The conservation and recovery of threatened fauna has until recent years been species focused, with little coordination between the single-species programs. There has been more coordination across the South Coast Region for threatened flora and ecological communities as planning is overseen by district recovery teams.
Effort for a more coordinated approach is occurring as shown by the development of the South Coast Threatened Species and Ecological Communities Regional Strategic Management Plan (Gilfillan et al. 2009b), the multi-species South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team and Recovery Plan (Gilfillan et al. 2009a), the Integrated Predator Management Program and the development of this Plan.
When threatened species or threatened ecological communities are identified on land not managed by DEC, the department will advise the landowner/manager of their responsibilities under State law and of any schemes that may assist them to ensure the conservation of the species or community concerned. Any known individuals or organisations whose activities may affect the species or community, will also be notified of these matters.
A brief summary of existing recovery activities in the Fitzgerald Biosphere is provided below. There are many other conservation and sustainable land use programs in the Fitzgerald Biosphere that also indirectly benefit the conservation of threatened species/communities. An example of this is the Gondwana Link program (Gondwana Link 2008). This program is working to reconnect the landscape across south-western Australia and has a priority area of focus between the Fitzgerald River National Park and the Stirling Ranges. As a part of this program, Bush Heritage Australia and Greening Australia have purchased four properties totalling over 4000 ha in the Fitzgerald Biosphere for remnant vegetation protection and revegetation. Gondwana Link is also active in supporting improved land management and restoration of bushland. More information on such programs can be obtained through South Coast NRM Inc., Fitzgerald Biosphere Group and the Ravensthorpe Agricultural Initiative Network.
In 2004/2005 the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group developed a Fitzgerald Biosphere bibliography database to document the biological studies relating to nature conservation that had occurred in the Fitzgerald Biosphere. This database is an important collation of data and information for the Biosphere.
Threatened and Priority Mammals
Specific recovery actions for threatened and priority mammals in the Fitzgerald Biosphere has primarily focused on Dibblers and the reintroduction of Numbats. There has also been a couple of general small to medium mammal surveys (e.g. FRNP in 1985-87 (Chapman & Newbey 1995) and FRNP and the buffer zone of the Biosphere in 1993-97 (Sanders 1996)), and regular monitoring near Twertup and along Moir Track in the FRNP and in Corackerup Nature Reserve as part of the Western Shield monitoring program since 1997. Gondwana Link also conducts regular monitoring for small to medium-sized mammals on their properties. In recent years there have also been detailed studies on Heath Mouse and Chuditch in the Biosphere.
Dibblers have been specifically surveyed for in the FRNP since 1996 (Tony Friend pers. comm. 2010). This has included several research projects into the Dibbler’s home range, habitat preferences, and genetic and reproductive studies to compare the FRNP populations with the Jurien Bay island populations. In 2000, Dibblers were taken from FRNP to source a captive breeding population at Perth Zoo. This captive population has since supplied animals for translocations to the Stirling Range National Park and proposed Peniup Nature Reserve.
Numbats probably occurred patchily across the Fitzgerald Biosphere, but disappeared from the region in the mid-1900’s. Captive-bred and wild caught Numbats from Dryandra were reintroduced into the woodland areas of Cocanarup Timber Reserve in 2006 (following a vegetation assessment and termite sampling showing the habitat as suitable) (Tony Friend pers. comm. 2010). Further individuals have been released annually up to 2010. This reintroduction project has been regularly monitored using radio-tracking by DEC staff and volunteers from the Friends of the Fitzgerald River National Park. The first successful breeding and sightings of wild born young were in 2008. No further releases are planned for this population, which will be regularly monitored to determine its success.
Tammar (P5) and Western Brush (P4) Wallabies are being used as indicators of the success of fox baiting and habitat restoration within the Gondwana Link program, which is creating a habitat link between FRNP and the Stirling Range National Park by protecting remnant vegetation and restoring native vegetation (Gondwana Link 2008). These two priority species, will indicate whether the program’s management actions will also benefit other threatened and priority species impacted by the same threatening processes.
Threatened and Priority Birds
Threatened bird conservation and recovery in the Fitzgerald Biosphere has concentrated on the Western Ground Parrot, Western Bristlebird, Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo and Malleefowl. Opportunistic surveys are periodically conducted of the other threatened and priority bird species. Hooded Plovers are monitored annually during breeding season by volunteers from Birds Australia for a state-wide project.
The Western Ground Parrot was first recorded in the Fitzgerald region in 1965 (Watkins 1985 in Burbidge et al. 1997). The presence of Western Ground Parrots was a major justification for the addition of approximately 100,000ha of land to the northern boundary of the FRNP in 1988. The FRNP Management Plan does not specify management guidelines for this species, but the general prescriptions (i.e. fire management, fox baiting program) were formulated with the conservation of the Western Ground Parrot as a major objective (Burbidge et al. 1997). The first population estimate for the FRNP was made in 1990. Since 2004, DEC (in conjunction with South Coast NRM Inc., Friends of the Western Ground Parrot community group and volunteers) has coordinated a program for the species including annual monitoring of known populations, surveys for new populations and potential habitat, and studies of breeding activity (Abby Berryman pers. comm. 2010).
The Western Bristlebird currently occurs in two areas: Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve to Bluff Creek and FRNP. The Western Bristlebirds in the FRNP have been regularly surveyed since 1980 (Gilfillan et al. 2009a).
Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo conservation is coordinated by the Birds Australia Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo Recovery program. In the Fitzgerald Biosphere this has included population surveys, reporting of nesting trees and documenting of foot plants.
Malleefowl conservation in the Biosphere has largely been coordinated by the community group, Malleefowl Preservation Group. This is a very active group, who organise community education programs (e.g. the “Malleefowl Magic” school program, displays at country shows and field days, and a regular newsletter), and a sightings scheme whereby members of the public are encouraged to report their Malleefowl sightings. They also work with local land managers and other community groups to assist threat abatement such as in the control of foxes (Dennings 2009; Short & Parsons 2008). The group is also active in gaining funding for Malleefowl conservation and coordinating research programs.
The conservation and recovery of threatened flora across the Biosphere is in general coordinated by DEC and includes primarily monitoring of current populations, surveys for additional populations and seed collection (Sarah Barrett pers. comm. 2010). Populations on roads and major tracks are marked with permanent Declared Rare Flora (DRF) markers, yellow posts that mark the general location of threatened flora along roads and tracks to ensure that these species are not accidently impacted on during road maintenance.
Seeds have been collected and stored in DEC’s Threatened Flora Seed Centre from 21 (72%) of the threatened species and 59 (26%) of the priority species from the Biosphere (Anne Cochrane pers. comm. 2010). New populations of threatened or priority flora species and undiscovered species are still occasionally located by DEC staff, interested community members or consultant botanist doing surveys for mining exploration.
Western Shield is a state-wide fauna conservation program managed by DEC that began in 1996. The program undertakes ground and aerial baiting for fox control, reintroduction programs for threatened fauna and related monitoring and research. In the Fitzgerald Biosphere, over 410,000 hectares of FRNP, Ravensthorpe Range, Peniup (proposed) Nature Reserve, and Lake Magenta, and Corackerup Nature Reserves is ground and aerial baited with 1080 fox baits. The success of the fox baiting is monitored at four sites in the FRNP and Corackerup Nature Reserve.
Control of cats and foxes (e.g. fox baiting, shooting) is also conducted by many land managers on private property. However, there are no records kept of where control has been conducted on private property, or monitoring of its success, apart from records of purchase of baits.
A community based feral animal control program ‘Red Card for Rabbits and Red Foxes’ operates across the agricultural regions of Western Australia. It is a coordinated control program (primarily shooting and baiting) run by local community groups, sporting clubs, local governments and individual land holders. The level of activity of this program within the Fitzgerald Biosphere varies from year to year.
DEC began a landscape conservation program for integrated predator control in the FRNP in 2009 (Sarah Comer pers. comm. 2010). Western Ground Parrot populations have significantly declined over the last five years in the FRNP, despite the control in the threatening processes of fire, foxes and Phytophthora cinnamomi. It has been hypothesised that the predation by feral cats is the primary factor in this decline. The objective of this project is to halt the decline of ‘critical weight-range’ mammals and birds in FRNP and Cape Arid National Park. Although the focus of this project is Western Ground Parrots, it is anticipated that the project will result in improved ecosystem health of the project areas and benefit other threatened species including the Dibbler, Red-tailed Phascogale and Chuditch. The first stage of this adaptive management project is the trialling of the cat baits ERADICAT™ using a Before After Control Impact (BACI) framework.
Fire management of the FRNP is guided by the ‘South Coast Regional Fire Management Plan 2009-2014’ (DEC 2009), the FRNP Management Plan (Moore et al. 1991), the FRNP Wilderness Fire Management Strategy (DEC 1995) and discussion paper (DEC draft). Implementation of these plans for the FRNP is overseen by a fire advisory group. The FRNP has had a history of large scale bushfires. Therefore current fire management for the Park is focused on creating and maintaining a spatial mosaic of fuel ages and has made significant progress towards achieving this (Barrett et al. 2009). It also includes a focus on protecting habitat critical for threatened species and ecological communities.
Barrett et al. (2009) recently collated the fire ecology information for the South Coast Region and identified the fire sensitive systems in the landscape. The document developed recommendations and guidelines for the management and monitoring of these systems.
Phytophthora Dieback Management
As the FRNP is one of the largest patches of native vegetation in the southwest of Western Australia that is relatively dieback-free, there has been a significant focus on dieback control in the Fitzgerald Biosphere by DEC and South Coast NRM. The dieback management of the FRNP is managed under the FRNP Management Plan (Moore et al. 1991), while South Coast NRM developed a strategic plan for managing dieback external to the Park (South Coast NRM 2009).
There are three small dieback infestations in FRNP, an internal catchment along Bell Track, Susetta Creek and in the Pabelup area (Figure 7). DEC is trying to prevent the further spread of these infestations (e.g. the Bell Track has been fenced to prevent spread by animals) and trialling novel eradication methods. To date these infestations are not a significant threat to any threatened or priority species in the Park, however further spread through the Park would have a devastating impact on many of the vegetation communities and threatened species.
Research is currently being conducted in the FRNP on the impact of aerial cankers as there is growing concern they may have significant impacts on the vegetation communities and many of the threatened and priority flora species in the Biosphere (Sarah Comer pers. comm. 2010).