We undertake research to support the recovery of Australia’s threatened species and ecological communities.
To do this we work closely with over 200 on-ground partners across the country, including government agencies, national parks, conservation groups, Indigenous land managers, farmers and community groups.
Our network includes around 150 of Australia’s leading environmental scientists who are delivering more than 100 research projects over six years (ending 2021).
We are supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program.
With COVID-19 dominating headlines, highlighting links between the pandemic and biodiversity may increase public awareness of the biodiversity crisis. However, ill-considered messages that frame nature as the problem rather than the solution could inadvertently propagate problematic narratives and undermine motivations and individual self-efficacy to conserve nature.
There is an increasing need to establish populations of threatened plants in threat-free habitat to prevent species extinction. The amount of genetic diversity in founding plants will influence whether the new population has the capacity to persist and evolve over time, and factors that influence the maintenance of genetic diversity, such as the mating systems, will also play a role in population persistence. We developed 13 nuclear microsatellite markers and used these to evaluate genetic diversity and mating system parameters of three translocated populations of two subspecies of Lambertia orbifolia, and compared these parameters to seven wild populations. Genetic diversity was maintained in the translocated population of L. orbifolia subsp. Scott River Plains, established using a single source population (Nar = 3.270 and He = 0.478 in translocated population; Nar = 3.280 and He = 0.534 in wild populations), and maintained or increased in the two admixed translocated populations of L. orbifolia subsp. orbifolia (Nar = 3.115, 3.830 and He = 0.511, 0.635 in translocated populations; Nar = 2.708 and He = 0.438 in wild populations) compared to wild populations of each subspecies. Mating system parameters were comparable between translocated and wild populations of L. orbifolia subsp. Scott River Plains indicating the likelihood of genetic diversity being maintained in future generations. However, there was increased selfing in translocated populations of L. orbifolia subsp. orbifolia, suggesting suboptimal pollination and high values for the inbreeding coefficient in these admixed populations (Fis = 0.474, 0.275), which may be an artifact of the Wahlund effect or from less fit (inbred) seedlings surviving ex situ propagation and translocation.
Context: Predation by feral cats (Felis catus) threatens a range of vertebrate species across Australia, and cat-free islands increasingly act as safe havens for biodiversity. A feral cat eradication program has begun on Kangaroo Island (4405 km2) in South Australia, and poison baiting is likely to be one of the main methods used.
Aims: Here, we trial a non-toxic version of a cat bait, ‘Eradicat’, on western Kangaroo Island, to examine its potential impact on non-target species.
Methods: Non-toxic baits containing the biomarker Rhodamine B were deployed across four sites in early August and late November in 2018, with bait take and consumption assessed both by remote cameras and by the presence of Rhodamine B in mammalian whisker samples taken post-baiting.
Key results: Cats encountered baits on very few occasions and took a bait on only one occasion in August (<1% of 576 baits deployed). Non-target species accounted for over 99% of identifiable bait takes. In both seasons, >60% of all baits laid was taken by either the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), bush rat (Rattus fuscipes) or Australian raven (Corvus coronoides). In November, Rosenberg’s goanna (Varanus rosenbergi) and southern brown bandicoot (south-eastern subspecies; Isoodon obesulus obesulus), listed nationally as Endangered, also took baits (3% and 1% respectively). The Kangaroo Island dunnart (Sminthopsis fuliginosus aitkeni), listed nationally as endangered, approached a bait on only one occasion, but did not consume it. Evidence of bait consumption was visible in the whiskers of captured common brushtail possums (100% of post-baiting captured individuals in August, 80% in November), bush rats (59% in August and 50% in November), house mice (Mus musculus) (45% in November) and western pygmy-possums (Cercartetus concinnus) (33% in November).
Conclusions: Although feral cat baiting has the potential to significantly benefit wildlife on Kangaroo Island, impacts on non-target species (particularly the bush rat and common brushtail possum) may be high.
Implications: Alternative cat baits, such as those containing a toxin to which native species have a higher tolerance or that are less readily consumed by native wildlife, will be more appropriate.