Saving our Species research projects

The Saving our Species team program funds a range of research projects to improve our knowledge of threatened species, ecological communities and threats.

Find out more about the research streams and resources resulting from Saving our Species research.

What we are doing

These are some of the research projects currently being undertaken by the Saving our Species team.

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)Heating up: Planning for climate impacts on sea turtle nests in NSW

Science and Research Grant $54,850 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (National Parks and Wildlife Service)

Project partners

  • Griffith University
  • Australian Seabird Rescue
  • Tweed Council
  • Tweed/Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council
  • Byron Council
  • Clarence Valley Council

Target species, communities and threats
Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) – Listed as Endangered under Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) – Listed as Vulnerable under Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016

Project description
This collaborative project will connect existing resources across New South Wales to research marine turtle nesting activity. A multidisciplinary team of researchers, alongside trained community-based citizen science volunteers, will quantify the effect of rising temperatures on marine turtle reproductive output at known New South Wales nesting beaches and identify beaches that may represent a temperature refuge under future climate change scenarios. Furthermore, we will establish baseline information and ongoing monitoring protocols for nesting turtles in New South Wales. This will be achieved via data logger installation at nest depth within all known nesting beaches. Additionally, this project will develop a model for predicting in-nest temperatures based off readily available environmental data. The model will be developed by analysing the relationship between remote environmental data and nest temperature data over the course of this project. This will in turn, identify nesting sites that may serve as a refuge under future climate scenarios. Thirdly, the project aims to create an expert citizen science volunteer base within the community. Citizen scientists will be trained in standardised marine turtle monitoring protocols, and contribute data to the NSW Wildlife Atlas for verification. Overall, this project will identify optimal and critical temperatures within turtle nesting sites and provide a model to readily inform short and long-term management based on this information. The strong volunteer base will provide up-to-date varied data, which will ensure responsive management practices.

Timeframe
2018-21

Tablelands Snow Gum, Black Sallee, Candlebark and Ribbon Gum Grassy Woodland in the South Eastern Highlands, Sydney Basin, South East Corner and NSW South Western Slopes Bioregions, Threatened Ecological CommunityTemperature tolerances of threatened ecological communities

Lead partner

  • Australian National University

Project partners

  • Australian National Botanic Gardens
  • Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment
  • University of Technology Sydney

Project title
Assessing adaptive capacity of species in threatened ecological communities by mapping thermal tolerance thresholds

Target species, communities and threats

  • Windswept Feldmark, Snowpatch feldmark and Snowpatch herbfields in the Australian Alps Bioregion.
  • Montane Peatlands and Swamps of the New England Tableland, NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin, South East Corner, South Eastern Highlands and Australian Alps Bioregion.
  • Tablelands Snow Gum, Black Sallee, Candlebark and Ribbon Gum Grassy Woodland in the South Eastern Highlands, Sydney Basin, South East Corner and NSW South Western Slopes Bioregions (note that this threatened ecological community occurs around Kosciuszko National Park, very little within, but is highly relevant as a potential feeder of species into the Alps in the future).
  • In addition, we will include species of alpine shrub and grasslands, which are key neighbouring communities, species of which will influence the adaptive capacity of the key threatened ecological communities.

Project description
Measuring adaptive capacity of species and communities in the face of novel climatic drivers and rapid change is neither simple nor straightforward, but we have an approach that will significantly advance our understanding and ability to manage threatened ecological communities (TECs) and their species effectively. We focus on the most challenging elements of adaptive capacity – quantifying the relevant phenotypic plasticity and genetic structure – as these will be fundamental to short and long-term climate response respectively. In the face of a warming, drying and increasingly variable climate, innate and inducible tolerance temperature extremes could mean life or death. This is particularly true for species of extreme environments, like deserts and mountain tops, that already live close to thermal limits and have very restricted opportunities for dispersal. Indeed, it is not surprising a large number of listed TEC's fall in these extremes. With our Department colleagues we will select 48 species of interest from alpine and arid/semi-arid TECs. We will assign species to categories of predicted high and low adaptive capacity following the model of our recent Expert Knowledge Working Group on Alpine Adaptive Capacity. We will carry out assessments of phenotypic plasticity in temperature tolerance of both high and low extremes in different life stages and seasons. We will assess whether and how measures of that plasticity correlate with more easily quantified characters like functional traits, range and environmental characteristics, and genetic structure. By characterising physiological tolerances and acclimation potential of species of contrasting dominance in several TECs, we will provide critical contributions to the developing database of adaptive capacity for these species. Equally importantly, findings will shed light on the evolutionary processes that underlie that capacity for adaptation and on our ability to predict it.

Timeframe
2018-21

White Box Yellow Box Blakely’s Red Gum WoodlandAbility of woody plants to adapt to climate change

Science and Research Grant $105,000 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • Western Sydney University

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)
  • University of New England

Project title
Adaptive capacity to climate change in rare woody plants: a comparative framework testing model predictions

Target species, communities and threats
Widespread species:

  • White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum Woodland – Critically Endangered TEC Eucalyptus blakelyi and Eucalyptus melliodora
  • Cumberland Plain Woodland in the Sydney Basin Bioregion – Critically Endangered TEC Eucalyptus molucanna and Eucalyptus tereticornis

Rare species:

  • Angophora exul – Endangered
  • Angophora inopina – Vulnerable
  • Angophora robur – Vulnerable
  • Eucalyptus aggregata – Vulnerable
  • Eucalyptus castrensis – Endangered
  • Eucalyptus glaucina – Vulnerable
  • Eucalyptus imlayensis – Critically Endangered
  • Eucalyptus magnificata – Endangered
  • Eucalyptus parramattensis – Vulnerable
  • Eucalyptus scoparia – Endangered
  • Eucalyptus tetrapleura – Vulnerable

Project description
Climate change increases the uncertainty for the persistence of threatened species and threatened ecological communities. Current predictions of climate suitability rely on species distribution modelling and to some extent, life-history traits, to guide conservation strategies. Critically, these methods neglect the ability of species to adapt to changing climatic conditions. It is assumed that the adaptive capacity of rare species is negligible due to limited climatic distribution. However, species' distributions may be much smaller than their physiological and adaptive limits because of competition, limited dispersal, and recent speciation events. This project aims to test the assumptions and predictions of climate models by empirically determining adaptive capacity to climate change for threatened species and threatened ecological communities (TECs). It will integrate different disciplines from modelling, ecology, physiology and genetics to develop robust predictions of species ability to respond to climate change. It will employ a strong comparative framework with species showing contrasting distribution patterns, modes of dispersal, life-history traits selected across major plant families. The outcomes of this research will improve policy decisions and management practices through the characterisation of adaptive genetic variation across species' climatic distributions and identification of potential climate thresholds. This will support data driven decision making, and the development of scientifically based adaptive management strategies, such as assisted migration and translocations.

Timeframe
2018-21

White Box Yellow Box Blakely’s Red Gum WoodlandUsing habitat, traits, physiological tolerance and genetics to determine ability to adapt to climate change

Science and Research Grant $140,000 over 4 years

Lead partner

  • Western Sydney University

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)
  • Macquarie University
  • Royal Botanic Gardens

Project title
Quantifying adaptive capacity to climate change through a multi-faceted approach: habitat suitability, functional traits, physiological tolerance and genetic adaptation

Target species, communities and threats
The focus of the current red gum experiment is Eucalyptus tereticornis (present in 15 TECs), E. blakelyi (White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum Woodland), E. glaucina (vulnerable species) and E. parramattensis (vulnerable species)

Project description
This research project will build adaptive capacity into Saving our Species through the development of a multi-faceted research approach that will definitively determine the adaptive capacity of threatened species and threatened ecological communities by assessing habitat suitability, functional traits, gene flow, population structure, adaptive genetic variation, and physiological tolerance to temperature and water availability. This will determine if habitat suitability and functional trait approaches that have been employed for a wide range of species are associated with adaptive genetic variation and physiological tolerance, which are more cost/labour intensive but provide mechanistic estimates of adaptive capacity to climate change. The findings will inform how Saving our Species site managed programs will need to be updated to maximise the likelihood of maintaining viable species and threatened ecological communities over 100 years.

Timeframe
2017-21

Regrowth after fire discovery tour at Warrumbungle National Park. The park is the focus of a major research and recovery program by National ParksTechniques to maximise ecosystem function and adaptive capacity in EEC restoration

Science and Research Grant $224,493 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)

Project partners

  • University of Wollongong
  • Australian Catholic University

Target species, communities and threats
White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum Woodland EEC

Project description
Resilience of endangered ecological communities to impacts of disturbance and stress requires that the component species be able to adapt to environmental change. With this project we plan to examine 3 key elements of past and future resilience in an endangered ecological community that has undergone past restoration; White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum Woodland in Warrumbungle National Park. We will examine the genetic diversity of previously-planted trees and compare it to that in the broader natural landscape. We will assess rates of natural regeneration and examine whether the source is the previous plantings or the remnant vegetation. We will test whether manual manipulation of key habitat features (hollows, mistletoe and coarse wood debris) can accelerate fauna colonisation of restored vegetation or, indirectly or directly accelerate plant recruitment. Based on this we will identify future management actions to accelerate the recovery of ecosystem complexity in highly disturbed endangered ecological communities. Specifically, the likely outcomes of this project are:

  • Evidence to guide seed-sourcing and proximity of planted trees to maximise genetic diversity in future restoration.
  • Identification of areas of predicted poor natural recruitment in Warrumbungle National Park to target for future planting.
  • Protocols to accelerate colonisation of restored areas by threatened fauna reliant on hollows, mistletoe or coarse woody debris. The techniques we develop are likely to have broad applicability to woodland restoration.

Timeframe
2018-21

Sphagnum Frog, Philoria sphagnicolusAdaptive capacity in mountain-top frogs

Science and Research Grant $30,000 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • University of Newcastle

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment

Project title
Determining adaptive capacity of mountain top frogs to climate change predictions

Target species, communities and threats
Sphagnum frog (Vulnerable, NSW), Pouched frog (Vulnerable, NSW)

Project description
High altitude frogs are predicted to be impacted by climate change due to loss of habitat. This project will study the ability of frogs in northern NSW to cope with higher temperature and less moisture. The study will look at multiple populations of both species using a metabolic chamber to study basal metabolic rate at a range of naturally-occurring temperatures. It will help inform management for their survival under changing environmental conditions.

Timeframe
2017-20

Genoplesium rhyolictumImproving ex-situ techniques to support threatened orchid translocations

Science and Research Grant $101,321 over 4 years

Lead partner

  • Royal Botanic Gardens

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment

Target species, communities and threats
Genoplesium plumosum
Genoplesium rhyolictum
Prasophyllum affine
Prasophyllum petilum

Project description
There are 12 threatened Prasophyllum and 7 threatened Genoplesium species in New South Wales. To date, no techniques have been developed to effectively germinate and raise seedlings of these species for the purposes of translocation. This project, therefore, aims to develop methods for propagation of the species by determining:

  • Which mycorrhizal fungi are required to germinate the seeds?
  • Which is the best medium to use for
    • culturing the fungi
    • germinating the seeds?
  • What is the best temperature range to use for
    • germinating the seeds
    • storing the fungi?
  • What are the optimal nursery conditions that will enable seedlings to be successfully grown to maturity?

The development of propagation techniques for these species will enable the future development of translocation plans to aid the recovery of the species.

Timeframe
2017-21

Grevillea beadleana. This species has been assigned to the Keep-watch species management stream under the Saving our Species programPollination systems as indicators of fire regime impacts – a study of thresholds

Science and Research Grant $60,000 over 4 years

Lead partner

  • University of New England

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment

Target species, communities and threats
Grevillea beadleana; Howell Shrublands, an endangered ecological community and the following threatened species occur there; Homoranthus prolixus, Boronia granitica, Eucalyptus mckieana, Monotaxis macrophylla, Leionema rotundifolium and Acacia granitica, Mount McKenzie Nature Reserve; Prostanthera staurophylla

Project description
This project will study pollinator communities and pollination processes using fire regime history as treatment factors; e.g., fire-free intervals 20+ years, intermediate (e.g. regular 1 fire in 10 years) and frequent (annual, biennial burns), replicated within and across at least 2 community types; eucalypt forests (e.g. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, Newholme Research Station (the latter with many areas fire-free for 50-150 yrs) and heath communities on the New England Batholith (granitic fire-prone ecosystems; e.g. the threatened ecological community Howell Shrublands, Mount McKenzie Nature Reserve). Where possible we will take advantage of local burning operations to use a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design to measure responses in pollination systems. The key research questions are:

  • How do complex pollination systems respond to fire?
  • How long does it take for pollinator communities to recover after severe fire?

We will measure pollinator networks, pollinator abundance and diversity, fruit to flower ratios in key species and examine the irreplaceability risk to mutualisms.

Timeframe
2017-21

Persoonia hindii habitat after fireImpact of fire frequency and season on threatened plants

Science and Research Grant $220,000 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • University of New South Wales

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)

Project title
Assessment of exposure of threatened plants to adverse fire impacts: frequency and season of burn

Target species, communities and threats
Fire as a threatening process

Project description
Informed fire management of threatened species is not possible without an understanding of the impacts that different elements of the fire regime have on the persistence of species. Using available data on fire history, combined with known thresholds of concern for high fire frequency, we will quantify the exposure of some 200 threatened plant species to high fire frequency across a range of habitats and regions. We will then use case studies to see if this has resulted in declines in populations of these threatened plants. Finally, we will attempt to incorporate risks from other components of the fire regime (low fire frequency, fire season, fire severity) into this fire risk framework in collaboration with University partners. The outcomes will help inform management of the impacts of fires on threatened plant species in New South Wales, in particular highlighting where high fire frequency is of concern. We will also provide a foundation for examining other aspects of the fire regime that need to be considered to ensure the risk of extinction is minimised for threatened species in New South Wales.

Timeframe
2018-21

Resources

Coastal Upland Swamp in the Sydney Basin BioregionConservation of threatened groundwater dependent ecosystems

Science and Research Grant $70,000 over 2 years

Lead partner

  • University of New South Wales

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment

Project title
Conservation of threatened groundwater dependent ecosystems: understanding resilience and adaptive capacity to hydrological change

Target species, communities and threats
Coastal Upland Swamps in the Sydney Basin Bioregion and Blue Mountains Swamps in the Sydney Basin Bioregion

Project description
This project will determine the sensitivity of threatened groundwater dependent ecosystems to hydrological change, the time lags involved in responses and how these may be mediated by fire. It will leverage previous Environmental Trust investment through an established microcosm experiment to efficiently estimate responses of plant species composition and biomass to hydrological and fire treatments designed to simulate alternative futures for underground mining, catchment development, fire management and climate change. Findings will improve understanding of the resilience and adaptive capacity of groundwater dependent ecosystems to hydrological change and inform catchment management decisions, design of underground mines, fire management and climate adaptation strategies to conserve the unique biodiversity and critical ecosystem services of threatened groundwater dependent ecosystems.

Timeframe
2018-20

Nature walking track, Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area Fire on the mountain: Post-fire recovery of Mt Canobolas' unique threatened species

Science and Research Grant $48,620 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)

Project partners

  • Australian National University
  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (National Parks and Wildlife Service)
  • University of New England
  • Royal Botanic Garden

Target species, communities and threats
Eucalyptus canobolensis
Prostanthera gilesii
Mount Canobolas Xanthoparmelia TEC

Project description
Mount Canobolas is one of the highest peaks (1392 metres) between the Blue Mountains and the Indian Ocean. Approximately 70% of the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area was burnt in February 2018 wildfires. Because of its topography, and sizeable area of remnant vegetation (1672 hectares), it contains a suite of rare habitats and unique threatened species, including the only population of the Critically Endangered Prostanthera gilesii, which was entirely burnt in the fire. Many of the species and communities endemic to Mount Canobolas are poorly known and were extensively affected by the fire. For example, the Xanthoparmelia lichen Endangered Ecological Community (which includes 3 lichen species described since 2014) and the Endangered Eucalyptus canobolensis. This project aims to determine the extent to which Prostanthera gilesii and Eucalyptus canobolensis resprout or seed, monitor their fire responses, assess the impact of fire on Xanthoparmelia lichen Endangered Ecological Community, and make recommendations for management in this crucial post-fire period. In addition, this project aims to inform the management of Mount Canobolas endemic threatened species into the future. This project will monitor the recovery of the natural population of Prostanthera gilesii as well as gathering information to support the establishment of a new Prostanthera gilesii populations. Establishment of new populations using translocation is one way to reduce extinction risk, from a single catastrophic event (e.g., fire or disease) in species limited to a single location, such as Prostanthera gilesii. This project will also partner with Charles Sturt University in a genetic analysis project to define the morphological characteristics, and geographic distribution, of Eucalyptus canobolensis (and closely related Eucalyptus rubida) – current uncertainty in which has the potential to cause management inefficiencies. This work is timely because the February 2018 fire has triggered resprouting, providing abundant coppice material, which is key to identification of Eucalyptus canobolensis.

Timeframe
2018-21

Box gum woodlandEffective restoration of Box Gum Woodland

Science and Research Grant $65,000 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment
  • University of Sydney

Project title
An assessment of Box Gum Woodland to drive effective restoration

Target species, communities and threats
Box Gum Woodland Endangered Ecological Community

Project description
The objective is to assess what is required for the management and restoration of Box Gum Woodlands that directly links to International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat criteria and is scientifically defensible. However, this work is not just applicable to this community. The concept of directly assessing/forecasting requirements to effect community threat status downgrading is likely to be applicable to many endangered ecological communities (EECs) in New South Wales. The objective is to test this concept which could then be applied to EECs more generally. The intended outcome is that Box Gum Woodland management and restoration can be undertaken in an informed and efficient manner and work towards an established endpoint. Box Gum Woodland (Endangered – BC Act; Critically Endangered – Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) was once the most widespread terrestrial community in New South Wales. Today its scattered remnants (~5% of pre- European extent) span New South Wales but are still the habitat for innumerable threatened species. As such, no conservation or restoration initiative at the National or NSW state level could be considered a success until a downgrading of threat status is achieved for Box Gum Woodlands. This project will directly assess what is required to achieve this. Without this understanding management or restoration for Box Gum Woodlands will likely be undertaken without meaningful success criteria. IUCN Red List Criteria for ecosystems will be used to generate success criteria (set the benchmark for the level of connectivity; range and ecosystem variability etc.) required to be met for downgrading to vulnerable. Currently, mapped plant community types for this community (which are derived from expert judgement) are dysfunctional (poorly represent and map the community) and at odds with the only range-wide floristic study which found little community variation across the entire range. This study will resolve this dilemma. A further challenge is that the current very limited reservation of the community is also highly biased towards community ecotones/fringes. Community variability, the spatial pattern of this variability, current reservation and tenure patterns of the community will be assessed. A spatially explicit map at the landscape scale of what is required to achieve a threat status downgrade will be produced. The map will build from currently limited reservation extent and be designed to maximise efficiency. The map will provide an overall adaptable guide to private land conservation or reservation requirements for Box Gum Woodlands.

Timeframe
2018-21

Henry Head walking track, Kamay Botany Bay National ParkFire regimes for the critically endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub

Science and Research Grant $35,000 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (National Parks and Wildlife Service)
  • University of New South Wales
  • National Environmental Science Program Threatened Species Recovery Hub

Project title
Defining fire regime thresholds of potential concern for the critically endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub

Target species, communities and threats
Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub
Agnes Banks Woodland
Elderslie Forest Banksia Scrub Forest

Project description
This study will provide revised thresholds of potential concern and a new community-level synthesis for fire management of the critically endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub. The study will address key knowledge gaps specified in the SoS Science and Research 2017-18 implementation plan in relation to fire, namely:

  • Quantify primary/secondary juvenile periods and seed bank lifespan for as many species within Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub as possible.
  • Record key indicators of post-fire recovery to inform the minimum fire frequency thresholds for species that are sensitive to high frequency fire.
  • Better integrate other components of the fire regime (low fire frequency, fire severity, fire season and patchiness/extent) into fire management and the interactions of these components with high fire frequency under a changing climate.

The study will enable more effective fire management for conservation of Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub and a range of other threatened ecological communities through a stronger evidence-base for setting minimum and maximum fire interval thresholds of potential concern. These thresholds will be formulated for consecutive intervals and season of burn, an innovation that will improve the efficacy of current thresholds of potential concern, which are based only on single intervals.

Timeframe
2018-21

Updating fire frequency thresholds for threatened species

Science and Research Grant $140,000 over 2 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Project partners

  • University of New South Wales
  • University of Wollongong
  • NESP Threatened Species Hub
  • Rural Fire Service

Project title
Review and update of fire frequency thresholds for all threatened species

Target species, communities and threats
Key threatening process: fire

Project description
Fire is one of the most critical forces in the Australian landscape. Fires that happen too frequently can seriously damage ecosystems; too infrequently, and fire-dependent plants and animals will disappear. To make matters more complicated, these thresholds are often different for different species. Researchers in this project worked closely with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), as well as experts on how fire affects plants and animals. The results address the impact of seasonality, severity and spatial extent of fire on threatened species, providing a framework for including threatened species, populations, and ecological communities in the RFS Bushfire Environmental Assessment Code (PDF 2.2MB). These guidelines will also be used to inform conservation projects for all threatened species which are exposed to fire.

Timeframe
2016-18, completed 2018

Resources

  • Report (in prep): Recommended Fire Frequency Thresholds for Threatened Flora in NSW

Male Petalura gigantea Giant dragonflyResilience in swamp communities

Science and Research Grant $70,000 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • Macquarie University

Project partners

  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
  • Blue Mountains Local Council

Project title
Building the resilience of swamp communities to environmental change in the Sydney Basin

Target species, communities and threats

  • Giant dragonfly Petalura gigantea
  • Swamp threatened ecological communities
  • Blue Mountains Swamp
  • Newnes Plateau Shrub Swamp
  • Coastal upland Swamp
  • Montane Peatland and Swamps

Project description
Swamps in the Sydney Basin Bioregion are critical for maintaining hydrological functions and providing ecological resources but are under significant threat from land clearing, urban and industrial development. This can lead to sedimentation, eutrophication and weed invasion. Consequently, many swamp habitat areas in the Sydney Basin are listed as vulnerable or endangered, along with their vertebrate and invertebrate fauna. The macroinvertebrates of swamp communities and their ecosystem functions will be measured from across threatened swamp communities. Using techniques like eDNA, genetic dispersal capacity and adaptive variation will be used to understand how resilient these communities are to change.

Timeframe
2018-21

A grounded perspective of Cumberland Plain Woodland at Scheyville National Park.Identifying meaningful indicators of ecosystem function for monitoring threatened ecological communities

Science and Research Grant $87,812 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)

Project partners

  • Western Sydney University
  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment

Target species, communities and threats
Cumberland Plain Woodland of the Sydney Bioregion

Project description
Ecosystem processes and biodiversity are integral to healthy ecosystems, yet we have a limited understanding of these within threatened ecological communities. By measuring soil biodiversity and ecosystem functions of target threatened ecological communities we will improve our ability to understand change within the systems, including possible thresholds in relation to condition state. This will help to better manage threatened ecological communities by identifying potential constraints and gains in relation to aspects like regeneration and threat mitigation. Robust ecosystem function indicators will be identified, allowing better monitoring of the health of threatened ecological communities and more informed management.

Timeframe
2018-21

Developing conceptual models for monitoring

Science and Research Grant $145,000 over 2 years

Lead partner

  • University of Queensland

Project partners

  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
  • NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub

Project title
Guidelines for estimating and evaluating species' response to management

Target species, communities and threats
All site-managed and landscape-managed species

Project description
Designed to support the SoS Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting framework, this project provides a scientifically rigorous evidence base for evaluating species' response to management under SoS. The project supports SoS in clearly articulating targets for population outcomes and reporting on success to government and the community in a meaningful way. The guidelines provide SoS project coordinators with a step by step approach to using conceptual models for selecting relevant indicators and estimating a species' expected response to management for these indicators. Conceptual modelling is a useful technique that can help experts test and formalise their knowledge about a species and the threats it faces. It can also be used to assist in the selection of indicators for species monitoring. Conceptual models take various forms ranging from a simple text narrative to tables, or diagrams using boxes and arrows. A series of case studies were developed that span taxonomic groups, habitat types, threats and data availability levels to demonstrate the development and use of conceptual models. Conceptual models are a particularly attractive tool for the SoS program as they are able to combine monitoring data with expert knowledge to create an overall description of the processes occurring at each site (and are a requisite component of project monitoring plans).

Timeframe
2016-18, completed 2018

Resources
Saving our Species Guidelines for Estimating and Evaluating Species' Response to Management

Cumberland Plain Woodland in the Sydney Basin Bioregion and understorey of Bursaria spinosa or Native blackthornEvidence-based conservation investment

Science and Research Grant $39,640 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • University of New South Wales

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment University of Queensland

Project title
Patch value, viability and resilience: building the evidence base on to support regulatory and investment decisions for conservation of threatened ecological communities and species

Target species, communities and threats
Fourteen threatened ecological communities occur within the Cumberland Plain study area and are expected to benefit from this project

Project description
For both Ecological Communities and Species, theory predicts that large and connected habitat patches should support more species and experience lower extinction rates than small disconnected patches, other things being equal. The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, the Commonwealth (DoEE) and local government rely on these general principles to implement their biodiversity policies and operations in a cost-effective manner. While acknowledging that other things are seldom equal, there is a limited evidence base on how to adapt general principles to context-specific conservation decisions. In this project, we aim to develop and apply an approach to determine the contribution of individual patches to landscape-level value, viability and resilience of threatened ecological communities and species, to support evidence-based conservation and development decisions in fragmented landscapes. To achieve this, we will review the literature on relationships between patch attributes and biodiversity value and viability and build on existing survey and monitoring data sets to quantify how patch size is related to native species retention, local extinctions of threatened species, exotic species invasions and changes in habitat structure. We will use the results to develop models and operational rules of thumb to predict which patches are likely to be most responsive to deployment of conservation resources.

Timeframe
2018-21

Modeling species distributions

Science and Research Grant $22,000 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • University of Newcastle

Project partners

  • University of Helsinki

Project title
Trait-based joint modelling of species communities using presence-only data

Target species, communities and threats
This project can be used to model any type of species community provided sufficient data is available

Project description
This project will develop a set of tools to build reliable models of species distributions informed by traits, phylogeny, and community structure while addressing known issues of observer bias and accommodating departures from assumptions of spatial independence. We will achieve this by extending a suite of tools known as hierarchical modelling of species communities, developed by Professor Otso Ovaskainen of the University of Helsinki to the use of presence-only data. Prior work has demonstrated the improvements in predictive performance and interpretation available through point process models as opposed to Maxent for single species, and by considering the impact of traits, phylogeny, and species co-occurrence using hierarchical modelling of species communities. While the focus of this project is on building models based on presence-only data, the techniques we will develop are easily extendable to cases in which additional data types are available, such as presence-absence or abundance data as collected from systematic surveys. Such ventures of data integration have likewise been shown to improve model performance. We will demonstrate the capacity of these trait-based, phylogenetically-constrained joint species distribution models for a community chosen in collaboration with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. Such an analysis can serve as a template for how to make the best possible use of available data in future modelling exercises used to inform conservation efforts.

Timeframe
2017-20

Regenerating Eucalypt woodland following bushfires in the Blue MountainsRapid assessment of threatened ecological communities

Science and Research Grant $52,756 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • University of Sydney

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)
  • University of Queensland
  • University of New South Wales

Project title
Rapid assessment and prediction of condition in threatened ecological communities to inform conservation resource allocation decisions

Target species, communities and threats
This project has direct benefit for all threatened ecological communities (TECs) that have inappropriate fire regimes listed as a threatening process

Project description
This project seeks to understand how far threatened ecological communities (TECs) in New South Wales diverge from their 'ideal' condition as a whole and when broken into subsets based on key management attributes (e.g. tenure, Natural Resource Management regions). The project relies on engaging a PhD student to undertake research into the following questions:

  • what is the current ecological condition of TECs in relation to benchmark reference states of disturbance from fire?
  • how might the condition of selected TECs change under current or proposed management plans?
  • can we identify areas within the current distribution of a TEC that are higher priority for management based on how far they diverge from their natural state?

Expected outcomes include a new database of expected benchmark intervals and uncertainties in tolerable disturbance regimes across all TECs for which disturbance processes are recognised as critical to measure and manage, information on whole-of-TEC benefits (related to change in TEC condition) of alternative management scenarios, and regional analyses and maps indicating current condition of different TECs as well as the impact of changed fire on the vulnerability of alternative TECs (useful for prioritising action, e.g. fire exclusion or management).

Timeframe
2018-21

Translocation: Can we jump start threatened plant species recovery?

Science and Research Grant $15,000 over 1 year

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)

Project partners

  • Australian Network for Plant Conservation
  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment
  • Royal Botanic Gardens

Target species, communities and threats
All threatened species that have translocation listed as a management action

Project description
The focus of this research will be in providing a decision-making framework for assessment of the utility of translocation as a management action, compared to other conservation management actions (e.g., weeding, fencing) for any particular plant species. It will do this by assessing the relative effectiveness of conservation management actions, in particular, the ability to move species to lower threat categories (i.e., critically endangered to endangered, endangered to vulnerable) and the time it takes to do so, compared to and resource input (i.e., financial investment required).

Timeframe
2017-18

Resources

Supporting landscape species in NSW

Science and Research Grant $92,928 over 2 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment
  • Macquarie University

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (Science Division)
  • CSIRO

Project title
Mapping current and forecasted capacity to support landscape species across New South Wales and informing the identification of priority management sites for landscape species

Target species, communities and threats
Landscape species

Project description
The biodiversity node at Macquarie University has recently produced time-series climate suitability models (CSMs) for 111 target fauna species (decadal time-steps for 12 NARCLiM climate projections). The CSMs describe the shifting climate envelopes for the species, but do not account for other factors such as the composition, condition and spatial arrangement of habitat. Nor do they provide practical guidance on what conservation action to undertake, and where. The project will be a pilot that will model a small subset (6-10) of the 111 fauna species with the aim of establishing the feasibility of subsequently expanding to more species, and establishing a methodology for that expansion. The project will also address the feasibility of developing the project into a decision-support and MER (monitoring, evaluation and reporting) framework.

Timeframe
2016-18

Making decisions that protect species' future ranges

Science and Research Grant $124,000 over 2 years

Lead partner

  • Macquarie University

Project partners

  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
  • University of New South Wales
  • NSW Adaptation Research Hub (Biodiversity Node)

Project title
Maximising the adaptive capacity of threatened species and ecological communities - using range of metrics to evaluate SoS projects' likelihood of maintaining adaptive capacity

Target species, communities and threats
All site-managed species

Project description
As climate conditions change, it's essential to protect the places where species will live in the future, as well as where they live now. This project assessed the adaptive capacity of all species in site-managed conservation projects, incorporating current and future conditions. Each existing site-based project was studied to see how well it incorporates planning for increased temperatures. The team made recommendations for new management locations, and designed tools that help pick the best future sites for newly listed species.

Timeframe
2016-18, completed 2018, extension project underway.

Resources

Finding statewide conservation investment hotspots

Science and Research Grant $195,000 over 2 years

Lead partner

  • CSIRO

Project partners

  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Project title
Integration of all spatial priority data into a single analysis, informing statewide investment benefiting species, endangered ecological communities, and threats

Target species, communities and threats
Program strategy

Project description

SoS funds hundreds of separate projects across the state. But what could be accomplished if we found ways to identify projects that overlap? Finding hotspots where more than one species is being conserved allows us to concentrate our efforts and more effectively use our resources i.e. one team could make a single trip to a site, instead of multiple trips by different people. People working at the same site can share information and work together. The cost savings helps SoS support more species overall. This project produced map-based tools to guide conservation investment and the selection of new sites over time.

Timeframe
2016-18, completed 2018, extension project underway

Resources

  • Project Summary
  • Report: Integration of all spatial priority data
  • Web-based spatial tool

Themeda grassland on seacliffs and coastal headlands in the NSW North Coast Sydney Basin and South East Corner bioregions, Threatened Ecological Community Abating the threat of exotic perennial grasses in native grasslands

Science and Research Grant, $239, 760 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • University of Wollongong

Project partner

  • NPWS Pests and Weeds Unit

Target communities

  • Themeda grasslands on sea cliffs
  • Illawarra Lowland Grassy Woodland
  • Lowland Grassy Woodland
  • White Box yellow box grassy woodland
  • Monaro Cool temperate grassy woodlands
  • Werriwa cool temperate grassy woodlands (previously tablelands snow gum black sallee woodlands)
  • Natural temperate grasslands
  • Ribbon mountain gum snow gum grassy woodland
  • New England peppermint woodland

Project description

Invasion of native plant communities by exotic perennial grasses is a key threatening process. With a lack of understanding on the specific impacts of exotic perennial grasses on biodiversity values across grassland communities management can be impacted. The impact to the native ecosystem differs among exotic grasses and controlling these exotic perennial grasses in native grasslands presents a considerable challenge to land managers. Particularly in native grasslands, identification compared to natives and the reduction of off-target damage can be difficult. This project will review literature of exotic perennial grasses to determine our state of knowledge and will aim to investigate and fill knowledge gaps. This project will compile existing knowledge of impacts and management option and develop field-ready tools to help managers make strategic and informed decision about exotic perennial grass management within Threatened Ecological Communities (TECs). Guided by surveys of 10 focal TECs the project will improve land managers ability to identify which exotic perennial grasses pose the greatest threat to a range of TECs, enabling strategic threat abatement and management across New South Wales.

Timeframe

2018–21

Asparagus vine, Nielsen Park, Sydney Harbour NPAbating the threat of exotic vines and scramblers in coastal forests and woodlands

Science and Research Grant $213,528 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • University of Wollongong

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (National Parks and Wildlife Service)

Target species, communities and threats

  • Illawarra Subtropical Rainforest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion
  • Littoral Rainforest in the NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East Corner Bioregions
  • Lowland Rainforest on Floodplain in the NSW North Coast Bioregion
  • Milton Ulladulla Subtropical Rainforest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion
  • Moist Shale Woodland in the Sydney Basin Bioregion
  • Mount Gibraltar Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion
  • Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest
  • Robertson Basalt Tall Open-forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion
  • Subtropical Coastal Floodplain Forest of the NSW North Coast Bioregion
  • Swamp Oak Floodplain Forest of the NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East Corner Bioregions
  • Swamp Sclerophyll Forest on Coastal Floodplains of the NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East Corner bioregions
  • Western Sydney Dry Rainforest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion.

Project description
Invasion by exotic vines and scramblers (EVS) is a key threatening process. These aggressive weeds cause significant impacts on a range of threatened ecological communities (TECs). Controlling vines is particularly difficult because they often co-occur with valuable native species, which can suffer unacceptable levels of off-target damage. Thus, management of exotic vines and scramblers is time consuming and expensive. This project will help managers by undertaking ecological research and developing decision support tools that will enable managers to prioritise management actions to target those species that are having the greatest impacts on threatened ecological communities. Surveys will assess damage levels of different exotic vines and scramblers in 12 TECs, providing managers with greater understanding of impacts and where they are occurring. Secondly, it will undertake ecological research to measure reproduction and growth rates in the field and lab, to provide knowledge of invasion rates and inform prioritisation. Finally, we will develop decision support tools to help managers prioritise action to reduce the impacts of those exotic vines and scramblers that are causing the most damage to threatened entities. We will work with PWU to disseminate this information via Savings our Species teams and to partners that are involved in TEC management (via TEC coordinators), as well as workshops. Finally, the work will be published as a scientific paper.

Timeframe
2018–21

Feral Cat (Felis catus), Key Threatening Process: Predation by the Feral Cat Felis catus Improving measurement, monitoring and management of feral cats

Science and Research Grant $72,400 over 4 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service)

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment
  • University of New England

Target species, communities and threats
Feral cats (threat)

Project description
The aim of this proposal is to increase the rigour of monitoring at feral cat key threatening process demonstration sites by accurately measuring cat populations densities. This will improve our ability to quantify the outcomes of management programs.

Timeframe
2017–21

Sambar deer browsing on Pale Pomaderris (Pomaderris pallida). Key Threatening Process: Herbivory and environmental degradation caused by feral deerDeveloping model programs for feral deer management

Science and Research Grant $114,400 over 4 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment (National Parks and Wildlife Service)

Project partners

  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment

Target species, communities and threats
Feral deer (threat)

Project description
The aim of this project is to establish nil-treatment sites to compliment demonstration sites established under the Saving our Species Deer Key Threatening Process Strategy to determine the effectiveness of an integrated feral deer control program in protecting native species. The establishment of demonstration sites is a critical action under the Saving our Species Feral Deer Key Threatening Process strategy. However, the existing budget for key threatening processes under the Saving our Species program is not enough of itself to allow for the establishment of nil-treatment sites (experimental controls). This project will establish 2 nil-treatment sites in Kosciuszko National Park, each paired with an existing deer demonstration site. These sites have populations of both sambar and fallow deer, which will be variously controlled and monitored using similar techniques. Aerial shooting and ground shooting utilising thermal detection equipment will be used at the demonstration sites to reduce the number of deer. The outcome of these methods will be monitored with camera arrays and aerial surveys. Reduction in impacts will also be investigated by leveraging existing monitoring programs for pale pomaderris and leafy anchor plant as well as including new monitoring of other vegetation at treatment sites.

Timeframe
2017–21

Spotted-tail quoll (Dasyurus maculatus)Targeting feral pests without harming pregnant quolls

Science and Research Grant $130,000 over 2 years

Lead partner

  • Department of Primary Industries

Project partners

  • Cooperative Research Centre for Invasive Species
  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment
  • Local Land Services

Project title

Investigating impacts of high intensity spring baiting on survival and recruitment of juvenile spotted-tailed quolls

Target species, communities and threats

Spotted-tailed quoll, Key threatening processes; feral foxes, feral dogs, feral cats

Project description

The project aims to improve understanding of the impacts of aerial baiting on quolls, cats, dog and foxes. The Spotted-tailed Quoll Dasyurus maculatus is the Australian mainland's largest carnivorous marsupial. It is categorised as a landscape species under the SoS program. Aerial baiting is effective for dogs and foxes, and initial evidence suggests that it also significantly depresses cat numbers. This project asked whether aerial baiting is successful at reducing cats, and whether this would have negative impacts on quolls. Researchers found that these methods were effective for depressing cat numbers and did not negatively impact adult or juvenile quolls.

Timeframe

2016–18, completed 2018

Resources

  • Management recommendation: Aerial baiting at a maximum rate of 40 baits per linear kilometre does not have any overt negative impact on female quolls and their ability to raise young.
  • Presentation at the NSW Vertebrate Pest Management Symposium, Coffs Harbour, 16-18 October 2018.
  • Peer-reviewed publication: Monitoring impacts of aerial baiting for wild dogs on female spotted-tailed quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) during the breeding season (in prep).

Noisy Miner birds Manorina melanocephalaManaging noisy miners to protect eucalypt forests from dieback

Key Threatening Process Strategy $235,052 over 3 years

Lead partner

  • University of New England

Project partners

  • Australian Museum
  • University of Queensland

Project title
Managing miners: quantifying the where and when of successful noisy miner removals for land managers

Target species, communities and threats
Key threatening process; noisy miners

Project description
Noisy miners favour open, lightly timbered areas and habitat edges and have benefited from the large scale vegetation changes in Australia since European settlement. Noisy miners now dominate many small forest and woodland habitat including urban bushland and 'leafy' parks and gardens. Through their cooperative aggressive behaviour noisy miners physically attack and actively drive away birds of similar or smaller size. 'Aggressive exclusion of birds from woodland and forest habitat by abundant noisy miners Manorina melanocephala' has been listed as a Key Threatening Process (KTP) by the Scientific Committee. By undertaking a comprehensive and systematic review of all past noisy miner removal attempts, this project aims to refine protocols for the removal of miners from small, localised sites identified in the noisy miner KTP as requiring urgent intervention on a small scale, such as the presence of threatened taxa such as breeding regent honeyeaters. Refining these protocols will be informed through direct interviews with land managers, reviews of relevant grey and peer-reviewed literature, and an analysis of current, ongoing management attempts. The project will also identify and quantify movement and colonisation strategies of noisy miners across the fragmented woodland zones of New South Wales, including in association with large-scale experimental removals, through mapping gene flow and habitat fragmentation on a landscape scale.

Timeframe
2018–21