Forestry, with trapping carried out by Forestry Corporation’s ecologists, who have received specialist training to be able to capture and assess each individual animal before releasing them unharmed.
“It is hoped this study will provide sound scientific evidence to help all land managers apply adaptive management to better manage this species for the long term,” said Mr Drury.
“Forests are dynamic and diverse and are home to a vast variety of flora and fauna that thrive in different forest types and conditions, so it’s important that we understand what impact our operations have so we can ensure the protection measures we put in place are the right ones.”