Environmental issues

Pests and weeds

Choosing pest animal species to model

More than 50 non-native pest animal species have established wild populations in Australia.

Based on a recent report Risk assessment models for establishment of exotic vertebrates in Australia and New Zealand, feral cats, foxes, feral goats, rabbits and feral pigs have the greatest impacts on biodiversity. These and five other pest species (wild dogs, cane toads, deer, common mynas and starlings) were selected as part of this project.

Why use models

Modelling of native and introduced species distribution is a widely-used method for predicting the occurrence of species in locations where surveys have not been made or where information is scant. More recently such modelling processes have also been used to make predictions on the distribution of species under future climatic conditions.

Modelling tools

A large array of modelling tools is available and an objective of this project is to determine the most useful models to predict the impacts of climate change on pest animal distribution and abundance. Before predicting any changes in distribution, we need a model to explain the current distribution of pests. The relationship between pest distribution, habitat and climate is being explored using statistical modelling. For those species which are significantly affected by climate, future climate scenarios will be introduced into the analysis to explore potential climate change impacts on the distribution of pest animals.

Data required to run the models

There are two types of data required:

  • Pest animal species distribution data: Data on the distribution of the major pest animals in NSW is available from a survey of land managers undertaken by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
  • Environmental variables including climate data: Predicting the likely pest animal distribution in un-surveyed areas is achieved by using a range of environmental variables including soil and vegetation type and land use. Climate data for both the present-day climate and modelled future climate was extracted from the BIOCLIM database.

Interim results

The study is not complete, but we have some preliminary findings for cane toads.



Page last updated: 26 February 2011