“If there was an ark for Australia's most endangered species, what animals and plants would get a berth?”
That was the question interviewer Gregg Borschmann put to the TSR Hub’s Associate Professor Brendan Wintle and Professor David Keith when they took part in a panel discussion at the Australian Museum as part of National Science Week.
The discussion followed a screening of Attenborough's Ark in which conservation icon David Attenborough profiled 10 species he would include on his ark.
Also on the panel was Dr Rebecca Johnson, Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute, and Dr Rebecca Spindler, Head of Conservation Science from Taronga Zoo. The discussion was recorded as part of the 2016 Australian Museum Science Festival, and broadcast ABC’s Radio National.
Brendan Wintle told the audience that 45% of Australia’s birds and 90% of Australia’s mammals do not exist anywhere else in the world.
“As Australians, we have the privilege of living amongst them, but this is also a responsibility.
“We have at least 1700 species very close to extinction...”
Brendan put the Golden Sun Moth on his ark because “it is so good at stopping urban developments in critically endangered basalt plains grasslands”.
David Keith spoke about the importance of conserving the ecosystem, not just the species, and he used an unusual, Hollywood-technicoloured orchid as an example.
“It’s an orchid that’s pollinated by male wasps who are deceived into thinking the flower is a female.
“The reason this works is the plant has evolved to produce a pheromone that mimics the pheromone of the wasp species.
“And recent work has shown the evolutionary tree of the orchid’s pheromone versus the wasp’s as almost mirror images of one another.
“With relationships like this it speaks volumes for conserving the whole rather than little bits of it.”
Image: Southern Brown Bandicoot by Chris Macgregor
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Northern Australia’s mammals have suffered catastrophic declines over the last 30 years. A major new study has found that protecting and recovering habitat by improving fire management and reducing feral cattle, horses and buffaloes is the best approach to address the crisis.
Fire is a complex, important and pervasive ingredient in the ecology of Australia. It destroys life but brings renewal. 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.
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.