Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Artificial watering points are focal points for activity by an invasive herbivore but not native herbivores in conservation reserves in arid Australia

  • Mike Letnic
  • Shawn W. Laffan
  • Aaron C. Greenville
  • Benjamin G. Russell
  • Bruce Mitchell
  • Peter J. S. Fleming
Original Paper


The spatial configuration of landscapes can be an important factor influencing the dispersal, distribution and abundance of invasive animals and consequently their impacts. In arid landscapes worldwide, humans have increased the availability of surface water by creating artificial water points (AWP) for livestock and wildlife viewing. The resource subsidy provided by AWP can influence the functioning of arid ecosystems by affecting the density, distribution and activity of water-dependent native and invasive animals and thus facilitate their trophic and competitive interactions. In this study, we used dung count indices to investigate the activity of an invasive herbivore, feral goats (Capra hircus), and native herbivores (kangaroos, Macropus spp.) in relation to surface water and habitat type in three conservation reserves located in arid Australia. Activity of feral goats showed a strong preference for rocky ranges habitat and decreased with distance from water. Kangaroo activity showed a strong preference for mulga woodlands, but was independent of distance from water. Our results suggest that artificial water points may exacerbate the impacts of feral goats by functioning as focal points for their activity. Restricting goats’ access to water by closure of water points or strategic fencing, such that the mean distance to water across the landscape is increased, may be an effective strategy to reduce goat grazing impacts in conservation reserves where natural sources of water are scarce but is unlikely to affect the grazing patterns of kangaroos. Our study suggests that there is scope to control populations of water-dependent invasive vertebrates in arid regions by restricting their access to artificial water points.


AWP Grazing Kangaroo Invasive species Pest animal management Resource subsidy Dung count 



This research was funded by a grant from the Natural Heritage Trust, National Feral Animal Control Program to ML and PF. We thank Kerry Holmes, Jim Balnaves, Brett Norman, Shirley Meyer, Bill Elliott, Joanne Pedlar, Glen Wheatly and Brian Lukins for their assistance with the fieldwork. Chris Gordon and Freya Gordon assisted with data entry.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mike Letnic
    • 1
  • Shawn W. Laffan
    • 1
  • Aaron C. Greenville
    • 2
  • Benjamin G. Russell
    • 3
  • Bruce Mitchell
    • 3
  • Peter J. S. Fleming
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Centre for Ecosystem Science and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Pest and Ecological Management UnitNSW National Parks and Wildlife ServiceHurstvilleAustralia
  4. 4.Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, Biosecurity New South WalesNew South Wales Department of Primary IndustriesOrangeAustralia
  5. 5.School of Environmental and Rural SciencesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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