Context.The conversion of tropical rainforest to grazing pasture results in a drastic change in small-mammal community composition. Restoring the landscape through ecological revegetation is thus an increasingly important management technique to conserve rainforest mammals.
Aims.This study aimed to determine the habitat ages at which species of small mammals recolonised revegetated habitats on the southern Atherton Tablelands, north-eastern Queensland, Australia. We focussed on changes in rainforest mammal abundance and diversity with increasing habitat age.
Methods.Small-mammal trapping and mark–recapture techniques investigated mammal diversity, abundance and community composition within remnant rainforest, three age classes of ecological revegetation and abandoned grazing pasture.
Key results.Small-mammal community composition differed between remnant rainforest and abandoned grazing pasture. The pasture and 3-year old revegetated sites were similar in composition, both lacking rainforest small mammals. Six- and 7-year old revegetation plantings provided suboptimal habitat for both rainforest and grassland mammals, whereas 16- and 22-year old revegetated habitats were dominated by rainforest species, with some individuals being frequently recaptured.
Conclusions.As revegetated habitats aged, the small-mammal community composition transitioned from a grassland-like composition to a community dominated by rainforest species.
Implications.Although rainforest small mammals were very occasionally captured within the 6- and 7-year old habitats, revegetated plantings were not dominated by rainforest species until the habitat was 16 years old. This highlights the importance of commencing revegetation as early as possible to minimise future population declines and maximise the conservation of rainforest mammals.