Con­cern for platy­puses

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION -

Mount­ing ev­i­dence of lo­calised de­clines of platy­pus num­bers has raised on­go­ing con­cerns among sci­en­tists near­ing the end of a three-year na­tional sur­vey.

The UNSW-led Aus­tralian Re­search Coun­cil-funded project has com­piled a com­pre­hen­sive data­base of the dis­tri­bu­tion and abun­dance of platy­pus dur­ing the past two cen­turies, com­bin­ing this with data from sys­tem­atic cap­ture sur­veys to con­duct a na­tional risk as­sess­ment for the species.

UNSW Cen­tre for Ecosystem Science director and project leader Pro­fes­sor Richard Kings­ford said the group had ‘‘great con­cerns’’ about the fu­ture sur­vival of the species.

“The na­tional risk as­sess­ment has sug­gested de­clines of up to 30 per cent across its range since Euro­pean set­tle­ment, with lo­calised de­clines and ex­tinc­tions in­creas­ingly re­ported,’’ he said.

“Syn­er­gis­tic threats to platy­pus pop­u­la­tions in­clude river reg­u­la­tion and flow dis­rup­tion, in­creas­ing agri­cul­tural land use, pol­lu­tion, and the cap­ture of platy­pus in fish­ing and yabby nets, all of which are con­tribut­ing to these de­clines across its range.’’

UNSW re­searcher Dr Gi­lad Bino has been work­ing through­out eastern Aus­tralia to as­sess dif­fer­ences in pop­u­la­tion num­bers and vi­a­bil­ity of the species through­out its range, which will en­able ap­pro­pri­ate con­ser­va­tion ac­tions.

‘‘On de­graded rivers, typ­i­cally be­low dams and in re­gions of high agri­cul­tural land use, we gen­er­ally see lower num­bers of platy­pus, likely due to the im­pacts these threats have on bank ero­sion and avail­abil­ity of macro-in­ver­te­brate food sources,’’ Dr Bino said.

The in­clu­sion of his­tor­i­cal data has sug­gested a sig­nif­i­cant un­der­es­ti­ma­tion for platy­pus de­clines and has shown that per­cep­tions of healthy num­bers has changed over time.

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