New ARC-supported research at Curtin University has revealed a global bias in ecological restoration assessments, with the longer-term effect on animals being overlooked in most mine site restoration activities.

Lead author of the study, Ms Sophie Cross, a PhD student from the ARC Training Centre for Mine Site Restoration in Curtin University’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, said the research highlighted a need for an increased focus on fauna monitoring and behavioural studies as a way of understanding the long-term success of mine site restoration.

Although animals are often assumed to return to the area of a mine site following its closure and the return of vegetation; in practice, restoring animal communities and biodiversity can be exceptionally challenging.

While the study found that the usual method of vegetation surveys may not be sufficient to predict the long-term success of restoration measures in effectively restoring ecosystems, the good news is that Australia is already leading the way in considering fauna as part of mining restoration activities.

According to the researchers, although mining activity may create a relatively small footprint on the land, 75 per cent of active mine sites are situated on land considered to be of high conservation value.

Image: A perentie (Varanus giganteus) observed crossing a road into reference bushland adjacent to an active mine site in Mid West Western Australia. Monitor lizards are common throughout arid Australia, but little is known of how they respond to mining activities or site restoration. Perenties forage over large distances and present an ideal species to assess landscape change and restoration success over large spatial scales.
Credit: Sophie Cross.