Mammals that forage for food by biopedturbation can alter the biotic and abiotic characteristics of their habitat, influencing ecosystem structure and function. Bandicoots, bilbies, bettongs and potoroos are the primary digging marsupials in Australia, although most of these species have declined throughout their range. This study used a snapshot approach to estimate the soil turnover capacity of the southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus, Shaw 1797), a persisting digging Australian marsupial, at Yalgorup National Park, Western Australia. The number of southern brown bandicoots was estimated using mark–recapture techniques. To provide an index of digging activity per animal, we quantified the number of new foraging pits and bandicoot nose pokes across 18 plots within the same area. The amount of soil displaced and physical structure of foraging pits were examined from moulds of 47 fresh foraging pits. We estimated that an individual southern brown bandicoot could create ∼45 foraging pits per day, displacing ∼10.74 kg of soil, which extrapolates to ∼3.9 tonnes of soil each year. The digging activities of the southern brown bandicoots are likely to be a critical component of soil ecosystem processes.
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Vol. 60 • No. 6