Conclusions and Recommendations for Koala Conservation
Steven J. Cork1, Tim W. Clark2, Nicole Mazur3
1 CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology, G.P.O. Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
2 School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, U.S.A., and Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Box 2705, Jackson, WY 83001, U.S.A
3 Urban and Environmental Research Program, Research School for the Social Sciences, the Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
The papers presented in this special section address a range of matters regarding koala conservation. The first paper by Stratford et al. considers many of the cultural and political factors underlying the process of koala management and research. The authors recognize that koala management research has produced valuable information about koala biology and ecology but has been slow to generate data about organizational and policy processes and the cultural contexts in which we produce, disseminate, and recognize knowledge. For example, they point out that conflicting land-use values and disagreement among interest groups about how best to manage the ecosystems on which koalas depend are at the heart of the koala conservation debate. They recommend increased collaboration, cooperation, and trust among social and natural scientists in the conduct of koala conservation research, management, and policy as a means to reduce the conflict. The next five papers explore many methodological considerations in koala research and the application of research to management practice. Melzer et al. provide an overview of the distribution and abundance of koalas. They note that continued land clearance in many parts of New South Wales and Queensland confounds reliable knowledge about the distribution of koalas and poses threats to their viability. They call for regular national surveys of koalas and koala habitat distribution to address biases in past surveys and account for regional variation, habitat requirements of local populations, ecological functioning of riparian and fragmented habitats, and drought refugia. Sherwin et al. review the status of knowledge on koala genetics. The authors recommend that the genetic management of koalas be an integral part of conservation strategies and plans, but they warn that care must be taken in using concepts such as evolutionarily significant units and management units. Lunney et al. detail a case of habitat mapping as a means to koala conservation outside of reserves. They recommend that the use of vegetation maps for defining koala habitat on private land be a requirement of local government planning. Phillips examines current standards of assessment
and management in koala conservation. He recommends that we move away from population estimates to a greater emphasis on demographic trends for conserving threatened species, and that we utilize current criteria of the World Conservation Union to conservatively categorize the koala as vulnerable. Penn et al. review the use of demographic forecasting in koala management. They suggest that the data available on dispersal, normal and catastrophic environmental variation in reproduction and survival, and the effects of habitat change be integrated with new and expanded exploration of whether demographic data from one population can be applied to other populations. The last three papers consider how the state of knowledge of koala management and research influences decision-making processes. Cork et al. review the design and use of three different types of koala habitat models and the purposes for which different decision makers want the model. They conclude that different models meet different needs but that the difficulties in surveying koalas, combined with escalating conflict among interest groups, has put demands for scientific information beyond the ability of scientists to provide it. Clark, Mazur, Cork, Dovers, and Harding identify the decision-making context of koala policy and appraise each phase in that process. They assert that, to improve conservation outcomes, examples of where koalas are being managed successfully must be found, components of those decision-making systems must be analyzed, and the results must be used as prototypes for other management efforts. Finally, Clark, Mazur, Begg, and Cork offer a procedural guideline for developing practical and effective koala conservation policy. They assert that increased understanding of the how and what of policy processes can contribute to the conservation of many species.