You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘habitat loss’ tag.

I was thrilled to see this Galah guarding her chicks tucked away in this secret location somewhere in Marrickville LGA.

The Australian government says, “In no more than eight generations since European settlement, Australia has lost 19 out of a total 282 species of mammals & 20 out of 770 species of birds.  Seventy-six plant species have also become extinct.  Australian Biologist Professor Harry Recher has warned that many Australian bird species will probably be extinct within 50-years if rapid habitat loss continues.”

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population & Communities says, “Australia is home to more than one million species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. About 85% of the continent’s flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds and 89% of inshore, temperate-zone fish are only found in Australia.  More than 310 species of native animals & over 1,180 species of native plants are at risk of disappearing forever.”

The group of Ecologists who were meeting in Florence in 1931 & who decided to establish World Animal Day to highlight endangered species would have been appalled at the rapid rate of extinction in Australia over the past 200-years.

Extinction of flora & fauna is caused by –

  • loss, change & fragmentation of habitat,
  • the effects of invasive plants, animals & diseases &
  • the direct effects of human activities – all of which are happening in Marrickville LGA.

It’s extremely hard in urban environments to retain habitat for wildlife because humans continually want to expand their space & change the use of the land.  Population is also growing & means the eventual need for more housing & more roads.

The pressure is on for Local Councils to create habitat for urban wildlife within this changing landscape.  Our own Marrickville Council has a large document, the Draft Biodiversity Action Plan, to increase biodiversity across Marrickville LGA.  If you look at a map they call the Urban Habitat Mosaic you can easily see how little there is & poorly connected it is.  It looks like a jigsaw puzzle with 85% of the pieces missing.

Although our municipality is not paradise for urban wildlife, we do have The Greenway & the Cooks River & Councils & community groups have great plans to improve on the biodiversity of both these areas.

We too can add to the Urban Habitat Mosaic by planting food-producing tree/s or shrub/s somewhere in our property.  Small food-producing natives can also be planted on the verges.  It’s surprising what the introduction of native plants does to bring the presence of wildlife into your garden & area.

In my immediate neighbourhood, the planting of natives in both front & back gardens in a number of adjoining properties & on the verge has brought in a huge variety of new birds.   Where it was once Indian Mynas & Currawongs, there are now many species of small & medium-sized birds who live here. The Indian mynas are still around, but are outnumbered by other birds, so leave them alone.  I have witnessed this on many occasions.  Interestingly the Currawongs have left.

This has shown me that native birds will return if there is sufficient food & safe habitat for them.  It has also shown me that you can manage so-called feral birds by changing the environment & making it useful, safe & inviting for native birds.  It’s lovely to end the day with the sound of bird song drowning out the traffic.  It feels normal – as it should be.

Local Red Wattle bird. 

On 17 February 2011 the Federal Court ruled against the Bat Advocacy Inc’s challenge to the decision of the Minister for Environment Protection Peter Garrett to allow the forced removal of the colony of Grey-Headed Flying-Foxes (GHFF) from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. This was not an appeal to review the merits of the decision, but a hearing on points of law. The court said that its function was to examine whether “the correct processes were followed by the Minister in making his decision.”

Flying-foxes love the nectar of flowering Gums & will quietly drink from each flower of the tree

Bat Advocacy Inc raised 4 challenges, which were answered by the court as follows:

1. Q:    Did the Minister fail to take into account a relevant consideration when exercising his power of approval. That consideration was the impact on the GHFF resulting from their removal from their critical habitat in the Gardens. A:    The Minister concluded that the proposed action should be attempted if the GHFF could be acceptably & safely dispersed in order to prevent ongoing damage being occasioned to the internationally significant trees within the Gardens. Thus, the Minister did not fail to consider the loss of the GHFF habitat in the Gardens and the draft Recovery Plan.

2. Q:    Did the Minister fail to take into account a relevant consideration, namely the social matters & the associated community conflicts resulting from the dispersal of the GHFF to areas outside the Gardens. A:    The portion of the Reasons under the heading ‘Social & Economic Matters’ demonstrates that the Minister has given due regard to information on social matters identified in the PER & in public submissions.

3. Q:    Did the Minister fail to take into account all adverse impacts, present & throughout the duration of the approval, that the approval would have on matters protected by Part 3 of the EPBC Act. The approval is stated to remain effective until 2039. The applicant does not identify the impacts which have allegedly been disregarded by the Minister. Rather, the submission merely suggests that there may be cumulative impacts which will adversely affect the GHFF. A:     Based upon the precise nature of the monitoring, which will continue throughout the life of the approval, & upon which the life of the approval is contingent, it could not be said that the Minister failed to consider how the approval would operate to the date of expiry.

4. Q:    Did the Minister fail to take into consideration other information in the Minister’s possession concerning similar GHFF dispersals which had been raised in public submissions and referred to in the Independent Expert Report of Dr Richards. A:     The Minister was aware of the potential for the proposed action to be unsuccessful. In these circumstances, the Court cannot conclude that the Minister failed to consider previous unsuccessful attempts to disperse colonies of GHFF in Australia.

That still doesn’t make the decision the right one & the court hasn’t answered this question.

In May 2011, the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust will start dispersal techniques of around 22,000 ‘threatened’ grey-headed flying foxes.  The Sydney Morning Herald wrote – “But the Gardens said that to date the bats had destroyed 27 mature trees & more than 20 palms since they took up residence there 20 years ago.  Another 300 trees were at risk, Dr Entwisle said.  Several sites have been identified as possible homes for the bats, including existing flying fox camps at Ku-ring-gai, Cabramatta & Parramatta.  Botany Bay National Park & Lane Cove National Park were also named, although the Gardens has said it could not be certain whether the bats would settle in any specific location.”

Flying-foxes also love the nectar from Grevillea flowers

According to bat experts, dispersal techniques will make the bats tired & stressed, making them prone to serious injury. They will have to join other colonies to fight & compete with food that was, at least during 2010, very scarce.  Bats were found all along the east coast of Australia & as far as Adelaide looking for food with some eating citrus fruit in country orchards, although citrus is not their usual food.

The east coast situation of starving bats has resulted in an increase in anti-bat sentiment in the community with many complaining about bats in their garden keeping them or their children awake at night. This blog’s stats show with alarming regularity people searching the question, “How to get rid of bats?”  I know what the answer will be.  Some people will chop down their trees to take away the food & the tree/s that the bats are using.  No tree, no bat. I predict there will be a great increase tree removal & despite the rules & regulations of Councils, many won’t bother to get permission.  Our Council wouldn’t know the true numbers of tree removal across Marrickville LGA & I’d bet this is the same with other Councils.

Golf courses, when they have Fig trees, are wonderful for flying-foxes to find food

Sydney Councils have been saying throughout 2010 that they did not want the 22,000 Botanic Gardens flying-foxes to come to their area so it’s not as simple as removing the bats from the Gardens for them to happily fly away to another home. Their removal will have a ripple effect & I doubt it will be supportive of the bats.

The grey-headed flying fox is listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ with the major threat being loss of habitat. Other factors are: being killed by people & declining numbers.  Flying foxes have a very low breeding rate so don’t breed & boom.  They eat native fruit & nectar & do a terrific & vital job in pollination & seed distribution so we actually need them. When starving they will eat citrus fruit.  Because of loss of habitat, flying-foxes come to feed on flowering trees in suburban back gardens.  They eat & leave, rarely deciding to roost & usually only return for 2-3 weeks before moving on to a different food source. There is no evidence that people can get the Hendra virus from bats. Rather than hurt a flying fox if you want to stop it from visiting your garden, contact the Department of Environment Climate Change & Water for assistance –

If you net fruit trees it is important to pull the netting tight so a bat can walk over it, but not get entangled & injured.

I appreciate the situation that the Trust is faced with & understand why they sought the eviction.  However, there are many others like me who are sad & disappointed about this decision, who believe the bats should be allowed to continue to live in the Botanic Gardens & that their eviction will create many more problems for bats & other birds.  It is also an enormous loss of opportunity for ‘natural tourism,’ as many people would travel to see such a glorious sight right in the heart of our city. Let’s hope that everything works out quickly so everyone can be happy, most of all the bats.

I last wrote about the flying foxes at the Royal Botanic Gardens here –’s-royal-botanic-gardens-trust-wants-‘threatened-species’-bats-banished/

A Fig tree in fruit - fabulous food for Flying-foxes

Tree news is a little late with most of the items happening in July 2010.  However, I thought they would still be of interest.

1.   The community of James City in the US are upset about a new development of shops where the developer wants to clear 8.85 acres of trees for a shopping centre.

2.   Arborcide is the US legal term for vandalism of public trees with the penalty up to 12 months imprisonment or US$15,000 fine.  A 35 year old man was arrested & charged with Arbocide after he vandalized dozens of trees in Brooklyn until he was caught & taken to a psychiatric hospital.  ….the anger of residents was partly because so many of them took pride in their street trees. He and others had received a license from the parks department to prune the trees themselves.  “No one’s angry at Steve, but we need him to get better for our trees to get better.”

Created over the last 5 years or so, this patch of bushland in Marrickville South is a haven for birds & other wildlife

3.   The Commonwealth Forestry Conference was held in Edinburgh Scotland at the end of June 2010. The Commonwealth Secretary-General Mr Sharma addressed the conference saying –

Forests, we know, represent almost three-quarters of the world’s terrestrial carbon. Cut them down & they are responsible for almost a quarter of man-made CO2 emissions. Tackle deforestation & we go a long way towards tacking climate change.  … twenty years time, 80% of the forests that covered the earth in 1947 will be gone. As well as the loss of thousands of species, this will also accelerate the climate changes that destroy our other natural environments, our glaciers, grassland & coral reefs.

Mr Sharma’s main message was trees are worth more alive than dead.  This article covers other areas of his speech where he offers other ways to tackle climate change.

Young Eucalypt with flowering Wattle

4.   Stephen Matthews & Paul Rodewald, landscape ecologists at Ohio State University in the US recently published a study on migrating Swainson’s thrushes finding even a small urban forest can help migrating birds.  This has huge implications with increased urbanization & loss of habitat with manufactured green spaces offering only minor replacement.  Within migration, land birds spend up to 90% of their time resting & regaining energy at stopover sites, making habitat a key component.

5.   Scientists from Colorado State University have produced a unique map that shows the canopy height of the world’s forests. The map has implications for an ongoing effort to estimate the amount of carbon tied up in Earth’s forests & for explaining what sops up 2 billion tons of “missing” carbon each year. It will also help monitor the world’s forests.

6.   550 trees, some 100-years old, were chopped down without notice by the state Department of Transportation as part of construction of the Grand Central Parkway near the airport in New York. The Department intends to replace them with a dividing wall between the roadway & the housing.

Future problems?

7.   The issue of the right street tree planted in the right space has caused problems with US power company NStar & their street tree pruning for overhead wires.

It’s obscene. I don’t know if they are trying to do [enough pruning] for the next 10 years or if it’s to save them money & they don’t care about the damage to the trees, the health of the trees, or the look of the town. But it’s just way over the top.

The Town Manager for Arlington has prevented NStar from any further pruning of street trees “until the company or its contractors provide assurances that private property will be respected & appropriate standards will be followed.”

Drinking from a puddle

Prepare for big changes in Marrickville because this is just the start of high-rise

1.    The Environment Department has done aerial seeding of 1 million trees across nearly 6,000 hectares of exposed lakebeds in South Australia to ease soil acidification. “It is hoped the plants will stop a spread of toxic dust & add vital organic material to the soil, in a region which faced prolonged drought.”

2.   Clarence Valley Council has done something amazing for the environment. Funded by the Department of Environment Climate Change & Water, they planted 300 rainforest trees for flying-fox habitat over an area of about 3,400 square metres in McLean to manage the bat population. Terrific & compassionate program, far better than the usual to just chuck the bats out or simply cut down the trees. Loud applause.

3.   Yesterday I posted about Goondiwindi Regional Council chopping down Fig trees despite community opposition. Now the Council is going to spend $96,000 on floating footpaths made out of more than 80,000 recycled milk bottle caps. Using this type of footpath means they won’t have to cut the roots of trees or even worse, remove healthy trees because of roots affecting footpaths.  They said they were prepared to send this kind of money because they, “understand how important these trees are to residents.”

4.   Nine 150-year-old trees in Burdekin Park near Singleton are to be chopped down because bats classified as threatened species have destroyed them. Singleton Council has arranged to have a qualified bat handler assess & stay with the bats during the nights when their homes are being removed.

5.   In NSW a research team from the science & research division of Industry & Investment NSW has managed to record thousands of calls of the Microbat for the first time, making it easier for scientists to identify & protect their habitats. Microbats consume up to 1.5 times their own body weight in one night & are a vital part of our ecosystem. They, like many other of our wildlife are threatened due to loss of habitat because of development.

6.   Bats are thought of very differently in Italy where people have purchased more than 12,000 bat boxes at £25 each since April 2010 to combat the tiger mosquito that has infected hundreds with Chikungunya Fever. Each bat eats around 10,000 insects a night so they are a non-chemical organic approach to mosquito control. Everyone wins, except the mosquito.

7.   Hornsby has a new community action group called Stop 20 who are opposed to Hornsby Council’s draft housing strategy, which includes 20-storey housing developments.

8.    On 28 June at the Commonwealth Forestry Conference in Edinburgh UK, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said, “We need to show, financially, that trees are worth more alive than dead. Forests, we know, represent almost three-quarters of the world’s terrestrial carbon. Cut them down, & they are responsible for almost a quarter of man-made CO2 emissions. Tackle deforestation, & we go a long way towards tacking climate change.” He also said in 20 years time 80% of the forests that covered the earth in 1947 will be gone.   As well as the loss of thousands of species, this will also “accelerate the climate changes that destroy our other natural environments, our glaciers, grassland & coral reefs.”

9.   Chen Maoguo, a very brave man sat up in a Euclyptus tree in China for more than 3 months to protest the planned demolition of his home for the building of a shopping mall.  Mr Chen is being tried for disturbing public order. I hope he doesn’t get a gaol sentence.

10.    A number of communities in the state of Massachusetts USA have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of street trees that have died as a result of underground gas leaks in degrading pipes in the National Grid.

11.   The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission in the US has approved $35.7 million for 6 million acres of wetlands & bird refuges across the US &  Canada.

12.   Pavlovsk experimental station Russia, one of the world’s oldest seed banks is soon to be demolished to make way for housing.  The seed bank holds more than 4000 varieties of fruits & berries from which most modern commercially grown varieties are derived.

13.   8 turbines are to be put under the bridges crossing the river Seine in Paris to raise energy from the rivers currents. There is already an underwater turbine under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This article also mentions that Paris has a free bicycle scheme.

14.   Chicago is going to do a census on its trees after doing one 17 years ago.

Watching the documentary Greatest Cities of the World on Tuesday night I learnt the finest honey in France is from a beehive on the roof of the Paris Opera House.  Not illegal, just using available good quality space.

lovely old tree in Dulwich Hill



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