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Recovery of reptile, amphibian and mammal assemblages in Australian post-mining landscapes following open-cut coal mining
journal contributionposted on 2019-03-06, 00:00 authored by Wayne HoustonWayne Houston, Alistair MelzerAlistair Melzer, Robert BlackRobert Black
Amphibian, reptile and mammal assemblages were evaluated as bioindicators of mining rehabilitation recovery at three northern Australian coal mines. Ten rehabilitated blocks of three ages, early (up to 7 years, five sites), mid (8 to 15 years, four sites) and late (24 years, one site), were compared with 11 local unmined reference sites. Because mining in this region mostly alters the topography from rolling plains to hills, reference forest sites included vegetation typical both of the pre-mining landscape and local hill-associated landscapes analogous to post-mining topography. Habitat attributes showed consistent patterns with age, reflecting successional changes from the initial dense plantings. Species richness of reptiles, and of lizard functional groups, increased with rehabilitation age. Reptile species assemblage also showed a trend towards the composition of reference forest sites. In contrast, metrics for the other faunal groups rapidly attained levels comparable to the reference sites, or fluctuated greatly. Lizard functional groups showed patterns of recovery consistent with microhabitat development. ‘Terrestrial’ foraging lizards attained similar species richness to reference forest sites by mid-age rehabilitation whereas ‘arboreal’ and ‘fossorial’ lizard species were slower to colonise the rehabilitation. These findings complement studies from Australian bauxite and gold mining landscapes, suggesting that the utility of reptile assemblages as broadly applicable bioindicators should be considered. © 2018, Royal Society of Queensland. All rights reserved.