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Interpreting patterns of population change in koalas from long-term datasets in Coffs Harbour on the north coast of New South Wales

Daniel LunneyA,B,E, Martin PredavecA, Indrie MillerA, Ian ShannonA, Mark FisherC, Chris MoonA, Alison MatthewsA, John TurbillC and Jonathan R. RhodesD

AScience Division, Office of Environment and Heritage NSW, PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia.
BSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
CBiodiversity Conservation Unit, Regional Operations Group, Office of Environment and Heritage NSW, Locked Bag 914, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia.
DNERP Environmental Decisions Hub, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.
Corresponding author. Email:

We examined a long-term, repeat dataset for the koala population within Coffs Harbour Local Government Area. Analyses of these data have led to the conclusion that, following a perceived population decline in the 1980s, the koala population of Coffs Harbour has endured between 1990 and 2011 and showed no evidence of a precipitous decline during this period. Rather, the population change is best characterised as stable to slowly declining. This conclusion appears to contradict a common view of recent koala population declines on the north coast of New South Wales. There are four possible explanations for the populations apparent stability: that conservation efforts and planning regulations have been effective; that surviving adults are persisting in existing home ranges in remnant habitat; that the broader Coffs Harbour population is operating as a source and sinkmetapopulation; and/or that the standard survey methods employed are not sufficiently sensitive to detect small population changes. These findings do not mean there is no need for future conservation efforts aimed at koalas in Coffs Harbour; however, such efforts will need to better understand and account for a koala population that can be considered to be stable to slowly declining.

  • All
  • 2013
  • Biogeography
  • Biology
  • Chlamydia
  • Diet
  • Disease
  • Ecology
  • Ellis
  • Eucalyptus
  • Genetics
  • Habitat
  • Infection
  • Interventions
  • Koala
  • Lunney
  • Threats
  • Timms
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