Contribution of community knowledge of vertebrate fauna to management and planning
Lunney, D, O’Neill, L, Matthews, A, & Coburn, D 2000, Ecological Management & Restoration, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 175 – 184.
A postal survey on vertebrate fauna was conducted within the community living on the Iluka Peninsula in northern New South Wales. The survey asked residents to mark on a map the locations of vertebrate species (both alive and dead) they had seen on the Iluka Peninsula, as well as a series of questions about opinions on wildlife conservation and management. The survey revealed not only is the abundance of vertebrate fauna on the Iluka Peninsula, but the strong community support for improved habitat and wildlife management.
Surveys were posted to all residents of the Iluka Peninsula, as well as those in the surrounding Maclean Shire. Significantly more surveys were returned from residents of the Iluka Peninsula, indicating a greater interest in wildlife in the local community. The most common locations for wildlife sightings were on private land, near the read, near the river or along the coast. A considerable portion (44%) of survey respondents believed that wildlife had declined in numbers on the Iluka Peninsula during their time living or holidaying there. Introduced plants and animals, traffic and increased development were suggested by respondents as the most likely causes of this decline. The majority (92%) of respondents believed that more action was necessary for wildlife management, with actions such as a wildlife management plan (54% support), bush regeneration (52% support) and environmental protection zoning (48% support) receiving the greatest support. Similar amounts of species richness and abundance were reported for both private land and in the nearby Bundjalung National Park. Vertebrate species appeared to cluster in certain areas on the Peninsula. Koalas, for example, were most abundant along Iluka Road and at the south of the Peninsula.
The data gathered in this survey were compared to that of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Atlas of NSW fauna records. More sightings were recorded in this survey than in the NPWS Atlas for the majority of species. More koalas were identified on private land in the survey than for the entire current record in the Atlas. This indicates that a considerable number of koalas, and other vertebrate species, were living on private land. The survey also provided valuable information about what the community believed was threatening wildlife, what can be done to conserve wildlife and the level of community support for wildlife management.
Surveys such as this one provide valuable information for conservation contribute to wildlife records and create opportunities for community consultation and contribution to wildlife management. They also generate community awareness about wildlife conservation. The greatest benefit of community surveys is that they provide data about wildlife abundance on private land, sites that are usually inaccessible to scientists. There is some concern that laypeople are not able to correctly identify wildlife species, and more research is needed to clarify this potential issue.
Summarised by Alexander Hendry
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