Landscape Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 1013–1028 | Cite as

Multi-scaled habitat considerations for conserving urban biodiversity: native reptiles and small mammals in Brisbane, Australia

  • Jenni G. GardenEmail author
  • Clive A. McAlpine
  • Hugh P. Possingham
Research Article


The rapid expansion of the world’s urban population is a major driver of contemporary landscape change and ecosystem modification. Urbanisation destroys, degrades and fragments native ecosystems, replacing them with a heterogeneous matrix of urban development, parks, roads, and isolated remnant fragments of varying size and quality. This presents a major challenge for biodiversity conservation within urban areas. To make spatially explicit decisions about urban biodiversity conservation actions, urban planners and managers need to be able to separate the relative influence of landscape composition and configuration from patch and local (site)-scale variables for a range of fauna species. We address this problem using a hierarchical landscape approach for native, terrestrial reptiles and small mammals living in a fragmented semi-urban landscape of Brisbane, Australia. Generalised linear modelling and hierarchical partitioning analysis were applied to quantify the relative influence of landscape composition and configuration, patch size and shape, and local habitat composition and structure on the species’ richness of mammal and reptile assemblages. Landscape structure (composition and configuration) and local-scale habitat structure variables were found to be most important for influencing reptile and mammal assemblages, although the relative importance of specific variables differed between reptile and mammal assemblages. These findings highlight the importance of considering landscape composition and configuration in addition to local habitat elements when planning and/or managing for the conservation of native, terrestrial fauna diversity in urban landscapes.


Landscape composition Landscape configuration Structural complexity Spatial modelling Urban planning 



This study formed part of a collaborative research project between The University of Queensland and Brisbane City Council (BCC), and was funded by a UQ postgraduate research scholarship, and financial and in-kind support provided by BCC. We gratefully acknowledge Sean Hough for conducting FRAGSTATS analysis. Thanks also to Leonie Seabrook for providing comments on the draft manuscript, and to Chris Fyfe for assistance with revised analyses.

Supplementary material

10980_2010_9476_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)
10980_2010_9476_MOESM2_ESM.docx (45 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 46 kb)
10980_2010_9476_MOESM3_ESM.docx (42 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 42 kb)


  1. Akaike H (1973) Information theory and an extension of the maximum likelihood principle. In: Proceedings of the 2nd International symposium on information theory, Budapest, Hungary, 1973Google Scholar
  2. Akaike H (1983) Information measures and model selection. Int Stat Inst 44:277–291Google Scholar
  3. Andrén H (1994) Effects of habitat fragmentation on birds and mammals in landscapes with different proportions of suitable habitat: a review. Oikos 71:355–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atkinson AC (1985) Plots, transformations and regression: an introduction to graphical methods of diagnostic regression analysis. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Baskin Y (1998) Winners and losers in a changing world. Bioscience 48:788–792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bender DJ, Tischendorf L, Fahrig L (2003) Using patch isolation metrics to predict animal movement in binary landscapes. Landscape Ecol 18:17–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bissonette JA (2002) Scaling roads and wildlife: the Cinderella principle. Zeitschrift-fuer-Jagdwissenschaft 48:208–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bjørnstad ON (2008) The ncf package: spatial nonparametric covariance functions. Version 1.1-1. April 14, 2008Google Scholar
  9. Bond AR, Jones DN (2008) Temporal trends in use of fauna-friendly underpasses and overpasses. Wildl Res 35:103–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brennan SP, Schnell GD (2005) Relationship between bird abundance and landscape characteristics: the influence of scale. Environ Monit Assess 105:209–228CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multi-model inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Burrow AL, Kazmaier RT, Hellgren EC, Ruthven DC III (2001) Microhabitat selection by Texas horned lizards in southern Texas. J Wildl Manag 65:645–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Catterall CP (2004) Birds, garden plants and suburban bushlots: where good intentions meet unexpected outcomes. In: Lunney D, Burgin S (eds) Urban wildlife: more than meets the eye. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, NSW, pp 21–31Google Scholar
  14. Chace JF, Walsh JJ (2006) Urban effects on native avifauna: a review. Landsc Urban Plan 74:46–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chevan A, Sutherland M (1991) Hierarchical partitioning. The American Statistician 45:90–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Claridge AW, Barry SC (2000) Factors influencing the distribution of medium-sized ground-dwelling mammals in southeastern mainland Australia. Austral Ecol 25:676–688Google Scholar
  17. Coreau A, Martin JL (2007) Multi-scale study of bird species distribution and of their response to vegetation changes: a Mediterranean example. Landscape Ecol 22:747–764CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cushman SA, McGarigal K (2002) Hierarchical, multi-scale decomposition of species-environment relationships. Landscape Ecol 17:637–646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Debinski DM, Ray C, Saveraid EH (2001) Species diversity and the scale of the landscape mosaic: do scales of movement and patch size affect diversity? Biol Conserv 98:179–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dunford W, Freemark K (2004) Matrix matters: effects of surrounding land uses on forest birds near Ottawa, Canada. Landscape Ecol 20:497–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. ESRI Inc (1999–2005) ArcMAP: GIS and Mapping Software. USA. Available Accessed Oct 2006
  22. Fahrig L (2002) Effect of habitat fragmentation on the extinction threshold: a synthesis. Ecol Appl 12:346–353Google Scholar
  23. Fahrig L (2003) Effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Ann Rev Ecol Evol Syst 34:487–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fahrig L, Pedlar JH, Pope SE, Taylor PD, Wegner JF (1995) Effect of road traffic on amphibian density. Biol Conserv 73:177–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ficetola GF, Sacchi R, Scali S, Gentilli A, De Bernardi F, Galeotti P (2007) Vertebrates respond differently to human disturbance: implications for the use of a focal species approach. Acta Oecol 31:109–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fischer J, Lindenmayer D, Cowling A (2003) Habitat models for the four-fingered skink (Carlia tetradactyla) at the microhabitat and landscape scale. Wildl Res 30:495–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fitzgibbon SI, Putland DA, Goldizen AW (2007) The importance of functional connectivity in the conservation of a ground-dwelling mammals in an urban Australian landscape. Landscape Ecol 22:1513–1525CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Forman RTT (1995) Land mosaics: the ecology of landscape and regions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  29. Forman RTT (1999) Horizontal processes, roads, suburbs, societal objectives and landscape ecology. In: Klopatek JM, Gardener RH (eds) Landscape ecological analysis: issues and applications. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp 35–53Google Scholar
  30. Forman RTT, Alexander LE (1998) Roads and their major ecological effects. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 29:207–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fox BJ (1982) Fire and mammalian secondary succession in an Australian coastal heath. Ecology 63:1332–1341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fuhlendorf SD, Woodward AJW, Leslie DMJ, Shackford JS (2002) Multi-scale effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on lesser prairie-chicken populations of the US Southern Great Plains. Landscape Ecol 17:154–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Garden JG, McAlpine C, Peterson A, Jones D, Possingham H (2006) Review of the ecology of Australian urban fauna: a focus on spatially explicit processes. Austral Ecol 31:126–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Garden JG, McAlpine CA, Possingham HP, Jones DN (2007a) Using multiple survey methods to detect terrestrial reptiles and mammals: what are the most successful and cost efficient combinations? Wildl Res 34:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Garden JG, McAlpine CA, Possingham HP, Jones DN (2007b) Habitat structure is more important than vegetation composition for local-scale management of native terrestrial reptile and small mammal species living in urban remnants: a case study from Brisbane, Australia. Austral Ecol 32:669–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Goosem M, Weston Y, Bushnell S (2006) Effectiveness of rope bridge arboreal overpasses and faunal underpasses in providing connectivity for rainforest fauna. In: Irwin CL, Garrett P, McDermott KP (eds) Proceedings of the 2005 international conference on ecology and transportation, Raleigh, August–September 2005. Centre for Transportation and the Environment, North Caroline State University, Raleigh, NC, pp 304–316Google Scholar
  37. Griffiths AD, Christian KA (1996) Diet and habitat use of frillneck lizards in a seasonal tropical environment. Oecologia 106:39–48Google Scholar
  38. Hanski I, Ovaskainen O (2002) Extinction debt and the extinction threshold. Conserv Biol 16:666–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hobbs RJ (1999) Clark Kent or Superman: where is the phone booth for landscape ecology? In: Klopatek JM, Gardner RH (eds) Landscape ecological analysis: issues and applications. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp 11–23Google Scholar
  40. How RA, Dell J (2000) Ground vertebrate fauna of Perth’s vegetation remnants: impact of 170 years of urbanization. Pac Conserv Biol 6:198–217Google Scholar
  41. Januchowski SR, McAlpine CA, Callaghan JG, Griffin CB, Bowen M, Mitchell D, Lunney D (2008) Identifying multiscale habitat factors influencing koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) occurrence and management in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Ecol Manage Restor 9:134–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kotliar NB, Wiens JA (1990) Multiple scales of patchiness and patch structure: a hierarchical framework for the study of heterogeneity. Oikos 59:253–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lidicker WZJ, Peterson JA (1999) Responses of small mammals to habitat edges. In: Barrett GW, Peles JD (eds) Landscape ecology of small mammals. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp 211–227Google Scholar
  44. Lin YB, Lin YP, Fang WT (2008) Mapping and assessing spatial multiscale variations of birds associated with urban environments in metropolitan Taipei, Taiwan. Environ Monit AssessGoogle Scholar
  45. Lindenmayer DB, McIntyre S, Fischer J (2003) Birds in eucalypt and pine forests: landscape alteration and its implications for research models of faunal habitat use. Biol Conserv 110:45–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mac Nally R (2000) Regression and model building in conservation biology, biogeography and ecology: the distinction between—and reconciliation of—‘predictive’ and ‘explanatory’ models. Biodivers Conserv 9:655–671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Maiorano L, Falcucci A, Boitani L (2006) Gap analysis of terrestrial vertebrates in Italy: priorities for conservation planning in a human dominated landscape. Biol Conserv 133:455–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marchesan D, Carthew SM (2004) Autoecology of the yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) in a fragmented landscape in southern Australia. Wildl Res 31:273–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mata C, Hervas I, Herranz J, Suárez F, Malo JE (2005) Complementary use by vertebrates of crossing structures along a fenced Spanish motorway. Biol Conserv 124:397–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McAlpine CA, Bowen ME, Callaghan JG, Lunney D, Rhodes JR, Mitchell DL, Pullar DV, Possingham HP (2006a) Testing alternative models for the conservation of koalas in fragmented urban-rural landscapes. Austral Ecol 31:529–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. McAlpine CA, Rhodes JR, Callaghan JG, Bowen M, Lunney D, Mitchell D, Pullar D, Possingham P (2006b) The importance of forest area and configuration relative to local habitat factors for conserving forest mammals: a case study of koalas in Queensland, Australia. Biol Conserv 132:153–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McGarigal K, Cushman SA, Neel MC, Ene E (2004) FRAGSTATS: spatial pattern analysis program for categorical maps. Computer software program produced by the authors at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USAGoogle Scholar
  53. McKinney ML (2006) Urbanization as a major cause of biotic homogenisation. Biol Conserv 127:247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Menkhorst P, Knight F (2001) A field guide to the mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  55. Opdam P, Foppen R, Vos C (2002) Bridging the gap between ecology and spatial planning in ecology. Landscape Ecol 16:767–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Opdam P, Verboom J, Pouwels R (2003) Landscape cohesion: an index for the conservation potential of landscapes for biodiversity. Landscape Ecol 18:113–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. R Development Core Team (2008) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. Available Accessed Feb 2006
  58. Ramp D, Wilson VK, Croft DB (2006) Assessing the impacts of roads in peri-urban reserves: road-based fatalities and road usage by wildlife in the Royal National Park, New South Wales, Australia. Biol Conserv 129:348–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rhodes JR, Wiegand T, McAlpine CA, Callaghan J, Lunney D, Bowen M, Possingham HP (2006) Modelling species’ distributions for improving conservation in semiurban landscapes: Koala case study. Conserv Biol 20:449–459CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Rhodes JR, Callaghan J, McAlpine CA, De Jong C, Bowen ME, Mitchell DL, Lunney D, Possingham HP (2008) Regional variation in habitat-occupancy thresholds: a warning for conservation planning. J Appl Ecol 45:549–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Riffell SK, Keas BE, Burton TM (2003) Birds in North American Great Lakes coastal wet meadows: is landscape context important? Landscape Ecol 18:95–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Savard JPL, Clergeau P, Mennechez G (2000) Biodiversity concepts and urban ecosystems. Landsc Urban Plan 48:131–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Spencer RJ, Cavanough VC, Baxter GS, Kennedy M (2005) Adult free zones in small mammal populations: response of Australian native rodents to reduced cover. Austral Ecol 30:868–876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tilman D, May RM, Lehman CL, Nowak MA (1994) Habitat destruction and the extinction debt. Nature 371:65–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Tischendorf L, Fahrig L (2000) On the usage and measurement of landscape connectivity. Oikos 90:7–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Tischendorf L, Bender DJ, Fahrig L (2003) Evaluation of patch isolation metrics in mosaic landscapes for specialist vs. generalist dispersers. Landscape Ecol 18:41–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Verbeylen G, de Bruyn L, Adriaensen F, Matthysen E (2003) Does matrix resistance influence Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris L. 1758) distribution in an urban landscape? Landscape Ecol 18:791–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Villard MA (2002) Habitat fragmentation: major conservation issue of intellectual attractor? Ecol Appl 12:319–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Walsh C, Mac Nally R (2005) hier.part: Hierarchical partitioning. R package version 1.0.1Google Scholar
  70. Wiens JA (1994) Habitat fragmentation: island v landscape perspectives on bird conservation. Ibis 137:97–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wilcove DS, Rothstein D, Dubow J, Phillips A, Losos E (1998) Quantifying threats to imperilled species in the United States. Bioscience 48:607–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wu J, Hobbs R (2002) Key issues and research priorities in landscape ecology: an idiosyncratic synthesis. Landscape Ecol 17:355–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Young PAR, Dillewaard HA (1999) Southeast Queensland. In: Sattler PS, Williams RD (eds) The conservation status of Queensland’s bioregional ecosystems. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, pp 12/1–12/48Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenni G. Garden
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Clive A. McAlpine
    • 1
  • Hugh P. Possingham
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Geography, Planning and Environmental ManagementThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.The Ecology CentreThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Environmental Futures CentreGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations