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Australian threatened species research funding for two GFS lab members

This week, Nick and Stephen were successful in attaining funding from the National Environmental Science Program Threatened Species Recovery (TSR) Hub to undertake research aimed at improving the outcome of threatened species conservation in Australia.

The TSR Hub is a research collaboration focusing on the recovery of Australian threatened species. Considering Australia’s poor track record of animal and plant extinctions (a record that currently shows little sign of improving), major interventions and actions are required to improve the situation. The TSR Hub is one of the many actions aimed at halting biodiversity loss in Australia.

The Hub is funded by the Federal Department of the Environment’s National Environmental Science Program with matched contributions by 10 leading academic institutions and Australian Wildlife Conservancy. These academic institutions are joined by numerous collaborating organisations, including management agencies and conservation groups to ensure the Hub’s research has an on-ground impact in threatened species management in Australia and its island territories. The Hub brings together leading ecological experts to improve the outlook for Australia’s threatened species and ecological communities.

GreenFireScience threatened species recovery projects

Nick has received funding to work with A/Prof Martine Maron and Prof David Pannell on Project 5.1 Better offsets for threatened species. Nick’s project will focus on the Night Parrot, an endangered species, one of Australia’s least known terrestrial vertebrates, and certainly our least known bird. After the last confirmed sighting of a live Night Parrot in 1912, irregular rumours and reports of the Night Parrot persisted until 1990, when a dead bird was found by a roadside in western Queensland. Another dead parrot that had collided with a fence was found in Diamantina National Park in 2006, then in 2013, a small population of the birds was discovered in the same region by an amateur naturalist. Following this discovery a research program was established to try and find out all we can about this small population in an effort to determine how best to conserve them. This also coincided with the establishment of a private conservation reserve by Bush Heritage Australia, Pullen Pullen Reserve, aimed at protecting the birds.

Night Parrot habitat in Pullen Pullen reserve (Murphy 2016)

Nick is partnering with Bush Heritage Australia and the national Night Parrot Recovery Team, to maintain the research effort that has been ongoing for the past three years. The focus will be trying to build a picture of how the birds have persisted in this region, also home to a number of other threatened species including the Bilby, Kowari and the Plains-wanderer. A priority will be resolving what factors influence the presence and movement of Night Parrots in the landscape, and whether any of these factors need to be controlled to ensure their continued survival. Another aim will be to determine how widespread the birds actually are, and whether this tiny population is a relic or part of a larger population that persists in the region. As one of Earth’s most cryptic species this will be a difficult task, but Nick is looking forward to the challenge!

Stephen has received funding to work with Dr Diana Fisher (UQ) and Dr Michael Kearney (UoM) on their TSR Project 4.4: Identifying and managing refuges from threats. This project will look to identify where in the landscape refuges are, where they are needed most and how best to manage and protect them. Biodiversity refuges are areas that provide temporal and/or spatial protection from disturbances, predation, herbivory or competition. Put simply, these are areas that provide protection for species from processes that impact them negatively. Identifying, protecting and managing refuges ensures landscape features that threatened species rely upon are preserved to give them the best chance at persisting in the face of numerous threatening processes.

A landscape depression caused by glacial activity provides a microclimate and microhabitat which can act as a biodiversity refuge during times of climate change and increased threat activity - Southwest National Park, Tasmania (Kearney 2014).

Stephen’s research project will provide information to better inform decision making and land management for threatened species conservation in Australia. Many refuges will be specific to a taxonomic group, while others will benefit a variety of Australian vertebrate, invertebrate and plant species threatened by climate change.

This TSR funding will enable Nick and Stephen to undertake valuable research into Australian threatened species: the ultimate aim of which is the recovery and persistence of these species.

You can stay up to date with the TSR’s research and management actions here or follow the Hub on twitter @TSR_Hub

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