Factors affecting patch occupancy by the White-browed Treecreeper Climacteris affinis in an agricultural landscape in north-west Victoria, Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • The survival of habitat-dependent fauna within agricultural mosaics depends on their ability to occupy remnant habitat patches and move through the modified landscape. In north-west Victoria, Australia, less than 10% of the pre-European extent of Belah Casuarina pauper woodland remains intact due to agricultural development. The White-browed Treecreeper Climacteris affinis, is a small, insectivorous passerine that, in this region, preferentially inhabits Belah woodland. To assess the ability of C. affinis to persist in an agricultural landscape, 30 woodland sites in the Millewa landscape (34�30'S, 141�30'E) were surveyed, and patterns of patch occupancy used to examine the influence of spatial characteristics, landscape context and grazing by stock on the suitability of remnants as C. affinis habitat. Sites occupied by C. affinis were larger and less likely to be grazed by stock than vacant patches. The area-dependency of patch occupancy represents a step-threshold: C. affinis were not detected in remnants with less than 18.5 ha of Belah woodland but above this threshold, density was not correlated with patch area. Measures of patch isolation, the existence of linking linear "corridors" and tree density were not reliable indicators of patch occupancy. The presence of the species in remnants entirely surrounded by agricultural land suggests they are capable of crossing up to 450 m of cultivated land to prospect for habitat. The extensive network of linear vegetation and the numerous small remnants and scattered trees appear to facilitate movements of C. affinis in this landscape. Increasing the size of existing remnants, creating new habitat to expand the area of occupancy and maintaining landscape connectivity are priorities for the long-term management of this threatened species.

publication date

  • 2006

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