Focal-Species Approach for Conserving Birds

Subject: Focal-Species Approach for Conserving Birds
From: Laurie & Leanne Knight <>
Date: Tue, 04 Dec 2001 18:56:14 +1000
Those interested in this topic may wish to contact the authors directly.

The Journal of the SCB: Conservation Biology Volume 15 Issue 5 (2001)


An Assessment of the Focal-Species Approach for Conserving Birds in
Variegated Landscapes in Southeastern Australia


Watson, James - School of Geography and Oceanography, University
College, University of New South Wales, Northcott Drive, Canberra ACT
2600, Australia
Freudenberger, David - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organization (CSIRO), Sustainable Ecosystems, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT
2601, Australia
Paull, David - School of Geography and Oceanography, University College,
University of New South Wales, Northcott Drive, Canberra ACT 2600,


The temperate woodlands of the northern Australian Capital Territory and
bordering the New South Wales region of eastern Australia have been
extensively disturbed by agriculture and urbanization. Small patches of
woodland are now embedded in a pastoral or suburban matrix. Birds within
landscapes of this region are threatened by a reduction in habitat area,
increased isolation, and declining habitat condition. Within this
setting, we assessed Lambeck&apos;s (1997) 'focal species' approach for
its ability to identify the minimum patch size, habitat structural
complexity, and landscape connectivity required to accommodate existing
woodland birds. Presence/absence data were gathered for 72 woodland
remnants that varied in size, isolation, and habitat structural
complexity. The Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata) was identified as
the focal species for the threats of area and resource limitation
because it had the most demanding requirements for area (>100 ha) and
habitat complexity. The eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis) was
the species most threatened by isolation of remnants. A landscape
designed to meet the habitat requirements of these birds should
encompass the requirements of all other woodland bird species that are
sensitive to similar threats. A revegetation scenario based on the
requirements of these two focal species is not feasible because the
majority (>95 percent) of woodland remnants within the study area are
too small, too lacking in habitat structural complexity, and too
isolated to meet the requirements of the focal species. If woodland
management guidelines concentrate on increasing small remnants to 10 ha
in size and on ensuring that these remnants have complex shrub and
ground-layer vegetation and are not isolated by more than 1.5 km from
neighboring remnants, the needs of at least 95 percent of the resident
woodland bird species in the region should be accommodated. The
focal-species approach was effective for rapidly developing planning
guidelines for the conservation of woodland birds in these variegated
landscapes, and the approach is likely to be useful for guiding
landscape reconstruction in other environments.
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