Three Tasmanian birds perch atop the list of Australia’s most threatened birds, as revealed by a TSR Hub team comprising researchers from Charles Darwin
University and The University of Melbourne.
“The Orange-bellied Parrot tops the list, closely followed by two subspecies from King Island – the King Island Scrubtit and the Brown Thornbill,” says project leader Professor Stephen Garnett.
The research team is finalising the list of Australia’s most threatened birds and mammals through a combination of scientific modelling and the distillation of expert opinion – adopting a process proven to be more accurate than deferring to the judgement of a lone researcher.
“For each group we first analyse a suite of characteristics such as population size and trends, the intensity of the threatening processes and the size of the areas they occupy using three models – each of which emphasises different aspects of a species’ biology when predicting extinction,” Professor Garnett says.
“We can then confirm whether or not these models agree. If they don’t agree, we need to determine why.”
This is where expert opinion enters the equation. Threatened species experts are asked to estimate the likely risk of a particular species’ extinction and provide an indication of the confidence they hold in their estimate.
Where experts uncover discrepancies in their analysis, they are encouraged to debate those differences whilst collaborating on a final prediction.
“Modelling alone cannot always provide the answer, nor can expert opinion, but when combined we can reach the best answer attainable,” Professor Garnett says.
Preliminary results obtained through this process clearly indicate the high risk of extinction to several Tasmanian bird species.
Protecting the Orange-bellied Parrot is already a key focus of another TSR Hub research project (Project 2.2), which aims to mitigate the threats faced by Tasmania’s hollow-nesting birds.
In addition to the species from Tasmania, one surprise inclusion on the list was a subspecies of Painted Buttonquail, which now inhabits only two small islands of the Houtman Abrolhos off the coast of Western Australia.
The Buttonquail population declined following the introduction of wallabies to one of the three islands that once formed the Buttonquails’ historical range, as the wallabies dramatically reduced the available vegetation.
“We were alerted to the plight of the Buttonquail by the Chair of the Western Australian Threatened Species Committee, Andrew Burbidge, and we shall do what we can to help him garner support for rapid action,” says Professor Garnett.
The research conducted forms part of the TSR Hub’s Project 2.1, which aims to provide direction to government agencies and non-government by alerting them to cases of imminent extinction.
Image: Orange-bellied Parrot by DPIPWE
Your small local patch of bushland could be playing a much bigger role in conserving biodiversity than you think. A global study just published in PNAS looked at the conservation values of vegetation patches in 27 countries on four continents including Australia, and considered their size and distance to other habitat.
New research by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub has identified invasive species as the no. 1 threat to Australian biodiversity with habitat loss a close second.
The exceptionally long-beaked far eastern curlew is the world’s largest migratory shorebird. It is also one of the most well-travelled. This globe-trotting bird was listed as Critically Endangered in Australia in 2016, with its numbers in rapid decline since it was first listed as Least Concern in 2004.
A new video summarises the findings of a University of Queensland PhD project on northern quolls in the Pilbara. Once found all the way from Brisbane to the Pilbara, quolls are now listed nationally and internationally as Endangered, and are restricted to just a few isolated populations, mostly on rocky habitats.
On average, populations of Australia’s threatened birds have decreased by half since 1985, according to Australia’s new Threatened Bird Index.