Declines in common species

To: "Simon Mustoe" <>
Subject: Declines in common species
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002 21:38:35 +1000
Hello Simon,

This is a common conservation focus these days- ie. looking at the ecosystem (especially including the more common species) rather than individual rare species. This seems to me to be the current trend. An argument could be put forward for the decline of many common bird species in Australia. Many birds that are usually thought of as common have suffered declines certainly on local scales. For example, I know that Red-browed Finches suffered a massive decline around Blackbutt Reserve in Newcastle within a few years of my having finished my Honours study on them back in the mid 90's. I take the point that the rate of the decline is important.

I have to say that I'm not entirely convinced that focusing on declining common birds is always the way to go. Its too tempting to go for the broad bat approach covering as many species as possible without really knowing whether the measures being applied will be favourable to all the target species. Its easier to study a common species and apply its ecological requirements to the rarer species hoping that you can cover all. Easy options are often sought because they are cheaper. Rare birds are hard to study- after all they are rare and hard to find in the first place.

My problem with looking at the common species lies in the complexity of ecological relationships and requirements. The more I feel I understand how birds tick the more complicated I think many of the systems really are. I think its often a mistake to assume that because one bird species has particular requirements then similar bird species will have the same or similar requirements. I think its even a mistake to assume that because a species behaves in one way at one location that it will behave the same way in other locations. The level and scale of variation is massive in all directions- between individuals, between populations, between species. When you multiply this by the number of species in an ecosystem (insects etc.), which also varies across the landscape I find it mindboggling!

My point is that I don't think that there are many easy solutions out there. We do need to develop some idea of how things work on an ecosystem level while recognising that our knowledge won't be complete. However, we also need to know how individual species cope with the environment around them as a separate issue. I think this is especially the case with the rare species which likely have very specific requirements that can only be discovered by concerted effort directed at them alone. Conserving places won't always conserve what's in them if the underlying problems are still present. So I think we need both approaches. One that looks at a bigger picture- including common species- and one that specifically targets the rare species.

Anyway, thats my two bob's worth! I'm probably out of step with everyone else but so be it!


Mick Todd
Griffith, NSW

Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU