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A new approach to setting benchmarks for the return of fauna will allow rehabilitation managers to better assess the success of their restoration efforts on mine sites across Australia’s north.

The research, led by Charles Darwin University’s Professor Alan Andersen in collaboration with scientists from the Flora and Fauna Division of the Northern Territory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, provides a template for setting specific targets for the animals expected to be found on a rehabilitated site.

Mine rehabilitation standards specify exactly what needs to be achieved by a rehabilitation project, yet these standards rarely include specific provisions for fauna. In many cases, rehabilitation projects take a “field of dreams” approach to wildlife: it’s assumed that if you build appropriate habitat then the animals will come.

But Professor Andersen said there was evidence this may not be enough for wildlife to recolonise a former mine site.