Update: July 2020
We have recently published our investigation of bandicoot digging activity assessing the influence this species has on soil. We quantified the annual rate of soil turnover by estimating the number of foraging pits bandicoots created each night. We estimated that an individual eastern barred bandicoot digs ~487 small foraging pits per night, displacing ~13.15 kg of soil, equating to ~400 kg of soil in a winter month. Foraging pits were associated with decreased soil compaction and increased soil moisture along the foraging pit profile.
We highlight the important ecosystem service eastern barred bandicoots provide through their effects on soil. Our data supports the idea that restoring ecoystems through the return of ecosystem engineers and their functions holds much promise for conserving biodiversity and ecological function
Halstead, LM., Sutherland, DR., Valentine, LE., Rendall, AR., Coestsee, AL., & Ritchie, EG. (2019). Digging up the dirt: Quantifying the effects on soil of a translocated ecosystem engineer. Austral Ecology. doi:10.1111/aec.12833
Eastern barred bandicoots (Perameles gunnii, mainland form, unnamed subspecies) are currently listed as ‘Extinct in the Wild’ within Victoria. The species persists within three predator-barrier fenced enclosures across Victoria. The species has undergone a significant genetic bottleneck and continues to lose genetic diversity within these small isolated populations. Meta-population management is being undertaken to prevent further genetic loss, however, the need for larger populations has led the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team to trial the assisted colonisation of the species on offshore, fox-free islands
In August, 2015, 16 eastern barred bandicoot’s were released onto 52 ha Churchill Island, Victoria as a trail to understand whether the species was capable of persisting outside of its former geographical range; what impacts (positive or negative) the species may have on the localised environment; and to provide data to inform future assisted colonisations of the species in the presence of invasive predators (Churchill Island is fox, cat and rabbit free).
More recently this population has also been used to quantify the value of this ecosystem engineer through understanding it’s influence on soil properties; and to investigate the diet of an island population of bandicoots. Stay tuned for the results of these studies.