Quolls impacted by brief weather changes

By Madeleine van der Linden 21 October 2015
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A decline in eastern quoll populations can be linked to short-term changes in weather, a new study suggests.

THE EASTERN QUOLL once ranged over most of south-eastern Australia, but is now only found in Tasmania.

A loss of habitat and the introduction of pest species left quoll population struggling, but a new study shows there may be another reason for the drop in numbers.

The study suggests that short-term changes in weather have had an adverse effect on quolls numbers, especially between 2001 and 2003.


Weather impacts endangered species

Professor Chris Johnson, a biologist at the University of Tasmania and supervisor of the research, says that warm, wet weather is bad news for quolls. This is possibly due to the impact on their diet.

The decline in quoll numbers, Chris says, “could relate to the lifecycles of the caterpillars and grubs that they eat, which are cued by moisture and temperature.”

Co-author Jeremy VanDerWal, Director of JCU’s Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, says the study is unique because most research focuses on the impacts of long-term climate averages.

Quolls: an endangered species

The study into quoll populations used weather maps and government surveys from the past 20 years to track the number of quolls in relation to changes in the weather.

Quoll numbers went into sharp decline after a period of warm, wet weather and, despite the fact that conditions have improved, they have yet to recover.

Since quoll numbers have dropped so sharply, the scientists suggest the species may be struggling against other factors, including predation by feral cats.

The authors of the paper hope that the new study will pave the way towards a more climate-conscious approach to conservation in the future.