KOALA NEWS & SCIENCE
An informative monthly newsletter about successes & important announcements in koala conservation, and the latest scientific publications about koalas.
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150,000+ trees planted for koalas across NSW, Queensland & Victoria in 2022.
These 5 small ENGOs (environmental non-government organisations) have managed to plant over 150,577 trees for koalas in just one year.
Note: This is not a competition for high numbers, every region has different threats and needs, and different solutions. This just shows what is possible with community action.
Bangalow Koalas: 82,648 trees planted
Koala Clancy Foundation: 38,629 trees planted, 259,350 invasive weeds removed, 882 volunteers, 2409 volunteer hours
Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation: 20,300 trees planted.
Eurobodalla Koala Project: 6,400 trees planted.
Queensland Koala Crusaders: 2,600 trees planted.
Many organisations, supporters and donors contributed to these totals – go to each group’s website for more information.
Huge test for new federal Environment Minister 31 December
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has arranged for documents to be tabled in parliament that show that 140 development approvals potentially detrimental to koalas may come before the Minister for the Environment, Tanya Plibersek. Senator Hanson-Young has called for urgent action.
Calls for Koala Green Belt, Sydney, NSW 20 December
Total Environment Centre say that the colony of koalas in southwest Sydney are critical to the survival of koalas in NSW. They propose a Koala Green Belt with sustainable minimum widths and links to the blue grid along rivers and watercourses.
Win for Sydney koala advocates as koala road crossings announced 5 December
In a win for koala conservationists, Transport NSW have finally announced koala crossings between Rosemeadow and Appin, and planning for more under Appin Road. Save Mt Gilead have been agitating for road crossings over Appin Road for years.
Analysis of koala habitat deforestation in QLD, 6 December
Queensland Conservation Council and the Wilderness Society have released a report analysing 5 years of data of 2.1million hectares of deforestation, that shows that ¾ of koala habitat clearing was for beef pasture.
Greens question NSW koala translocation policy 2 December
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann has argued that koalas should be protected where they live, not translocated so that development can remove their habitat.
Community koala briefings planned for Hawkesbury NSW 16 December
Community briefings about local koalas and threats to their survival are planned for Hawkesbury and other regions in Sydney Basin, as part of Sydney Basin Koala Network’s advocacy plans.
Shout out to drivers: be cautious of koalas on the roads 2 December
IFAW and Friends of the Koala, NSW report an alarming increase in koala deaths and injuries from car strike this year. This article offers tips for drivers to avoid hitting koalas.
Koala advocates question high rate of koala euthanasia by state government in SW VIC 16 December
DELWP announced that they euthanised 28 of 93 (30%) koalas in December, and 30 of 125 (24%) in May at Budj Bim National Park due to health concerns. Koala advocates have asked for clarification on why the ratio is so high compared to previous years, whether any joeys were transferred to zoos, whether any koalas were translocated but have not been answered.
Commercial stress test works on koala poo 15 December
A commercially-available cortisol stress kit has been tested on koala poo and found to work well. This means that a koala’s stress levels can be tested quickly, cheaply and non-invasively.
Tree planting benefits koalas at Surf Coast, VIC 1 December
Long-term strategy to revegetate Spring Creek, Merrijig Creek and Freshwater Creek as part of the Spring Creek Biolink. Groups involved include Re-wildling Freshwater Creek, Surf Coast Energy Group and Torquay District Landcare Group.
LATEST KOALA SCIENCE:
Howell, L.G. and Witt, R.R., 2022. Emerging arguments for reproductive technologies in wildlife and their implications for assisted reproduction and conservation of threatened marsupials. Theriogenology.
Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) have significant potential to make a meaningful contribution to the conservation of threatened wildlife. This is true of Australia’s iconic, and endangered koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). If developed, ARTs could offer a solution to manage genetic diversity and costs in breeding programs and may provide frozen repositories for either insurance or the practical production of genetically resilient koalas for release and on-ground recovery. Holding back the wider use of ARTs for koalas and other wildlife is a lack of funding to close the remaining knowledge gaps in the marsupial reproductive sciences and develop the reproductive tools needed. This lack of funding is arguably driven by a poor understanding of the potential contribution ARTs could make to threatened species management. We present a review of our cross-disciplinary and accessible strategy to draw much needed public attention and funding for the development of ARTs in wildlife, using emerging cost and genetic modelling arguments and the koala as a case study.
Mitchell, D., Soto-Berelov, M. and Jones, S., Remote sensing shows south-east Queensland Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) prefer areas of higher tree canopy height within their home ranges. Wildlife Research.
Context. Home range studies allow investigation of faunal habitat use within a well-defined area, and for some species, the concept of “core” and “non-core” home ranges provides the means to examine how resource use varies within home ranges. Taking this approach, we investigated whether koalas preferentially used areas of taller forest canopy within home ranges. After an extensive examination of data quality and home range estimation methods, we used remote sensing techniques to provide canopy height information at high resolution.
Aims. In many areas, koalas prefer taller individual trees at the plot scale; our research focussed on whether this preference extended to areas of taller trees.
Methods. In our southeast Queensland study area, we developed a canopy height model (CHM) from airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data. Existing radio telemetry and GPS data from 135 koalas was used to generate home ranges using 95% kernel density estimators, and 50% kernels represented core home ranges. Some home ranges occupied more than one forest type (Regional Ecosystem – RE), we treated each RE as an individual patch, and used 225 patches in our analysis. We intersected the 95% kernels with the CHM, and used hierarchical spatial clustering to derive four categorical canopy height classes within each patch. We then compared differences in height class area proportions between core and non-core areas for each patch.
Key results. The highest of the four canopy height classes comprised a significantly higher proportion of core areas (42.3%) than non-core areas (30.7%). Classes 2 and 3 were evenly distributed, and the proportion of Class 4 (lowest canopy height) was 20.3% of non-core areas and 11.0% of core areas. Results were similar for REs grouped by Land Zone, and individual REs.
Conclusions and Implications. We conclude that areas of higher canopy are an important habitat resource for koalas. We have, for the first time, examined resource variability within entire koala home ranges using remote sensing, and our methods demonstrate an avenue for further research using other forms of remote sensing. Classified canopy height models could also be used for strategic conservation planning, and at population-level koala habitat management when combined with other relevant habitat factors.
Blanchard, A.M., Emes, R.D., Greenwood, A.D., Holmes, N., Loose, M.W., McEwen, G.K., Meers, J., Speight, N. and Tarlinton, R.E., 2022. Genome Reference Assembly for Bottlenecked Southern Australian Koalas. Genome Biology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evac176
Koala populations show marked differences in inbreeding levels and in the presence or absence of the endogenous Koala Retrovirus (KoRV). These genetic differences among populations may lead to severe disease impacts threatening koala population viability. In addition, the recent colonization of the koala genome by KoRV provides a unique opportunity to study the process of retroviral adaptation to vertebrate genomes and the impact this has on speciation, genome structure and function. The genome build described here is from an animal from the bottlenecked “Southern” population free of endogenous and exogenous KoRV. It provides a more contiguous genome build than the previous koala reference derived from an animal from a more outbred “Northern” population and is the first koala genome from a KoRV polymerase free animal.
KOALA SCIENCE IN BRIEF:
Pang, B., Zhang, A., Seydel, T., David, P., Yousef, M. and Rundle-Thiele, S., Reducing koala roadkill: A social marketing formative study. Wildlife Research. https://www.publish.csiro.au/WR/justaccepted/WR21172
White, H.E., Tucker, A.S., Fernandez, V., Portela Miguez, R., Hautier, L., Herrel, A., Urban, D.J., Sears, K.E. and Goswami, A., Paedomorphosis at the Origin of Marsupial Mammals. Available at SSRN 4290054.
Zylstra, P., 2022. Quantifying the direct fire threat to a critically endangered arboreal marsupial using biophysical, mechanistic modelling. Austral Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/aec.13264
Historically unprecedented areas of forest habitat have been impacted by fire, as climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances drive increases in fire burned area and severity. Although 88% of Australia’s [threatened] land mammals are threatened by inappropriate fire regimes, calculations of animal mortality resulting from specific events have been impeded by knowledge gaps relating to both the direct (first-order) and long-term (second-order) effects of fire on different species. This study addresses the need for a quantified, mechanistic understanding of first-order effects, presenting an extension of the Fire Research and Modelling Environment (FRaME) to allow prediction of species-specific mortality. FRaME is demonstrated and tested here by replicating an incident in which a prescribed burn caused 77% mortality of a population of the critically endangered ngwayir (Pseudocheirus occidentalis, Pseudocheiridae). FRaME correctly predicted heavy mortality (62–79%) arising from partial and full-thickness burns and asphyxiation due to burns in the respiratory tract. Mortality varied with animal fire-avoidance strategies (p < 0.001) and the thickness of tree hollow walls (r = −0.95, p < 0.001). Although management guidelines specified low intensity fire, mortality had no significant relationship with Byram intensity and larger flames due to ‘torching’ were most frequent when fire spread was slowest. FRaME modelling predicted that individuals would be impacted by temperatures exceeding 500°C for several minutes. Fire management that is premised on discredited notions of fire behaviour and overly simple models can lead to catastrophic management outcomes such as those documented here. FRaME addresses this need by providing a platform to account for heterogeneous fire behaviour as well as animal behaviour and habitat quality, calculating fire risk to fauna and guiding management that maximizes safe habitat.
Previous Koala News & Science here: http://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-november-2022/
Written by Janine Duffy President, Koala Clancy Foundation.
with support from Cheryl Egan, Organiser, Wild Koala Day.
Please send your positive, important news & publications to email@example.com before 29th of each month for possible inclusion.