Scientists suspect that hundreds of thousands of Australian species remain undiscovered or poorly known and that many of these species are at as great
a risk of extinction as those formally listed as threatened. Poorly-known but imperilled species present a formidable challenge to researchers and
conservation managers for many reasons.
“In most cases, the knowledge limitations for these species constrain targeted conservation responses and prevent these poorly known species being formally listed as threatened,” says Beth Crase, who recently ran a workshop for the TSR Hub’s Improving threatened species assessments and evaluating conservation policy options for data-challenged species (Project 5.2)
“We explored a range of options for enhancements to legislation, policy and process to better protect such species from extinction.”
The workshop brought together policy, management and research personnel from the Commonwealth and state governments, Commonwealth and state threatened species committees, and universities to help define the extent of the problem of conservation for poorly-known species, to develop options to enhance the conservation of these species and to document impediments, biases and opportunities.
Options for enhancing this protection included greater use of the precautionary principle; application of some specific protective categorisation currently used by the WA agency; use of a data-deficient category; comprehensive assessments of the conservation status of major taxonomic groups of species; expanded de facto protection such as inclusion in the national reserve system, in threatened ecological communities or management actions directed at key threatening processes; and increased community awareness and support for non-charismatic species.
A policy paper outlining these options will be a key output from the workshop. Other outputs will include a series of publications for peer-reviewed journals and potentially a national working list of data deficient species.
Photo: A recently discovered Australian endemic lizard, the Congoo gecko (Strophurus congoo), by Eric Vanderduys
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.