Australian Ecology and Conservation
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Australian Ecology and Conservation
A broad prospectus on the current state of Australian ecology and environmental conservation as it relates to the land's flora and fauna.
Curated by Zuheir Mirza
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Dingoes Not Entirely Responsible for Extinction of Predators in Australia - Nature World News

Dingoes Not Entirely Responsible for Extinction of Predators in Australia - Nature World News | Australian Ecology and Conservation | Scoop.it
Nature World News Dingoes Not Entirely Responsible for Extinction of Predators in Australia Nature World News The study 'An ecological regime shift resulting from disrupted predator-prey interactions in Holocene Australia' is published in the...
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While Australia is known as a continent of incredible ecological diversity, there was a time when it was even more diverse. Only a few thousand years ago many more species lived on the Australian mainland such as the Tasmanian devil and the Tasmanian tiger. However, due to introduction of invasive species there has been a decline in some of the native fauna found on the Australian mainland. Only until recently it was widely believed that the introduction of the dingo by Aborigines cause the extinction of the Tasmanian devil and Tasmanian tiger on the Australian mainland. However, recent research is beginning to indicate that may not necessarily be the case.

 

Although it is agreed that the dingo may have had something to do with the decrease in species diversity, it is most likely climate change and an increase in human density. This is supported by the still present population of the Tasmanian Devil  in Tasmania where population density is still relatively low. In spite of the boom in human population in Australia over the last hundred years people still insist that it was the dingo that is responsible. Dr. Thomas Prowse, the lead research in this study, said, “Perhaps because the public perception of dingoes as 'sheep-killers' is so firmly entrenched, it has been commonly assumed that dingoes killed off the thylacines and devils on mainland Australia.” Furthermore, because extinction of these particular species coincided with the arrival of the dingo on the Australian mainland 3000 years ago, many people have a hard time believing anything else.

 

Scientific studies such as these show that for proper ecological conservation it is important to understand the history of these species as well as their present day populations. With this information it is possible to extrapolate ideas as to how current species in danger can be protected. It is clearly evident that to Australians the loss of more of the nation’s precious ecological diversity will not be tolerated. Only through research such as this can the understanding of the unique ecosystems within the continent be understood to a point as to eliminate the danger of species loss. 

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Sharks, it seems, are necessary for the ecological health of coral reefs - The Economist

Sharks, it seems, are necessary for the ecological health of coral reefs - The Economist | Australian Ecology and Conservation | Scoop.it
Sharks, it seems, are necessary for the ecological health of coral reefs The Economist FOR decades, rangers in Yellowstone National Park, in the American West, had to cull the area's red deer (known locally as elk, though they bear no resemblance...
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This article uses the same study performed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science to support the idea that overfishing of the reefs surrounding Australia could have a dire impact on the health of the coral reef systems. This article goes to lengths to point out that the overfishing of the shark species of the reef are completely intentional and targeted through the use of specific baits and lines. As such the only species that is affected is the shark and it is the absence of the apex predators that causes the damage to the population of the other species.

 

The fact that this article from The Economist takes the same stance as the article from Science Daily shows that the importance of the coral reefs in multiple respects and perspectives. The importance of the reefs is broad due to the impact it has environmentally and economically on nations worldwide. It only further proves how imperative it is to encourage the conservation of all species involved in ecosystems as complex as coral reefs. 

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Zoo animals put painted paw forward

Zoo animals put painted paw forward | Australian Ecology and Conservation | Scoop.it
ANIMALS at Sydney's Taronga Zoo have dipped their paws, flippers and hooves into paint and smudged their prints onto canvasses in a bid to promote awareness of animal conservation.
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While the Australian population may at times be at odds with the land’s native flora and fauna, more often than not there is always a call for conservation and appreciation for the life indigenous to the Australian ecosystems and even the life found worldwide. At the Taronga Zoo in Sydney the keepers encourage this appreciation in an initiative to improve animal conservation locally and internationally. They did this by gathering some of the four thousand animals cared for at the zoo and collecting their prints. The video within this article show this truly amazing and moving endeavor as echidna, seals and penguins are lead to make a print of their footsteps on canvas. Cameron Karr, the director of Sydney’s Taronga Zoo said, “by letting the animals make their mark they were visually signifying Taronga's commitment to wildlife conservation and we hope all our visitors and supporters will join us in this pledge.”

 

Endeavors such as these only prove to exemplify the dedication and persistence many Australians have to preserving the unique and beautiful life found in their country. It also speaks to the Australian population who were so receptive to such an event. Through this initiative Sydney’s Taronga Zoo was able to fund a one hundred thousand dollar construction and maintenance project of an elephant protection sanctuary in Thailand. While some nations respond to their nation’s wildlife with apathy and indifference, Australian organizations are able to organize passionate and wide reaching displays that are able to inspire a love and passion for the truly special wildlife that they reside alongside. 

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Bringing beasties back from the brink

Bringing beasties back from the brink | Australian Ecology and Conservation | Scoop.it
ON the bone-dry plains of the West Australian wheatbelt, east of Perth, and in the parched Murray-Darling Depression, 150km south of Broken Hill in western NSW, native animals of the critically endangered woylie marsupial species are getting...
Zuheir Mirza's insight:

One of the problems that have many Australians concerned is the falling population counts of many of their indigenous species, and because many of these species are only found in Australia, a falling population could mean extinction for many of these unique creatures. There is much debate going on as to the proper course of action that needs to be taken in regards to the feral cat population. The main culprit in the decreasing numbers of many of these species is the mass amounts of feral cats that populate the Australian countryside. The feral cat population is estimated to eat over two million native animals daily in the top sixth of the nation. Threatened animals include woylies, numbats, bridled nailtailed wallabies, burrowing bettongs, malas, greater stick-nest rats and greater bilbies. However any species between thirty-five grams and five and a half kilograms is deemed in danger of predation. These species are in particular danger because animals smaller than thirty-five grams can often populate quick enough for the loss to be negligible and animals larger than five kilograms are too large to be attacked.

 

The decreasing populations of these species has many people questioning the method of government conservation. A particular advocate of government intervention is Atticus Fleming, a private conservationist, who says, “Governments must reassess their roles in wildlife conservation. They need to consider reversing a trend in ecological management and put monitoring and control staff back into remote areas.” Fleming also encourages the contracting of the task of conservation to organizations prepared for the job, such as Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

 

Another question raised is the focus put on other animals threatening native species. In response to the decreasing numbat population Dryandra park ranger Tony Friend says, “the shrinking of the numbat population has largely occurred in the past three years and its demise is seen as an unintended consequence of efforts to eradicate foxes, which opened a space for feral cats in the predatory chain.” This theory was then confirmed when a study on woylies was conducted. Woylies were fitted with collars to exhibit their life cycle and eventual death by predation. "Out of 98 woylies, 69 were taken by cats and only 11 taken by foxes. It was quite a surprise because you don't see the cats like you do the foxes,” Friend reports.

 

The solution proposed to this problem is the development of baits specific to the feral cat population. The baits “Curiosity” and “Eradicate” were formulated specifically for the cats, but where met with mixed results supposedly due to the picky nature of the cats’ diet. This indicated to many that the best solution would have to involve multiple methods of elimination including baiting as well as translocation and better protection in wildlife sanctuaries.

 

This article shows the complex problems that Australians face in trying to defend the animals indigenous to the continent. Because the root of this problem involves an invasive species that fits into the role of a mesopredator so well and has the flexibility to fulfill multiple trophic levels the solution is far more complex than simple eradication. The length to which the government is going to try to ameliorate the damage done by the cat population shows the dedication the governing body has to the nation’s ecosystem. This is a clear reflection of the Australian attitude towards the native flora and fauna. The extent to which the people are willing to go is truly admirable and is an inspiration to those attempting wildlife conservation worldwide. 

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Overfishing of sharks is harming coral reefs, study suggests

Overfishing of sharks is harming coral reefs, study suggests | Australian Ecology and Conservation | Scoop.it
A team of scientists from Canada and Australia have discovered that the decline in shark populations is detrimental to coral reefs.
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This study attempted to determine the effect of the overfishing of sharks on coral reefs. The reefs that were studied are located 300 kilometers from the Australian shore, where sharks are overfished by commercial Indonesian fisherman. This method of overfishing has continued for centuries. The study took place by observing live feeds from the reef from the year 1994 to 2008. During this time period both coral reef systems were exposed to the same climate, coral bleaching, and weather systems. This setting allows for a case study that has a defined set of variables, unlike other settings in which overfishing is a recent phenomenon. Within the confines of this coral reef system there seemed to be a shift in the population of certain species at different trophic levels. Because of the over fishing of the sharks, mid-level predators, such as snappers, have experienced a rise in numbers. Naturally, the rise in population of mid-level predators led to a decrease in species of lower tropic levels, particularly herbivores such as the parrot fish. The reduction of these species has an even larger role on the health of the reef and the ecosystem in general. Mark Meekan from The Australian Institute of Marine Science and the leader of the team undertaking this study said, “The parrotfishes are very important to coral reef health because they eat the algae that would otherwise overwhelm young corals on reefs recovering from natural disturbances.”

 

The main reefs studied were the Rowley Shoals and the Scott Reefs located adjacently on the North Western tip of Australia. While the Rowley Shoals are a protected habitat, the Scott Reefs are subject to fishing and subsequent overfishing by local and international fisherman. Because of the highest demand fish is shark, the Scott Reefs seem to have a large deficiency in shark species. The proposed consequences are the clear poverty of flora and fauna diversity in the Scott Reefs when compared to the Rowley Shoals.

 

The implications of this study are rather profound. While many people want to protect coral reefs and similar ecosystems, they need to understand that a vast number of species support their health. Only by protecting all the species will the maintenance of coral reefs be possible. This means that the protection of sharks is necessary as well among other species and the coral directly.  So while this study promotes an initiative on reducing the fishing of sharks, it also shows the importance of the variety of species that inhabit the reef.

 

I think this article is incredibly enlightening, and says something positive about the scientific community’s mind towards marine life conservation. Sharks are an iconic sea creature often associated with coral reefs, which are often associated with Australian beaches. Many people would have no idea that their existence had such a profound impact on the ecosystem. And on that same note, I’m sure many would find it very interesting to see how species affect each other and the ecosystem that they inhabit. Without one species an ecosystem could fall apart, leading to a drastic change in the environment itself.

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No feral cat increase from Dingo baiting

No feral cat increase from Dingo baiting | Australian Ecology and Conservation | Scoop.it
FEARS that baiting dingoes and other wild dogs on pastoral land on mainland Australia will open the door for smaller predators are unfounded, research shows.
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This article discusses the local and immediate consequences of baiting, an ecosystem conservation method. In this situation it is specifically 1080-meat baiting, which is the method of incorporating the sodium flouroacetate in its pesticide form into meat, which when consumed by predators would cause death. Because wild dogs cause upwards of 48 million dollars annually in damage to local agriculture, the topic of how to deal with this nuisance is highly debated. Some in the scientific community have proposed that the baiting is ineffectual, because the wild dogs, namely dingoes, keep down the population of other mesopredators. Thusly, they believe that the practice of baiting should be banned in an effort at animal conservation.

 

However, recent research implies that dingoes don’t have as large an impact as previously believed on the presence of other mesopredators. Research from the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC) says that the removal of dingoes does not lead to the increase of other mesopredators like, foxes and feral cats. Indeed, it was found that the numbers of feral cats and foxes is the same and sometimes more in areas where dingoes aren’t baited. Allen, the lead researcher in a similar study published in the Frontiers of Zoology says, "Baiting of dingoes in the rangelands kills foxes too and the end result is that there are less mesopredators in places where you bait and baiting might even be beneficial for rangeland wildlife.”

 

While the importance of reducing the damage to the agriculture is clear, the most effective method is difficult to determine. This article shows that while some Australians in the scientific community believe that the elimination of dingoes, foxes, and feral cats is effectual and necessary to keeping damages down, others believe it may be detrimental to the ecosystem and a more proper method may need to include animal conservation of the species at that specific trophic level.

 

This article is rather illuminating in regards to the Australian mindset of animal conservation versus industry profit. In the United States the elimination through the use of pesticides of a particular species is highly regulated and often times forbidden by the EPA, and more often than not there are many animal and environmental interest groups, such as PETA, that will bring media attention to any methodologies that are considered even slightly uncouth. In Australia, however, regulation seems to be slightly more relaxed and focused on a much more pragmatic approach void of the fundamental ideals held by many of the animal and environmental interest groups found here in the United States. 

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Australia takes Japan to court on whaling

Australia takes Japan to court on whaling | Australian Ecology and Conservation | Scoop.it
THE Rudd government will launch an international legal case against Japanese "scientific whaling" next week - but there is no guarantee even a successful action will stop whales being hunted in the Antarctic.
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The Australian government has started an international legal case against Japan in regards to their whaling. Peter Garrett, the Environment Protection Minister, said, "We want to see an end to whales being killed in the name of science in the Southern Ocean.” Under the administration of Paul Rudd a move was made to take the Japanese to the International Court of Justice unless they cease their commercial whaling under a scientific guise.

 

While negations were in place to reduce the whaling, this overt move has caused much distress in the Japanese. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said, “We feel it is regrettable that Australia has decided to bring the issue of whaling to the International Court of Justice when the countries concerned are negotiating.”  He further stated that the 507 whales killed during the summer of 2009 was legal and would be defended in court.

 

This discussion has also received attention at the International Whaling Commission in Morocco, where a compromise was drafted allowing Japan to 410 whales annually until 2015 and then 205 whales annually until 2020. While some countries pushed for a reduction in these numbers, Japan maintained that these numbers were far too limited.

 

This article shows the dedication Australia has not only to fauna found locally, but also animals found globally. Although the banning of whaling in the southern oceans seemed bleak, Australian government still pushed forward, hoping there would be some positive outcome. This initiative can be described as no other way but noble. It is important that these kinds of ideals are spread to nations worldwide so that conservation can be a notion that all countries push towards.  

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Threat to Barrier Reef raised as indigenous mine deal signed

Threat to Barrier Reef raised as indigenous mine deal signed | Australian Ecology and Conservation | Scoop.it
THE first coalmine on Cape York is one step closer, after the indigenous-backed Wongai project inked a landmark deal with experienced operators Bounty Mining.
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The intended construction of a coalmine 150 kilometers from Cooktown in Queensland has many Australians concerned about the possible effects on The Great Barrier Reef. Gary Cochrane, The chairman of the company in charge of the environmental impact statements, said, “the company brought equity and experience to the project, as well as the ability to train locals in essential mining skills.” Cochrane also indicated to some of the possible economic benefits of the coalmine, insisting that this coalmine would open up opportunities for ecotourism and farming. Beyond the opportunities that Cochrane suggested, the mine is expected to create 250 jobs for construction and then 200 more once construction is completed for operation. The coal mine is predicted to have approximately 67.5 million tons of coal, which would lead to the export of almost 1.5 million tons of coal annually.

 

While the construction and operation of the coal mine has its own environmental impacts that still need to be fully discussed, the shipping of the coal from the mine is what has many people concerned about the consequences to the Great Barrier Reef. Currently, the plan is to ship the coal after extraction 18 kilometers to the shore where it will then be loaded onto barges, which will then take it to ships offshore for international shipment. Because this loading is taking place on the great barrier reef, many people are concerned at potential damage to one of Australia’s most cherished ecosystems. Tim Seelig, The Wilderness Society spokesman, had this to say, “To have offshore loading of coal from barges to container ships is an accident waiting to happen -- this is a direct threat to the very best part of the reef." The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also known as UNESCO, advocated against the construction of a port on The Great Barrier Reef. In response to all the controversy Cochrane insisted that, "It's a great opportunity for that area and certainly what we're going to have to do is minimize the impacts on the environment." The feasibility reports to ensure that impacts are a minimum are slated to be completed in approximately 18 months.

 

This is yet another article that shows the struggle that is faced between economic pragmatism and ecological conservation. While there may be great benefit to the construction of a mine in Cookstown and a port on The Great Barrier Reef, the potential for disaster keeps many people speculating as to whether it is truly worth it. The desire to maintain the pristineness of one of the most ecologically diverse locations is something that many Australians support. It is because of this passion projects such as won’t see completion until every facet of the environmental impact is known and prepared for. 

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