Murdoch University scientists have teamed up with Mandurah gardeners to conduct national research which aims to help conserve the population of Southern Brown Bandicoots.
Dr Catherine Baudains from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences is investigating the role of suburban backyards in enabling this small marsupial – or quenda - to survive, even in built-up areas where native bushland is being cleared.
“Quendas play an important role in the ecosystem so this is an opportunity for local residents to make a real difference to the future of our native wildlife,” she said.
“There is anecdotal evidence that quendas move into residential backyards as urban development destroys their natural habitat and this may enable them to move and the research is investigating what sort of backyard they prefer.
“Gardens could provide a valuable corridor that enables them to move between patches of remnant bushland and the research is investigating what sort of backyard they prefer.”
Dozens of Mandurah residents have volunteered their gardens to help provide vital evidence. The scientists place motion sensor cameras at about knee height to film any ground activity in the garden, conduct a short vegetation survey of the garden and also ask the homeowner to complete a short questionnaire.
The three-year project funded by the Australian Research Council will investigate ground cover types (such as paving, lawn, soil, pebbles), vegetation (native and exotic) and the density of flora in the garden as well as the presence of pets.
There appears to be a relationship between the presence of quenda in reserves and the effectiveness of regrowth, particularly of tuart trees," Dr Baudains said.
"One of our scientists calls the quenda 'urban ecological engineers'. Because they are digging mammals, they play a really important role in soil health."
She said they acted to help direct water into the soil, and because West Australian soils could be very hydrophobic — they repel water — it helped improve soil quality