Investigating the ecology of Norfolk Island’s endemic passerines to achieve applied conservation outcomes

  • Clarke, Rohan (Primary Chief Investigator (PCI))
  • Nance, Allie, (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Mitchell, William Francis, (Chief Investigator (CI))

Project: Research

Project Description

Norfolk Island is one of Australia’s few remote offshore territories, located in the western Pacific between New Caledonia and New Zealand. It boasts high levels of biodiversity and endemism, and is renowned for its avifauna. Some charismatic local birds such as the Norfolk Island Boobook and the ‘Green Parrot’ have received much research attention, leading to successful conservation initiatives. Other species have been less fortunate. Since European settlement, three of Norfolk Island’s eight endemic passerines (perching birds) have become extinct, the last as recently as the early 2000s. Invasive predators and plants, alongside land clearing have been implicated in these extinctions. Of these remaining endemic passerines – a robin, gerygone, white-eye, whistler and fantail - several are now restricted to the last remnant blocks of vegetation, yet little is known about population trends, and the identity and impact of current threatening processes. Such knowledge gaps mean effective conservation management is difficult, even though it is widely accepted that many of species face imminent threat. We need only look to Lord Howe Island to comprehend the seriousness of this problem. A biogeographically similar island, Lord Howe has lost more than half of its endemic passerine species. Whether these losses on Lord Howe Island are warnings or prophecies for Norfolk Island depends on the actions we take now.

Our aim is to rapidly quantify the current state of Norfolk Island’s passerines, providing conservation managers with the ecological knowledge necessary for evidence-based decision-making. To do this we will investigate breeding biology and causes of nest failure, determine island-wide habitat-use and estimate population sizes for target species. Using these demographic data, we also aim to explore the likely consequences of conservation translocations to Lord Howe Island that seek to further mitigate risk.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/06/191/06/21