Many people thought Steve Irwin knew more about snakes than anyone else in Australia. But according to ABC TV Science program Catalyst Professor Rick Shine knows more about them than anyone else and like Steve he’s been passionate about snakes since he was a small boy.
Right now Shine is on a campaign to save the endangered Broad-headed Snake in south eastern New South Wales. It is thought there are only about 700 remaining in the wild with their habitat reduced by vegetation encroachment.
That’s right too many trees!
According to a paper published last year in research journal Copeia*, over the last two centuries European fire suppression practices have produced increases in vegetation density and canopy cover in many landscapes.
The researchers Jonathan Webb, Richard Shine and Robert Pringle hypothesized that this was negatively affecting populations of nocturnal reptiles that use sun-exposed shelters for diurnal thermoregulation including the Broad-headed Snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides).
They undertook a field study in Morton National Park near Sydney and their findings supported the hypothesis. What they described as “modest canopy removal” restored habitat quality with rocks at the sites were the canopy was removed being 10C hotter and attracting more reptiles.
The paper concludes with the recommendation that until effective fire management measures are in place, manual sapling removal could help protect small populations of endangered reptiles including the Broad-headed Snake.
This blog post remembers Steve Irwin who as Libby Eyre commented at an earlier thread: Steve will be saddly missed in the Australian wildlife community, as well as by the general public both here and overseas. He did a lot of good work for education, ex-situ breeding programs, in-situ conservation, animal husbandry and highlighting the animals many Ausralians couldn’t give a rat’s about. For all his larrikinism and sometimes over the top antics, he was a great spokesman for Australian wildlife. My thoughts are with his family, his friends and his staff at Australia Zoo.
* Canopy Removal Restores Habitat Quality for an Endangered Snake in a Fire Suppressed Landscape. Copeia 2005 (4) pp. 894-900
Thanks to Ian Beale for sending me the Copeia paper.