Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Articles related to conservation

Cover Story: Gene Drives: A Way to Genetically Engineer Populations
Gene drives occur when a bias in the mechanism of inheritance spreads particular genetic variants through a population. Developments in gene-editing technology now make it possible to construct gene drives that address problems in health, agriculture and conservation.
Browse: The fine line between playing God and saving species
Browse: Gene Drives: Just 100 Infertile Mice Can Eradicate an Island Population
Feature: Driving Mosquitoes out of Town
Existing techniques to control mosquito-borne diseases are coming up short. Can gene drives offer hope to the millions affected?
Feature: Gene Drives for Conservation
Gene drives may provide a novel tool to counteract seemingly unstoppable threats to global biodiversity.
Browse: Sting in the Tail for Rare Species Conservation
Browse: Introduced Megafauna Are Rewilding Ecosystems
Feature: The Future of Pest Control Lies Within (the Pest)
Gene drives could improve global food security by turning pest biology against itself.
Feature: Gene Drives: A Fork in the Road for the GMO Debate
What are the moral and ethical concerns about gene drives, and how should the technology be regulated?
Joanne Draper
Feature: Rewilding Australia
Are there ecological benefits behind proposals to return Tasmanian devils to the mainland and dingoes to south-eastern Australia, or is “rewilding” simply “biological control” rebranded?
Feature: How Zombies Can Save Us from a Real Apocalypse
Mathematical modelling of a zombie apocalypse has real-world applications in our responses to infectious diseases such as Ebola and HIV, wildlife conservation and even the teaching of statistics.
Browse: Dingo Poisoning Harms Native Mammals
Poisoning of dingoes – the top predators in the Australian bush – has a deleterious effect on small native mammals such as marsupial mice, bandicoots and native rodents, according to research conducted in forested national parks in NSW.
Browse: Tiger Shark Monogamy Fuels Sustainability Risk Expert Opinion: Gene Editing for Conservation Needs In-Built Protection
Researchers have been considering using gene drives to rid New Zealand of invasive pests, but have they adequately estimated the issues and addressed indigenous rights?
Browse: 10% of Wilderness Lost in Two Decades Browse: Warning of Ecological Risks of Gene Drives
Feature: The Diversity of Dingo Diets
From crustaceans to camels, Australia’s top predator dines out on hundreds of vertebrate species, including threatened animals and pests.
Feature: Rewilding Australia
Sometimes the best way to conserve biodiversity is to stand back and let wild animals do the hard work of ecological management.
Browse: Kea Genetics Shaped by Climate, Not People
Genetic variation in New Zealand’s kea is the result of recolonisation of alpine areas since the last ice age 10,000 years ago, and not due to population decline as a result of human colonisation, as initially thought.
Browse: Mother Whale’s Cultural Traditions Shape the Genetics of Offspring
Browse: Fossils Reveal Rat-Kangaroo’s Limits
cane toad
Feature: Tolerate Thy Neighbour
Cane toads have been wiping out native species, but one fish species has learnt to avoid toxic toadpoles.
Browse: Gillnets Threaten Penguins
Credit: davemhuntphoto/Adobe
Feature: Reproductive Threats to Australia’s Marsupials
Chemicals used in agriculture, industry and household goods can have effects on marsupial fertility as profound as sex reversal.
Browse: Call to Minimise Drone Impact on Wildlife
Feature: Hacking the Illegal Trade in Wildlife
Hackers should be deployed to disrupt a $23 billion online market in wildlife and wildlife parts.
Browse: Rangers Turn to Maths to Scramble Animal Poachers
Environmental scientists have developed a low-cost way to save rare animals and plants from poachers and plunderers – using maths.
Feature: The Outback Needs More People
Fewer people now live in the outback than before European settlement, so conservation efforts are aiming to attract more people who can actively manage the landscape.
By the 1980s there were as few as 40 individual northern hairy-nosed wombats.
Feature: The Elusive Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat
Creative sampling and DNA techniques have allowed scientists to keep track of one of Australia’s most endangered and elusive marsupials.
Photo: Si-Chong Chen
Feature: All Creatures Great and Small
Many large animals are rare or under threat, so the discovery that they ingest and disperse both large and small seeds has widespread ecological consequences.
Browse: Migratory Birds Threatened Browse: Dingo Baiting Doesn’t Harm Wildlife
Credit: Bobby Tamayo
Feature: Top Dog: How Dingoes Save Native Animals
Dingoes are considered a pest by land managers in Central Australia, but it turns out they are effective pest managers of feral cats and foxes – until the rains come.
Browse: Motorboat Noise Helps Marine Predators
A large staghorn fern
Feature: Killer Vines Strangling the Rainforest
Woody vines are proliferating in Australia’s fragmented tropical rainforests and threatening the existence of ferns.
Feature: The Illegal Wildlife Trade as a Source of New Alien Species
The illegal wildlife trade is increasing the likelihood that foreign reptiles will become established in the wild – with consequences for both biodiversity and human health.
Browse: Private Land Is Better for Birds than Conservation Reserves
Private land can help protect Australia’s endangered bird populations as effectively as the nation’s best performing conservation reserves, according to a study published in Ecography.
Browse: Genetic Clues to Managing Koala Demise
Genetic patterns in koala populations have revealed that the right balance between tree cover and roads is required to save koala populations from urban growth.
Browse: Exotic Species Help Ecosystems
Exotic animals are generally considered to be a major threat to native species, but scientists in New Zealand have found some positives.
Cover Story: Oz Mammal Genomics
A large project to sequence the genomes of Australia’s mammals will provide the first complete picture of their interrelationships and evolutionary history – and aid their conservation.
Credit: Angus McNab
Feature: Conservation Needs More Bite
What role can devils and dingoes play in curbing Australia’s rate of species extinctions?
whale shark
Feature: Hide & Seek
Whale sharks may be the largest fish in the ocean but they are particularly elusive. Researchers are now using photographic and genetic methods to find out their migration patterns and determine the best conservation strategies to protect them from threats posed by shipping accidents and unregulated fishing.
Feature: The Beauty of Obsolete Oil Rigs
The ear bones of reef fish are telling marine ecologists which decommissioned oil rigs are creating a vibrant habitat and which need to be brought back to land for disposal.
A pygmy blue whale. Credit: research team
Feature: DNA Gives Hope to Blue Whales
A DNA study has determined whether the low genetic diversity of Australia’s blue whales was caused by past natural events or recent whaling, and offered hope for their long-term survival.
Credit: Michael Johnson, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Feature: A Pri¢e for Wildlife
Can market-based incentives and private ownership of wildlife remedy shortfalls in government funding for conservation?
Credit: Aidenvironment/CC BY-SA 2.0
Feature: It Pays to Grow Trees
When economic forces threaten irreplaceable ecosystems in developing countries it makes sense to employ economic incentives that place a value on forests.
Feature: The Future of Frogs in the Face of Fire
The increasing risk of bushfires due to climate change is escalating the risk of extinction for frogs in Australia’s south-east.
Feature: A Nose for Conservation
Conservationists are recruiting dogs (and their owners) to detect rare species like tiger quolls as well as invasive pests and weeds, but how reliable are they?
Feature: Extinct Burrowing Bats Betray Biodiversity Loss
The fossilised remains of burrowing bats that lived millions of years ago shed light on this remarkable group of mammals while signalling loss of biodiversity in New Zealand.
Credit: Bernard Dupont
Feature: Know Your Enemy
An ingenious experiment has tested whether shared evolutionary history enables bilbies to detect threats from dingoes but not feral cats.
Credit: Philip Roetman
Feature: The Koala Conundrum
Wildlife managers believe that overabundant koala populations need to be culled before they strip the manna gums in which they live and begin to starve, but will the public accept culling koalas and other wildlife species, such as kangaroos and brumbies?
Feature: The Guts of the Captive Breeding Problem
The discovery that captivity affects the internal organs of animals has significant implications for their successful reintroduction to the wild.
Feature: How Oil Palm Can Become More Ecologically Friendly
Oil palm is not a suitable habitat for most terrestrial mammals, but there are ways to improve it and promote the conservation value of these landscapes.
Feature: Wind Farms: Their True Impact on Birds and Bats
Monitoring wind farms for impacts on birds and bats is an expense that could be better directed at conservation programs for threatened species.
Browse: Nature Arks Are Sinking
A Nature study of 60 tropical reserves established to protect bio­diversity reveals that many are experiencing high rates of extinction.
Browse: The Cost of Saving Species from Extinction
An international team has estimated the cost of shifting every endangered species to a lower status, and come up with two figures.
Browse: Species Relocation Made More Objective
As climate change makes existing habitat unsuitable for many species, conservation managers will increasingly be faced with the decision over whether to relocate their charges to cooler locations. An Australian–New Zealand collaboration has provided a mechanism to assist such judgements.
Browse: Over-Harvesting Recorded in Turtle DNA
The effects of over-harvesting are visible in the DNA of turtles decades after the exploitation stopped.
Browse: Mixed News for the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is suffering the effects of overfishing, but progress is being made to curb the threat of herbicide run-off, according to two studies released in the same week.
Browse: Sugar Gliders Identified as Parrot Predators
Browse: Penguins on a Slippery Slope Browse: Endangered Quoll Spotted
Browse: Conservation Increases Chocolate Production Browse: Barnacles Trace Turtle Migration
Browse: Cause of Native Mammal Declines in Northern Australia Revealed Browse: Devils Needed on the Mainland
Browse: Where Have the Largest Whale Sharks Gone? Browse: Isotopes reveal that whale sharks stay close to home
conSCIENCE: Bee Teams in the Food Bowl
Apiarists and conservationists are at loggerheads, with implications for food security and the fate of indigenous species.
conSCIENCE: Australia’s Iconic Top Predator Must Be Protected
Lethal control programs treat dingoes like pests, yet the evidence is mounting that this damages ecosystems by enabling foxes and feral cats to thrive.
Credit: Google Earth
conSCIENCE: Roads to Ruin
Can we build roads that benefit people while not destroying nature?
conSCIENCE: Whales and Sharks Must Be Protected from Global Shipping
Road ecology is being applied to shipping routes to stop marine giants from becoming “roadkill”.
Cool Careers: How to Breed Echidnas
Andrea Wallage is discovering what makes an echidna frisky in preparation for efforts to save the endangered long-beaked species.
Eco Logic: Killing Koalas with Cars, Dogs and Disease
Managing threatened species requires management of multiple threats. Conservation of koalas is a point in case.
Eco Logic: To Monitor or Not to Monitor
At its heart, good environmental monitoring needs a clear justification for acquiring information in the first place. What we strive to know should be driven by what we need to know.
Eco Logic: There’s Value in our Island Arks
Investing in conservation management on Australian islands yields a great return.
Eco Logic: Bioperversity in the Plantation
A narrow focus on carbon in commercial plantations could yield a number of unwelcome surprises.
Eco Logic: The Value of an Old Tree in the City
Large old trees provide a significant biodiversity benefit that should be factored in by governments when managing biodiversity.
Eco Logic: Are Two Fences Better Than One?
Conservation fences are very effective in allowing threatened animals to breed, but when the population grows too much, managers must decide between extending the existing fence or building a new enclosure.
Eco Logic: Cooperation and Conflict in Conservation
Different groups are all “fighting” for the environment, but each group does it in its own way and with its own specific priorities – sometimes leading to negative conservation outcomes.
Eco Logic: The Resilience of the Reef (and Reef Tourism)
The lifestyle values of reef tourism companies contribute to the resilience of those companies and to better conservation outcomes for the Reef itself.
Eco Logic: The Value of More Information for Managing Koalas
Thinking like a multi-billion dollar mining magnate may help us better manage koalas.
Eco Logic: Grieving for the Past, Hoping for the Future
Many conservation scientists may be suffering from grief over the loss of species and habitats. If this is true, can an understanding of the grieving process be useful?
Eco Logic: A New List to Frame Biodiversity Conservation
A new IUCN Red List promises to enlarge the debate on declining biodiversity to include ecosystems.
Eco Logic: Where’s the Evidence for Adaptive Management?
Everyone talks about how important adaptive management is but few are actually doing it.
Eco Logic: Five Objections to Decision Science in Conservation
What are the main objections to decision science, and why they are wrong?
Eco Logic: The Gap Between Conservation Scientists and Managers
Collaboration is the key to getting managers and decision-makers to better engage with conservation science. What are the problems and some possible solutions to make it happen?
Eco Logic: History of an “Outcome”
Assigning an outcome to any single grant, paper or person makes a mockery of the scientific process.
Eco Logic: Being SMART with NRM Performance Goals
Natural resource management targets in Victoria and NSW are not specific, measurable or time-bound – and that’s not very smart.
Eco Logic: Conservation in a Wicked World
Conventional approaches to conservation can learn from complex military decisions in Afghanistan.
Eco Logic: Priorities for Koala Recovery
There is no “silver bullet” solution to declining koala numbers. Successful koala recovery is likely to require very different recovery strategies in different places.
Eco Logic: Complex Ideas in Ecology Made Simple
Have you just published an important journal article? Why not turn it into a movie?
Eco Logic: A Call to Better Protect Antarctic Biodiversity
As “the last wilderness on Earth” Antarctica requires a better system of protected areas.
Eco Logic: Balancing Species Numbers and Phylogenetic Diversity
The current extinction crisis can be thought of as a fire in the genetic library of life. In the scramble to save as much as we can, we want to save as many books (i.e. species) as possible but we also want to save as much total information (i.e. unique genes) as possible.
Eco Logic: Burning Questions for Black Cockatoos
Fire management around Perth may hold the key to the future of an endangered cockatoo.
Eco Logic: Sustainable Fish and Chips
One of the simplest things anyone can do to promote marine conservation is to stop eating unsustainable seafood.
Eco Logic: To Thin or Not to Thin
Stands of dense woody regrowth are increasing in extent across Australia and around the world. The effect of dense stands and thinning on tree growth is well understood but the impacts on the understorey are not.
Eco Logic: Why Publish Research?
Why publish research when what we are after is conservation outcomes? Here’s why.
Eco Logic: Casting a Critical Eye over Biodiversity Offsets
Biodiversity offset policies may result in perverse incentives that lock in biodiversity loss.
Eco Logic: Chytrid and Frogs in Australia’s High Country
Science is helping conservation managers deal with the curse of chytrid fungus. While the threat has devastated many frog species, there is reason to be hopeful.
Eco Logic: Conserving Freshwater Crayfish in Australia
Australia has a rich diversity of freshwater crayfish, but many of our species are at risk.
Eco Logic: Bias in Natural Resource Management
Natural resource managers must acknowledge the presence of bias and make a conscious effort to minimise its influence in their decisions.
Eco Logic: Beyond Threat Maps
Targeting threats alone won’t save our wildlife.
Eco Logic: Restoring Marine Coastal Ecosystems: What’s the Cost?
A review of the costs and feasibility of marine restoration projects reveals that they are often very expensive and risky.
Eco Logic: “Robots” vs Environmental Managers
Can automated algorithms do better than humans in conservation games?
Eco Logic: Making More of Mangrove Ecosystem Services
Different mangrove areas in the same region provide different ecosystem services. Mapping these is important when deciding where conservation investment should go.
Eco Logic: An Agreement Forever?
There’s a growing trend in many parts of the world for land owners to enter into conservation covenants and easements. These formal agreements are an increasingly popular strategy for conserving biodiversity on private land but how effective are they? Our analysis of covenants in Australia has revealed there’s much to commend in these agreements but there’s also work needed to ensure their ongoing effectiveness.
Eco Logic: Conservation Research Isn’t Happening in the Right Places
Conservation research is not being done in the countries where it’s most needed, and this will undermine efforts to preserve global biodiversity.
Eco Logic: The Feasibility of a Cane Toad Barrier
Preventing the spread of cane toads into Western Australia’s Pilbara could cost less than $100,000 per year.
Eco Logic: Can Economics Enhance Ecological Restoration?
Economics has a lot to offer ecological restoration. A greater engagement with economics would enhance the likelihood of success for many restoration efforts.
Eco Logic: Reviewing Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services
What is the state of our understanding of the connection between climate change and ecosystem-service assessment?
Eco Logic: Dogs on Leashes, Birds on Beaches
A bit of maths can help managers minimise the impact of dogs on migratory shorebirds.
Eco Logic: Grow Your Own
Collaborative wildlife gardening programs engage residents to manage their land and achieve landscape-focused conservation goals.
Eco Logic: Orangutans (and Science) Are in Trouble
Robust science is telling us orangutan populations are in serious decline but the Indonesian government is disputing the finding.
Eco Logic: Revolving Private Land to Conserve Nature
Buying, protecting and reselling private land can be an effective way to conserve nature, but relies upon selecting the right properties.
Eco Logic: Human Burials Can Save Threatened Species
As declines in biodiversity accelerate we need to examine innovative ways to save threatened species. Conservation burials may be one solution, and the potential is enormous.
Credit: Thomas Vignaud
Eco Logic: The Third Dimension of Conservation
Oceans are inherently three-dimensional spaces, so effective and efficient conservation planning in oceans should take this third dimension – depth – into account.
Eco Logic: Injecting Biodiversity into City Spaces
Cities planning to adapt to climate change should take biodiversity along for the ride.
Eco Logic: Crowdfunding Biodiversity Conservation
Crowdfunding is a new addition to the portfolio of conservation finance mechanisms with real potential to create valuable additional resources.
Eco Logic: Planning for Sea-Level Rise Using Portfolio Theory
Economics has many ways of dealing with uncertainty. Conservation scientists are incorporating one such approach to designing networks of marine reserves that will perform better as sea level rises.
Eco Logic: Saving Nature with Revolving Real Estate
Revolving funds buy land with high nature value, protect these values through conservation agreements and then resell them. The funds from sales then purchase more land.
Fossil File: Fossil Sites Can Co-exist with Ecotourists
Palaeo-ecotours could generate income for research and conservation at fossil sites.
Lowe Tech: Researchers Frustrated by Career Prospects
A new survey finds that researchers like their work but are frustrated by limited career paths.
Lowe Tech: Common Concerns in Mother England
Population, nuclear energy and marine conservation are issues in common for Australia and the UK.
Lowe Tech: Sea Change Threatened by Coastal Development
Coastal communities are battling to retain their natural assets in the face of increasing tourism and residential developments.
Lowe Tech: Nuclear Waste Returns, But Where Will It Be Stored?
Australia’s nuclear waste is being returned from France, and New Zealand is finally reporting on the state of its environment.
Lowe Tech: If a Taxonomist Falls in the Forest...
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.
Lowe Tech: From Little Things Big Things Grow
About 100 million hectares of forest have been lost globally in the past 25 years, but one Landcare group has increased a patch of rainforest lost to farmland by 40% in 20 years.
Up Close: Natural value: Pricing ecosystems, and its implications for conservation policy
Conservation ecologist Assoc. Prof. Brendan Wintle considers the difficult questions and dilemmas that arise in decisions around species and ecosystem conservation, and whether a monetary value can or should be applied to nature.
Up Close: Weeds girdle the globe: The marauding march of invasive plant species
Plant population specialist Prof Roger Cousens talks about how the spread of undesirable plants, or “weeds”, has dramatically redefined the world’s natural landscapes and coastlines, and what this means for us economically, aesthetically and environmentally.
Up Close: The end of sustainability: Realism and resilience in managing our natural resources
Environmental legal scholar Prof. Robin Craig argues that the doctrine of sustainability in managing our natural resources fails to take into account an emerging age of ecological uncertainty. Instead, notions of sustainability and sustainable development need to make way for approaches based on resilience thinking, which attempts to factor in and adapt to coming large-scale social and ecological shifts brought about by climate change.
Up Front: A New Twist in the DNA Revolution
Gene drives take genetic modification to the population level, with applications in health, conservation and agriculture, but there are also practical and ethical concerns.
Online Feature: Biodiversity in a Pellet
The South Australian Museum is tracking the biodiversity of our outback wildlife species in a curious manner – by studying regurgitated food pellets from owls.
Online Feature: Celebrity pandas and tigers hog the extinction limelight
Worldwide, around 20,000 endangered animal species are competing for scarce conservation funds – but just 80 ‘celebrity species’ are hogging most of the attention.
Online Feature: Rewilding the Devil
What evidence is there that reintroducing Tasmanian devils to mainland Australia will affect the number of feral cats, rabbits and foxes?
Online Feature: The bark side: domestic dogs threaten endangered species worldwide
Online Feature: Found: 'lost' forests covering an area two-thirds the size of Australia Online Feature: Why do some graziers want to retain, not kill, dingoes?
Feature: Native Aussie rat survives sticky situation
Their wooden homes are stuck together with pee and have stood longer than the pyramids.
A queue of logging trucks in Southeast Asia. Credit: Jeff Vincent
Feature: China’s growing footprint on the globe threatens to trample the natural world
China’s unprecedented development schemes are transforming the entire world, yet its leaders assure us these activities will be environmentally and socially sustainable. Should we trust the promises?
Photo: Carl Charter
Feature: ‘Rock stars of the sea’ put on amazing underwater show in South Australia
Flowing arms, skins that change colour in an instant, dance battles and petite males disguised as females to trick their rivals – the courting behaviour of the alien-like Giant Australian Cuttlefish would look more at home in a Star Wars night club.