Wildlife in the woodland
Remnants of Cumberland Plain Woodland are an important part of the landscape at the Australian Botanic Garden. Together with native grassland areas (where the trees were cleared during farming times) these natural and semi-natural lands, managed as conservation areas for the local flora and dependent fauna, provide the background setting for the thematic horticultural plantings and amenity areas.
Seeing animals is always an exciting part of the woodland visit but most are small, shy or nocturnal, and difficult to see. Mammals include Wallaroos and Swamp Wallabies which are mostly seen at dawn and dusk. Reptiles include Bearded Dragon lizards and Red-bellied Black Snakes, which may be seen early on warm sunny days. There are frogs in the ponds which you will hear, but not generally see. Birds are the most conspicuous animals in the woodland.
Invertebrates are creatures that you will see, if you look carefully. Butterflies are common on warm summer days, moths are mostly nocturnal. Colourful beetles may be seen on the plants, along with flies, wasps, bees and ants. Cicadas may be heard high in the trees. Spider webs may cross your path. Other invertebrates include snails - including the Cumberland Land Snail - and worms.
Interactions between plants and animals may be simple one-way activities, particularly predation - animal eating plant, or two-way, animal feeding from nectar and pollinating plant. There may also be more complex interactions such as mealy bug feeding on plant, cared for by ants, while sooty mould is enhanced by mealy bug exudates. Sooty mould debilitates the plant.
Mammals have a major impact by grazing groundcover plants. Wallaroos and Swamp Wallabies are native grazing animals while rabbits have been in the Australian environment since the 1860s. The woodland has also been grazed by sheep, cattle and horses in historic times. Mammals also appear to be significant in seed dispersal. Foxes have been recorded as eating and dispersing the exotic species *Olea europea subsp. cuspidata, African Olive, and *Lycium ferocissimum, African Boxthorn. Many seeds, particularly grass seeds, may adhere to fur and be carried distances. Flying foxes, which may visit the woodland, have been reported to be pollinators of some native species.
Woodland birds are important in seed dispersal and may be involved in some pollination. Birds are reported to pollinate many native species, e.g. species ofGrevillea, but these species are not native in the woodland. Plants with fleshy fruits such as Einadia nutans subsp. linifolia, Eremophila debilis, and African Olive *Olea europea subsp. cuspidata are bird-dispersed and are more abundant under large trees.
Insects are important pollinators of both native and exotic species. The introduced Honey Bee *Apis mellifera is very common and pollinates both exotic and native species. Little is known about the pollination of most of the native woodland species.
Insect herbivory has a major impact in the woodland plants. Leaf-eating insects include the larvae of Painted Vine Moth, Agarista agricola feeding on Cayratia clematidea leaves. Periodic defoliation of eucalypts (dieback) occurs when canopy-eating insects build up in unusually large numbers due to particular environmental or climatic conditions.
Seed predation may be direct, or it may be by parasitism whereby eggs are laid in the developing fruit, hatch out and eat seeds within the fruit, e.g. Desmodium brachypodum. While some ant species eat seeds, ants may also move seeds around.
Breakdown of dead plant material by insects such as termites is an important component in recycling of biomass particularly in the absence of fire.