No birds in the bush
Australia's woodland birds, including many species generally regarded as common and widespread, are declining at an alarming rate according to Birds Australia (BirdLife Partner). This is a result of historic and current habitat losses, making Australia's woodlands among the most threatened and degraded habitats on the continent.
These striking results are highlighted in the report entitled: 'State of Australia's Birds 2009'. The report is aimed at informing Australians of the status of their birds, and to help bring about improved understanding and better management of the land for birds and other wildlife.
"Birds Australia is committed to the conservation of Australia's native avifauna", said James O'Connor, Birds Australia's research manager and the report's co-editor. "As part of this commitment we produce The State of Australia's Birds report each year which outlines the status of our birds, the threats they face, and the measures that have been taken to protect them".
“Birds Australia is committed to the conservation of Australia’s native avifauna” —James O’Connor, Birds Australia’s research manager and the report’s co-editor
The State of Australia's Birds highlights a different theme each year. The 2009 report focuses on revegetation for woodland birds, particularly those in agricultural landscapes. Australia's woodlands - especially in the temperate south-eastern and south-western wheat and sheep belts - are among the most extensively cleared, fragmented and severely degraded habitats on the continent.
Historic losses of woodland vegetation communities have been severe. For example:
- In the 18 million hectare Western Australian wheat belt, only 10% of the native vegetation cover remains; and in many places, the cover is as low as 3%.
- Clearing of remnant vegetation for agriculture accounted for 96% of clearing in Queensland during 2003-2004.
- Around half of Victoria's native vegetation has been cleared since settlement, including 80% of the original cover on private land, and the figures are higher for the flatter agricultural regions.
Bird populations in Australia's agricultural regions are consequently suffering serious declines.
Species such as Bush Thick-knee Burhinus grallarius, Barking Owl Ninox connivens, Endangered Swift Parrot Lathamus discolor, Endangered Regent Honeyeater Xanthomyza phrygia, Grey-crowned Babbler Pomatostomus temporalis, Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata are becoming increasingly isolated to small, degraded remnants of sub-optimal habitats.
In response to the plight of woodland birds, there has been an increasing urgency of calls for revegetation in south-eastern and south-western Australia. The new report introduces the conservation responses Birds Australia, and their partner organisations, are undertaking to tackle the threats - both at the regional and local levels.
“We urgently need to Reconnect with the Bush” —James O’Connor
"Many organisations, communities and individuals are now working on programs of revegetation to protect biodiversity, particularly in agricultural landscapes, where most of the historical clearing has occurred and where the sharpest biodiversity declines are being observed", said Mr O'Connor. "At the largest scale, several initiatives are underway to connect landscapes, across hundreds and even thousands of kilometres".
Birds Australia have also launched a new campaign 'Reconnect (with) the Bush' - recognising that large-scale loss of connectivity is one of the main drivers of the decline in bird diversity.
The new campaign highlights the importance of retaining and maintaining intact native vegetation, repairing degraded habitats, replacing habitat that has been removed, and reconnecting natural habitats to recreate a fully-functioning landscape for wildlife.
"Disengagement with Nature is arguably the most serious threat to our environment", concluded Mr O'Connor. "What we don't know about, we don't care about. We urgently need to Reconnect with the Bush".
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