The dirt on balancing koala science

While it may seem logical, this week the ABC reports on collaborative koala research at Gunnedah involving the New South Wales Office of Heritage and Environment, the Australian National University, Murdoch University and University of Sydney who all apparently agree the current approach to koala management is unbalanced.

Consequently, the team leader ” . . .Dr Matthew Crowther from the University of Sydney questions the efficacy of koala management plans that focus solely on preventing the loss of food trees or restoring food species habitat lost to development.”

This is the focus of all the current koala efforts in NSW whether it be here or in Gunnedah and as Dr Crowther says” . .  The tree-use study could mean that habitat restoration, or biobanking proposals based on planting food trees, are doomed to fail unless mature older trees required for shelter are also maintained.”

Die-back is as serious an issue around Gunnedah as it is on agricultural land around here, except koalas still use paddock trees in Gunnedah and it seems likely that the cause, land degradation, eventually has similar impacts on all trees in any bio-region.

In that regard I’ve finally gotten around to scanning the first lot of information we engaged soil chemist Ian Little to collect and decipher from the Murrah River catchment. As indicated in the graph below based on data from one of the soil sample locations, Sodium measured as Exchangeable Sodium Percentage (ESP) increases as the soil depth increases and Calcium decreases with soil depth.

 

CK2

Coupled with the knowledge that water turbidity has increased, the notion that soils are simply dispersing throughout the bio-region and being transported out to sea should partly explain why there are no other koalas, why the last ones are here and why current efforts won’t help the few that remain.

So I guess the issue for koalas is that because current NSW government efforts to protect them and maintain and restore their habitat aren’t balanced with credible science, the species is dependent on a few in the community to ensure science does play a part.

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