The 2019–20 bushfires burnt over 12 million hectares of south-eastern and south-western Australia, causing abrupt losses of biodiversity at a scale never seen before. Over a billion animals were estimated to have died, but the figure is likely much higher. The Australian Government’s Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel is guiding the work of prioritising species and ecological communities for emergency interventions and determining what those actions should be. Hub Deputy Director and Expert Panel member Professor Sarah Legge takes us though the hows and whys of this prioritisation, and some of its challenges.
New research has examined how small native mammals are distributed across the Top End and the factors driving this pattern. It has revealed that while feral cats and dingoes may limit small mammal populations, managing threats to vegetation, principally fire and feral buffaloes, is the best approach to protect and recover small mammals. Dr Alyson Stobo-Wilson of Charles Darwin University explains the new findings.
Australia has one of the highest rates of plant endemism of any country globally. After the catastrophic fire season of 2019–20, Dr Rachael Gallagher and Professor David Keith are leading two teams to find out which species and ecological communities are most in need of immediate recovery.
Cultural fire management is the way that Indigenous people have used fire to care for Country for thousands of years, and it continues today. The devastation wreaked by the 2019–20 bushfires across millions of hectares was a wake-up call for Australia and the world. Oliver Costello from the Firesticks Alliance explains how the fires demonstrated the need to listen to and care for Country.
The Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner and Chair of the Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel Dr Sally Box talks about the support for long-term recovery of species and ecological communities devastated by the 2019–20 fires.
Fire is a complex, important and pervasive ingredient in the ecology of Australia. It destroys life but brings renewal. It can operate within or beyond our control. Individual fires, and the historic patterning of fires, can have severe impacts on many threatened species and ecological communities. And fire can compound the impacts of many other threats. Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University discusses the catastrophic losses of the 2019–20 fires, and how we can move on from mourning to action that can limit such future devastation.
The home of the western ringtail possum is also home to one of Australia’s most iconic wine regions – the Margaret River Region of south-west Western Australia. Winery businesses in Margaret River are combining their passion for wine-making with an appreciation of the local natural values and throwing their support behind a Threatened Species Recovery Hub project that seeks to harness citizen science for the protection of a local threatened species, the western ringtail possum. Project leader Rochelle Steven raises a toast to these citizen science pioneers.
What do the endangered western swamp tortoise (WA), pygmy bluetongue lizard (SA) and eastern bristlebird (NSW) have in common? They might all be extinct were it not for the efforts of dedicated threatened-species recovery teams. The TSR Hub recently brought together representatives from each of these recovery teams, and from other recovery teams from all across Australia, to learn what features of a recovery group contribute to its success.
Clare is a Biodiversity Field Officer with the Australian National University’s Sustainable Farms project. She tells us how she came to this role after an early life on farms in the UK, some bullet-dodging and globe-trotting.
The box gum grassy woodlands once stretched across south-eastern Australia, but have been reduced to less than 5% of their former extent. Holly Vuong speaks with Ann Kristin Raymer and Heather Keith of The Australian National University (ANU) about their new research, part of ANU’s Sustainable Farms, on developing ecosystem accounts for the woodlands to understand why this threatened ecological community is so valuable.
To help land managers get the best outcomes from their fox control investments, a collaborative project funded by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub and Victorian government agencies has developed a new fox population modelling tool. Dr Bronwyn Hradsky of The University of Melbourne led the project and is now working with agencies to apply the tool across Victoria. Here we discuss FoxNet and its applications.
An interview with Braedan Taylor, Karajarri Head Ranger, Karajarri Indigenous Protected Area and Karajarri Rangers
An interview with Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa and Martu people
Many “working coastal wetlands”, including ports, commercial salt works and wastewater treatment plants, host important habitat for threatened migratory shorebirds. Amanda Lilleyman from Charles Darwin University and Micha Jackson from The University of Queensland tell us about why disturbance on public beaches can be a real problem for shorebirds and why some industrial sites are very important to species like the Critically Endangered far eastern curlew.
There is growing awareness among business leaders of the essential contribution of biodiversity to economic and social prosperity. Natasha Cadenhead and Rachel Morgain explore how natural capital is making its way into the boardroom, and how hub research can help businesses make better decisions.
An interview with Dr Alex Kutt, Senior Ecologist North Australia, Bush Heritage Australia
An interview with Nigel Sharp, Founder and Chair of Board, Odonata Foundation
An interview with Tim Allard, CEO, Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC)
Our national reserve system is magnificent and works to preserve some of the world’s most spectacular and unique places, but on its own it is not enough to prevent species extinctions in Australia. Professor Brendan Wintle takes a look at why our conservation strategies need to think beyond conservation reserves and some of the work already happening in this area.
The TSR Hub works with a diverse range of on-ground land managers to help them achieve their land management and conservation objectives.
Sustainable Farms is exploring how enhanced biodiversity underpins productivity, and supports better farmer mental health. Sustainable Farms is bringing together farmers, researchers from finance, health and ecology, NRM agencies, agricultural service providers and many others. Jaana Dielenberg reports.
Farming creates novel habitats. In the Riverina region of southern New South Wales, rice fields are providing a conservation opportunity where food production and threatened species can be managed concurrently.
An interview with Mark Robb, Environmental Compliance and Biodiversity Officer, Coleambally Irrigation Cooperative Limited
More than 60% of Australia’s land mass is managed by farmers, and they are custodians for thousands of natural and agricultural wetlands. Working on private land offers a challenging but rewarding career for a researcher.
We are receiving an additional $2 million to deliver science to support wildlife and habitat recovery efforts following Australia’s bushfire crisis. The rapid rollout of work now faces the added and acute challenge of COVID-19.
Predation by cats is a key threat to at least 123 threatened species in Australia. Better understanding and reducing the impact of feral cats on susceptible wildlife has been a major area of research for the hub.
One of the post-fire challenges to population recovery that many native species will face is increased risk of predation, including by introduced foxes and cats.
Toxoplasmosis was introduced to Australia by cats, who continue to spread the disease. It is known that the disease affects Australian mammals, and that many Australian mammals are suffering dramatic declines. It was completely unknown, however, whether these declines are linked with toxoplasmosis.
Chief Science Officer John Kanowski and Regional Ecologist SW Michael Smith from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy discuss the far-reaching work their team is doing to protect vulnerable mammals from introduced predators.
Oliver Tester from the Office of the Threatened Species Commissioner tells us about the Australian Government’s action on feral cats.
Feral cats are one of the greatest threats to Australian wildlife – and one of the most enigmatic of creatures. They therefore offer an incredible subject for a research career.
Principal Scientist in the Pest Animal Research Centre at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Matt Gentle takes us through the cat baiting trials at Taunton National Park
Across Australia’s arid zones feral cats are utilising micro-refuges, like rabbit burrows, to help them persist in areas that are otherwise unsuitable.
A feral cat eradication program is underway on Kangaroo Island. Conservation managers want to know if poison baiting is suitable for densely vegetated and inaccessible areas characteristic of most of the island’s conservation reserves.
Beloved companion animal and decimator of native wildlife – that is Australia’s cat conundrum. Australia and Antarctica are the only continents without native felids. Our wildlife has evolved over millennia without defences against these supreme hunters.