Grim warning for Australia’s most endangered plants and animals

Aerial view of deforestation in Daly River, Northern Territory in 2008. Credit: Julian Murphy / WWF-Aus

The first comprehensive list of threats to Australia’s most endangered plants and animals reveals brutal news about the future of some of the country’s favorite species.

The study led by the University of Queensland compiled a dataset, listing threats to Australian species due to habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation.

Michelle Ward, a doctoral candidate at UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said while this painted a grim picture for many plants and animals, it wasn’t all bad. news.

“This information can improve the conservation of some of Australia’s most endangered plants and animals by providing conservationists with more accurate data to better direct their efforts,” said Ms. Ward.

“The database has been distributed to federal and state governments and conservation groups like Birdlife Australia, the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Nature Conservancy, who use it to inform their conservation actions.

“It brings together expert knowledge from across Australia and has a range of applications – not only for prioritizing conservation work, but also for assessing when developments could have significant impacts on species.”

Mother and Joey Koala

Mother and joey koala after habitat deforestation. Credit: Briano / WWF-Aus

The list includes an in-depth analysis of nearly 1,800 plants and animals listed as threatened under Australian Commonwealth law, including 1,339 plants and 456 animals.

“More specific conservation efforts are now possible with the ability to categorize and address these threats facing our species at risk,” said Ms. Ward.

“By looking at the data, conservation officials can see that mitigating habitat loss, invasive species and disease, while improving fire regimes and reducing the impact of climate change on the environment. wherever possible is crucial to halt the decline of species. “

Co-author Dr April Reside, of UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, said it showed in great detail that some species face significant threats.

“Previously, we did not have complete information on the threats to these species and, more importantly, the severity of those threats,” said Dr Reside.

“For example, the swift parrot faces 17 different threats, including habitat loss from forestry and agriculture, invasive weeds, and the many and varied effects of climate change.

“So now we know the range of threats that must be addressed to save this iconic bird.

“Likewise, koalas face nine threats, including habitat loss from agriculture and urban development, dog attacks and disease.

“With this information, we are now better equipped to protect the plants and animals that we cherish so much in Australia.”

Reference: “A Nationwide Dataset for Threats to Endangered Flora and Fauna of Australia” by Michelle Ward, Josie Carwardine, Chuan J. Yong, James EM Watson, Jennifer Silcock, Gary S. Taylor, Mark Lintermans, Graeme R. Gillespie, Stephen T. Garnett, John Woinarski, Reid Tingley, Rod J. Fensham, Conrad J. Hoskin, Harry B. Hines, J. Dale Roberts, Mark J. Kennard, Mark S. Harvey , David G. Chapple and April E. Reside, August 4, 2021, Ecology and evolution.
DOI: 10.1002 / ece3.7920

The study was carried out with the support of eight universities and seven conservation, environmental and ecological science organizations across Australia.