Koala study breaks new ground - NSW Nationals

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Koala study breaks new ground

A comprehensive research study improving the predictability of koala habitation has been completed Dr Brad Law and his research team from the NSW Department of Industry Forest Science.

The report is available on the Forest Science website at http://www.crownland.nsw.gov.au/forestry/science-and-research/_nocache and focuses on predicting improved identification of koala habitat in forests in north-eastern New South Wales.

Chairman of the NSW Forest Industries Taskforce, Rick Colless MLC, said the report signalled a new era of understanding about koalas by assessing a complex range of variables that impacted on koala habitation.

“When we assess how forests are valued it is essential we use the very best science”, Mr Colless said.

“The study completed by Brad Law’s team helps set the parameters, identifying where koalas are likely to be for that assessment, and will provide for improved identification of koala habitat in areas planned for future management.

“It is important to note that there were 30 environmental variables considered in the study and the greatest contribution to the outcomes related to fire frequency, soil types, feed tree species and elevation above sea level”, Mr Colless said.

Following development of the model extensive ground truthing and validation of predicted koala habitation was carried out using song meters and searching for koala droppings (scats). Sixty-five sites were selected in areas from Port Stephens in the south to the Queensland border in the north, in areas that were forested and previously harvested. 

“Following the development of the model, the validation process reinforced the modelling procedure and provided a much better indicator of koala occupancy than the simple habitat quality assessments of the past,” Mr Colless said.

“This model as developed so far is a tool to guide future forest and koala management decisions and I anticipate there will be further research as a result of this ground-breaking study that will ultimately enable broader conclusions to be drawn about the impacts of various forest management options on koala habitation,” Mr Colless said.

Previously the NSW Forest Industries Taskforce developed resources to increase understanding of koala management in public and private forestry operations. The Koala Code of Practice was developed by the Forest Science Unit in conjunction with industry representatives.

A Koala Field Guide for Forestry Operations has also been made available so that detailed and up-to-date information, on koala management is readily accessible and this information can be found at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/content/agriculture/resources/private-forestry/publications/koala-cop.

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