Hundreds of thousands of Australian species are so poorly known that their risk of extinction cannot be determined.
These species cannot be categorised as threatened or not under Australia’s EPBC (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act, and are therefore afforded no conservation protection under the legislation.
Research under Project 5.2 aims to investigate and propose a range of policy and legislative options to better protect these species from extinction, despite limited knowledge about them.
Such legislative options may include a more thorough implementation of the precautionary principle and the inclusion of a “Data Deficient” category in the EPBC Act, which would align Australian legislation with the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.
This project will also explore how new tools in the fields of expert elicitation and machine learning can be used to predict which of these poorly known species are most likely to be threatened. It seeks to generalise and develop sound protocols from the specific cases presented in a recent application of expert elicitation used to guide conservation status assessments for poorly known species.
New analytical approaches, such as Machine Learning have recently been used to predict the conservation status of poorly known species by training a set of mathematical algorithms using data on 'data sufficient' species. This new approach may also be explored under this project in order to help to redress the taxonomic bias in conservation assessments.
A range of stakeholders in the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy, in state and territory conservation agencies and the Threatened Species Scientific Committee are integral to this project.
The focus is Australia wide, and for both flora and fauna across all taxonomic groups.
Image: Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides by Harry Rose/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Many landscapes in Australia are fire-prone, and increasingly so. Altered fire regimes can have a serious negative impact on threatened plant species and ecological communities. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project is working to better understand the effects of different fire regimes on threatened flora in order to improve fire management strategies and conservation outcomes.
Almost a quarter of Australia’s possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law, and many more are showing signs of decline. Dr Rochelle Steven from The University of Queensland believes people in the community can do a lot to support conservation, especially in urban areas.
The detection and monitoring of threatened species have been a strong area of research in the National Environmental Science Program and also the two national environmental research programs which preceded it. Hub Director Professor Brendan Wintle takes a look at what we’ve been achieving and why it is so important to the conservation of Australia’s threatened species.
In 2009, the Christmas Island blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko were headed for imminent extinction. Parks Australia acted quickly to collect remaining wild individuals in order to establish captive breeding programs on Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, which have been highly successful. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project team is working closely with Parks Australia to help secure a future for the two lizards beyond captivity.
The silver-headed antechinus and black-tailed dusky antechinus are carnivorous marsupials found in high-elevation forests in parts of central-eastern and south-eastern Queensland. They were only described in the past six years, but they are already listed as Endangered. Knowing where they occur is essential for effective conservation, but current distribution knowledge is patchy. To address this, PhD candidate Stephane Batista in partnership with the Queensland Herbarium and Queensland Department of Environment and Science is modelling the habitat where these threatened species are likely to occur, and is using detection dogs to rapidly survey these sites.