Translocations of digging mammals and their potential for ecosystem restoration: a review of goals and monitoring programmes

Date: 23, Jul, 2020
Author(s):   Palmer, B.J., Valentine, L.E., Page, M., Hobbs, R.J.
Publisher: Mammal Review

1. Globally, translocations are commonly used to improve the conservation status of threatened species. There is increasing recognition that translocations of ecosystem engineers also have the potential to restore ecological processes. Digging mammals are often considered to be ecosystem engineers, as their diggings provide shelter for other species and can significantly alter soil properties, with subsequent changes to vegetation. 2. Using Australian species as a case study, we reviewed published and grey literature on digging mammal translocations to determine how often these translocations are conducted to restore ecosystem processes. We documented ecosystem‐level monitoring and research efforts, and assessed whether restoration was perceived to be occurring post‐release. 3. At least 208 translocations of 24 digging mammal species have been conducted in Australia, with a further 38 planned for the near future. Prior to 2019, only 3% of translocations included a goal relating to the restoration of ecosystem processes associated with digging activities. Nearly a quarter of pre‐2019 translocations have been the subject of some form of ecosystem‐level monitoring or research, but long‐term ecosystem‐level monitoring was very rare. In contrast, 74% of the translocations planned for post‐2018 include a goal relating to the restoration of ecological processes and most also include plans to conduct ecosystem‐level monitoring. 4. Ecosystem restoration was perceived to be occurring for 26% of the pre‐2019 translocations. None of the documents we reviewed indicated that ecological degradation had occurred post‐translocation, even when declines in other taxa were recorded. 5. The restoration of ecosystem processes is increasingly being identified as a goal for translocation programmes. Where this is the case, we suggest that translocation practitioners include success criteria for the restoration of ecosystem processes, and commit to long‐term monitoring designed to detect ecosystem‐level effects of translocations.