Response of a small tropical forest mammal community to fragmentation (#836)
Habitat fragmentation is a cause for concern, particularly for tropical rainforests, which have high biodiversity and levels of endemism. Little is known of the foraging behaviour and habitat preference of small tropical rainforest mammals in fragmented forests, particularly in Australia. While some studies suggest some species thrive in fragmented areas, others suggest some species are severely threatened by fragmentation. Therefore, I aim to investigate foraging behaviour and habitat preferences of small mammals in a tropical forest community, to assess their relative responses to disturbance and fragmentation. I will set up eight sets of paired trays, each pair five metres apart, in different areas of a revegetated notophyll vine forest in Cairns, Australia each night for two weeks. One tray will be placed under vegetation cover, while the other will be placed in the open. Each tray will be subdivided into two. I will place 300g of one seed type (millet and sunflower) in each section. Camera traps will be used to record species utilising the trays, the duration of time spent feeding and the food preference of each species. Weight of seeds remaining will be measured each morning. Small mammal abundance will then be assessed in the same area for two weeks thereafter, with paired Elliot and cage traps established at the sites of food trays. I predict that small mammals will prefer to forage under cover, minimising predation risk. Furthermore, I predict that small mammals will vary in their seed utilisation, with some species handling heavier seeds compared to others. I also predict that small mammals will spend more time with harder seeds when under cover, as these seeds provide increased nutritional value. Given the increased risk of fragmentation in tropical rainforests, my study will provide a valuable insight into how small mammal communities may respond in fragmented habitats.