Incorporating Habitat Mapping into Practical Koala Conservation on Private Lands
DANIEL LUNNEY,* ALISON MATTHEWS, CHRIS MOON, AND SIMON FERRIER
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, 43 Bridge Street, P.O. Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia
Identifying and conserving faunal habitat on private lands has been conducted largely on a site-by-site basis as development proposals arise. We sought to map koala habitat at a scale suitable for use by a local planning authority so that habitat remnants could be protected and managed while remaining in private ownership. At this scale, the level of detail and accuracy needed by local planners required a new approach to mapping koala habitat. Two independent techniques, community and field surveys, were employed. We mailed a survey to every household in Coffs Harbour shire. Respondents told of 3309 koala sightings. We conducted a field survey, a plot-based scat (fecal pellet) search, to determine which vegetation types and tree species were preferred by koalas. We surveyed 119 sites, which contained 42 different vegetation types. Of these, 37 (31%) had been used by koalas. The outcomes of the community and field surveys were combined to produce a distribution map of koala habitat. The most striking outcome has been the use of our results by the local government authority, Coffs Harbour City Council: planners have incorporated the koala habitat map into their local environmental plan. Our procedure offers a rigorous, repeatable, and publicly accessible method for identifying and mapping important habitat for the purposes of land-use planning, an essential procedure for conserving habitat outside the reserve system.