Improving habitat models and their utility in koala conservation
Cork, SJ, Hume, ID & Foley, WJ 2000, Conservation Biology, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 660-668.
Conservation efforts and decision-making for the protection of koalas are often dependent on sufficient koala habitat models, which identify geographic distributions of the species and show changes in habitat use in response to different variables over time. A review of models showed that there is a need to improve the accuracy and authority of such models for meaningful use in the decision-making process.
This study analysed koala habitat models and found that few studies analysed distributions at regional and landscape scales, and many provided inaccurate predictions of occurrence at local scales, which has caused disagreement between multiple parties trying to implement informed conservation policies and practices. This review identified considerable variation in estimated koala population sizes, which has led to an overall failure to accurately define the extent and location of koala distributions. This causes problems at a political level as it becomes difficult to design effective policies to benefit koala conservation efforts, and can also lead to increased conflict over competing land uses such as agriculture.
Koala habitat models that provide accurate and relevant information are key to improving koala conservation efforts and effective policy design. Without an informed understanding of habitat use, koala habitat and, consequently, populations may decline due to suboptimal management of these regions. To improve koala habitat models, the authors recommend the use of more accurate survey methods at both regional and local scales, well-designed predictive models, and remote sensing maps. The authors also emphasise the importance of increased cooperation between all relevant stakeholders in decision-making.
Summarised by Robyn Boldy
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