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Plague of kangaroos threatens one of Australia's last remaining original native grasslands
Date:5/21/2008

invertebrate species such as ground beetles are affected by landscape fragmentation and habitat alteration in natural grasslands in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Yet during her fieldwork she discovered that there were far fewer of them than expected. What she found instead were dry grasslands, grazed bare and scarred by the worst drought to hit Australia in a century. Particularly, she was surprised to find large quantities of kangaroo dung, especially in the enclosed military areas: "The results of the fragmentation studies are not yet available. But we assume that there is a relationship on individual sites between the extremely high density of kangaroos and species diversity among the invertebrates - especially in times of severe drought."

But humans are to blame too. The once vast grasslands used to be the territory of the Aborigines, who used this sensitive ecosystem sustainably through hunting and fire management. Natural predators like the dingo controlled the kangaroo populations. When Australia was settled 200 years ago, first the grasslands were lost and then the development of cities like Canberra led to a complete change in the landscape structure. Today, as a result of urbanisation and the intensification of agriculture, large parts of Australia have a highly fragmented landscape, with a high risk of losing their biological diversity. However, humans have considerably improved water provision for kangaroos by installing cattle troughs and other water bodies. Normally, the weaker kangaroos fall victim to drought in dry periods. Today, however, they can fall back on artificial watering holes and so maintain their populations, which then cause further damage to the vegetation. Unlike other animal species, kangaroos have adapted well to the presence of humans. In many regions of Australia kangaroos are hunted and the meat exported.

The Australian capital is a classic example of how drastically humans have changed the fif
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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