World news – Escape or fright: what is the future of the emus of the east coast of Australia?


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January 14, 2021

from Western Sydney University

Scientists from Western Sydney University and the University of Tasmania have mapped historical changes in the distribution of the legendary Australian emus (Dromaius novehollandiae) in order to predict how regional emu populations are expected to change over the next 50 years .

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The researchers used a range of cutting-edge analytical tools to determine what the future of the Australian emu population will look like.

The results of the analysis, published in Nature Scientific Reports, show how past climate changes are in over the past 6,000 years have resulted in emus increasing their populations northward in central Australia and narrowing their range east of the Great Dividing Range (GDR).

Julia Ryeland, Ph.D. The candidate from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University and lead author of the study said climate change is in large part responsible for historical changes in the population spectrum. This suggests that the future for emu populations on the east coast is potentially fragile.

« Changes in rainfall patterns over the past several thousand years have increased their distribution, which was once widespread east of the Great Dividing Range, significantly reduced, leaving residual niche populations on the east coast of Australia. This makes the east coast population vulnerable to potential threats such as further fragmentation and habitat predation by wild pests, « said Ms. Ryeland.

 » On the east coast are the remaining emu populations the limit of their climatic suitability, as the changed precipitation patterns and threats from predation, loss of habitat and other causes put pressure on these populations. « 

It is expected that the emu populations will remain overall stable in the future under climate change scenarios. East of the areas, however, populations are likely to continue to be threatened by increasing urbanization and increasing losses from wild predators.

According to Associate Professor Ricky Spencer of the School of Science at Western Sydney University, who also contributed to the study, the Population in northeast Australia is classified as Vulnerable, and this is where efforts to conserve the remaining emu population are paramount.

« The impact on emu communities on the east coast since European settlement has been dramatic, with much fewer emu Populations east of the areas. With targeted efforts to expand our knowledge of endangered populations, we can continue to monitor population changes and ensure their duration – term success, « said Associate Professor Spencer.

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