Predators key to sustainable farming

Aug 21, 2009

Barn owls have emerged as the unlikely heroes in the fight against climate change, saving Malaysian farmers more than money, UQ PhD Student Chong Leong Puan has found.

A student from UQ's School of Integrative Systems, Mr Puan examined predator behaviour to determine the effectiveness of barn owls in rodent control on Malaysian palm oil plantations.

species that are associated with forest habitats are regarded as an indicator of forest health,” Mr Puan said.

“Many species remain high in the food chain and have an ecological role of maintaining ecosystems in a steady state.”

Mr Puan, a representative for the World Owl Trust, saw a need to research a more cost effective and environmentally friendly method of pest control.

“I spent 14 months on a palm oil plantation in Malaysia trapping rats, observing owl breeding conditions and collecting owl pellets,” he said.

Mr Puan found that high rodent levels correspond with increased owl fertility rates.

“There was a significant positive correlation between the relative abundance of rats captured and number of pellets collected during breeding months of the birds,” Mr Puan said.

He also found that biological controls can be used to overcome environmental problems associated with chemical pesticides, such as resistance and secondary poisoning of non-target animals.

The cost efficiency of such biological controls are another reason to adopt the method in Malaysia, the world's second largest palm oil producer.

Annually, rodents cost the industry more than $32 million USD, with many plantations relying heavily on chemical control methods.

At a time when both the economy and the environment are struggling on the global stage, Mr Puan's findings pave the way for sustainable farming practices across the agricultural industry.

Provided by University of Queensland (news : web)

Explore further: Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Biofuels and biodiversity don't mix, ecologists warn

Jul 09, 2008

Rising demand for palm oil will decimate biodiversity unless producers and politicians can work together to preserve as much remaining natural forest as possible, ecologists have warned. A new study of the potential ecological ...

Alarm over fate of world's orangutans

Mar 26, 2007

A U.N. report details grave danger to the world's population of orangutans due to a booming palm oil industry in Malaysia and Indonesia.

For good or ill Ireland gains another mammal species

Apr 28, 2008

A recent study, soon to be published in Mammal Review, details the discovery of a mammal which has never been seen before in Ireland. The shrew, which has been spotted in Tipperary and Limerick, is only t ...

SF State scientists expose new threat to spotted owl

May 28, 2008

A new study provides a baseline distribution of blood parasites and strains in Spotted Owls, suggesting a more fragile immune health than previously understood for the already threatened Northern and California Spotted Owls.

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Apr 18, 2014

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.