Fencing artificial waterpoints failed to influence density and distribution of red kangaroos (Macropus rufus)
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Provision of artificial waterpoints in Australian rangelands has resulted in an increase in the range and density of kangaroos. At high densities, kangaroos can inhibit vegetation regeneration, particularly in some protected areas where harvesting is prohibited. Fencing off waterpoints has been proposed to limit these impacts. Our aim was to determine whether fencing off waterpoints during a drought (when kangaroos would be especially water-limited) would influence the density and distribution of red kangaroos (Macropus rufus). Two waterpoints were fenced within the first 6 months of the 27-month study and a further two waterpoints were kept unfenced as controls in Idalia National Park, western Queensland. We estimated kangaroo densities around waterpoints from walked line-transect counts, and their grazing distribution from dung-pellet counts. Fencing off waterpoints failed to influence either the density or distribution up to 4 km from the waterpoints. Our results indicate that food availability, rather than the location of waterpoints, determines kangaroo distribution. Few areas in the rangelands are beyond kangaroos' convenient reach from permanent waterpoints. Therefore, fencing off waterpoints without explicitly considering the spatial context in relation to other available water sources will fail to achieve vegetation regeneration.
Conservation and Biodiversity