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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Great Koala NP likely to go ahead, but concerns over smash & grab logging NSW 31 March
NSW Labor have promised a Great Koala NP within their first term, but North East Forest Alliance and other conservation groups are concerned that Forestry NSW are targeting the area in an attempt to log all they can. They are calling for an immediate moratorium on logging.
NSW residents, there’s only a few days left to sign this important petition calling for an immediate halt to logging in area earmarked for the Great Koala NP. https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/la/Pages/epetition-details.aspx?q=xWiyh7QOALBaYGLc6X91XQ
NSW plan to offset endangered Cumberland Plain woodland with risky experiment 28 February
A NSW government plan to destroy 1745 hectares of native vegetation near Sydney, including critically endangered Cumberland Plain woodland, and offset some of it using a high risk, almost certain-to-fail forest recreation experiment, has been strongly criticised. Yet government spokespeople seem determined to proceed against all expert advice.
Australian Ethical divests from Lendlease over koala concerns NSW 13 March
The investment firm has sold all $11million in shares in Lendlease, citing failure to provide information on the proposed width of koala corridors in the controversial Mt Gilead development in southwest Sydney.
Global investment in chlamydia vaccine Qld 14 March
Field trials of the chlamydia vaccine developed by Prof Peter Timms and team at the University of Sunshine Coast will be funded by Ceva Wildlife Research Fund.
Northern NSW Koala tree planting milestone 30 March
Bangalow Koalas have planted 250,000 trees, and have reached the half way point of their goal to plant 500,000 trees by 2025.
Importance of private land conservation for koalas 16 March
While much debate is centred on protected areas and national parks, University of Queensland scientists Brooke Williams, Courtney Morgans and Jonathan Rhodes wrote this timely reminder of the importance of private land conservation for koala protection for Science.org ahead of the NSW election: Beyond protected areas for koala conservation.
Koala protest in Ballarat VIC 17 March
Central Highlands Water have removed the fence protecting koalas in their plantation, and have made no application to relocate the Gordon koalas, despite planning to harvest the entire plantation. Members of Ballarat Wildlife Rehabilitation & Conservation, Extinction Rebellion Ballarat and Koala Clancy Foundation staged a peaceful protest at CHW offices.
Port Stephens Koala Hospital promised $2million funding from NSW Labor 15 March
With Labor elected in NSW, Port Stephens Koala Hospital should be receiving the promised $2million in funding sometime soon. Let’s hold them to account if it is not forthcoming. .
Funding for Koala Research in Esk QLD. 24 March
Care4esK will collaborate with Australian Earth Laws Alliance @earthlawsaus and the University of the Sunshine Coast Detection Dogs for Conservation team @unisunshinecoast @DetectionDogsForConservation on the koala research project around Mt Glen Rock and Sandy Creek.
Koala protest in Tweed NSW 3 March
Tweed Coast Koalas organised a protest at the office of local MP Geoff Provest.
Vigil for 3 year anniversary of Black Summer, Sydney NSW & online 2 April
An in-person and online 3 year anniversary memorial service for the 3 billion animals that died in the Black Summer fires, at 2pm Sunday 2 April at Camperdown Rest Park, Sydney. Speakers will include Prof Chris Dickman, Greg Mullins, Alexis Wright, Howard Ralph, Rae Harvey, Dan Morgan, Sonja Ellwood, Evan Quartermain and Danielle Celermajer. .
Bulga Forest logging suspended NSW 27 March
After 3 months of campaigning by Save Bulga Forest and the community, Forestry Corporation have changed the status of Bulga Forest from ‘active’ to ‘suspended’.
Koalas using 2yo trees at Gympie Qld 30 March
Trees planted in early 2021 as part of Koala Action Gympie Region tree planting program are being used regularly by koalas. The group is also the recipient of a grant for tree planting, drone surveys and community workshops.
Coal Mining multinational worried about investing in Australia 30 March
Glencore, one of the world’s largest mining companies with huge interests in coal in Australia, is warning the Australian government that new environmental policies might make them go elsewhere. Considering that this Swiss multinational is the worst offender on issues of human rights in green metal mining, is one of the world’s most obstructive companies blocking climate action and formal complaints have been lodged over their greenwashing, and concerns over under-reporting of emissions, losing them from Australia qualifies as good news.
Wild Koala Day coming up 3 May
Having a koala-related protest, launch, workshop or event around end April or start May? Send us details at firstname.lastname@example.org for extra promotion on the wildkoaladay.com.au website.
Latest Koala Science
McAlpine, C.A., Callaghan, J., Lunney, D., Rhodes, J.R., Goldingay, R., Goulding, W., Adams‐Hosking, C., Fielding, K., Hetherington, S.B., Brace, A. and Hopkins, M., 2023. Influences on koala habitat selection across four local government areas on the far north coast of NSW. Austral Ecology.
Conserving habitats crucial for threatened koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations requires rating habitat quality from a fine spatial scale to patches, landscapes and then regions. The koala has a specialized diet focused on the leaves of a suite of Eucalyptus species. We asked: what are the key regional influences on habitat selection by koalas in the far north coast of New South Wales? We addressed this question by investigating the multi-scale factors, and within-scale and cross-scale interactions, that influence koala habitat selection and distribution across four local government areas on the far north coast of New South Wales. We assembled and analysed a large data set of tree selection, identified by the presence of scats, in a wide range of randomly selected 5 × 5 km grids across the region. This resulted in more than 9000 trees surveyed for evidence of koala use from 302 field sites, together with associated biophysical site features. The dominant factor influencing habitat use and koala occurrence was the distribution of five Eucalyptus species. Koalas were more likely to use medium-sized trees of these species where they occurred on soils with high levels of Colwell phosphorous. We also identified new interactions among the distribution of preferred tree species and soil phosphorous, and their distribution with the amount of suitable habitat in the surrounding landscape. Our study confirmed that non-preferred species of eucalypts and non-eucalypts are extensively used by koalas and form important components of koala habitat. This finding lends support to restoring a mosaic of koala-preferred tree species and other species recognized for their value as shelter. Our study has provided the ecological foundation for developing a novel regional-scale approach to the conservation of koalas, with adaptability to other wildlife species.
Whisson, D.A., Rivera, P. and Rendall, A.R., 2023. Systematic acoustic surveys inform priority conservation areas for koalas in a modified landscape. Landscape Ecology, pp.1-12.
Context Landscape modification due to urbanisation, agriculture and other human activity can have considerable impact on species’ distributions. Understanding the influence of both site and landscape level characteristics is essential for guiding conservation actions.
Objectives Our study aimed to determine the influence of site and landscape level characteristics on the distribution of koalas and to identify areas for conservation action in a modified landscape.
Methods We used passive acoustic surveys undertaken from October 2019 to January 2020 to determine site occupancy by koalas at 123 sites on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia. We extracted variables for each site (within 100 m of recorders) and landscape (within 1 km of recorders) within a GIS. Site variables were tree cover, land use and soundscape, and landscape variables were tree cover, fragmentation, road density, and watercourse length.
Results Site variables did not have an influence on site occupancy by koalas. Landscape-scale tree cover positively influenced, and road density negatively influenced site occupancy. We used our model to predict site occupancy in one-hectare grid cells across the landscape and found that public land was three times as likely as land under private tenure to have high probability of koala presence. Based on our results, increasing tree cover in landscapes where there already is 30% to 68% tree cover and a sealed road density of < 1 m per hectare would have the greatest benefit for koalas. Approximately 85 km2 (11%) of the Mornington Peninsula meets these criteria, with 87% of that land under private tenure.
Conclusions Landscape context is of primary importance for conservation of koalas in a modified landscape. Modelling should be used to improve the effectiveness of conservation actions.
Samarawickrama, A., The influence of cultural burns on the density and stress response of koalas on Minjerribah, North Stradbroke Island (Doctoral dissertation, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland).
Australia is the most fire prone continent on earth and Australian ecosystems have been influenced by fire for millennia. Although fires are typically considered a natural disturbance, humans have influenced the frequency and intensity of fires. Sediment cores confirm an increased frequency of fire coinciding with the arrival of First Nations Peoples to Australia. First Nations Peoples have utilised low intensity fire in mosaic patches, to manage resources and maintain biodiversity, and have accumulated and transferred traditional fire knowledge across multiple generations. However, the suppression of traditional fire management, mainly due to the European colonisation of Australia and the removal of First Nations Peoples from their lands, and the loss of cultural knowledge, contributed to a change in fire regimes across the continent. In addition, anthropogenic climate change is also contributing to unparalleled fire activity, and the frequency of high intensity, severe wildfire events is expected to increase across Australia in future.
After centuries of suppression, the reestablishment of patch mosaic cultural burning has resulted in ecological, social and environmental benefits, especially in Australia’s northern savannas and western deserts. Cultural burning is also abating greenhouse gas emissions, by preventing and mitigating large wildfires in flammable ecosystems, hence demonstrating that traditional fire management is an effective tool for mitigating climate change impacts. Following the megafires of 2019-2020, which burnt over 12 million hectares in eastern Australia, there have been calls for the reestablishment of cultural burning to mitigate the impacts of high intensity wildfires on koalas and their preferred eucalypt habitat.
However, research on cultural burns in eastern Australia is limited. If cultural burns are to be supported in fire prone eucalypt habitat, the impacts of such burns on native fauna requires investigation. This thesis aimed to bridge this gap, by investigating the effects of cultural burning on koalas, a species that was recently uplisted as an endangered species under federal law (EPBC Act, 1999) in three eastern states. Our work took place on Minjerribah, North Stradbroke Island, a sand island off southeast Queensland, which has been impacted by destructive wildfires previously, and where cultural burns are now conducted under the guidance of the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation. Minjerribah has been identified as a haven for koalas due to the limited prevalence of major threats impacting southeast Queensland’s koala populations. However, severe wildfires remain a key threat, and effective fire management remains critical for the conservation of the island’s koalas.
In chapter two of this thesis, we used a drone fitted with a thermal camera to obtain density estimates of koalas before and after low intensity cultural burns. Our statistical model showed that cultural burns did not negatively impact koala density at our study sites. Our research revealed a decline in mean density across our study sites after the burns, regardless of treatment. However, the reasons for this decline are currently unclear and long-term monitoring may provide evidence that koala density on the island is subject to seasonal variation. Density varied between sites, and the presence of preferred feed trees may have influenced this variation. Future research incorporating remotely sensed data would be useful in determining factors influencing koala density on the island.
Although low intensity cultural burns were not responsible for changes in density, subtle impacts such as koala’s stress response to the burns cannot be overlooked. Non-invasive sampling of faecal glucocorticoid metabolites is now a preferred method to gain insights into the koalas’ stress response. In chapter three, we investigated the influence of low intensity cultural burns on faecal cortisol and corticosterone metabolite (faecal glucocorticoid metabolite) concentrations of koalas on Minjerribah. Mean faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations decreased across all sites after the cultural burns. However, our linear mixed model did not associate this decrease with the cultural burns. The monthly variations in mean faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations revealed in our research is likely explained by seasonal factors and the above average rainfall due to La Nina weather conditions. We aim to build on our work in the future, by incorporating genetics to link hormonal profiles to individual koalas, as individual variations in stress are known to be large.
Our work has major implications for the conservation of the endangered koala. We have provided evidence that cultural practices, traditional knowledge, and new technology can be combined to study and protect the koala in fire prone eucalypt habitat. Furthermore, our work has provided a case for cultural burns to be re-established across the koalas’ entire distributional range, and we support and encourage increased collaboration between First Nations Peoples, researchers, governments, managers and other stakeholders for the benefit of koala conservation. Although some management interventions are helping to minimise the decline of this iconic species, it is clear that policies and environmental legislation have failed to protect the koala across much of its range. Immediate and effective action on anthropogenic climate change is vital and cannot be delayed if the extinction of the koala is to be prevented. Our work adds to the mounting body of evidence which suggests that low intensity cultural burns implemented in mosaics, incorporating the traditional fire knowledge of First Nations Peoples, can maintain biodiversity, provide ecosystem benefits, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
However, if cultural burns are to be reinstated across continental Australia, significant barriers such as restricted access to Country, lack of sufficient funding and logistical support, and high levels of bureaucracy, need to be addressed. We support the call for increased funding and more applied fire workshops led by First Nations Peoples to generate support for traditional fire management and increase the potential for partnerships between First Nations Groups and other stakeholders. In conclusion, we hope that the results of this study will support the case for cultural burning by First Nations Peoples to be utilised across the entire Australian continent, to mitigate the impact of large wildfires on not just koalas, but for all species, including humans.
Parija, S.C., 2023. Chlamydia and Chlamydophila. In Textbook of Microbiology and Immunology (pp. 663-672). Singapore: Springer Nature Singapore.
The taxonomy of Chlamydia has undergone extensive revision recently based on genomic studies of this microorganism. They are included in the family Chlamydiaceae, which includes two genera: Chlamydia and Chlamydophila. The species Chlamydia trachomatis is included in the genus Chlamydia, whereas Chlamydophila psittaci and Chlamydophila pneumoniae are included in the new genus Chlamydophila. A fourth species, Chlamydophila pecorum, is normally present in the intestine, and vagina of ruminants is responsible for various pathological conditions in ruminants, swine and koalas.
Koala Science In Brief
Danaher, M., Schlagloth, R., Hewson, M. and Geddes, C., 2023. One Person and a Camera: a relatively non-intrusive approach to Koala citizen science. Australian Zoologist.
Mottaghinia, S., 2023. Germline Colonization by Retroviruses: A New Rodent Model to Understand Host-Virus Interactions at the Early Stages of Retroviral Endogenization (Doctoral dissertation).
Hamilton, G., Winsen, M. and Bratanov, D., 2023. Yurol Ringtail State Forests Conservation Koala Baseline and Monitoring Project-Year 2 Vegetation Report.
Williams, B.A., Morgans, C. and Rhodes, J.R., 2023. Beyond protected areas for koala conservation. Science Commentary, p.eadh4128.
MEIZER, D.A., SANTAMARIA, D.F. and ALLEN, S., THE KOALAS, KOALA HABITAT AND CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT IN THE CLARKE-CONNOR RANGES AND ASSOCIATED LANDSCAPES: A REPORT TO THE QUEENSLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT AND MAIN ROADS.
Takano, K., De Hayr, L., Carver, S., Harvey, R.J. and Mounsey, K.E., 2023. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic considerations for treating sarcoptic mange with cross-relevance to Australian wildlife. International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpddr.2023.02.004
Adams-Hosking, C., Moss, P., Rhodes, J., Grantham, H. and McAlpine, C., 2011. Modelling the potential range of the koala at the Last Glacial Maximum: future conservation implications. Australian Zoologist, 35(4), pp.983-990.
The koala Phascolarctos cinereus is the only member of the once diverse marsupial family Phascolarctidae to have survived the Last Glacial Maximum. A climate envelope model for P. cinereus was developed to predict the range for this species at present and at the Last Glacial Maximum. The model was compared to the contemporary koala records and the known fossil records of P. cinereus during the Quaternary. The predicted current core range for koalas was concentrated in southeast Queensland, eastern New South Wales and eastern Victoria. At the Last Glacial Maximum their predicted core range contracted significantly to southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales. Our findings concord with other studies that find species experienced range contractions during glacial maxima. In the context of the future conservation planning for koalas in the wild, our historical perspective demonstrates the past adaptations of koalas to changes in climate and their probable range contraction to climatic refugia. The future survival of wide-ranging specialist species, such as the koala, may depend on identifying and protecting, future climatic refugia.
Previous Koala News & Science here: http://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-february-2023/
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.