Fauna Return Management
Western Australia’s jarrah forest is home to a rich array of fauna, many of them unique to the south west of Western Australia.
Effective fauna management involves minimising impacts on fauna species which inhabit areas surrounding mining operations and maximising the potential for recolonisation following mining operations.
There are several fauna management activities undertaken by Alcoa. These are outlined below.
Pre-mining fauna surveys
We undertake pre-mining fauna surveys before entering a new mining region to identify what animals are present in the area, including any declared rare or threatened fauna species. Alcoa looks for opportunities to modify mine plans to minimise the impact of mining operations on animal movements. For example, haul road alignments are moved to protect potential nest trees for threatened Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. Also, a fauna friendly underpass was installed at a haul road stream crossing at the Huntly Mine in 2010. This is allowing safe movement across mining haul roads of a range of fauna, including goannas, possums, kangaroos and wallabies.
Fauna monitoring in rehabilitated areas and unmined forest
Alcoa established a long-term fauna monitoring program in 1992. This program involves ongoing monitoring of more than 30 sites. The monitoring program studies mammals, birds, reptiles and ants every three to five years in healthy forest, dieback affected forest, stream zones and rehabilitated areas. We also have separate targeted monitoring programs for arboreal mammals (i.e. the brush-tailed phascogale) and frogs.
Results from monitoring and research have shown that 100 per cent of mammal species, 90 per cent of bird species and 89 per cent of reptile species, that inhabit upland parts of the forest where mining occurs, have recolonised rehabilitated areas within 10 years. Current research is focussing on reptile species that have more specialised requirements for food or shelter and which are slower to recolonise rehabilitated areas, to determine how their return may be accelerated.
Return of fauna habitats to rehabilitated areas
Rehabilitated areas are young developing ecosystems and they lack large woody debris and tree hollows required by some animal species. To overcome this limitation, fauna habitats are constructed in new rehabilitated areas using wood residue and rocks. The optimum density an type of fauna habitat are currently being investigated through a long-term research trial established in 2006-07.
Threatened Fauna Species Management Plans
Threatened fauna species management plans have been developed to minimise mining impacts on locally occurring species officially listed as either rare or specially protected under the WA Wildlife Conservation Act (1950), or in any category under the Commonwealth EPBC Act (1999). The management plans prioritise actions for protecting threatened fauna within Alcoa’s mine lease, recognising the need to monitor populations prior and during mining operations, to obtain further data from research on the distribution and habitat requirements of species, to protect populations and important habitat through informed mine planning, and to restore suitable habitat post-mining that will be recolonised by threatened species.
Actions implemented in 2010 include targeted pre-mining surveys of chuditch, quokkas and high value habitat for black cockatoos (including nest and roost sites); installation of artificial nest boxes for black cockatoos at the Huntly mine; installation of a fauna underpass at a haul road stream crossing; research of the habitat requirements of chuditch and black cockatoos; and protection of black cockatoo habitat along haul road alignments.
Funding fox baiting of the broader forest
Alcoa was the major sponsor of the pilot fox baiting research program ‘Operation Foxglove’. Following this program’s success, Alcoa now provides annual funding to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) to undertake fox baiting in the northern jarrah forest through the ‘Western Shield’ program. Alcoa also fund extra fox baiting around streams with known populations of quokka. Fox baiting has been successful in facilitating the recovery of populations of many native animals such as the mardo and chuditch.
Translocation of animals
The tammar wallaby, bandicoots and mardos have been translocated into rehabilitated areas, while the noisy scrub-bird has been translocated into stream zones adjacent to rehabilitated areas. Translocations re-introduce species and aid population recovery in conjunction with fox baiting.
Over the years, Alcoa has sponsored many honours and PhD research projects. In 2008-2012, Alcoa is undertaking a large research project with Murdoch University, University of Western Australia and DEC. This project is building upon the existing knowledge of fauna succession in restored mines, and the effect of forest management operations such as fire and tree thinning on fauna populations. For example, thinning restoration to tree stand densities similar to those in surrounding unmined forest is resulting in increases in reptile species richness in restored areas. This knowledge will help Alcoa to continue to develop restoration techniques that maximise and accelerate fauna return after mining.
Fauna Recolonisation Fact Sheet
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