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The future of Australia's conservation efforts?

By Dave Armstrong - 09 Apr 2015 9:36:17 GMT
The future of Australia's conservation efforts?

Sugar gliders, Petaurus breviceps are closely related to Leadbetter’s possum (or fairy possum), which cannot glide but they provide support for David Lindermeyer’s long-term conservation efforts for marsupials in eucalyptus forest, as long they keep those darn cats out. This species is thriving in parts of northern and eastern Australia.Sugar glider image Credit: © Shutterstock

Australia leads the world in many ways. They export more of their coal than anybody else and they lead in number of extinctions. One of these is their fault and the other is down to a profusion of IAS (Invasive Alien Species.) We havea profligate number of articles on these species, from cats to rats and pythons, if you need any reminders! To deal with the collapse of marsupial biodiversity is an essential, if saddening process. David Lindermeyer of the Australian National University (the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society) has proposed that culling cats and foxes might help, but a much more long term approach by scientists could provide the necessary fuel for species’ recovery.

He published Continental-level biodiversity collapse in PNAS on April 6th. Australians face the possible loss of 20% of their remaining marsupials, which are currently classed as threatened. The rate of loss has been 10X that of the US over 2 centuries, obviously connected to the non-placental mammals involved in these extinctions. With the Leadbetter’s possum, Gymnobelideus leadbeateri, one of his focal points in Victoria, the industrial clear-felling, salvage logging and wildfire threats are seen as simply adding to an already threatening history of logging operations. This species of possum needs big, old-growth trees such as the great mountain ash, Eucalyptus regnans, just like 300 other species of many different phyla that rely on such oldsters. The animal was rediscovered in 1961, after being declared extinct, so the giant effort needed to maintain it in modern forest types is a real test of determination.

The ubiquitous acacias also play a big part in forest and savannah habitat, not only for this possum, but providing for a larger variety of animals across the continent. More feral invaders are on the way, according to the Professor, after pet-trade releases have added to the mix. Such conservation could be Australia’s forte in the future, according to the Lindermeyer point of view. Since 1788, the rapid loss of species contrasts with the loss of a single mammal in North America. We still can’t forgive them for the passenger pigeon, but North Americans have a good recent record with reintroductions and even the conservation of invertebrates.