WHY IS THIS RESEARCH NEEDED?
Western Australia has over 3,700 islands ranging in size from small rocky outcrops to the largest, Dirk Hartog Island, at 58,640 ha. Many of these islands are important for the threatened and endemic species they support. For several species of native fauna, some islands are the last refuge from threats posed by invasive species such as foxes, black rats and feral cats. Many islands also provide critical breeding sites for seabirds and sea turtles, and some contain culturally significant sites.
Unfortunately, some islands have been colonised by invasive weeds such as buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) and introduced animals such as black rats (Rattus rattus). In addition, the increased use of islands by both the public for recreation and industry for extraction of oil and gas means an increased risk that invasive species will be introduced to islands. Invasive species are the biggest single cause of the loss of native species from islands across the globe.
With so many islands to manage, it is important that managers have system that assists in the prioritisation of management actions to maximise the conservation outcomes achieved given a limited amount of funding.
Over the next five years, a team of researchers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and James Cook University (Townsville, Queensland) will be working together to develop a decision support tool/model that will assist island managers in prioritising WA islands for biosecurity surveillance and management actions.
Initially, the research team will focus on islands along the Pilbara coast between Exmouth Gulf and Eighty Mile Beach. Information required for input into the decision support tool includes known island values and threats, as well as the identification of management goals and actions to achieve those goals. Expert knowledge regarding cost of implementing management actions, social acceptability, and effectiveness of management actions will also contribute, as will new field data designed to fill gaps in our knowledge of islands. DPaW staff from the Pilbara region will play a key role in the development of the decision support tool, providing data that will be analysed to identify priorities for management.
HOW WILL THIS RESEARCH HELP?
The primary output from this research project will be a decision support tool that will assist island managers in prioritising WA islands for (or parts of islands) for specific actions to reduce or eliminate the adverse effects of invasive species. The new software will be able to maximise conservation outcomes for a given budget, as well as estimating the funds required to achieve explicit objectives for the persistence of native species on islands. The decision support tool will be designed for day-to-day use in making accountable and cost effective decisions about where to spend limited funding for island management.
A similar project is being undertaken for the Southern Great Barrier Reef islands. It is hoped that the models developed in WA and Queensland will provide the basis for a a national biosecurity plan for islands.
This research project will generate several outputs that will influence conservation management actions on islands in Western Australia including:
WHERE IS THE RESEARCH HAPPENING?
Across more than 550 islands along Western Australia’s Pilbara coastline between Exmouth and Eighty Mile Beach, including the Dampier Archipelago, the Mary Anne Passage islands and the Barrow–Montebello islands group.
WHO IS ON THE TEAM?
Professor Bob Pressey, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Keith Morris, Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife
Dr Lesley Gibson, Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife
Mr Steve Hall, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Dr Cheryl Lohr, Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife
Dr Amelia Wenger, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
This Project is funded by Chevron Australia, through the Gorgon Project’s Net Conservation Benefits program.