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Macquarie biologist’s grave warning on species survival

Professor Lesley Hughes with an international team of top biologists is calling for more interventionist approach to saving the world's most endangered species.

In this month’s issue of the prestigious scientific journal Science, the scientists argue that because of rapid climate change and the presence of human-made barriers, some species under threat need human-assisted translocation to new geographic regions to ensure their future survival.

“Many conservationists are very resistant to the notion that we should move species to new locations,” says Professor Hughes.

“But for some species, the alternative will be to simply watch them become extinct.”

For many species, human-made barriers may prevent them from shifting when changes to their local climate occur.

Human assisted translocation, often called ‘assisted migration’ or ‘assisted colonisation’ is one potential strategy to increase the chances of species survival in the future.

“Many conservationists are very resistant to the notion that we should move species to new locations,” says Professor Hughes (Images: Julian Oberlaender)

Due to environmental pressure like climate change, Macquarie biologist Professor Lesley Hughes believes some plant and animal species may need to be relocated to ensure their survival

Such human assistance should not be thought of as a permanent solution to save an endangered species or ensure conservation of all biodiversity, the scientists say.

Rather it should be used to help a few species that biologists and the public believe are important enough to warrant that type of intervention.

The scientists suggest a number of scenarios where a decision to help a species relocate would be appropriate.

Questions to be asked before a decision to intervene include whether the risk of extinction of a species is high, but the risk of importing the species into a particular community is low, and whether the likelihood of successful colonisation is high, but the time and cost to transplant the species is low.

The article was authored by seven of the world’s leading biologists including Macquarie University’s Lesley Hughes, University of Queensland’s Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and Hugh Possingham, Sue McIntyre from the CSIRO, David Lindenmayer of ANU, Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas and Chris Thomas from York University, United Kingdom. 

To hear a podcast of Professor Lesley Hughes discussing the dangers of climate change, visit the MQtv website.

Visit the Higher Degree Research Unit website for more information about research opportunities at Macquarie University. 


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