A new wave of extinctions is now threatening Australian mammals, this time in northern Australia, according to a group of leading Australian scientists.
Since European settlement, the deepest loss of Australian biodiversity has been the spate of extinctions of endemic mammals. Historically, these losses occurred mostly in inland and in temperate parts of the country, and largely between 1890 and 1950. A new wave of extinctions is now threatening Australian mammals, this time in northern Australia. Many mammal species are in sharp decline across the north, even in extensive natural areas managed primarily for conservation. The main evidence of this decline comes consistently from two contrasting sources: robust scientific monitoring programs and more broad-scale Indigenous knowledge. The main drivers of the mammal decline in northern Australia include inappropriate fire regimes (too much fire) and predation by feral cats. Cane Toads are also implicated, particularly to the recent catastrophic decline of the Northern Quoll. Furthermore, some impacts are
due to vegetation changes associated with the pastoral industry. Disease could also be a factor, but to date there is little evidence for or against it.
Based on current trends, many native mammals will become extinct in northern Australia in the next 10-20 years, and even the largest and most iconic national parks in northern Australia will lose native mammal species. This problem needs to be solved. The fi rst step towards a solution is to recognise the problem, and this publication seeks to alert the Australian community and decision makers to this urgent issue. Targeted management of known threats, based on the evidence currently available, is urgently required to ensure the survival of northern Australian mammal species. In part, the answer lies in more rigour and accountability in the management of conservation reserves; but it also lies in seeking to identify and deliver more conservation outcomes from all other lands. In the shorter-term, there is also a need to strengthen the safeguards on islands off northern Australia, as a temporary refuge for ‘at risk’ species until a more comprehensive solution can be reached on the mainland.
|Author||James Fitzsimons, Sarah Legge, Barry Traill, John Woinarski|
|Publisher||The Nature Conservancy|
|Documents||Into Oblivion? The disappearing native mammals of northern Australia|