The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) will be running the NSW Great Koala Count 2013. We will recruit members of the public to act as citizen scientists and collect data on where Koalas are found so we can determine their distribution in relation to the many threats they face.
This project was funded through generous donations from FNPW supporters across Australia and beyond.
The koala faces many threats including habitat loss, fragmentation and/or degradation, diseases, domestic dogs and cars. NPA is also very concerned about climate change and its potential threat to Koalas. By finding out where Koalas are present and where they are absent, we will be able to determine how the Koala is using the landscape and determine the threats to population around NSW.
The Count will occur for a period of one week during November 2013. At this time of year Koalas move lower down in the trees so are easier to detect then at other times. As it is also breeding season, joeys are present so we will be able to record information on the number of young.
A smart phone app will be available for our citizen scientist to download in order to record the GPS location of the Koala and for easy input of data. People who don’t have smart phones can enter their recording s onto NPA Koala research portal.
The data collected by our citizen scientists will inform the government on that state of Koalas across NSW. As the public have collected this data and have surveyed for threats that Koala’s are facing, it is hoped this will push the government to take action for the sake of this iconic species.
Results from data collected will provide multi-species benefits via integration with other measures to conserve biological diversity and to maintain ecological systems and processes.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY
FNPW supports projects across Australia. In the spirit of reconciliation the we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.
PROGRESS OF THIS PROJECT
This project was funded by FNPW in 2013.
The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) is the lead organisation for this project.
Further information about our project partner can be found on their website:
Koalas are an excellent example of a species that could benefit from management via adaptive citizen science research. Declines in koalas across its range are attributed in part to the cumulative effects of mortality factors that accompany human population growth. National legislation to protect koalas does not require landowners to protect koalas from common sources of mortality such as dogs, collisions with cars or protection of feeding and shelter trees. We believe that to generate the necessary changes in human behaviour, public involvement is critical for the conservation of koalas.
The citizen scientists who took part in the Koala Count contributed greatly to our understanding of koalas in their areas and established a baseline that will be extremely valuable for further research. While every regional koala population is different and needs to be managed at a local level, there were some trends across the study that are worth noting:
- The results of the Great Koala Count suggest that our citizen scientists thought koala numbers were staying the same (Byron, Kyogle, 5 combined LGAs and Gunnedah) or recorded a lack of knowledge regarding trends in koala numbers (Lismore, Ballina and Tweed). Port Stephens was the only LGA where koala numbers were recorded as increasing and staying the same in Kyogle.
- A very high proportion of our citizen scientists recorded koalas on private land, regardless of LGA. This highlights the importance for landowners to retaining remnant vegetation and/or plant feeding or shelter trees. However even where habitat does remain, and is recorded by our citizen scientists, its value can be compromised by vehicles strikes and attacks by dogs. We need to reduce the effects of anthropogenic influence on koalas as a priority.
- There was some public awareness of the threat posed by diseases to koalas. This awareness should be maintained and increased, to allow citizen scientists and other members of the public to identify sick koalas and contact appropriate carers.
- Citizen scientists did not always rate the impacts of habitat loss and fragmentation very highly, which is significant considering a substantial proportion of koalas were recorded on private land. This indicates a need for further community education about the direct and indirect threats posed by habitat loss and fragmentation to koalas, and the cumulative effects of clearing on iconic species across the landscape.
Many researchers and koala experts suggest that it is the availability and quality of habitat that will ultimately decide the long-term survival of koala populations. As previously discussed, threats including vehicle strikes, dog attacks, chronic stress, susceptibility to disease and loss of body condition are all closely linked to one major pressure; habitat loss and fragmentation. This study has shown that a significant proportion of koalas are found in habitat on private land and not in reserves, due to their preference for trees on high nutrient soils (Reeds and Lunney, 1990). Thus, it is clear that landowners retaining vegetation remnants or revegetating cleared landscapes to restore habitat will play a major role in the long-term survival of koalas.