Microclimate of daytime den sites in a tropical possum: implications for the conservation of tropical arboreal marsupials

J. L. Isaac, J. L. De Gabriel, B. A. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Tree cavities are an important shelter site for a variety of vertebrate species, including birds, reptiles and mammals. Studies indicate that in most taxa favoured tree hollows are those in larger trees and higher from the ground, generally thought to be related to decreased predation risk and a more optimal thermal environment. However, neither of these ideas has been tested definitively. Here, we investigate the microclimate of daytime den sites in tree hollows of common brushtail possums in tropical northern Australia. We compare tree and hollow characteristics of dens known to be used by possums, and those not known to be used, to determine whether possums choose trees with microhabitats with a more favourable daytime microclimate. Possums chose to den in tree hollows which were on average 1.6 degrees C cooler during the day, and were more buffered from temperature extremes, than other potential den locations. Important factors explaining daytime temperatures between hollows included height of the hollow, entrance width and tree diameter. Tropical arboreal marsupials have been identified as being particularly vulnerable to climate change and there are calls to identify and preserve natural refuges, such as tree hollows, which could buffer them from extreme temperatures. Our results highlight the value of older, larger hollow-bearing trees as refuges from extreme temperature, the importance of which may become critical for some temperature-sensitive species under the combined effects of continuing habitat loss and climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-287
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Conservation
Volume11
Issue number4
Early online date7 May 2008
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008

Keywords

  • climate change
  • eucalypt
  • endemic mammal
  • rainforest
  • tree hollow
  • wet tropics bioregion
  • glider petauroides-volans
  • vertebrate fauna
  • nest boxes
  • Southeastern Australia
  • natural cavities
  • tree swallows
  • selection
  • forests
  • availability
  • temperature

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