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Predicting habitat suitability for wild deer in relation to threatened ecological communities in south-eastern New South Wales, Australia

Citation

Burns, Heather; Gibbons, Philip; Claridge, Andrew; McCreery, David (2022), Predicting habitat suitability for wild deer in relation to threatened ecological communities in south-eastern New South Wales, Australia, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h44j0zpkx

Abstract

Context. High density deer populations can cause ecological damage, yet their distribution and impacts are poorly known across much of Australia. As a result, land managers rely on anecdotal reports to make decisions about management and control measures.

Aims. We aimed to model habitat suitability for deer in the South Coast of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, to be used as a baseline for future management and identify which threatened ecological communities (TECs) in the region are at greatest current risk of being occupied by deer.

Methods. We compiled 678 presence-only records of wild deer from online databases, observations made by National Parks and Wildlife Service field staff and field-based surveys. We combined these observations with eight environmental variables to model and map habitat suitability for deer across our study area using maximum entropy. Three spatial models of habitat suitability across our study area were produced: one for all deer species; and two species-specific models for fallow and sambar deer. Key results. Our models indicate that suitable habitat for deer exists throughout much of the South Coast of NSW. Of the TECs examined, Coastal Saltmarsh, Themeda Grassland, and Swamp Sclerophyll Forest had the highest proportion of area likely to be extremely suitable for deer and thus should be prioritised for protection within our study area.

Conclusions. Further systematic field-based surveys are needed to improve the quality of models in this region. Implications. We recommend that areas having high habitat suitability but are not yet occupied by deer be identified as sites where deer occupancy could be prevented.

Methods

See 'Methods' section of the related journal article in Pacific Conservation Biology

Usage Notes

Additional information related to these models can be found either (1) in the Methods section of the journal article, or (2) in the supplementary materials section of the journal article. 

Funding

New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, Award: Saving Our Species Program