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Recovery of reptile, amphibian and mammal assemblages in Australian post-mining landscapes following open-cut coal mining

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.

Funding

Category 3 - Industry and Other Research Income

History

Volume

123

Start Page

31

End Page

47

Number of Pages

17

ISSN

0080-469X

Publisher

Royal Society of Queensland

Peer Reviewed

Yes

Open Access

No

Era Eligible

Yes

Journal

Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland