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Improving Habitat Models and Their Utility in Koala Conservation

 

STEVEN J. CORK,* IAN D. HUME,† AND WILLIAM J. FOLEY‡

*CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia, email

†School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia, email

‡Division of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra 0200, Australia, email

ABSTRACT

Models of what makes good koala habitat are a key to developing effective conservation policy and practices. Koala habitat models are based on (1) ecological studies of high-density koala populations in limited areas, (2) physiological studies of koala nutrition and characteristics of food plants, and (3) surveys of koala geographic distribution and biophysical features of forests and woodlands. The role of models in koala conservation varies because legislators, decision makers, land managers, and citizens have different expectations and uses for models. Although current habitat models address many of these needs, overall they lack sufficient certainty and authority to resolve disputes and develop policy. Unpublished and inadequately peer-reviewed data and models add to misinterpretation and argument. Improvements are needed in the decision-making process to increase the constructive involvement of all interest groups and to focus on the koala conservation problem, thereby reducing use of the popular media and courts of law to achieve objectives.