Australia — While other endangered species in Australia have been hit hard by the recent fires, a new study reveals that the broad-headed snake may actually benefit from them and could actually need more of them to survive.
Broad-headed snakes are only found living in small pockets within 200 km of Sydney, and those small communities are fast becoming extinct or increasingly more rare, said Professor Rick Shine of the University of Sydney, who co-wrote the study.
The snakes thrive on bare sandstone habitats, but woodland has steadily encroached on these areas over the past 65 years, the study found. The researchers compared aerial images of Morton National Park, one of the snakes last strong-holds, over that time period and found progressively less appropriate habitat for the snake and its prey.
The reason for the proliferation of vegetation is not known, Shine said. In other parts of Australia, vegetation thickening has been attributed to altered Aboriginal fire regimes or to 20th-century climatic change.
The study cites controlled burns as one solution to the problem, but if theyre determined to be too costly or dangerous, the study recommends manual clearing of specific areas known to be vital habitat for the snakes.
As with all decisions in environmental management, the decision should be made on the basis of the best available information about the likely costs and benefits of the different strategies, Shine said. This includes the potential collateral impacts upon other species of concern.