TSR Hub researchers will establish as many as 41 malleefowl monitoring sites across southern Australia in one of the largest adaptive management experiments
ever attempted in Australia.
“This project will demonstrate how management and monitoring can be coordinated on a national scale to help us better understand drivers of population declines,” says Project 3.3 deputy leader Dr Darren Southwell.
“We’ve seen malleefowl populations decline over the past hundred years in response to habitat fragmentation, altered fire regimes, livestock grazing and predation by foxes and cats.
“The current approach to managing malleefowl is to suppress predators through fox and cat baiting. However, it’s difficult for us to tell how effective these measures have been.”
Recent qualitative modeling developed by TSR Hub researcher Michael Bode revealed the importance of resolving the uncertainty surrounding these measures to improve malleefowl conservation.
Feral predators will be managed in and around treated sites but remain unchecked in control sites, allowing researchers to gauge the effect of predator suppression on the malleefowl population.
The sites will be grouped into clusters of similar climate and vegetation in order to provide as clear a comparison as possible.
The sites were identified by TSR Hub partners Joe Benshemesh and Tim Burnard, and historic and pilot data have been analysed by José Lahoz-Monfort, Rosanna van Hespen and Cindy Hauser.
“Our findings suggest we will begin to discern the signal coming from predator management through the noise of population fluctuations and imperfect monitoring within about five years of targeted monitoring,” says Dr Hauser.
Sites will be monitored by managers and local volunteers each year for both malleefowl and predator activity.
“The good news is that there are already a handful of sites collecting data, with the remainder soon to be established,” Dr Southwell says.
The National Malleefowl Recovery Team and The University of Melbourne are also in the early stages of building an internet database to store the predator-focused monitoring data captured.
Malleefowl breeding activity and data is already collated and stored in the National Malleefowl Monitoring Database.
The scale of the project means The University of Melbourne researchers are working in close collaboration with the National Malleefowl Recovery Team, Bush Heritage, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and state government agencies in NSW, SA, Victoria and WA (in addition to several other conservation and volunteer organisations) to establish and monitor the sites. The project is also supported by Mount Gibson Mining and Karara Mining Ltd.
Representatives from these groups met in Mildura and Perth earlier this year to discuss the progress made so far and plan how the project will be managed over the next five years.
Image: Malleefowl by Cindy Hauser
New Hub research has quantified the extent of predation by cats on Australia’s birds and identified the species and types of birds most vulnerable to cats. The team found that cats kill over 1 million birds per day in Australia. The total is made up of an estimated 316 million birds killed by feral cats and 61 million killed by pet cats each year.
Sound recorders have been installed across farm land in south-western Victoria and on Kangaroo Island in research to help threatened glossy black-cockatoos and south-eastern red-tailed black-cockatoos, by learning more about their breeding.
As cats and foxes have spread across Australia, islands have prevented the extinctions of several mammals like the boodie. Associate Professor Sarah Legge discusses the importance of safe havens and also summarizes the highlights of a recent 'safe-haven' symposium held at the International Mammalogy Congress in Perth.
The TSR Hub is one of six National Environmental Science Programme hubs and each is making its own important contribution to the national effort to recover our threatened species. Hub Director Brendan Wintle takes a look beyond the TSR Hub to highlight the good work being done on threatened species by our sister hubs.
On sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island a multi-million dollar eradication program removed cats in 2000 and rabbits, rats and mice in 2013. In the aftermath of this effort, beautiful things are emerging. Dr Justine Shaw is leading a TSR Hub project to learn from this experience and monitor how ecosystems respond.