The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000

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Stephen T. Garnett - Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, and Gabriel M. Crowley - Birds Australia
Environment Australia, 2000
ISBN 0 6425 4683 5

Summary

This Action Plan lists 25 taxa as Extinct, 32 as Critically Endangered, 41 as Endangered, 82 as Vulnerable and 81 as Near Threatened as at 30 June, 2000. The remaining 1,114 taxa are deemed to be Least Concern, including 28 introduced taxa and 95 vagrants. Recovery outlines are presented for all Threatened taxa (Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable) and taxon summaries for taxa listed as Extinct or Near Threatened. An additional 53 taxon summaries are presented for Least Concern taxa that have restricted distributions or have previously been considered threatened.

Of those taxa known to have been present or to have occurred regularly in Australia when Europeans settled in 1788, 1.9% are Extinct and a further 11.5% are considered Threatened. Some 6.0 % are Near Threatened.

Since the last Action Plan, research and surveys have shown that seven taxa are less threatened than was thought but a further 56 taxa should have been listed. Other differences between the 1992 Action Plan and the present volume can be accounted for by changes to taxonomy (19 taxa), to more rigorous IUCN criteria which better define the different categories (138 taxa) or both (11 taxa).

Using current knowledge, taxonomy and IUCN criteria, there has been a change in the status of 25 taxa (2.0%) since the last Action Plan. For seven the conservation status can be downgraded as a result of effective conservation management: two from Critically Endangered to Endangered, four from Endangered to Vulnerable and one from Vulnerable to Near Threatened. However the status of 18 taxa should be upgraded. Eleven of these are from Christmas Island where the rapid spread of an introduced ant is posing a major threat. While no taxon has become extinct in the last decade, there has been a net increase of eight Critically Endangered taxa, with six fewer Vulnerable and one more Near Threatened.

In many ways this must be considered a good result, one which could have been much worse without concerted action on the part of government and the community. In the 1992 Action Plan it was estimated that about $15 million needed to be spent over the next five years. In fact it is estimated that the conservation agencies in the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments spent about $18 million with about $4 million in support from industry and other government agencies and the equivalent of $7 million from volunteers.

Over the next five years the required budget is estimated at about $35 million from conservation agencies, $12 million from other sources and a further $7 million from volunteers. This money has the potential to prevent the extinction of between one and 15 taxa, depending on whether predictions are optimistic or pessimistic, and reduce the number of Threatened taxa from 155 to 135.

The majority of the Threatened or Extinct taxa are on islands where predators, often facilitated by habitat destruction, have caused or are causing massive declines. On the mainland, land clearance is causing declines that will continue for decades as a result of habitat fragmentation. Over 82% of all bird taxa from mainland Australia and Tasmania have been affected by land clearance at some stage, and for half it is a continuing threat. Over 40% of taxa affected by habitat loss, fragmentation and/or degradation occur in temperate or subtropical woodlands. Grazing by sheep and cattle, which affects 53% of mainland birds, and changes in fire management (45%) are also major threatening processes. At sea, all 20 albatross taxa and several petrels are threatened by high rates of mortality associated with fishing.

Threats to marine birds are concentrated in the Southern Ocean and on their breeding islands. On the mainland most Threatened and Near Threatened taxa occur in the south-east of the continent, particularly west of the Great Dividing Range, in the south-west and in Tasmania. Eighteen areas are identified around the country with high concentrations of Threatened or Near Threatened taxa that are likely to benefit from similar conservation management actions. These are Torres Strait, Laura Basin, Lord Howe, Norfolk, King, Macquarie, Heard and Christmas Islands, sub-tropical forests and woodlands, temperate woodlands, eastern Tasmania, Wimmera-Mallee, Mt Lofty Ranges, Two People's Bay, western wheatbelt, Shark Bay and the Southern Ocean.