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A Strategy for the Conservation of Threatened Species and Threatened Ecological Communities in Kakadu National Park 2014-2024

Woinarski, J. C. Z. and Winderlich, S. (2014). A Strategy for the Conservation of Threatened Species and Threatened Ecological Communities in Kakadu National Park 2014-2024. Australia: Kakadu National Park.

Document type: Book
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar

IRMA ID 84376995xPUB153
Author Woinarski, J. C. Z.
Winderlich, S.
Title A Strategy for the Conservation of Threatened Species and Threatened Ecological Communities in Kakadu National Park 2014-2024
Place of Publication Australia
Publisher Kakadu National Park
Publication Year 2014
ISBN 978-1-925167-07-8   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Total Pages 276
HERDC Category A1 - Book (DIISR)
Abstract Summary

This strategy underpins relevant components of the Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2014- 2024,
particularly the theme (5.2) of Looking after Country, with its objective to:

         maintain the condition of the park’s natural values, and support the recovery of threatened  species.

This strategy aspires to the vision that:

         Kakadu National Park will be celebrated as a place in which management provides for the effective
         conservation of threatened species

and the overall objective that:

         Population trends for all threatened species in Kakadu are demonstrably stable or increasing.

This strategy has been developed in recognition that Kakadu holds important populations of very many species of threatened plants (15) and animals (60) – probably more than any other conservation reserve in Australia – and that this complement of threatened species is of international significance. Consequently the conservation of these threatened species represents a primary opportunity and responsibility for Park management.

This recognition has been long-standing and has been considered in previous Plans of Management and planning documents for threatened species in Kakadu. Notwithstanding such consideration, the status of many threatened species in Kakadu is declining, and trends for many other threatened species are unknown. This strategy works from the assumption that substantial changes are required in order to improve on this situation.

The challenge of this conservation management is profound. The range of threatened species is extremely varied, including, for example, highly localised fire-sensitive plants (and a threatened ecological community) in the Stone Country, endemic shrimps that may be susceptible to cane toads and that occur in only a few headwater pools, intercontinental migratory shorebirds, a set of  rapidly declining woodland mammal species (including some species not recorded for Kakadu for many decades), an orchid known in Kakadu from only one rainforest patch, estuarine sharks and sawfish,  and marine turtles. The range of threats is also extremely varied, including inappropriate fire regimes, predation by feral cats, invasive grassy weeds, predation and habitat degradation due to feral pigs, climate change and poisoning by cane toads. To add to the management challenge, many of  these factors operate interactively in a synergistic or compound manner.

There are many options for responsive management to the diverse set of threats, but inevitably the choices are constrained by resources, and some threats may have no practical or effective solutions, at least in the short-term. Many threatened species – and their threats and their responses to management – are very poorly known, and this lack of knowledge may severely impair managers’ capability to make optimal choices about management input, and may constrain the effectiveness of any applied management actions.

This strategy identifies those threatened species that should be priorities for management attention, due to a range of ecological, taxonomic, cultural and other values, including the extent to which conservation actions in Kakadu can contribute to the conservation outlook for the species across its entire range. This strategy also prioritises species for management attention and  intervention based upon an analysis of experts’ opinion on the likelihood of their persistence over a 20-year period in Kakadu with and without management actions.

This strategy identifies those management actions that are most likely to produce the best overall benefit for threatened species, and the optimal sets of management actions to collectively achieve most benefit within a range of budget options. The management actions that can achieve most substantial benefit, and/or most cost-effectiveness for the conservation of threatened species in Kakadu comprise:

(i) enhanced fire management in the lowlands, particularly to achieve a finer-scale mosaic of
    burning, and an increase in the extent of longer-unburnt woodlands;
(ii) maintenance or enhancement of the current fire management strategy in the Stone Country,
    with particular intensive management of areas known to contain highly localised threatened
(iii) maintenance of gamba grass control;
(iv) targeted management of feral cats, most realistically through maintenance or increase in the
      extent of predator-proof fenced areas, but potentially (contingent on results from specific research)
      through intensive baiting programs;
(v) staged reintroductions of several mammal species that have probably disappeared from Kakadu;
(vi) collection and maintenance of ex situ populations of threatened plant species and, where
      appropriate, their staged reintroduction;
(vii) at least localised intensive control of pigs, at sites of conservation significance (e.g. rainforest
      patches that may have the orchid Dienia montana, and turtle nesting areas); and
(viii) maintenance or enhancement of constraints on fishing activities that may be detrimental to
     sawfish and river sharks.

The management response for threatened species in Kakadu should not be seen as an isolated set of actions, but rather as a key component of an adaptive management process that also includes:

• the identification and enactment of research priorities, designed particularly to enhance
  management effectiveness;
• an integrated and systematic monitoring program that includes sufficiently powerful and sensitive
  measurement of management performance and the response of threatened species;
• reporting, and structured and ongoing review.

Furthermore, the management of threatened species in Kakadu should be an integral part of a broader management fabric, through the Plan of Management and other processes, such that the conservation of threatened species is an explicit and key component of, and is hard-wired into, complementary strategies for fire, feral animals, weeds, tourism and other issues – because a fundamental and explicit purpose of such management should be for the conservation of threatened species.

Additionally, although there is an unusually high number of threatened species that are endemic (or largely endemic) to Kakadu, most threatened species also occur beyond Kakadu, and the conservation outlook for these species will be enhanced if actions taken in Kakadu are complemented by actions taken elsewhere in the species’ range. To this end, Kakadu conservation managers should seek effective collaborations with other landholders and agencies for recovery programs including landscape-wide management of threats, research and monitoring.

Consonant with the Plan of Management and other practice, there are also a series of principles that underpin this strategy. These include that:

• Bininj are appropriately involved in and instrumental to the operation of this strategy;
• actions taken are realistic and appropriately prioritised;
• the management and resourcing systems are as appropriately tailored for the task as possible;
• the greatest possible conservation gain is sought and achieved within the available resources;
• if in situ management is likely to fail, then adequate ex situ back-up is considered and/or provided;
• collaborative networks (notably with neighbours, relevant Northern Territory government agencies,
  and research institutions) are developed and employed;
• although the overall process is as collaborative as possible, there is also a clear line of responsibility
  and accountability; and
• the process invites external advice and is transparent, with outcomes regularly publicly reported.

Increased accountability is a fundamental requirement for this strategy. One mechanism to enhance this accountability is for the establishment of an external or independent review or advisory group of relevant experts and stakeholders (a ‘Recovery Team’ or equivalent) responsible for regular review of progress of this strategy. Such a group could be newly constituted or operate within the already established Kakadu Research Advisory Committee (KRAC), and would report directly or through KRAC to the Kakadu Board of Management.

This strategy proposes the establishment of explicit targets for conservation for every threatened species and for the conservation of threatened species generally, with the establishment of robust monitoring programs that measure performance relative to those targets. It proposes a system of reporting on those monitoring results, with annual review amongst managers and other stakeholders of performance relative to targets.

Accountability for this strategy and for delivering threatened species outcomes will also be made more explicit and effective through review of the Park’s current staffing and budgetary structures. Currently, there is no dedicated staff position with sole responsibility for the conservation of threatened species, nor is there a dedicated budget for threatened species, nor an annual public process for reporting on overall performance in the conservation of the Park’s threatened species.

Additionally, more effective conservation management of threatened species in Kakadu requires a substantial enhancement of data base systems and GIS and IT capability. It also requires that information about threatened species is more strategically and routinely provided to and by field staff and others; and that information about threatened species is made far more widely available and regularly used by managers as a basis for their work.

Where the information is available, the current trends for threatened species in Kakadu are more of decline than of increase. This strategy proposes some different and more efficient ways of management to attempt to improve that performance. However, to make a substantial difference, there is a need for more resources dedicated to the conservation management of threatened species in Kakadu. Recognising that budgets have many constraints, this strategy is informed by a cost-benefit analysis designed to prioritise management actions, across a range of financial investments.

The recovery of threatened species that have declined or the ongoing stabilisation of threatened species that are at risk is a long-term commitment. Many of the factors that cause endangerment are now deeply rooted and pervasive, and their control is not amenable to short-term responses. This strategy represents a foundation for long-term management. It aims to operate over a 10-yeartimeframe, with regular review and recalibration of operational priorities at annual and 3-year periods.

Summary table of principal conservation management actions

This strategy includes detailed consideration of research priorities, monitoring priorities,  organisational structure, external advice, species’ prioritisation and other matters, reflecting that conservation management is multi-dimensional. However, a major interest lies in what managers should be doing in relation to major threats, because most of the resources that Kakadu can devote to threatened species’ conservation lie with the on-ground management work of rangers.

This strategy recognises that the most efficient and effective approach to conservation of Kakadu’s threatened species lies with a landscape-scale perspective, and accordingly the Summary Management Table here is ordered by broad landscape type.

Physical Description: Extent E-Book ; 284 pages
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Created: Mon, 17 Aug 2015, 17:07:18 CST