Melbourne: Australian birds are declining faster than elsewhere in the world, and would have been worse if not for conservation efforts, a new study has found.
The Australian Research Council funded study, published in the `Biological Conservation` journal, reports on changes in the Red List Index for Australian species and subspecies of birds since 1990.
The Index is used by the world`s governments to assess performance under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Lead author Prof Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland said the study is the first time the Index has been applied at a national level. "The Index can be considered the
Dow Jones index of birds," he said.
Co-author and Charles Darwin University`s Dr Judit Szabo said research showed that the status of Australian birds was declining faster than elsewhere in the world. "The main
reason is a rapid decline in migratory shorebirds coming here from Asia and ongoing threats to oceanic seabirds," he said.
The biggest causes of decline in Australian birds have been invasive species, like rats and cats, and changes in fire regime. Overseas the losses have been caused by ongoing
coastal development in Asia and deep sea fishing.
Developer of the Red List Index, BirdLife International`s Dr Stuart Butchart said that the status of birds in Australia would have been much worse if it weren`t for the work being
done to prevent extinctions.
"Nearly 30 species are better off than they would have been if it weren`t for effective investment of time and money into threatened species conservation. The analysis shows that targeted investment can produce measurable improvement," Dr Butchart said.