Australia’s diminishing soundscape: countering the collapse of Australia’s woodland bird community

Abstract 

Australia is the place where songbirds first evolved – but today, in many parts of the country, they are under siege. In south-eastern Australia, most species have lost most of their habitat – and more is cleared every day. Even within the remaining woodlands, birds are locked in furious battles for territory – and a small number of species dominate. In this seminar, I’ll introduce the plight of Australia’s woodland birds, and describe the work that has gone into understanding how such a widespread community comprising over a hundred species has declined to the point that it meets the criteria for an Endangered Ecological Community under Australia’s national biodiversity legislation. So what can we do? Many of the threats are familiar challenges in conservation: habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. But there is something unusual about the plight of woodland birds: one of the biggest threats is another native woodland bird, the hyperaggessive noisy miner. It has done well in the transformed landscapes of eastern Australia, and wins territorial battles against almost every species that is similar in size or smaller than itself. It is listed as a Key Threatening Process nationally, and if we can understand how to manage the noisy miner, we could potentially free up vast areas of woodland for imperilled woodland birds. I’ll describe the findings of recent field experiments to control noisy miners and outline what we need to do next to keep the Australian bush loud with birdsong.

Biography

Martine Maron is a Professor of Environmental Management at The University of Queensland. Her group’s research focuses on environmental policy and conservation ecology, particularly threatened bird conservation and woodland bird community ecology. She is a Deputy Director of the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub and leads its Policy research theme, which includes projects seeking to improve biodiversity offsetting for threatened species and ecological communities. She works with governments around Australia and the world to improve offset policy and practice, and leads an international working group which is developing a new approach to aligning ecological compensation with conservation targets. Martine is Vice-President of BirdLife Australia and a Governor of WWF-Australia.