Kakadu National Park Landscape Symposia Series. Symposium 7: Conservation of threatened species, 26–27 March 2013

2014

Winderlich S & Woinarski J (eds)

Internal report 623

Introduction

The Threatened Species Symposium is the seventh in the series of symposia and workshops held by Kakadu National Park (KNP). The previous volumes have focused on landscape change (Walden & Nou 2008) and factors driving biodiversity change: weeds (Winderlich 2010a), fire (Atkins & Winderlich 2010), climate change (Winderlich 2010b), feral animals (Jambrecina 2010), and Cultural Heritage (S. Winderlich (ed) not yet published). Threatened species have been considered in these previous symposia, but have not been the primary focus.

This symposium was held at the Bowali Visitor Centre Training Room in Jabiru on 26–27 March 2013. Fifty one participants attended, from a wide range of stakeholders, including Traditional Owners, government agencies, academic institutions, neighbouring landholders, and non-government conservation organisations.

As with the previous symposia in this series, the aims of this symposium were (i) to have an effective two-way transfer of knowledge between KNP staff, researchers, the Kakadu Research Advisory Committee (KRAC) members, stakeholders and Traditional Owners on issues relating to the conservation and management of threatened plant and animal species and, less directly, on other species of biodiversity or cultural significance; and (ii) to ensure that the outcomes of this consideration are integrated in an appropriate and effective manner into Park management. In this case, the symposium timing is particularly opportune; as such considerations will contribute directly to the current development of the Park’s 6th Plan of Management.

The format for the symposium included a series of status update presentations, followed by workshops focusing on key management and research questions and priorities. In most cases, presentations focused on the major taxonomic groupings of threatened species. Presenters and workshop facilitators were given a series of focus questions to assist in guiding the information presented and the subsequent discussions. These included:

  • What species occurring (or formerly occurring) in Kakadu are listed as threatened under relevant Northern Territory or Australian legislation, or are included in international lists?
  • What is the status and trends of each listed species in Kakadu?
  • What are the main threats to the threatened taxa; and how can these threats be more effectively managed?
  • What are the priorities for research and management?
  • The presentations catalysed discussion around these issues amongst workshop participants, and the presentations here are informed by those workshop deliberations.

There were three notable features of this symposium. Firstly, there was recognition amongst participants that trends for many threatened species were negative, with evidence demonstrating that many species are showing current decline. Workshop participants viewed this as an indication that current management was sub-optimal, and that there was a need to consider substantial and urgent change in prioritisation or manner of management. This symposium is an important landmark in such change. Secondly, participants recognised that the number and diversity of threatened species occurring in KNP makes for a formidable management challenge, further magnified because there is little information on distribution, status or management requirements for many of these species. Prioritisation between research and management actions amongst such a wide range of disparate species (and one threatened ecological community) is a difficult management challenge. Thirdly, notwithstanding such differences in management requirements amongst many and varied threatened species, most participants considered that there was scope for much management efficiency through focusing management by broad landscape unit – Stone Country, lowland woodlands and open forests, rainforests, and aquatic and marine systems.

The symposium proved to be a successful and stimulating forum, with a considerable amount of very useful new information contributed by presenters, and considerable insight and expertise contributed by all attendees. Much of this information is presented here, and much will also be used to develop the Park’s Threatened Species Strategy which is currently being prepared. Thank you to all of those who participated.