Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

If a Taxonomist Falls in the Forest...

By Ian Lowe

Taxonomists are so under-resourced it would take them 400 years to describe all of Australia’s species, which means that species are going extinct before we even know about them.

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Credit: nuclear_lily/Adobe

More than 20 years ago, the first independent report on the state of the Australian environment identified the loss of our unique biodiversity as a major problem. Four subsequent reports have repeated the warning. Now researchers have estimated that 17 unique local birds and mammals are likely to disappear in the next 20 years.

Australia already has an unfortunate reputation as a global leader in extinctions. At least 30 mammal species have been lost since 1788, the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world.

Now scientists at the Threatened Species Recovery Hub have estimated the risk of further losses in the near future. Their paper in Pacific Conservation Biology makes gloomy reading. They estimate the chance that the King Island brown thornbill will be lost in the next 20 years as 94%, so it is almost certain to go extinct. The chances are not much better for the orange-bellied parrot (87%),...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.