Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The numbers are in: Australia must do more to protect migratory birds

Australia is a signed up member of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and a strong supporter of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Both these global programs are trying to reduce the rate of decline in biodiversity. One might therefore expect Australia would have an intimate knowledge of our performance in biodiversity conservation.
In fact the government has little idea. The recently released State of the Environment report could say only that both state and Commonwealth lists of threatened species, which reflect our performance at the cutting edge of biodiversity conservation, were likely to be idiosyncratic and out of date. They suggest that any trends derived from these lists are probably meaningless.
However there is an alternative. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains a Red List of threatened species using consistent categories and criteria. The Red List Index, a performance metric derived from changes in this list, is used to determine global trends.
We have recently applied the technique to Australian birds, using a dataset that has been maintained since 1990. Our analysis, just published in Biological Conservation, is the first application of the Red List Index at a national level.

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