Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Paying the extinction debt: woodland birds in the Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia

Judit K. Szabo A B D , Peter A. Vesk C , Peter W. J. Baxter A and Hugh P. Possingham A
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A The Ecology Centre, The University of Queensland, School of Biological Sciences, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia.

B Present address: Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.

C School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: judit.szabo@cdu.edu.au

Emu 111(1) 59-70 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU09114
Submitted: 14 December 2009  Accepted: 28 August 2010   Published: 21 February 2011

Abstract

Approximately 90% of the original woodlands of the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia has been cleared, modified or fragmented, most severely in the last 60 years, and affecting the avifauna dependent on native vegetation. This study identifies which woodland-dependent species are still declining in two different habitats, Pink Gum–Blue Gum woodland and Stringybark woodland. We analyse the Mount Lofty Ranges Woodland Bird Long-Term Monitoring Dataset for 1999–2007, to look for changes in abundance of 59 species. We use logistic regression of prevalence on lists in a Bayesian framework, and List Length Analysis to control for variation in detectability. Compared with Reporting Rate Analysis, a more traditional approach, List Length Analysis provides tighter confidence intervals by accounting for changing detectability. Several common species were declining significantly. Increasers were generally large-bodied generalists. Many birds have already disappeared from this modified and naturally isolated woodland island, and our results suggest that more specialist insectivores are likely to follow. The Mount Lofty Ranges can be regarded as a ‘canary landscape’ for temperate woodlands elsewhere in Australia – without immediate action their bird communities are likely to follow the trajectory of the Mount Lofty Ranges avifauna. Alternatively, with extensive habitat restoration and management, we could avoid paying the extinction debt.


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