Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, $227,272
Victorian Environmental Assessment Council, $1296 (Scholarship)
Associate Professor Dale Nimmo, Dylan Westaway (PhD student)
The increasing prevalence of megafires (i.e. fires >1 million hectares in size) poses significant challenges for land managers across the globe. The unprecedented scale of Australian 2019-20 bushfires season has shaken the belief that only narrowly distributed species are at risk of extinction from large, catastrophic events. Species regarded as fairly secure were among 119 animal species listed by the federal government Expert Panel as in need of urgent interventions to prevent extinction.
For this project researchers will investigate whether an innovative but rarely trialled conservation approach in terrestrial ecosystems - wild-to-wild translocation - will reduce the chance of species going extinct due to large-scale catastrophic events by actively working to broaden he geographic range of species.
Wild-to-wild translocation differs from other models of translocation, such as captive breeding, in that it takes individuals immediately from one place to another, which substantially reduces the expense of the translocation program. For example, drawing on abundant local populations in conservation reserves to 'seed' populations in habitat fragments. The approach offers particular promise in fire-prone regions because it allows land managers to ‘spread the risk’ by restoring populations that have gone locally extinct after active amelioration of the threats that drove their decline.
Working closely with DELWP, the researchers will identify candidate reptile species for a wild-to-wild translocation program. These species will be species that have suffered historical declines in their distribution that cannot be reversed due to dispersal limitation or local extinction. The study area will be the fire-prone semi-arid mallee region of north-west Victoria, particularly the Little Desert National Park. This area has seen several historical declines of small, terrestrial vertebrates that remain abundant and common elsewhere in the state.
Once candidate species have been identified, risks to both the source and translocation populations will be thoroughly assessed and risk mitigation actions identified and implemented. Modelling will be used to identify optimal release sites and the researchers will then procure the infrastructure necessary to undertake wild-to-wild translocations in the following years.
The expected outcome of this project is a conceptual framework and methodology to undertaken ecologically sound wild-to-wild translocation of reptiles in fire-prone landscapes.
Associate Professor Dale Nimmo