Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Runway threat to rare bird species


A SUNSHINE Coast bird expert fears the survival of a rare species of parrot will be threatened if council goes ahead with plans to extend the runway at Sunshine Coast Airport.
The airport's growth is seen as a key plank in the future of the region's tourism but Greg Roberts says bushland around the facility is home to a small colony of ground parrots - one of only a handful left on the Coast.
The nocturnal parrot thrives in wallum heath, which was once plentiful between Marcoola and Noosa but is now disappearing due to encroaching development and poor habitat management.
Several years ago, the presence of nests near Peregian killed off plans for a multi-million-dollar space theme park.
Mr Roberts said a "once healthy" Sunshine Coast population of about 300 ground parrots had shrunk to fewer than 40, scattered in four habitat areas.
Land management practices within the airport boundary had helped maintain the wallum habitat and was supporting the population.
"Regular slashing and maintenance of heath within the airport appears likely to simulate the effects of fire, preventing woody species taking over the smaller seed and fruit producing plants favoured by the parrots," Mr Roberts said.
The vulnerability of the parrots has been identified in studies by environmental consultancy Ecosmart Ecology, for the Sunshine Coast Airport Masterplan Project.
"Environment Department experts believe the airport population is likely to be the most stable and important on the Sunshine Coast."

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