Australia has a high rate of extinctions. The rate of loss is continuing, unabated. Some recent extinctions have occurred without relevant managers having
sufficient foreknowledge the species is close to disappearing.
“The problem is that the Australian threatened species list, which is what most conservation managers and policy makers refer to, is failing to keep abreast of the actual rate of biodiversity loss,” said Professor John Woinarski from Charles Darwin University.
The Threatened Species Recovery Hub’s Project 2.1 will work to ensure that policy makers and project managers have more reliable and up to date information about species closest to extinction.
“There should be no regrets or surprises. If all the relevant ministers, policy makers and project managers are aware of a high extinction risk, then they
have an opportunity to avert it.”
Led by Professors John Woinarski and Stephen Garnett, the Project will develop mechanisms to complement the Australian threatened species list to help reduce the risk of further species’ loss.
“It’s remarkable how rapidly some species have disappeared, and sometimes it’s hard to predict. The forest skink on Christmas Island is a classic case – it was only officially recognised as threatened five months before it was extinct,” said Professor Woinarski.
Researchers will identify fauna species facing imminent risk of extinction and work with on-ground management agencies (state government, NGOs etc.) to identify and prioritise management responses.
“We will also be looking to work closely with the Hub’s monitoring project. A better handle on a species’ current population trajectory provides more confidence about estimating the risks and likelihood of extinction.”
“Initially we’ll develop modelling to predict extinction risk amongst birds and mammals, for which there is generally more information, and then proceed to other vertebrates and invertebrates in subsequent stages.”
“The species we’re fighting for don’t have to be the most charismatic or well known - much of Australia’s biodiversity loss has occurred in less charismatic species.”
“For all highly imperilled species, we’ll review the existing or proposed management actions and attempt to refine and improve them. At the end of this project we should have alerted all relevant ministers, policy makers and managers – there should be no excuses or surprises.”
Project 2.1 links in with other work taking place through the Hub, to provide the Minister for the Environment, Threatened Species Commissioner and Federal Department of The Environment with evidence to inform policy and on-ground threatened species management decisions.
Featured image: An example of insufficient warning of extinction-risk.
The Christmas Island forest skink was not formally recognised as threatened until December 2013, far too late to prevent its extinction on 31 May 2014.
Photo: Hal Cogger
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.