To discern the number, timing, distribution and causes of listed extinctions in Australia, with an aim to learn from those losses in order to avert or reduce the likeliness of future losses.
Type of Study:
Review and research paper
Since Australia's colonisation by Europeans in 1788, 100 Australian endemic species (ten invertebrates, one fish, four frogs, three reptiles, nine birds, 34 mamals, one protist, and 38 plants) have been validly listed as extinct (or extinct in the wild). The EPBC Act only recognises 62 of the 100 extinctions, with 45 listed on the IUCN Act, and 87 listed under state legislation. The first extinction (Porphyrio albus) is thought to have occurred within a decade of European colonisation, with at least one recorded extinction each decade since 1830, at a rate of loss of 4.3 species per decade, with three extinctions and two extinctions in the wild occuring within the last decade. Of the 100 extinct Australian species, 21 were restricted to islands smaller than Tasmania, including 100% of extinct reptiles, 78% of extinct birds, and 18% of extinct mammals. Most extinctions have occured in semi-arid areas or bioregions dominated by islands, with 78 of Australia's 89 bioregions having had at least extinction record. The causes that have contributed most to extinctions include introduced animals (64 extinctions impacting mostly mammals, reptiles, and birds) and habitat loss (62 extinctions impacting mostly plants and invertebrates). Threats varied between taxonomic groups, e.g. clearing was the highest contributor of extinctions for plants and disease for frogs. The sole extinction due at least in part to climate change was in fact the most recent extinction, the Bramble Cay Melomys (Melomys rubicola).
Woinarski J. C. Z., Braby M. F., Burbidge A. A. et al. (2019) Reading the black book: The number, timing, distribution and causes of listed extinctions in Australia. Biol. Conserv. 239.