DPI forest scientists are undertaking a large-scale research project on the current status and response of koalas to timber harvesting in North East NSW. Koalas are surprisingly difficult to survey due to their low densities and cryptic nature, especially in tall remote forests. Surveys are focused on forests of the hinterland, ranges and tablelands of North East NSW, rather than the coastal strip where urbanisation is the main threat to koala populations.
Song Meters have been deployed at nearly 200 sites over 7-14 nights to record male bellows over three breeding seasons from 2015-2017 (>14,000 hours of recording). The project relies on cutting edge software developed by the Queensland University of Technology to automate the call detection process from thousands of hours of recordings.
Early results show very high detection rates of koalas and detailed analysis of these data is currently underway.
Predictive models that map species distributions are a useful management tool for guiding and informing on-ground management of threatened species. Forest scientists at DPI have developed a model for the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) in North East NSW. The model is used by the Environmental Protection Authority to predict where areas of differing habitat quality for koalas are likely to occur.
The focus was to help guide decisions on timber harvesting in forests by identifying likely koala habitat. Ultimately, this could lead to better on-ground implementation of koala management for public state forests and private forestry areas.
Law B, Caccamo G, Roe P, et al. (2017) Development and field validation of a regional, management-scale habitat model: A koala Phascolarctos cinereus case study. Ecology and Evolution 7:7475–7489.