Category Archives: State-by-State

New research shows lyrebirds move more litter and soil than any other digging animal

SUPERB-LYREBIRD-crAlexMaisey

WHEN YOU THINK of lyrebirds, what comes to mind may be the sound of camera clicks, chainsaws and the songs of other birds. While the mimicry of lyrebirds is remarkable, it is not the only striking feature of this species.

ABOVE: Male Superb Lyrebird in display.  Alex Maisey, Author provided.

In research just published, we document the extraordinary changes that lyrebirds make to the ground layer in forests in their role as an ecosystem engineer.

Ecosystem engineers change the environment in ways that impact on other species. Without lyrebirds, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places.

Male lyrebird in full tail display.  Alex Maisey

What is an ecosystem engineer?

Ecosystem engineers exist in many environments. By disturbing the soil, they create new habitats or alter existing habitats, in ways that affect other organisms, such as plants and fungi.

A well-known example is the beaver, in North America, which uses logs and mud to dam a stream and create a deep pond. In doing so, it changes the aquatic habitat for many species, including frogs, herons, fish and aquatic plants. Other examples include bandicoots and bettongs.

The Superb Lyrebird acts as an ecosystem engineer by its displacement of leaf litter and soil when foraging for food. Lyrebirds use their powerful claws to rake the forest floor, exposing bare earth and mixing and burying litter, while seeking invertebrate prey such as worms, centipedes and spiders.


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Our helicopter rescue may seem a lot of effort for a plain little bird, but it was worth it


To study the role of the lyrebird as an engineer, we carried out a two-year experiment in Victoria’s Central Highlands, with three experimental treatments.

First, a fenced treatment, where lyrebirds were excluded from fenced square plots measuring 3m wide.

Second, an identical fenced plot but in which we simulated lyrebird foraging with a three-pronged hand rake (about the width of a lyrebird’s foot). This mimicked soil disturbance by lyrebirds but without the birds eating the invertebrates that lived there.

The third treatment was an unfenced, open plot (of the same size) in which wild lyrebirds were free to forage as they pleased.

Over a two-year period, we tracked changes in the litter and soil, and measured the amount of soil displaced inside and outside of these plots.

A colour-banded female lyrebird in Sherbrooke Forest, Victoria. Her powerful claws are used for foraging in litter and soil.  Meghan Lindsay

Lyrebirds dig up a lot of dirt

On average, foraging by wild lyrebirds resulted in a staggering 155 tonnes per hectare of litter and soil displaced each year throughout these forests.

To the best of our knowledge, this is more than any other digging vertebrate, worldwide.

To put this in context, most digging vertebrates around the world, such as pocket gophers, moles, bandicoots and bettongs, displace between 10–20 tonnes of material per hectare, per year.

To picture what 155 tonnes of soil looks like, imagine the load carried by five medium-sized 30 tonne dump trucks — and this is just for one hectare!

But how much does an individual lyrebird displace? At one study location we estimated the density of the lyrebird population to be approximately one lyrebird for every 2.3 hectares of forest, thanks to the work of citizen scientists led by the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Study Group.

Based on this estimate, and to use our dump truck analogy, a single lyrebird will displace approximately 11 dump trucks of litter and soil in a single year.

Lyrebirds dig up a lot of dirt in forests.

Changes to the ground layer

After two years of lyrebird exclusion, leaf litter in the fenced plots was approximately three times deeper than in the unfenced plots. Soil compaction was also greater in the fenced plots.

Where lyrebirds foraged, the soil easily crumbled and the litter layer never fully recovered to a lyrebird-free state before foraging re-occurred.

This dynamic process of disturbance by lyrebirds has been going on for millennia, profoundly shaping these forests. For organisms such as centipedes, spiders and worms living in the litter and soil, the forest floor under the influence of lyrebirds may provide new opportunities that would not exist in their absence.

Terraced soil where litter has been removed and roots exposed by foraging lyrebirds.  Alex Maisey

An ecosystem ravaged by fire

The Australian megafires of 201920 resulted in approximately 40% of the Superb Lyrebird’s entire distribution being incinerated, according to a preliminary analysis by BirdLife Australia.

So great was the extent of these fires that the conservation status of the lyrebird has been thrown into question. That the conservation status has fallen — from “common” to potentially being “threatened” — from a single event is deeply concerning.


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Loss of lyrebird populations on this scale will have potentially far-reaching effects on forest ecology.

In the face of climate change and a heightened risk of severe wildfire, understanding the role that species such as the Superb Lyrebird play in ecosystems is more important than ever.

Without lyrebirds, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places, with impacts extending well beyond the absence of their glorious song to other animals who rely on these “ecosystem engineers”.The Conversation

Alex Maisey, PhD Candidate, La Trobe University and Andrew Bennett, Professor of Ecology, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

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National Party at it again: SCRAP KOALA PROTECTION

NSW-koala-habitat-logging_AWPCsept2020

Chris Gulaptis MP and the Nationals declare war on koalas

CLARENCE NATIONAL PARTY MP Chris Gulaptis has opened a new front in the National Party’s war on koalas and conservation by demanding the new laws designed to prevent the species’ extinction be scrapped. [1]

“On current trends, koalas are on track to become extinct in NSW by 2050,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Chris Gambian said.

“The laws that Mr Gulaptis wants to tear up were drafted well before the summer bushfires, which killed thousands, wiped out local populations and pushed many others closer to extinction.

“If anything, the government should be considering strengthening laws to protect this iconic species.”

Mr Gambian said Mr Gulaptis’s threat to sit on the cross benches if the government didn’t scrap koala protections was the latest in a series of attacks by National MPs on koalas.

“Nationals Leader John Barilaro has aggressively pushed to continue logging koala forests after the bushfires destroyed millions of hectares of prime habitat,” Mr Gambian said.

“Several forests on the north coast that were among the last unburned koalas forests in the state have been targeted by Forestry Corporation for intensive logging with the state government’s blessing.

“The Nationals are also behind moves to slash and burn national parks and allow cows to trample conservation reserves.

“If we want our children and grandchildren to see koalas in the wild, we have to stop destroying their forests.

“If Mr Gulaptis and John Barilaro get their way, the demise of the koala is guaranteed to happen even faster than projected.”

[1] We can’t bear this nationals’ revolt, Daily Telegraph, 2-9-2020

— MEDIA RELEASE.  GRAPHIC: Sue Van Homrigh, AWPC.

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Significantly pregnant female! Stop the evictions! (Cairns, Qld)

spectacled-flying-fox-InigoMerriman_Conversation_July2020

PETITION UPDATE:

STOP forced eviction of critically endangered Spectacles Flying Foxes, Cairns …

19 August 2020 —

We have uploaded some videos on YouTube. This is being used as evidence that Cairns Regional Council is dispersing the Spectacled Flying Foxes (SFFs), not deterring them as they claim (once they land in the trees, it is no longer ‘deterrence’, it is ‘dispersal’. But even if Cairns Regional Council were just deterring, this is largely irrelevant. If there are significantly pregnant females, all dispersal and deterrence activities must stop. Any SFF expert will tell you it is very likely a significant number of adult females are now signficantly pregnant.

Stop the dispersal-deterrence-eviction now!

CAPTION: Spectacled flying-foxes are important pollinators and seed dispersers in Australia’s Wet Tropics. Photo: Inigo Merriman. [Yes the picture is placed the correct way.]

> VIEW ORIGINAL STORY

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Historic Court win (Vic) for threatened possum, Regional Forests Agreements

VicForest-court-win-august2020

AWPC has learned:

THE FEDERAL COURT just delivered final orders for our historic win for Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum that protects the forests subject to the case from logging! 

Although the court reached its conclusion in this case in May, until today it had not yet decided how the judgement would apply practically. 

IMAGES (from L): Greater Glider, Steve Parish; Steve Meacher, President, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum; Leadbeater’s Possum, Dan Harley. SOURCE.

Justice Mortimer’s orders today grant final injunctions to protect the 66 areas of forest home to the threatened Greater Glider and critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum subject to the case. 

The judge also made formal declarations of unlawful logging by VicForests in those 66 areas and ordered VicForests pay Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum’s costs of running the case.  

This is huge and sets a national precedent!

This case will have national implications for species threatened by logging under Regional Forest Agreements across the country which will now face much greater scrutiny. 

Just yesterday, the Bob Brown Foundation launched a similar Federal Court case, challenging logging under Regional Forest Agreements in Tasmania’s forests. 

We echo the sentiments of our client, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum below: 

“We are immensely grateful to the public for the donations that have enabled us to pay the costs of mounting a case on this scale and to all those who have worked on the case and supported us in so many ways on this long and challenging journey. 

And to the surveying team from WOTCH and the expert witnesses who provided an unassailable body of detailed evidence.” 

This is the first time the Federal Court has granted a final injunction to prevent logging of threatened wildlife habitat and the first time Victoria’s logging industry — the largest in Australia — has been held to account under federal environment law for its devastating impacts on endangered wildlife.  

The outcome of this case demonstrates that properly enforcing our environment laws is critical to stem the loss of wildlife in this country. 

We are so thrilled that the Greater Glider and Leadbeater’s Possum in these areas of forest can rest easy for now — protecting these areas of habitat is vital to their recovery.  

We hope this is a message to all industry and governments across the country that if they flout the law at the expense of our threatened wildlife, the community will hold them to account in court.

 

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Esperance (WA) kookaburra sighting raises questions about native wildlife management

kookaburra-cr-matthew-willimott-unsplash

THE NATION’S LARGEST bird organisation has logged its first ever record of a kookaburra in the West Australian south coast town of Esperance.

But given it is the “king of the bush”, one expert has suggested a kookaburra cull could be an idea worth exploring.

Sean Dooley, the national public affairs manager for BirdLife Australia, said kookaburras were introduced to WA from the east coast back in 1896 and records show they had reached Albany by the 1960s.

But BirdLife had no record of a kookaburra ever being in Esperance before, until local resident Barbara Jones took a drive with her husband this week.

“Out the corner of my eye I saw a bird and I thought, ‘That’s a kookaburra!’ ” she told the ABC.

“[But my husband’s] comment to me was, ‘Well, in the 22 years that I’ve been here I’ve never seen a kookaburra.’ ”

CONTINUE READING
By Emily Smith, ABC News

 

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ACT government’s shameful war on kangaroos thankfully over for 2020

ACT-annual-slaughter-Feb2020

THE ACT GOVERNMENT has proudly claimed that it murdered 1,931 Eastern Grey Kangaroos during it 2020 annual slaughter program. APA (Animal Protectors Alliance) considers it highly unlikely that anywhere near 1,931 kangaroos were killed on ACT reserves this year.

“It is far more likely that, if this figure is anything other than a complete fabrication, most of the killing was conducted on private property,” spokesperson, Robyn Soxsmith notes.

Many reserve observers have noted that there were nowhere near 1,931 kangaroos present on ACT reserves prior to commencement of this year’s massacre. Furthermore, throughout the seven weeks of the slaughter, no more than 200 shots were recorded on the south-side reserves (Callum Brae, Isaacs Ridge, West Jerrabomberra and Mugga Mugga), by watchers who were positioned well within hearing range of any shooting, every night of the massacre.

Ms Soxsmith speculates, “It is extremely likely that most of the killing occurred on local farms. This would be a win-win solution for the ACT government and the farmers. The farmers get all their kangaroos killed at taxpayers’ expense, and the government saves face for its preposterous estimates of the number of kangaroos present on ACT nature reserves”.

“It is of course a lose-lose tragedy for the kangaroos, the environment, and all the other residents of the ACT,” Ms Soxsmith adds.

Wherever the killing took place, and however many were murdered by this barbarous ACT government policy, innocent animals had their lives blown away, families were shattered, untold pouch joeys were bludgeoned to death, and untold at-foot joeys orphaned to die of starvation, dehydration, exposure and myopathy. All this cruelty is in accordance with the government’s hypocritically named “National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Non-Commercial Purposes”.

“What was not in accordance with even that disgustingly inadequate code of practice is the shooting that took place on Isaacs Ridge Reserve in heavy fog on 24 June, where many blood trails and blood puddles were found the following morning, and the shooting that occurred on Callum Brae Reserve on 14 July in 45 kph winds,” Ms Soxsmith notes.

The government also claims, as it always does, that the slaughter was carried out to reduce the impact of the kangaroos on other native species and to manage overgrazing in grassy habitats around Canberra.

This assertion has been well and truly debunked by the CSIRO research which shows that:

  •  vegetation on ACT reserves is more rich and diverse with some kangaroos than none;
  •  vegetation on ACT reserves is just as rich and diverse with three kangaroos per hectare as one per hectare; and
  •  no ACT reserves appears to be inhabited by more than three kangaroos per hectare.

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