Three Tasmanian birds perch atop the list of Australia’s most threatened birds, as revealed by a TSR Hub team comprising researchers from Charles Darwin
University and The University of Melbourne.
“The Orange-bellied Parrot tops the list, closely followed by two subspecies from King Island – the King Island Scrubtit and the Brown Thornbill,” says project leader Professor Stephen Garnett.
The research team is finalising the list of Australia’s most threatened birds and mammals through a combination of scientific modelling and the distillation of expert opinion – adopting a process proven to be more accurate than deferring to the judgement of a lone researcher.
“For each group we first analyse a suite of characteristics such as population size and trends, the intensity of the threatening processes and the size of the areas they occupy using three models – each of which emphasises different aspects of a species’ biology when predicting extinction,” Professor Garnett says.
“We can then confirm whether or not these models agree. If they don’t agree, we need to determine why.”
This is where expert opinion enters the equation. Threatened species experts are asked to estimate the likely risk of a particular species’ extinction and provide an indication of the confidence they hold in their estimate.
Where experts uncover discrepancies in their analysis, they are encouraged to debate those differences whilst collaborating on a final prediction.
“Modelling alone cannot always provide the answer, nor can expert opinion, but when combined we can reach the best answer attainable,” Professor Garnett says.
Preliminary results obtained through this process clearly indicate the high risk of extinction to several Tasmanian bird species.
Protecting the Orange-bellied Parrot is already a key focus of another TSR Hub research project (Project 2.2), which aims to mitigate the threats faced by Tasmania’s hollow-nesting birds.
In addition to the species from Tasmania, one surprise inclusion on the list was a subspecies of Painted Buttonquail, which now inhabits only two small islands of the Houtman Abrolhos off the coast of Western Australia.
The Buttonquail population declined following the introduction of wallabies to one of the three islands that once formed the Buttonquails’ historical range, as the wallabies dramatically reduced the available vegetation.
“We were alerted to the plight of the Buttonquail by the Chair of the Western Australian Threatened Species Committee, Andrew Burbidge, and we shall do what we can to help him garner support for rapid action,” says Professor Garnett.
The research conducted forms part of the TSR Hub’s Project 2.1, which aims to provide direction to government agencies and non-government by alerting them to cases of imminent extinction.
Image: Orange-bellied Parrot by DPIPWE
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Cissy Gore-Birch is a member of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub’s steering committee and the Chair of its Indigenous Reference Group. The Indigenous Reference Group was established to assist hub leaders and project teams to strengthen the engagement and participation of Indigenous people in the hub’s activities and research projects. Cissy recently attended the Species of the Desert Festival on the Paruku Indigenous Protected Area, where she spoke about both threatened and culturally important species, and increasing the voice of Indigenous people in environmental policies and research.
Dr Sally Box, the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner, talks about the importance of working with Indigenous groups to conserve Australia’s threatened species.
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There are 27 different types of possums and gliders in Australia. They have a huge variety of sizes, shapes and appearances. We’ve compiled a profile on every species here. One quarter of our possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law. Help their conservation, be a citizen scientist: you can record sightings of possums from your local areas in the free 'CAUL Urban Wildlife App'.