Monitoring Tree Growth in the Scottsdale Reserve – A potential African Love Grass management program.

Monitoring Tree Growth in the Scottsdale Reserve – A potential African Lovegrass management program.


Scottsdale Reserve is located 4km North of Bredbo in NSW and is a 1328 Ha Nature Reserve owned in partnership by Greening Australia and Bush Heritage Australia Reserves & Partnerships –

Purchased as a conservation property it boasts large areas of box gum grassy woodlands and temperate grasslands, currently listed as endangered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999, as well as Tablelands frost hollow grassy woodlands and southern tablelands natural temperate grassland. The property also hosts a remnant of the last ice age, known as the Silver-leafed Mountain Gum (Eucalyptus pulverulenta) which is only known to exist in ten populations throughout Australia.

Figure 1 - Eucalyptus pulverulenta (photo courtesy of Daves Garden

Figure 1 – Eucalyptus pulverulenta (photo courtesy of Daves Garden

Figure 2 - The Peregrine Falcon is a common sighting at Scottsdale Reserve (Photo courtesy of Greening Australia)

Figure 2 – The Peregrine Falcon is a common sighting at Scottsdale Reserve (Photo courtesy of Greening Australia)

Rosenberg’s Monitor (Varanus rosenbergi), the Speckled Warbler (Pyrrholaemus sagittatus) , the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus macropus), and the Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus) are also known to frequent the area, while the river system that passes through the Northern most point of the property is home to native fish, Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) and the source of more even more conservation action through the Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach (UMDR) project which looks at Carp control and Willow reduction to improve flow and quality in the Murrumbidgee River while enhancing the environment for the Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica) and Trout Cod (Maccullochella macquariensis).

About 300 Ha of the property has been grazed, cleared, cropped and sown since the 1870s’ and is now home to the noxious weed known as African lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula). E. curvula was introduced into Australia before the 1900s’ and is now a significant weed across much of Australia’s agricultural landscape. Several experimental trials are underway on the property to look at ways of managing the weed.

Figure 3 - A 100m transect of tree plantings being monitored for growth.

Figure 3 – A 100m transect of tree plantings being monitored for growth.

One feature being monitored at Scottsdale, and the source of our reason for being there, is to monitor trees planted in an attempt to restore the native box gum grassy woodland. It is believed that through those plantings there is a capability to assuage the growth of the lovegrass through competition with native flora, a theory derived from the grass’s notable absence around the base of large paddock trees.

Figure 4 - A stand of paddock trees with a notable absence of E. curvula.

Figure 4 – A stand of paddock trees with a notable absence of E. curvula.

Around 6 km of direct seeded tree lines have been planted across the property with around 40 monitoring transects identified. These transects have been marked out using pegs to identify each end of the transect and labels to identify the transect by number. Dr David Freudenberger, Associate Professor and lecturer from the ANU has been involved in the monitoring activities since the transects were marked out.

Figure 5 - Pegs and labels used to identify the monitoring transects

Figure 5 – Pegs and labels used to identify the monitoring transects

The tools provided included a 100m tape, to measure the point along the transect that the tree is planted, and a set of calipers, used to measure the basal diameter of each tree along the transect.

Figure 6 - The tools required to perform the measurements

Figure 6 – The tools required to perform the measurements

With our tools at the ready and Hi-vis vests on we traversed 25 of the transects and collected presence and basal diameter measurements from them as well as photo points. The data collected from these measurements is put into an Excel spreadsheet and the photos are arranged as a time series so that the change through time can be monitored.

Figure 7 - Some of the transects monitored since 2013

Figure 7 – Some of the transects monitored since 2013

The real eye-opener to the impact of the African Lovegrass is when you have to spend all day walking through it. It is a tough, drought resistant grass and requires very little nutrient to thrive. Even though it is quite unpalatable for livestock, it is very highly structured and therefore offers good habitat for birds and lizards, in particular the stripped legless lizard (Delma impar) that has recently been introduced to the Scottsdale reserve as a trial of forced immigration to the area. Along with that the grass offers excellent protection to the soil underneath, through the rain-splash protection offered by the above ground biomass and also erosion protection given by the large root structure that the plant puts down into the soil around it.

Figure 8 - A heavy infestation of E. curvula (Photograph by Greg Ried)

Figure 8 – A heavy infestation of E. curvula (Photograph by Greg Ried)

The tree plantings are still quite young and potentially very many years away from revealing how great the impact will be to the existence of the love grass. Even if the trees are successful in out-competing the grass it doesn’t really present a solution to the average farmer whose property is overrun by the grass. African Lovegrass is very nearly unstoppable once it invades a landscape and the only method of protection available to land owners is achieved by protecting unaffected areas from infestation of the weed (DPI, 2013).

While Scottsdale reserve, and many other conservation properties, are attempting to unravel the complexities of restoring their local heavily grazed or cropped areas to their former box gum grassy woodlands state, many other connectivity programs are being developed to join the landscape across larger scales and Scottsdale is an important piece in the connectivity puzzle. A project known as the Kosciuszko 2 Coast, or the K2C, project has been established to stimulate the movement of biodiversity from the coast to the highlands by increasing connectivity through green corridors.

It is truly rewarding to be involved with an organisation like Bush Heritage Australia, knowing the difference they are attempting to make on both the local and national scale in improving connectivity so that biodiversity can flourish in today’s landscapes.


AWI & MLA, African Lovegrass: 3D weed management.

Bush Heritage Australia, 2016, Annual Report 2015-2016 – Bush Heritage Australia, Available at:

Bush Heritage Australia, Bush Heritage Australia Reserves & Partnerships. Available at:

DPI, 2013, African Lovegrass management. Available at:

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Crossing the Fence: Turtle Patrol at Mulligans Flat

We swing through the first gate, and meander up through grassy woodland to the main fence, waving to the kangaroos as we pass. We enter the sanctuary through the sturdy metal door, making sure that it’s shut tightly behind us, so that nothing unwanted can follow us in. We unlock the lock box, grab the turtle rescue kit, and off we go, down the fence.

As we hike the perimeter of Mulligans Flat, our eyes are glued to the bottom of the fence, straying occasionally to take in the beauty of the reserve around us. Mulligans Flat is the home of one of the largest remaining communities of critically endangered Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum grassy woodland (consisting of Eurcalyptus melliodora and Eucalyptus blakelyi) in and around the Australian Capital Territory. After years of overgrazing by livestock, rabbits and eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus), scientists, policy-makers and the wider community are striving to restore this valuable and endangered landscape (Shorthouse et al., 2012: 112).

Mulligans Flat at sunset.

Figure 1: Mulligans Flat at sunset.

The Fence

In 2009, a pest-exclusion fence was built in Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve, around the perimeter of Mulligans Flat Nature Sanctuary (Manning et al., 2011: 643). The fence is 11.5 kilometres long, 1.8m high and is electrified and fully feral animal-proof (Ferronato et al., 2014: 578).

Figure 2: Map of Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and Sanctuary, with plans for future expansion of the fence. Source: Capital Woodlands and Wetlands Conservation Trust, 2015.

Figure 2: Map of Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and Sanctuary, with plans for future expansion of the fence. Source: Capital Woodlands and Wetlands Conservation Trust, 2015.

The construction of the fence has been highly beneficial for conservation within the sanctuary. It allows the protection of threatened species and communities from exotic predators, competitors and diseases, as well as facilitating the reintroduction of threatened species such as the Eastern bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) (Ferronto et al., 2014: 577, 578).

Feral animals have been removed and excluded from Mulligans Flat since June of 2009 (Manning et al, 2011: 634). Foxes and cats have been eradicated from the area, but other species such as rabbits and hares are still being targeted by removal efforts (Shorthouse et al., 2012: 122).

The fence also provides the opportunity for education, ecotourism and research in the sanctuary, which is also indirectly beneficial for conservation (Ferronto et al., 2014 (577). The fence allows researchers and managers of the nature reserve to control conditions and collaborate on research projects, which will hopefully lead to greater ecological understanding of restoration of endangered ecological communities (Manning et al, 2011: 645).

Figure 3: The fence.

Figure 3: The fence.

However, while the fence does a great job of keeping unwanted invasive species out, it also has negative consequences for native species, such as the Eastern Long-Necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis) (Ferronto et al., 2014: 577). C. longicollis move between wetland habitats, allowing them to thrive off of complementary resources (Roe and Georges, 2007: 67). The fence at Mulligans Flat therefore restricts their mobility greatly. Many turtles overheat, are predated upon, come into collision with vehicles, or become entangled in the fence, resulting in death (Ferronto et al., 2014: 577). Ferronto et al. (2014: 577) found that the fence has caused the death of 3.3% of the C. longicollis population, and disrupted the movement of a further 20.9% of the population within the enclosure. Movement disruption and high mortality was also observed for turtles on the outside of the sanctuary attempting to enter it (Ferronto et al., 2014: 577). Therefore, while the fence is clearly beneficial for the conservation of some species, it is detrimental to that of others.

This is where turtle patrol comes in.

Figure 4: A turtle found trying to enter the sanctuary.

Figure 4: A turtle found trying to enter the sanctuary.

Turtle Patrol

Turtle Patrol is an organised group of residents of the ACT and near-by NSW, who walk the fence looking for, and facilitating the movement of, turtles attempting to cross the fence. Armed with a bag containing a hessian bag to put any turtles in to keep them calm, gloves, a snake-bite kit, a can of fluorescent orange spray-paint, and hand-sanitiser, people march along the fence and pick up turtles they find. Turtles are placed into the hessian bag to keep them calm, taken to the other side of the fence, and placed 10 metres away from the fence, so that they can then continue on their way. Any dead turtles found are recorded on the volunteer database, and marked with spray-paint so that they are not recounted. This service by the community has so far relocated more than 80 turtles this year.


Picking up a turtle found at the fence inside the enclosure, and preparing to move it to the outside.

Figure 5: Picking up a turtle found at the fence inside the enclosure, and preparing to move it to the outside.


Placing the turtle into the hessian bag for transportation.

Figure 6: Placing the turtle into the hessian bag for transportation.


This work is critically important for reducing the risk that the fence poses to the turtles. Movement between wetlands is vital for C. longicollis, and having volunteers help them past the fence severely reduces the risk of mortality mentioned above. This is important for maintaining an abundant population in and around Mulligans Flat, which is important for maintaining wider ecosystem diversity and health.

A turtle after transportation to a nice puddle outside of the sanctuary.

Figure 7: A turtle after transportation to a nice puddle outside of the sanctuary.

Canberra Nature Map

The Canberra Nature Map app is used in conjunction with the volunteer database, to record, track and monitor turtle populations. Canberra Nature Map is an app that was launched in 2014 and used on smartphone devices (Walmsley, 2015). Citizen botanists can record and upload photos of species of fungi, plants, frogs, reptiles, butterflies, birds and mammals that they see around the ACT and in NSW up to 300km from the centre of the ACT (Walmsley, 2016). These pictures are then identified by experts, and collated into a database of sightings from around the area. This allows Turtle Patrol to identify high-traffic areas, and concentrate efforts there.

The app is a great way for individuals to learn about the non-human animals that inhabit their environment. A community that is more aware of, engaged with, and educated about biodiversity and conservation issues in their area has more power to influence positive change, and contribute towards conservation initiatives. Furthermore, getting the wider community involved in collecting data about biodiversity is very useful for ecologists and policy-makers restoring the nature reserve. The more information that is known about how approaches to restoration are impacting the ecosystem, the greater our capacity to effectively restore it.


FIgure 8: Opening page of the Canberra Nature Map app.

Figure 8: Opening page of the Canberra Nature Map app.

If you are keen to get hands-on with biodiversity conservation and spend some time outside roaming through a beautiful landscape, give Turtle Patrol a go. You’ll be helping some great little creatures out, and you’ll have lots of fun.

Get involved here:


By Jessie Smith (u5592288)



Capital Woodlands and Wetlands Conservation Trust, 2015. Contact us, Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Canberra. Available from: (Accessed 19 October 2016).

Ferronato, B.O., Roe, J.H. and Georges, A., 2014. Reptile bycatch in a pest-exclusion fence established for wildlife reintroductions, Journal for Nature Conservation, 22: 577-585.

Manning, A.D., Wood, J.T., Cunningham, R.B., McIntyre, S., Shorthouse, D.J., Gordon, I.J. and Lindenmayer, D.B., 2011. Integrating research and restoration: the establishment of a long-term woodland experiment in south-eastern Australia, Zoologist, 35(3): 633-648.

Roe, J.H. and Georges, A., 2007. Heterogeneous wetland complexes, buffer zones and travel corridors: Landscape management for freshwater reptiles, Biological Conservation, 135: 67-76.

Shorthouse, D.J., Iglasia, D., Jeffress, S., Lane, S., Mills, P., Woodbridge, G., McIntyre, S. and Manning, A.D., 2012. The ‘making of’ the Mulligans Flat – Goorooyarroo experimental restoration project, Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(2): 112-125.

Walmsley, H., 2015. Citizen botanists help track rare plants and stop the spread of noxious weeds in Canberra, ABC Premium News 30 June, 2015.

Walmsley, H., 2016. Canberra Nature Map app to include native reptiles in online database, ABC Premium News 19 January, 2016.

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The Empty Forest: When birds are illegally traded in the market


Figure 1 An Oriental Bay Owl (Phodius badilus) for sale at Malang Bird Market (Photo credit:TRAFFIC)

Have you ever been to Indonesia? Please zoom in to Java Island. Keep zooming into the eastern part of Java, and you will find two most developed city there, Surabaya and Malang. If you are a keen bird watcher and wanted to see the diverse Javanese wild birds, please don’t book any itinerary to the natural areas around East Java yet. Turn your smartphone on, type Pasar Burung Kupang or Pasar Splendid Malang on your google maps browser and you might find them easier than in the wild. There you would find the pieces of the sixth mass extinction process occurring in a daylight.

On a three day survey in the three wildlife market in Surabaya, one in Malang and one in Yogyakarta (Central Java), Traffic (a Wildlife Trading Network Organisation) has observed nearly 23 000 birds of 241 species being traded.  Among those, 98% (22 348 individual of 213 species) of the birds were native to Indonesia. Additionally, more than 3.000 birds from 56 species or 15% of those native birds are endemic to Indonesia.

Figure 2 Cage density in the Bratang Market Suarabay (Phot credit:TRAFFIC)

Figure 2 Cage density in the Bratang Market Suarabaya (Photo credit:TRAFFIC)

Many of these birds are now rarely seen in their natural habitat. The Greater Green Leafbird for example, based on my 5 years’ experience of working in one of the national park near Malang, is hardly spotted in our park. I will definitely have greater chance to see this bird at Malang Bird’s market. This bird is a forest dwelling species, although quite tolerant to disturbance, it always live in tree canopies. It is also a favorite bird among hobbyists for its melodious song. Captive breeding success for this species is unknown to date, the traded birds at markets must have been collected from the wild.

Figure 3 Greater Green Leafbird at Malang (Photo credit:TRAFFIC)

Figure 3 Greater Green Leafbird at Malang (Photo credit:TRAFFIC)

The rate of illegal bird trade in Java is at an alarming rate.  Approximately one out of three household in Java are keeping bird as pet. It might be related to the cultural view on birds within some ethnic communities. Javanese and Balinese are among the highest ethnic group among seven distinct ethnic that involved in a survey about keeping bird as pet. It is possibly a misinterpreted cultural value. The interest of keeping bird in those culture might be rooted from a high appreciation of wildlife but turn into disaster for the wildlife in practice.

Another case to illustrate the severity of bird trade in Java is the case of smugglers who tried to smuggle 21 Yellow Crested Cockatoo from eastern part of Indonesia to Surabaya. Those bird were treated very bad. It was stuffed in the plastic bottle and many of them were died.

Figure 5 Yellow Crested Cockatoo smuggling¸ another endemic species from eastern Indonesia (©JG Photo/Fully Syafi)

Figure 4 Yellow Crested Cockatoo smuggling¸ another endemic species from eastern Indonesia (©JG Photo/Fully Syafi)

Figure 6 Endangered Yellow Crested Cockatoo jammed inside the bottles in Indonesia

Figure 5 Endangered Yellow Crested Cockatoo jammed inside the bottles in Indonesia

The protection of wildlife bird in in Indonesian legislation is generally adequate. Ranged from the Conservation Act and the List of National Endangered Species, to The Captive Breeding trade regulation. However, the listing of a species in the endangered list could become a backslash against the positive aim. For example, the declaration of Javan hawk Eagle as National Symbol and protected species in 1993 resulted on the increasing rate of trade and demand of this species in the wildlife market. It seems that the rarer a species, the more keen people on keeping that species as pet.

There are several point that we can raise to reduce the wildlife trade, particularly bird in Indonesia. The first one is through the awareness raising. It could be the key step in plummeting the wildlife trade within a community. However, the awareness campaign should target the right audience. The targeted audience could be examined by conducting a thorough research on the consumer trends. For instance, the target audience could be based on ethnic group, age classes, gender, education, etc. The second option is the law enforcement by government. And the third one is the robust monitoring system. Engaging people in this monitoring system could be crucial because government is unlikely able to handle it without broader stakeholder getting involve in.  Employing technology for instance could be really useful in engaging community in the monitoring program. Indonesian government perhaps could adopt something like Wildlife Witness, an app developed by Taronga Zoo in Sydney and TRAFFIC.  With this app, people could report a wildlife trade activities securely and anonymously. By combining those methods above, hopefully we can see a significant decline of wildlife trade in the future.

U5864222-Mahmuddin Rahmadana


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Enhancing the conservation of glow-worms

Glow-worms and its distribution in Australia

Glow-worms (Arachnocampa tasmaniensis) are the spectacular underground sight. Thousands of them all cluster on ceilings and walls—a myriad of bright blue lights resembling stars in the night sky. They are only found in Australia and New Zealand. The moist, sheltered surface habitats are their ideal choice, such as rainforest gullies and wet caves. (Baker, et al., 2008) The glow-worm caves are regarded as the natural heritage and the fantastic choice for travelling.



The geographic distribution of the glow-worms in Australia encompasses the montane regions of the eastern Australian coastline from the wet tropics region of northern Queensland to the cool temperate and montane rainforests of southern Australia and Tasmania.

blog-2Map of the eastern coast of Australia showing some typical locations of Glow-worms. The lightly shaded regions roughly correspond with the distribution of rainforest. Source: (Baker, et al., 2008)


Why the glow-worms can display light?

  • Chemical reaction involving fungus

Glow-worms are the luminous larval stage of a fungus gnat. A chemical reaction in their abdomen produces a cold blue light. They are able to switch on and off at will.

  • Attracting mates

The chemical reaction and the resultant unstable by-product are often referred as ‘an excited state’. This may be a clue as to why an animal might be bioluminescent but the ability to glow is different. Fireflies use the ability to glow for attracting mates.

  • Attracting insects as food resource

The larva builds a hollow, tubular nest of silk and mucous from which it suspends sticky threads up to 30 cm long. Flying insects, attracted to the lights, become trapped and are then eaten. In stream caves, the main insects caught are stoneflies and mayflies. The aquatic, larval stages of these insects are carried underground by the stream. When they emerge from the water and metamorphose into adult flies, they are attracted up to the lights and become entangled in the sticky threads. Glow-worms quickly haul up the appropriate thread and consume their victim.


Hollow, tubular nest of silk and mucous built by glow-worm larva

source: Discover Wildlife (website)



The life of glow-worms

After several months of growth, the glow-worm larva pupates inside a chrysalis, then emerges as an adult gnat. The adults live only a few days during which time they don’t feed. Instead, the female lays her eggs on the wall in the cave. Glow-worm colonies are dependent upon the continued availability of flying insects for their food, especially aquatic insects carried into caves by streams. This is the beginning of another lifecycle of glow-worms.



Human impacts on glow-worms

Intensely visited populations in caves may be at risk of permanent loss of this outstanding underground sight. Specifically, Marakoopa Cave in Tasmania is the only cave with capacity to accommodate viewing by approximately 30,000 visitors per year. (Merritt & Clarke, 2013) Human threats include disturbance through touching of larvae or their webs, harmful activities such as lighting of fires, changes in water quality, and changes in cave. Glow-worms will stop glowing if people shine bright lights on them, or make loud noises. In addition, the cave lighting itself and some creation (paths, stairs and roads) may also cause the larvae to dim.


The conservation of glow-worms

Because of the tourism, commercial and educational values of these sites, the conservation is necessary and it should focus on ensuring the survival of the population.

  • Enhancing the humidity and the presence of streams

It is important to maintain the natural conditions of stream flow and native forest within the cave catchment area to preserve the glow-worms. It has been observed becoming torpid in response to dry conditions, ceasing to glow and eventually shrivelling and dying. The native forest should be reserved and reduce the construction of roads and stairs. More streams should be introduced in the glow-worm caves to increase humidity.

  • Improving the water quality and food source

Some management can be done on the water quality in the caves to keep the continuous production of the prey for the glow-worms. The abundance of prey plays an important role on the glow-worm population.

  • Close the caves in winter and control the number of visitors in summer

In summer, cold air draining out of the lower cave entrances while warm air is drawn in through chimneys. The warm air cools down to cave temperature causing water to condense on the cave walls. But the condition is winter is reverse. The caves would be very dry. Pupae and adults are most common during winter, and larvae are most common during spring and summer. So close the caves in winter is available. The glow-worm population is abundant in summer, so controlling the number of visitors is necessary to avoid some human impacts.


Baker, C. et al., 2008. Distribution and phylogenetic relationships of Australian glow-worms Arachnocampa (Diptera, Keroplatidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 48, p. 506–514.

Driessen, M. M., 2010. Enhancing conservation of the Tasmanian glow-worm, Arachnocampa tasmaniensis Ferguson (Diptera: Keroplatidae) by monitoring seasonal changes in light displays and life stages. Journal of Insect Conservation, 14(1), p. 65–75.

Merritt, D. J. & Clarke, A. K., 2013. The impact of cave lighting on the bioluminescent display of the Tasmanian glow-worm Arachnocampa tasmaniensis. Journal of Insect Conservation, 02, 17(1), p. 147–153.


Liwen Wang U5819519

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Prevention is best: a comment on land clearing in Australia

Land clearing and biodiversity

Habitat loss is the primary threat to biodiversity in Australia (Fig. 1; SoE Report, 2011). Every year Australia spends millions of dollars addressing the impacts of land clearing on biodiversity and threatened species. Yet land clearing is continuing at a relentless rate. It takes longer, and costs more, to restore vegetation than to remove it. So why are we spending all this effort restoring vegetation instead of preventing clearing in the first place? It makes little economic or environmental sense.


Fig. 1. Pressures affecting species listed as threatened nationally under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Source: Evans et al. (2011).

Economic costs of land clearing

The Australian government has funded many projects to restore and improve biodiversity. In recent years, at least $360 million over 2015-2019 has been committed to the Green Army to plant trees, restore and improve native vegetation. The 20 Million Trees Programme, at a cost of $42.7 million, aims to plant 20 million trees by 2020 to re-establish green corridors and urban forests. The Australian Government is partnering with states and territories to deliver $6.6 million  for threatened species projects under the Threatened Species Strategy. More than $2 billion in the next decade has been committed protect the Great Barrier Reef under the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, which includes investment in better land management to improve the quality of water entering the reef from agriculture.

At the same time, native vegetation clearing continues and has increased in some areas. In Queensland, 296,000 hectares of woody vegetation was cleared in 2014-15, almost double the area cleared in 2011-12 (DSITI, 2016). This includes 108,000 hectares cleared in Great Barrier Reef catchments in 2014-15, which increases runoff entering the reef. In 2014–15, the biogeographic region with the highest woody vegetation clearing rate was the Brigalow Belt with 130 000 hectares cleared per year (DSITI, 2016). The Brigalow Belt contains a high level of biodiversity and provides habitat for a number of nationally threatened species.

To address the impacts of habitat loss on biodiversity, Commonwealth and state governments spend considerable time and money developing recovery plans for threatened species and communities. However, under Commonwealth legislation there is no requirement to implement these plans. Their implementation depends entirely on the goodwill of state governments and stakeholders, such as landholders and developers. As a consequence, many recovery plans fail (Watson et al., 2011). Even when there is goodwill, it can be difficult and expensive to halt the decline of threatened species. For example, millions of dollars have been spent in recovery actions for the orange-bellied parrot, but numbers have not increased and it remains critically endangered.

The relentless cycle

This cycle of land clearing, restoration, species recovery efforts, and more clearing sounds counterproductive. What is the problem here? Some vegetation clearing is inevitable when there is population growth and development. The problem is that continual, and escalating, growth and development is taken as a given by government. This means that we are effectively committed to a relentless cycle of clearing, revegetating and species recovery at ever increasing costs to society and the environment.


Fig. 2. Cleared areas and remnant patches of native vegetation in Australia. Source: DEWHA, 2009.

The folly of development

As funding decreases and more species become threatened, some scientists have suggested using triage to determine which threatened species to save and which to let die (Bottrill et al., 2006). However, when it comes to development, the question of which developments should be allowed has not been properly answered, with most going ahead on the assumption that impacts to the environment can mostly be avoided, minimised or offset. Developments are viewed as good by politicians in the interests of ‘progress’, jobs and economic growth.

 The Australian government’s offsets policy seeks to balance the need for development with the need to manage biodiversity. It stipulates that biodiversity offsets, which compensate for environmental impacts due to clearing, must meet a number of requirements. One of these is that offsets must “deliver an overall conservation outcome that improves or maintains the viability of the aspect of the environment that is protected by national environment law and affected by the proposed action”. However, this principle of ‘no net loss’ can only be achieved under a limited set of circumstances (Gibbons and Lindenmayer, 2007).

Yet offsets are widely applied, which has led some to assert that offsets are being used as an excuse to allow development (paragraph 1.4-1.6, Australian Greens Minority Report, in Parliament of Australia, 2014). There are many examples where offsets have not been applied appropriately and the principle of no net loss has not been achieved (paragraphs 3.68-3.77, Parliament of Australia, 2014). Some developments have also been approved on the assumption that impacts can be offset, only to find that suitable offset sites cannot be secured (paragraphs 4.27-4.29, Parliament of Australia, 2014). The result of all this must surely be a net loss of biodiversity due to land clearing. As Dr Martine Maron puts it:

“It should be made much more explicit that many impacts cannot be offset, and then the choice is between development and associated biodiversity loss, or the alternative. We cannot always have our cake and eat it, and it is misleading to imply otherwise” (paragraph 3.57, Parliament of Australia, 2014).

 Outlook for the future

 The situation is only likely to get worse in the future. There are a limited number of sites that can be used to offset development impacts (paragraph 3.94, Parliament of Australia, 2014). As development pressure increases due to predicted population growth, it is likely under the current policies that impacts cannot be offset but developments will go ahead regardless. This effectively commits us to a path of continual habitat and biodiversity loss.

Actions to address the loss of vegetation and habitat cannot compensate for the loss of vegetation and habitat in the first place. Restoration and recovery actions are costly, uncertain to succeed, and difficult to implement. We cannot protect biodiversity unless we think more strategically, drastically reduce land clearing, challenge the assumption that all development is good, and reduce population pressures. Humans rely on a healthy environment to provide goods and services such as food, freshwater, good air quality and recreation. Sustaining, instead of denuding, the environment will have many benefits for the economy and society. When it comes to a problem, prevention is always best.


Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation (DSITI) (2016). Land cover change in Queensland 2014-15: Statewide Landcover and Trees Study Report. State of Queensland.

Evans, M.C., Watson, J.E.M., Fuller, R.A., Venter, O., Bennett, S.C., Marsack, P.R. and Possingham, H.P. (2011). The spatial distribution of threats to species in Australia. BioScience 61(4), 281-9.

Gibbons, P.  and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2007). Offsets for land clearing: No net loss or the tail wagging the dog? Ecological Management and Restoration 8(1), 26-31.

Parliament of Australia (2014). Environment and Communicates References Committee: Environmental Offsets. Parliament House, Canberra.

State of the Environment 2011 Committee. Australia State of the Environment 2011 (SoE 2011).
Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Canberra: DSEWPaC.

Watson, J.E.M., Bottrill, M.C., Walsh, J.C, Joseph, L.N. and Possingham, H.P. (2011). Evaluating threatened species recovery planning in Australia. Prepared on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts by the Spatial Ecology Laboratory, University of Queensland, Brisbane.


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A Real life experience from India: Walking behind the majestic tiger

Written by:Krithish Haldorai(U5914902)

With around 3900 tigers (Panthera tigris) worldwide nearly 70% of the World’s tigers reside in India. The tiger population has increased by 30 % alone in the Indian Subcontinent.

One of the most beautiful beasts in nature this species is considered as “Keystone” species in the sub – tropical forests.  Tigers are the largest cat species in the world and are classified as endangered by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). These predators can grow up to 3.3 metres (up to 11 ft.) of body length and weigh about 306 kg (675 pounds).  During the past 100 years, the magnificent beast has almost lost 90% of its natural habitat ranging from Turkey in the west to Russia in the east.


Image captured in Ranthambore tiger reserve (Rajasthan, India) during 2015

Why tigers are important species in the Indian ecosystem?

Tigers are the top most species on the ecosystem pyramid and their protection is the key to the life of the forest it prevails. The Reserves conserve the forest stock in the dense forests of the Indian subcontinent. The country also acquires monetary benefits from improved ecosystem services worth millions. These well-preserved forests are a natural source of carbon reduction and home to a distinct variety of flora and fauna.

Countries where Tigers can be found

Tiger population has drastically decreased in this century with many sub-species of tigers getting extinct. There are at least 10 known sub-species of tigers mainly: Bengal tiger, Indo-Chinese tiger, Sumatran tiger, Siberian tiger or Amur tiger, South China tiger and Malayan tiger. There are also four sub-species of tigers that have been completely extinct from our planet: Caspian tiger, Javan tiger, Bali tiger and Trinil (extinct during the prehistoric period).


      Map showing the distribution of tiger   Source:

Tigers are mainly found in countries like India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, Thailand, Nepal and Vietnam. The current decade has shown some positive signs for tiger population around the world with the first increase in the species has been recorded in the past 100 years. The major contribution to this change has been from India.

 My experience with the Beast

The dream of every nature enthusiast from the sub-continent region is to spot the tiger in the wild. I was fortunate to experience the nerve-wracking moment which happened earlier this year during my visit to the Mukurthi National park (11°16′N, 76°28.5′E) located 40 km from my hometown Ooty. The National park at an elevation from 1100 to 2600 metres is known for its shola forests along with its montane shrublands and grasslands.


The view of Mukurthi Peak taken from the National park – January 2016

We managed to get permission to enter the well-preserved park which also is home to the Nilgiri Tahr (goat- like species) which is another endangered species thriving in these forests. We were a group of 3 friends who wanted to explore some of Nature’s beauty but at that moment we were not aware that this experience would become one of the best moments in our lives.

The two-day visit to the park started with a 30 km bumpy ride through thick mountainous forests which could be covered only by the special forest Jeep. We stayed in a fishing hut almost near the heart of the Mukurthi National Park. With a well-packed lunch and a cool evening by the stream, we could not have expected for a more relaxing day.


The view of the stream in Mukurthi National Park

One important feature of this place was it isolated from the modern world. With no electricity and mobile phone coverage this place gave us a unique feeling. We were excited by the forest surrounding and started on an early morning walk just before sunrise.

We had just walked a few hundred metres from the fishing hut when we noticed a herd of Blackbucks. We walked forward when we first realised a strong scent of predator urine in our path, generally tigers mark their territory with urine and anal gland secretions. We continued forward with great caution stopping at curves listening to the sounds in the forests. The forest around us started getting denser and the thick overstorey made the forest dark even with the sunlight above us.


The path during our early morning walk- January 2016

We followed the path to reach a small creek where we found fresh pugmarks of the predator. With our hearts beating at full speed we were unsure to proceed any further. Generally, there are three signs to predators in the wild: pugmarks, Scent of urine and fresh nail marks on trees.

We stood by the creek analysing the pug marks when we heard a tiger roar maybe a few hundred metres ahead of us. With our hearts pounding hard we moved to a higher ground where we listened to the continuous roar of the predator. Unable to see our path ahead of us in the thick forest we decided to return back and left the tiger undisturbed. I am sure we were very close to having a glimpse of the majestic beast but the experience also made me realise that the path belonged to the tiger and that we were in its territory.

Successful tiger Conservation in India

The main project that was initiated to save the tiger population was called the ‘Project Tiger’ which was started in 1973 by the Indian government. In order to protect the national animal, the tiger task force was initiated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority in 2005.


Graph showing the tiger population growth due to conservation measures

Currently, there are 47 exclusive tiger reserves in India and the Government has also planned to add another 10 reserves in the near future. With modern methods like camera trapping, images captured using drones the results have now become more credible.


Image captured in Ranthambore tiger reserve (Rajasthan, India) during 2015

Many of the tiger reserves have been instrumental in setting up the ‘Eco-sensitive zone’, It is a 10 km zone from the reserve where no mining, Industries and hotels can be set up. Many tiger countries are set to adapt the Indian methodology to conserve tigers. Experts and scientist in India consider that tiger population indicates the health of forest apex in the country. The positive conservation measures have been welcomed by the scientific community throughout the world. It is, therefore, crucial to ‘ walk behind the tiger’ and implement conservation measures for other endangered species.


I would like to thank the Nilgiri Wildlife Association for granting us permission to visit the park.

My friend/Wildlife photographer Prajwal Rajappa for providing the pictures of the tigers.


KARANTH, K. U., NICHOLS, J. D., SEIDENSTRICKER, J., DINERSTEIN, E., SMITH, J. L. D., MCDOUGAL, C., JOHNSINGH, A., CHUNDAWAT, R. S. & THAPAR, V. 2003. Science deficiency in conservation practice: the monitoring of tiger populations in India. Animal Conservation, 6, 141-146.

O’BRIEN, T. G., KINNAIRD, M. F. & WIBISONO, H. T. 2003. Crouching tigers, hidden prey: Sumatran tiger and prey populations in a tropical forest landscape. Animal Conservation, 6, 131-139.

SANDERSON, E. W., FORREST, J., LOUCKS, C., GINSBERG, J., DINERSTEIN, E., SEIDENSTICKER, J., LEIMGRUBER, P., SONGER, M., HEYDLAUFF, A. & O’BRIEN, T. 2010. Setting priorities for tiger conservation: 2005–2015. Tigers of the world: the science, politics, and conservation of Panthera tigris. Boston: William Andrew Publishing, 143-161.

SEIDENSTICKER, J. 1999. Riding the tiger: tiger conservation in human-dominated landscapes, Cambridge University Press.

SUNQUIST, M., KARANTH, K. U. & SUNQUIST, F. 1999. Ecology, behaviour and resilience of the tiger and its conservation needs. Riding the tiger: tiger conservation in human-dominated landscapes, 5-18.



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Volunteering for Frogwatch was an Unfrogettable Experience

e13bcd815090c90373124c1b22c9a1038b68059952541f2c25d1f305d94f587b_1 Figure 1. A frog doing what it excels best in: Being cute

Frogs are super cute and harmless to humans (Fig 1.), but globally, they are in serious decline due to threats like pollution, introduced fish species, loss of frog habitat, and disease (Fig 2).

vbeycfmbFigure 2. How I feel about the loss of frogs

How do we stop frogs from disappearing? One strategy to mitigate the loss of biodiversity is monitoring. This is what The ACT and Region Frogwatch program (Frogwatch for short) is all about!

What is Frogwatch?

Frogwatch is a program that involves a large number of volunteers from all ages to conduct monitoring of frogs. The data submitted by volunteers is used for providing valuable information about frog populations in the ACT and region.

But why frogs?

Frogs are an indicator species. What this means is having them around can tell you stuff about the environment. For frogs, they are an indicator of environment health, and their presence can indicate if a habitat is of high quality with good quality water.

They are also useful to monitor because:

  • Frog eggs do not have a shell, and adult frogs have a permeable skin to “drink” and breathe through. Therefore, frogs are sensitive to even small concentrations of pollutants such as pesticides, detergents and industrial chemicals.
  • Frogs require water to breed. Therefore, frogs can only reproduce in waterways that are relatively free of toxic pollutants.
  • Each frog species has a distinctive mating call which is easy to learn and recognise. Therefore frogs can be monitored in a non-invasive, inexpensive way.

ar7swjtFigure 3. This picture is  just here to keep your attention.

So what does Frogwatch do?

Frogwatch has two main goals:

  1. Organising and maintaining an annual community frog-monitoring program.
  2. Delivering a range of school education products to help students learn about frogs.

I helped out with both of these goals, but I mainly helped out with goal two.

What did I do?

I went through the training seminar on how to do a frog survey. I conducted my own survey of a dam near my house. I plan on doing more surveys in the future because in science, the more data scientists have, the better the analysis will be. You can hear me conducting a survey here:

What I mainly did was help out with goal two, which was Frogwatch’s Tadpole Kit Program (Fig 4).

f3dc871b68d88f82e0df6c38bc9e473c Figure 4. Tadpole pun.  

People want to move frogs for various reasons. However, removing and displacing tadpoles and frogs from the wild without a specific license is illegal in the ACT (Fig. 5).

dcf414153cbc37f4e54fe81a5205e31fFigure 5. Don’t move frogs around, it’s illegal!

Frogwatch wants to educate people about moving frogs but still give an opportunity for people to have a look at frogs. So Frogwatch loans out complete Tadpole kits so that students can observe the amazing process of tadpoles going through metamorphoses (Fig 6).

58dc364c9f3191f1f3b6b3500efe6ac4Fig 6. This is what I think of when I hear the word metamorphoses. Note that this is not what metamorphoses is!

Over the two days I had to assemble about 100 tadpole kits (Fig. 7 & 8) Contents included a tank, information booklets, gravel, scrub, frog food, a water treatment bottle, a bucket, and of course tadpoles.

img_20161010_105625002Figure 7. What came in the Tadpole kit.

img_20161010_123210340Figure 8. Me catching tadpoles. You can see a tadpole up in the left hand corner.

Making the kits wasn’t too bad but getting the tadpoles was very time-consuming! Just imagine trying to catch eight small and camouflaged tadpoles swimming around in a big container of water… now imagine doing that 100 times! (Fig 9.)

201603_1131_bfdcb_smFigure 9. Me being frustrated trying to catch the tadpoles

Then we had to deliver these kits to teachers from different schools. The first day of delivery was crazy because you have a swarm of north side teachers who were keen to get their hands on tadpole kits.

Day two was much worse because we had to transport these kits to the south side. Anke-Maria who is the frog coordinator of Frogwatch, had a sick child and had to go home which left me to do most of the work.

I had to fit in tons of tadpole kits in my car and catch about 50×8 tadpoles again. My car was so full of boxes, gravel, and tadpoles (I wish I got take a picture of this because it was packed!).

Turns out I misheard Anke-Maria and made way more tadpole bags then I needed, and because tadpole catching is time-consuming, and because I didn’t know what time I had to be down at south side, I ended up being late by 40 minutes (Fig 10).

1c7vvrxFigure 10. Me when receiving instructions.

Luckily for me, Anke-Maria came down to South Side for the rescue. And despite the rough start, everything turned out good in the end (Fig. 11).

feels-good-manFigure 11. How I felt after the hardships of volunteering

What did I learn?

I learnt how small the Frogwatch organisation was. Anke-Maria is basically the only person behind Frogwatch. Besides the tadpole kit program, she also conducts seminars on frog watching, she listens in to the frog recordings people send in (which I linked earlier) to verify if people have correctly identified the frogs, she does all the administration work, and top that off with being a mother.

What you can do

I can’t imagine how things would have gone for her if I didn’t offer to volunteer. Having other volunteers would have made both our lives easier in this hectic time. Anke-Maria also said that she’s always looking for volunteers because it would free her up to do other project ideas for Frogwatch.

To volunteer send an email to: Frogwatch(at)

Got any questions about what I did at Frogwatch? Comment below! Or send me an email scabe3000(at)

P.S. I got to take home my own tadpole kit. Can’t wait to see them grow up! (I know it looks like nothing right now but that blob right there is a tadpole tank!)


My volunteering experience occurred on  9 October – 12 October 2016.
Written by Satra Kien


Learn about how to create a habitat for frogs at the Frogwatch site:

Find out about frog threats and other information about Frogs

Learn more about Frogwatch:

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