Murdoch researchers back bid to safeguard Australia’s biodiversity

July 31, 2012

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Dr Kris Warren and a red-tailed black cockatoo

Murdoch University’s world class researchers are part of a bid to establish a new Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) which will aim to protect and enhance Australia’s extraordinary wildlife populations.

If the bid is successful, the Safeguarding Biodiversity CRC will utilise Murdoch’s expertise in the fields of conservation medicine, wildlife disease surveillance, wildlife ecology, genetic auditing and bioinformatics to develop powerful interventions to help save threatened species and ensure their survival.

A decision from the federal government is imminent on the new CRC bid. It is hoped $40 million worth of funding can be secured so that long term studies into the threats to biodiversity and how to restore damaged ecosystems can be carried out.

Dr Kris Warren from Murdoch’s Conservation Medicine Program said if successful, the bid would bolster research projects at the University.

“Research undertaken at Murdoch will inform biodiversity conservation efforts nationally, and provide models for endangered species conservation, for example through proposed large-scale research on the health and ecology of threatened black cockatoos in the south-west of Western Australia,” she said.

“In collaboration with the Department of Environment and Conservation and Perth Zoo, we hope to undertake large-scale radio tracking of the three black cockatoo species endemic to Western Australia which will enable us to study the movement of the birds, identify critical feeding and breeding habitat and address the ecological questions we have yet to answer.”

The new CRC would coordinate such research, bringing all the key expertise together from the scientific community, as well as non government organisations, zoos and community groups.

Bid director John Rogers from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales said Australia had to choose whether to act now or continue to accept the loss of biodiversity.

“398 iconic and unique Australian vertebrate species are currently facing extinction,” he said. “Their loss will result in dysfunctional ecosystems for future generations and drive further environmental change.

“It’s not that we don’t care about protecting our biodiversity. In 2008-09, Australian governments and NGOs spent more than $2.3 billion on terrestrial biodiversity conservation. The problem is we currently lack the tools, knowledge and capacity to utilize these resources effectively and develop more powerful interventions. We hope a successful Safeguarding Biodiversity CRC will address this.”

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