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Ms Sarah Tassell

profile_tassell_thumbMs Sarah Tassell
PhD student

Topic: the impact of the superb lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) on Tasmanian forest ecosystems

University of Tasmania

The superb lyrebird was introduced to Tasmania in the 1930s and 40s in order to save it from the perceived threat of foxes and habitat loss on the mainland. However, there is growing concern that lyrebirds may pose a threat to Tasmanian forest ecosystems. Lyrebirds feed on invertebrates (such as insects and spiders) by scratching over large amounts of leaf litter and soil. Their roles as a predator and as an ecosystem disturber mean that lyrebirds are probably a keystone species in the forests where they live. Since there is no native equivalent to lyrebirds, these birds may be significantly affecting Tasmanian flora and fauna.

My project aims to examine the impact that lyrebirds have on invertebrate communities in the leaf litter and soil, both directly through predation and indirectly through changes to habitat brought about by scratching for food (foraging). It aims to determine whether lyrebird disturbance to leaf litter and soil, and damage to individual plants caused by foraging, affects vegetation communities; as well as to establish the impact that foraging activity has on soil structure and ecosystem processes.

My supervisors are Associate Professor Alastair Richardson (School of Zoology, University of Tasmania), Associate Professor Sue Jones (School of Zoology, University of Tasmania) and Michael Driessen (Biodiversity Conservation Branch, Tasmanian Government Department of Primary Industry Water and Environment).

This project is part of the CRC for Forestry Biodiversity Project (4.2)

My project is funded via an Australian Postgraduate Award.

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