Saturday, 26 April 2014

Australia's native wildlife under threat as land stewardship declines

Feral invaders and the disappearance of outback land management practices driving species extinction


theguardian.com, Thursday 24 April 2014 04.49 BST

The steady urbanisation of Australia’s population is having an unexpectedly negative impact upon native wildlife left behind in wilderness areas, a leading conservationist has warned.

Dr Barry Traill, a zoologist and director of Pew Australia, said that land management practices in Australia’s outback, which covers around 70% of the country, have been stripped away as people depart for towns and cities.

Indigenous land management, which stretches back for more than 50,000 years, is credited for helping the environment regenerate, with Traill saying that several Australian species have evolved as a result of these practices.

Traill told Guardian Australia that animals such as bilbies, the burrowing bettong and the Rufous hare wallaby have been wiped out in areas of central and northern Australia as people move away from remote areas.

Around 90% of Australians live in some sort of urban area – two thirds within a major city – with the rate of urbanisation estimated at 1.2% of the population per year.

Traill said: “People often perceive that high populations of people will push out wildlife, which is a true generalisation for the planet, but that can obscure a bigger truth for Australia.

“When there are few people in the Australian outback, the country starts to degrade. The bush may look intact but species are dropping out.”

Traill said Indigenous fire management ensure small areas of land were burned through, allowing for some species to thrive and even co-evolve with land practices.

Now, huge wildfires, sparked by lightning, are tearing through large swathes of the outback, causing some species to become locally extinct. Feral invaders are also a problem for struggling native animals.

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