The distribution and conservation status of Carpentarian grasswrens (Amytornis dorotheae), with reference to prevailing fire patterns

Graham Harrington, Stephen Murphy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The Carpentarian grasswren (Amytornis dorotheae) is a small, shy passerine patchily distributed through Triodia systems in the central and southern parts of Australia's tropical savannas. Population decline has been reported in the Northern Territory, presumably due to mismanaged fire. The species is considered Endangered in the Northern Territory and Near Threatened in Queensland, but it is not listed Federally. Here, we present the results of over 3000 surveys conducted between 2008 and 2013. We show that Carpentarian grasswrens are divided into four populations, although the northernmost one (Borroloola) now appears to be extinct. The Area of Occupancy for the southernmost population appears to have declined by 28%, while only small numbers of isolated birds now occur at the two intervening populations. Our data suggest that the four populations appear to be at different stages on an extinction pathway, from population decline, to fragmentation and isolation, to extinction, and this seems to be related to worsening fire patterns as one moves northwards. We suggest that the Carpentarian grasswren be listed as Vulnerable at the State and Federal level, and that urgent investment in long-term regional fire management using prescribed burning is required to reverse the declines in the extant populations. For the presumed extinct Borroloola population, restoration will probably need to involve translocation coupled with effective fire management. � CSIRO 2015.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)291-297
    Number of pages7
    JournalPacific Conservation Biology
    Volume21
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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