Mapping koala habitat quality

Tools to help save an Australian icon

Loved the world over, the koala is an icon of Australia’s natural and cultural heritage. Unfortunately, its iconic status hasn’t protected it from numerous threats including habitat loss and fragmentation, predation, vehicle collision, disease, and changing drought and fire regimes (Decision Point #50, p6). The koala’s continued survival in many parts of Australia is uncertain.

Such is the concern over the declines in koala populations in recent years that the Australian Government set up a Senate inquiry to investigate the issue and possible solutions. That inquiry ran for most of 2011 and released a report in September titled ‘The koala— saving our national icon’. While the report proposes a number of actions to address the problem of declining koala numbers, a fundamental question remains regarding the distribution of koalas across eastern Australia.

Koalas everywhere face numerous threats to their survival. Despite this, koala populations are highly variable across the animal’s range. Some regions have historically low numbers or have experienced substantial and alarming declines in populations over the past decade. Other areas have an over-abundance of koalas. Landscape managers at these locations have employed koala population control measure such as sterilization to reduce over browsing, which
would otherwise result in mass starvation. The reasons for these large differences in koala populations are unclear, but variations in forage quality may play a role…

 

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