Rebuild habitats or lose local birds: ecologist

Associate Professor David Paton

Associate Professor David Paton
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Monday, 10 August 2009

Fifty percent of local native bird species are facing extinction but may still be saved with fast action to restore natural woodland habitats, according to leading University of Adelaide ecologist Associate Professor David Paton.

"The Mt Lofty Ranges and adjacent plains are not the haven for wildlife you might assume," says Associate Professor Paton. "Just 10% of the original habitat remains, and much of that is on the poorest soils and topographies."

Associate Professor Paton will present the University's monthly Research Tuesdays free public lecture tomorrow evening, Tuesday 11 August, outlining the need to reinstate native vegetation to cover 30% of the Mt Lofty Ranges.

Because of loss of habitat, 10 species are already extinct and a further 60 species continue to decline in numbers despite cessation of vegetation clearance in the 1980s. Climate change is expected to make this worse.

"This will be a terrible loss but it is avoidable if suitable and resilient habitats are re-established," says Associate Professor Paton.

"Most of the bird species have not yet disappeared because of the time lag between the loss of vegetation and the subsequent loss of fauna.

"This provides a unique opportunity for our generation to arrest species losses that will not be available to future generations."

Associate Professor Paton says it is essential to recreate large-scale woodland habitat. "This is not about re-vegetating areas - this is about reconstructing complex habitats to secure the region's biodiversity," he says.

"This will require building capacity, both knowledge and people to do the work, and building a program of long-term research that includes monitoring the new habitats as they mature. It also requires a secure, long-term funding strategy since these activities run over periods of decades rather than a few years."

WHAT: Research Tuesday: 'Where have all the birds gone?'
WHERE: Lecture Theatre G04, Napier Building, North Terrace Campus, University of Adelaide
WHEN: 5.30pm, Tuesday 11 August
COST: Free. Please book by email: or phone: (08) 8303 3692


Contact Details

Associate Professor David Paton
Discipline of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Business: + 61 8 8313 4742

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814