Dramatic decline of Australian bird populations

8 February 2010

Biologists from Monash University, Deakin University and the University of Melbourne have studied the composition and distribution of bird communities in Victoria, in southeastern Australia, over a period of 15 years. Two-thirds of the species that were monitored showed a dramatic decline in abundance.

A similar population decline was found in woodlands enclaves (>10,000 hectares)—including national parks—and in cleared areas. All categories of birds were affected. Even common species like musk lorikeets (Glossopsitta concinna) and red wattlebirds (Anthochaera carunculata) suffered from decreased abundance.

The combined effect of a loss of available food, due primarily to severe drought since 1996, and a deterioration in the quality of nesting sites seems to have severely reduced the reproductive success rate. Weather patterns are leaving the avian population less resistant to changes in land use. Better management of wooded ecosystems could bolster the resilience of bird communities, as suggested by higher reproductive rates observed in areas with fertile soil that have only recently been cleared.

Collapse of an avifauna: climate change appears to exacerbate habitat loss and degradation, MAC NALLY Ralph, BENNETT Andrew F., THOMSON James R., RADFORD James Q., UNMACK Guy, HORROCKS Gregory, VESK Peter A. ; Diversity and distributions ; 2009, vol. 15, no4, pp. 720-730