In one of the most spectacular wildlife migrations on the planet, millions of shorebirds live their entire lives in summer by making a 20,000 km round trip from their Arctic breeding grounds to wetlands in Australia and then migrating north again each year.
This amazing wildlife spectacle is under threat. Some species have declined enormously over the past couple of decades, with millions of birds being lost. What has caused these declines is not clear, and conserving migratory birds is extremely hard because they fly across international borders.
One explanation for the declines is the loss of “refuelling” sites in estuaries around the Yellow Sea, where mudflats are rapidly disappearing because of land reclamation projects as the region undergoes an economic boom. One of the biggest projects is at Saemangeum, South Korea, where construction of a 33km seawall has converted 40,000 hectares of prime estuarine habitat into a tideless lake that is gradually being filled in.
We are currently documenting patterns of habitat loss across the whole flyway (Nick Murray), investigating the impacts of climate change on migratory species (Takuya Iwamura), and understanding the movements of Australia’s terrestrial birds and how these are responding to environmental change (Claire Runge). To receive a regular monthly email updating you with progress on the shorebird work, please email Rob Clemens.
Humans are a highly social species – for decades, we have aggregated as large groups in concentrated spaces, forming towns and cities. While this has provided us with some benefits, such as innovation and economic growth, it has also burdened us with significant social and environmental challenges, such as overpopulation and habitat destruction.
Our lab is looking at ways in which such urban challenges can be met through the utilization of urban greenspaces. Research has shown that views and interactions with nature can benefit us physically and psychologically, from speeding up recovery of hospital patients to giving people a stronger feeling of community. We are interested in quantifying the ways in which humans benefit from these interactions with natural spaces, and also in determining how such greenspaces can best be utilized to provide benefits to the surrounding community.
Research currently focuses on the effects of increased urbanization on the ecology of the urban flying fox (Jo Towsey), the benefits of urban nature on child health and development (Liz Barber), how the extinction of (natural) experience influences mental and physical well-being and ways urban nature can be enhanced to deliver these benefits (Danielle Shanahan), and how the benefits of nature are delivered and what leads people to define themselves as nature-related (Lara Franco.)
Protected areas are one of the most important tools in modern conservation, with over 100,000 sites covering about 12% of the planet. Historically, the placement of protected areas has been driven more by a lack of potential for economic development in an area than its contribution to conservation goals. For example, we have recently shown that Australia’s protected area network is rather inefficient at capturing the distributions of threatened species (Watson et al. 2011), but appears to be effective in arresting declines of those species it does cover (Taylor et al. 2011).
We have been studying the future role of protected areas in modern conservation, including an analysis published in the journal Nature showing that we could do much better for conservation if we reversed the protection status of some of the least cost-effective sites and used the resulting capital to establish and manage new protected areas(Fuller et al. 2010).
Other current work includes a prioritisation of Mexico’s tropical cloud forests (Rocio Ponce-Reyes), and an investigation of regional, continental and global performance of protected area networks (Lissa Barr).