A novel threat-abatement framework confirms an urgent need to limit habitat loss and improve management of invasive species and inappropriate fire regimes for Australia’s threatened species

Date: 19, Oct, 2020
Author(s):   Kearney, S.G.; Watson, J.E.M.; Reside, A.E.; Fisher, D.O.; Maron, M.; Doherty, T.S.; Legge, S.M.; Woinarski, J.C.Z.; Garnett, S.T.; Wintle, B.A.; Ritchie, E.G.; Driscoll, D.A.; Lindenmayer, D.; Adams, V.M.; Ward, M.S.; Carwardine, J.
Publisher: Preprints

Earth’s extinction crisis is escalating, and threat classification schemes are increasingly important for assessing which human activities are the most prominent drivers of species declines. However, a quantitative understanding of the conservation responses needed to abate threatening processes, and avoid species extinctions, is often lacking. Here, we provide a threat abatement framework which groups threats based on the shared conservation goal of the actions needed to abate their impact. We apply this framework to Australia’s threatened species to quantify the relative importance of achieving different conservation response goals. Our analysis shows the most important conservation responses across Australia are habitat retention and restoration, due to the combined impact of threatening processes causing habitat destruction and degradation (e.g. logging, mining, urbanisation and agriculture), which affects the majority (86%) of Australia’s threatened species and the effective control of invasive species (82%). Most species also require conservation responses focussed on improved fire management (66%). We show that implementing responses in isolation will be inadequate for abating species extinctions as almost all species (89%) require multiple, integrated management responses to redress their threats. We also acknowledge that already small and potentially genetically compromised taxa may require more direct interventions (e.g. captive insurance populations or genetic rescue). Our analysis highlights the necessity of addressing multiple threats at appropriate geographic scales across Australia. Our threat abatement framework ensures that core conservation actions can be identified and aid recovery of threatened species, and can be applied to other geographic regions and conservation contexts.