When assessing a site for ecological significance, it is important to have a good understanding of all the flora and fauna species that could be using the habitat in that area to ensure that the development does not cause environmental harm. There are several pieces of legislation that give protection to rare and threatened fauna species including the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), and the Queensland equivalent, the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld) (NC Act).
It is important to realise that the most innocuous of sites can provide habitat for rare and threatened fauna species protected under legislation and that the disturbance of these sites may result in a breach of legislation. Impacts on fauna is not restricted to those related to clearing of vegetation, but also include indirect impacts such as increased light or noise. Ecologists use a combination of experience, study of prior records and the known range and habitat type for the species to guide them to undertake the relevant targeted surveys at each site.
The Black-footed tree-rat (Mesembriomys gouldii) is listed as threatened under the EPBC Act and is an elusive nocturnal mammal that has only been recorded in the Mareeba locality once since 1973. When a proposed development site was identified close to Mareeba, Biotropica ecologists recognised suitable habitat for this species and undertook a targeted survey using the latest in thermal imaging equipment. This resulted in Biotropica documenting a very rare record of this species, including a photograph which is one of very few available of this species in the wild. By undertaking the survey and carefully working through the implications associated with the presence of this rare species, the proponent was able to ensure that they did not impact on the species and as such did not breach the requirements of the EPBC Act.
Biotropica also recently completed two targeted surveys for the Northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) which is protected under both the EPBC Act and the NC Act. A range of survey methods targeting this species were used on both sites, including the use of automatic remote sensing cameras. When a northern quoll was detected within the study area, further targeted surveys were used to estimate the size and range of the population within the site. This then enabled an assessment of potential impacts on this species and ensured that the proponent could legally complete the proposed development.
If you are considering a development and are unsure whether you have legally protected fauna species on your site, please feel free to call Biotropica for some advice.