Conservation of species that are patchily distributed must consider processes that influence both the occurrence of individuals within patches, and the persistence of populations across multiple habitat patches within the landscape. Here we present a rare regional assessment of the population size and distribution of a patchily distributed, threatened species, the purple-crowned fairy-wren (Malurus coronatus coronatus), across a vast landscape. We used data from aerial vegetation mapping of waterways, with on-ground bird surveys to predict the occurrence of suitable habitat for M. c. coronatus across 14 catchments in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Suitable habitat was extremely limited (305 km of riparian vegetation) and fragmented (342 patches) along the 2700 km of waterway surveyed within catchments where the species occurs. Populations were predicted to be large on the Fitzroy, Durack and Drysdale catchments, and small on the Isdell and northern Pentecost catchments, and a total population of 2834 to 4878 individuals could be supported. The sub-populations spanned numerous patches of habitat across multiple properties of varying tenure. Therefore, a landscape-scale approach to conservation management, across multiple tenures, is critical to safe-guard connectivity within populations. The greatest benefit may be achieved by a combination of broad-scale actions to reduce the impact of ubiquitous threatening processes, and fine-scale targeted effort in areas where populations are most vulnerable. Controlling access of stock to waterways and management of fire are most important to conserve suitable habitat. Such a landscape-scale approach to conservation may be of benefit to other patchily distributed species.
Skroblin, A., & Legge, S. (2013). Conservation of the Patchily Distributed and Declining Purple-Crowned Fairy-Wren (Malurus coronatus coronatus) across a Vast Landscape: The Need for a Collaborative Landscape-Scale Approach. PLoS One, 8(5), 1-10. [e64942]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0064942