For several years the Strathbogie Ranges Conservation Management Network (SRCMN) has been conducting on a citizen science program to better understand the mammal and nocturnal bird fauna of the Strathbogie Forest. The program began unofficially in 2014 and was supported by Victorian Government funding between 2016 and 2020. Along the way we have engaged hundreds of people from near and far and helped illuminate how very special this last of the extensive forest in the Strathbogies really is.
Prior to our Citizen Science program there had been only sporadic wildlife surveys in the forest in the 40 years since the very first surveys were conducted by the then Land Conservation Council. And in those 40 years, the region, has changed markedly, so there was a lot to be discovered. For the past 6 years we’ve been surveying wildlife in the Strathbogie Forest, here in NE Vic. In that time we’ve learnt a lot about the forest and its wildlife. By sharing what we’ve learnt, we hope to improve community appreciation of the forest and it’s cargo of precious wildlife.
Whilst the goal of the program was to collect as much information on as many species as possible, we were particularly interested in collecting information about these native species:
- Spot-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus)
- Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa)
- Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta)
- Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
- Feathertail Glider (Acrobats sp)
- Eastern Pygmy-possum (Cercartetus nanus)
- Greater Glider (Petauroides volans)
- Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis)
- Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) and other nocturnal birds
Understanding the distribution of feral species and their impact on the forest was also a priority: Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Feral Cat (Felis catus), Sambar Deer (Cervus unicolour), Fallow Deer (Cervus dama), Feral Pig (Sus scrofa).
The Strathbogie State Forest occupies the eastern and northern-most sections of the Strathbogie Ranges. The landscape is at elevations between 450 and 1000 m asl and is steeply dissected. The forest is the head of the catchments of the Seven Creeks, Broken River and Lake Eildon. – size, extent, altitude etc
Vegetation types in the Strathbogie Forest
The majority of the forest comprises the Ecological Vegetation Class Herb-rich Foothill Forest (EVC 23). This EVC is quite variable, occupying a fairly broad ecological niche grading into Grassy Dry Forest, Heathy Dry Forest and Valley Grassy Forest in drier sites, and into Damp Forest and Riparian Forest in wetter sites.
Most of the central and southern parts of the State Forest are mapped as Herb-rich Foothill Forest, with smaller areas of Damp Forest (EVC 29), Riparian Forest (EVC 18), Heathy Dry Forest (EVC 20), Grassy Dry Forest EVC 22), Valley Grassy Forest (EVC ) and Rocky Outcrop Shrubland (EVC 28).
The citizen science program encompassed a variety of activities:
- People volunteered to help conduct surveys. This not only enabled the collecting of a large biodiversity data set, but introduced lay people to the technicalities of ecological survey and the richness and beauty of the forest on their doorstep. Linked to the citizen science program was a series of community walks that took people to both popular and out-of-the-way places in the forest. [more to come]
- Habitat surveys examined the quality of forest habitat, particularly the relative abundance of tree hollows. [more to come]
- Spotlighting and infra-red surveys were conducted along 60 transects and seven arboreal mammal species and four nocturnal bird species. These surveys established the importance of the Strathbogie Forest as a site of regional, if not State significance for the threatened Greater Glider.
- Camera trapping was conducted at 66 sites (a total of 4000+ trap-nights) and detected 17 species of mammal.
- We presented our nocturnal survey results, up to that point, to a state-wide review of the conservation status of the Greater Glider, coordinated by DELWP, in July 2017. This led directly to the detailed Greater Glider surveys conducted by ARIER to assess the of Greater Glider population in the forest, in 2017-2018.
- Though formal surveys targeted certain species, the many volunteers involved collected many hundreds of records of a wide variety of species (plants, fungi, reptiles, frogs, birds and mammals), all of which contribute to a better understanding of the forest and all of which have been submitted to state-wide databases (VBA and iNaturalist).
- The collected data on mammals has been used to update our own annotated list of Mammals of the Strathbogie Ranges.
These surveys have highlighted the importance of the Strathbogie Forest for ensuring the survival of forest dependent species that in the last 150 years have disappeared from large parts of the Strathbogie Ranges; within these ranges, the long-term future of these forest-dependent species is now dependent on this forest.