VITAL: Local bush is essential to local species.
VITAL: Local bush is essential to local species.

New study highlights worth of remnant bushland for Noosa

NOOSA'S small patches of bushland could be playing a much bigger role in conserving biodiversity than you think, according to new research.

A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the conservation values of vegetation patches on four continents, including Australia, and considered their size and distance to other habitat.

The results were surprising according to lead researcher Professor Brendan Wintle from Melbourne University, who is the Director of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

"Compared to large and well-connected habitat areas, small and isolated patches of habitat have generally been treated as not very important to conservation,” said Prof Wintle.

"This includes places like small patches of bush, wetland or grassland along roadsides, in urban areas or in between agricultural crops.

"What we have found, however, is that small and isolated habitat areas are very important to the survival of many rare and endangered species. We need to re-think vegetation management regulations and policies that allow small patches of vegetation to be destroyed.

"The environment is suffering a death by a thousand cuts. Losing small habitat patches, especially when it happens all over the country, is contributing to Australia's current extinction crisis”.

Co-researcher Dr Heini Kujala said that once you start considering how much habitat is left for a species, small patches can be very valuable.

"Small habitat patches can sometimes be the last pieces of a once widespread habitat. For species that rely on this type of habitat that makes them very important,” said Dr Kujala.

"Definitely we are not saying that it is an improvement to cut up big habitat areas into smaller pieces, rather that many of the small pieces that we have left are really important.”

Co-researcher Prof Sarah Bekessy from RMIT University argues that the study has very high importance for urban planning policy in Australia.

"We can't continue to allow vegetation in urban areas to be lost to development. These places are very important for nature and also for people's physical and mental health,” she said. "Our policies should protect these valuable places and aim to restore more habitat in urban areas. Adopting biodiversity sensitive urban design approaches would improve urban areas for people as well as wildlife.”

Prof Wintle hopes the research will raise awareness among planners, land managers, scientists and the community.

"It's good to know that the work of community groups in conserving and restoring small patches of habitats in their local neighbourhood is a thoroughly worthwhile activity.”

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