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Modelling the potential range of the koala at the Last Glacial Maximum: future conservation implications

Christine Adams-Hoskinga, Patrick T. Mossa, Jonathan R. Rhodesa,b, Hedley S. Granthamb and Clive McAlpinea,b.

aThe University of Queensland, Landscape Ecology and Conservation Group, School of Geography, Planning, and Environmental Management, Brisbane, Qld 4072 Australia.
bThe University of Queensland, The Ecology Centre, Brisbane, Qld 4072 Australia.

ABSTRACT
The koala Phascolarctos cinereus is the only member of the once diverse marsupial family Phascolarctidae to have survived the Last Glacial Maximum. A climate envelope model for P. cinereus was developed to predict the range for this species at present and at the Last Glacial Maximum. The model was compared to the contemporary koala records and the known fossil records of P. cinereus during the Quaternary. The predicted current core range for koalas was concentrated in southeast Queensland, eastern New South Wales and eastern Victoria. At the Last Glacial Maximum their predicted core range contracted significantly to southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales. Our findings concord with other studies that find species experienced range contractions during glacial maxima. In the context of the future conservation planning for koalas in the wild, our historical perspective demonstrates the past adaptations of koalas to changes in climate and their probable range contraction to climatic refugia. The future survival of wide-ranging specialist species, such as the koala, may depend on identifying and protecting, future climatic refugia.

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  • 2013
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