Thesis: Restoring degraded landscapes – The role of digging mammals on seedling recruitment
Organisms can alter the environment they inhabit in several ways, affecting the availability of resources to other species. By creating burrows and turning over the soil, digging mammals contribute to improved soil health by increasing nutrient cycling. Moreover, these animals can also indirectly aid seedling recruitment and germination, since they are able to break the soil surface layers which increases water infiltration, soil moisture, and the capture of organic matter. In my research I seek to understand if the translocation of digging mammals can assist in restoring degraded landscapes in the southwest region of Western Australia. More specifically, I want to evaluate the role of these animals as ecosystem engineers with a focus on seedling recruitment, as well as investigate the potential benefits native digging mammals may deliver in terms of carbon sequestration and mitigation of climate change impacts.
Why my research is important
Over the last 200 years, soil-foraging mammals have disappeared from most Australian landscapes. This is mainly due to biological invasions, habitat degradation and changes in global climate, and has resulted in considerable declines in ecosystem processes. In this unfortunate scenario, it is crucial to understand the role native burrowing mammals play as ecosystem engineers and their impacts on the environment, especially as related to plant growth. With increased knowledge of this topic it will be possible to direct conservation management strategies, linked to animal translocations, aiming to improve landscapes restoration.