National Multi-species Recovery plan for the Partridge Pigeon [eastern subspecies] Geophaps smithii smithii, Crested Shrike-tit [northern (sub)species] Falcunculus (frontatus) whitei, Masked Owl [north Australian mainland subspecies] Tyto novaehollandiae kimberli; and Masked Owl [Tiwi Islands subspecies] Tyto novaehollandiae melvillensis, 2004 – 2008
A Recovery Plan prepared under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure Planning and Environment, 2004
Part D: Recovery Objectives, Criteria, Actions and Costs
- Enhance communication about the status of these taxa, through the establishment and operation of a Recovery Team, or some other appropriate forum, of interested stakeholders
- Undertake research studies necessary to more clearly establish the status of these taxa, the impacts of putative threats, and to prioritise recovery management actions.
- Manage populations (or threats to those populations) of each of the four taxa such that their conservation status becomes secure (not threatened)
- Total costs for all described Actions
1. Enhance communication about the status of these taxa, through the establishment and operation of a Recovery Team, or some other appropriate forum, of interested stakeholders
- Action 1.1. Establish and operate a Recovery Team or regular forum or alliance to assist in the coordination of management actions.
To better communicate information about these taxa amongst interested stakeholders, and coordinate the implementation of recovery planning.
Because the factors affecting these taxa operate predominantly across tenures and jurisdictions, effective management and recovery can only happen through coordination and integration of actions across very large areas. Note that this argument applies as validly for a range of other plant, mammal and bird species (at least) across northern Australia (e.g. Woinarski 2004), so there may be merit in widening a “Recovery Team” to an ongoing forum on biodiversity conservation management and priorities for northern Australia as a whole.
- formation and operation of a Recovery Team and/or ongoing forum that includes representation of stakeholder groups;
- high levels of awareness of the threatened status of these taxa amongst stakeholder groups, and substantial involvement of those groups in recovery management.
Action 1.1. Establish and operate a Recovery Team or regular forum or alliance to assist in the coordination of management actions.
The most effective and efficient procedure to implement recovery would be to establish an ongoing coordination group that considers priorities for threatened species actions across northern Australia, that promotes and oversees relevant research, that communicates appropriately to all stakeholders, that monitors trends in status and responses to management actions, and that integrates recovery management. There is no such body at present, although there is some such coordination (albeit mostly for different issues) through the Tropical Savannas Management Cooperative Research Centre, and there are parallels with the North Australian Fire Management group (which holds annual workshops) and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA).
|operate Recovery Team, alliance or regular forum||30||20||20||20||20|
2. Undertake research studies necessary to more clearly establish the status of these taxa, the impacts of putative threats, and to prioritise recovery management actions.
- Action 2.1. Assess population size, distribution and habitat requirements for the masked owl subspecies T. n. kimberli and T. n. melvillensis.
- Action 2.2. Assess population size, distribution and habitat requirements for the northern shrike-tit
- Action 2.3. Undertake targeted studies to (i) examine the extent of distributional contraction of partridge pigeons, and (ii) evaluate the relative significance of putative threatening processes (invasion of exotic pasture grasses, predation by feral cats, fire regimes).
- Action 2.4. Examine impacts of land clearing on all four taxa, particularly on the Tiwi Islands, and the Darwin-Daly region (and, for masked owl, the response to historic clearing in north-eastern Queensland); and use the resulting knowledge to develop guidelines for habitat protection, corridor configuration etc. for all taxa for landscapes subject to increasingly intensive development.
To increase, to a level adequate for informed and effective management, knowledge of the total population, population trends, distribution, habitat suitability, susceptibility to threatening processes, and prioritisation for actions for each of the four taxa.
For each taxon considered the available information on population size, distribution, trends in status, habitat requirements and response to putative threatening processes is fragmentary and insufficient to guide prioritisation of management responses with confidence.
- Knowledge gained will be sufficient to substantially refine management priorities and guidelines
Action 2.1. Assess population size, distribution and habitat requirements for the masked owl subspecies T. n. kimberli and T. n. melvillensis.
Playback of calls has recently been used successfully to census for T. n. melvillensis on the Tiwi Islands (Woinarski et al. 2003), and is likely to be similarly effective for T. n. kimberli on the north Australian mainland. There has been no previous broad-scale sampling for these taxa using such survey methods, and this action proposes to sample systematically for masked owls across northern Australia in order to clarify habitat preference, population size, distribution, and relationship of these characteristics to land use, fire regimes and other possible impacts.
|broad-scale survey and identification of environmental relationships for masked owls across northern Australia||5||40||10||0||0|
Action 2.2. Assess population size, distribution and habitat requirements for the northern shrike-tit
The northern shrike-tit is a notoriously difficult bird to locate and survey, and there has been no ecological research focusing on this bird. The research actions considered appropriate are (i) a 12-month intensive autecological study of one known population; then (ii) with this knowledge, undertake a broad-scale survey to define its range, habitat associations, population, and response to land management.
|targeted ecological study of at least one known population of northern shrike-tit||0||60||10||0||0|
|broad-scale survey of distribution, abundance, habitat and response to management for northern shrike-tit||0||10||70||20||0|
Action 2.3. Undertake targeted studies to (i) examine the extent of distributional contraction of partridge pigeons, and (ii) evaluate the relative significance of putative threatening processes (invasion of exotic pasture grasses, predation by feral cats, fire regimes).
The partridge pigeon is thought to have contracted substantially in distribution, but there has been no intensive recent searches for the species in that part of its historic range for which there have been no recent records (notably the Gulf Falls and Uplands and Gulf Coastal bioregions: McArthur River area). The study proposed would work collaboratively with Aboriginal landholders in this area to survey for this species, to chronicle the history of its decline (if any), and to identify probable causes for that decline.
The other component of this program involves targeted ecological studies to quantify the relative individual and compounded impacts of putative threatening processes.
|undertake a collaborative survey across the historic known range of partridge pigeons, in order to assess, with more confidence, the extent of decline, its timing and its possible causes||0||50||25||0||0|
|undertake a targeted study to examine the relative impacts of threatening processes possibly affecting partridge pigeons||0||35||35||35||0|
Action 2.4. Examine impacts of land clearing on all four taxa, particularly on the Tiwi Islands, and the Darwin-Daly region (and, for masked owl, the response to historic clearing in north-eastern Queensland); and use the resulting knowledge to develop guidelines for habitat protection, corridor configuration etc. for all taxa for landscapes subject to increasingly intensive development.
|undertake focused study on response of all four taxa to habitat fragmentation, and develop guidelines for habitat protection in landscapes exposed to more intensive use||0||50||50||10||0|
Action 2.5. Develop appropriate monitoring programs for all taxa, to provide effective and accurate measures of trends in status.
|trial, refine and implement specific monitoring programs for all four taxa, with particular reference to measuring the efficacy of management actions undertaken for these taxa||0||80||50||50||50|
3. Manage populations (or threats to those populations) of each of the four taxa such that their conservation status becomes secure (not threatened)
- Action 3.1. Maintain and enhance habitat suitability, through fire management
- Action 3.2 Minimise impacts of acute land-use factors
- Action 3.3. Minimise impacts of spread of exotic pasture plants
To implement management that results in substantial benefit to populations of these four taxa.
- Threatening processes are ameliorated, and management implemented to benefit each species;
- All relevant stakeholders are aware of appropriate management guidelines, and where practicable, implement these;
- Conservation status of all four taxa is improved, to not threatened status.
As described above, knowledge of these taxa is inadequate to prescribe ideal recovery management. The actions proposed under 1 and 2 above will redress this limitation; and, until those actions provide results, it would be inappropriate to define management actions in detail. Nonetheless, some broad management guidelines are possible to identify now, and these can be applied and iteratively refined with further knowledge from the studies described, and by adaptive management based on measurement of the response (of the bird taxa or the threats themselves) to such imposed management.
For each of the four taxa, the preferred fire regime is not known with any certainty. However, it is likely that frequent, extensive, high intensity fires reduce habitat suitability and may result in increased direct mortality. Small fires that promote a mix of burnt patches and patches unburnt for various ages are more likely to increase habitat suitability. Most conservation reserves in northern Australia, and many Aboriginal lands, are now being managed to attempt to implement such fine-scale regimes and minimise risks of extensive destructive fires. As such, fire management specifically for these four taxa should be capable of being insinuated into existing management planning that applies more broadly for conservation reserves and Aboriginal lands in much of northern Australia. Given that such improved fire management aims to benefit many species (and other values) as well as these four taxa, it is somewhat artificial to isolate any costing for this action within a broader fire management framework. As has been done with some fire-sensitive plant species (notably such as the northern cypress-pine Callitris intratropica: Bowman and Panton 1993), the partridge pigeon may represent a flagship animal species for some land managers or management agencies, whereby its trends in abundance may measure more broadly the efficacy of their landscape fire management.
|implement fire management programs to improve habitat suitability for these taxa||30||30||30||30||30|
There is some risk of at least localised detriment to all four taxa from current and proposed land clearing activities associated with horticultural development, plantation forestry, and rural residential expansion.
This action recognises that risks to these taxa may be minimised by the development and application of general guidelines for maintaining habitat suitability and regional populations for each taxon.
|develop and apply general guidelines for minimising risks to these four taxa of an increased intensification of land use||20||10||10||10||10|
Exotic grasses deliberately introduced for pastoralism are transforming the north Australian landscape. While such grasses are providing economic benefits, they are also imposing substantial biodiversity (and other) costs.
This situation is currently without effective or balanced regulation. This action proposes to develop an appropriate protocol for the consideration of use of exotic pasture plants; and to prioritise and cost ameliorative management responses to the current outbreak of exotic pasture grasses. Of the taxa considered in this Plan, this action will particularly benefit partridge pigeons, but its benefit will flow to many other native plants and animals not considered directly in this Plan.
|develop and implement a protocol governing the use of exotic pasture plants in northern Australia||20||50||0||0||0|
|cost and prioritise ameliorative management responses to current outbreaks of exotic pasture plants||0||15||15||0||0|