Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

Contraction in the range of Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) in Western Australia: a comparative assessment using presence-only and presence–absence datasets

Blair C. Parsons A B D , Jeff C. Short C and J. Dale Roberts B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.

B School of Animal Biology M092, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C Wildlife Research and Management Pty Ltd, PO Box 1360, Kalamunda, WA 6926, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: blair.parsons@csiro.au

Emu 108(3) 221-231 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU08002
Submitted: 21 January 2008  Accepted: 30 April 2008   Published: 8 August 2008


As human impacts on habitat increase in their intensity and scale it is increasingly important that we are able to characterise and monitor changes in the distribution of threatened species. The Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) is listed as vulnerable in Australia and the National Recovery Plan suggests that its range has contracted by 45% in Western Australia (WA). We quantified changes in the range of Malleefowl in WA and determined the relative influence that various threatening processes, such as land clearing and agricultural development, may have had on its range. We also investigated whether presence-only data (from existing survey and reporting) could reliably assess the status of Malleefowl by comparing presence-only data with presence–absence data. To obtain a presence–absence dataset we interviewed long-term residents within our study area of 64 000 km2 about the occurrence of Malleefowl. The range of Malleefowl has contracted in WA but this contraction is less substantial than previously claimed. The contraction in range within the agricultural landscapes of south-western WA is associated with the extent of land clearing, the number of years since commencement of agricultural activity, and the number of sheep within a landscape. To conserve Malleefowl, we believe landscapes developed for agriculture in recent decades must be protected to ensure they do not develop attributes found in landscapes that have been heavily cleared and occupied since the early 1900s.


We thank the Malleefowl Preservation Group, Western Australian Museum, WA Department of Conservation and Land Management, North Central Malleefowl Preservation Group and Friends of North Eastern Malleefowl for providing access to their data and for their support during this study. We thank the many landholders and agency staff who contributed to the survey and also Dr Joe Benshemesh for provision of data from the National Recovery Plan. Drs Tony Arthur and Jim Radford provided comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This project was undertaken while BP was the recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award. Financial support was provided by the Avon Catchment Council (via the Natural Heritage Trust) and CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.


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