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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 32(6)

Terrestrial avifauna of the Gippsland Plain and Strzelecki Ranges, Victoria, Australia: insights from Atlas data

James Q. Radford A B, Andrew F. Bennett A

A Landscape Ecology Research Group, School of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Vic. 3125, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: jradford@deakin.edu.au
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The rate and spatial scale at which natural environments are being modified by human land-uses mean that a regional or national perspective is necessary to understand the status of the native biota. Here, we outline a landscape-based approach for using data from the ‘New Atlas of Australian Birds’ to examine the distribution and status of avifauna at a regional scale. We use data from two bioregions in south-east Australia – the Gippsland Plain and the Strzelecki Ranges (collectively termed the greater Gippsland Plains) – to demonstrate this approach. Records were compiled for 57 landscape units, each 10′ latitude by 10′ longitude (~270 km2) across the study region. A total of 165 terrestrial bird species was recorded from 1870 ‘area searches’, with a further 24 species added from incidental observations and other surveys. Of these, 108 species were considered ‘typical’ of the greater Gippsland Plain in that they currently or historically occur regularly in the study region. An index of species ‘occurrence’, combining reporting rate and breadth of distribution, was used to identify rare, common, widespread and restricted species. Ordination of the dataset highlighted assemblages of birds that had similar spatial distributions. A complementarity analysis identified a subset of 14 landscape units that together contained records from at least three different landscape units for each of the 108 ‘typical’ species. When compared with the 40 most common ‘typical’ species, the 40 least common species were more likely to be forest specialists, nest on the ground and, owing to the prevalence of raptors in the least common group, take prey on the wing. The future status of the terrestrial avifauna of the greater Gippsland Plains will depend on the extent to which effective restoration actions can be undertaken to ensure adequate representation of habitats for all species, especially for the large number of species of conservation concern.

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