John C. Z. Woinarski's research while affiliated with Charles Darwin University and other places

Publications (111)

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The delineation of subspecies is important in the evaluation and protection of biodiversity. Subspecies delineation is hampered by inconsistently applied criteria and a lack of agreement and shifting standards on how a subspecies should be defined. The Australian endemic Yellow Chat (Epthianura crocea) is split into three subspecies (E. c. crocea,...
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The likelihood of extinction within the next 20 years was determined for 47 Australian mammal, bird, reptile, frog and freshwater fish taxa previously identified as being highly imperilled. A 14-member expert elicitation panel, consisting of a mix of taxon experts and government managers of threatened species, estimated that there was a > 50% chanc...
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Understanding variation in the diet of widely distributed species can help us to predict how they respond to future environmental and anthropogenic changes. We studied the diet of the red fox Vulpes vulpes, one of the world's most widely distributed carnivores. We compiled dietary data from 217 studies at 276 locations in five continents to assess...
Article
Invertebrates make up the vast majority of fauna species but are often overlooked in impact assessment and conservation response. The extent to which the 2019–2020 Australian megafires overlapped with the range of vertebrate species has been well documented; consequently, substantial resourcing has been directed towards their recovery. Here, we att...
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Aim Introduced predators negatively impact biodiversity globally, with insular fauna often most severely affected. Here, we assess spatial variation in the number of terrestrial vertebrates (excluding amphibians) killed by two mammalian mesopredators introduced to Australia, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and feral cat (Felis catus). We aim to identif...
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Aim The incidence of major fires is increasing globally, creating extraordinary challenges for governments, managers and conservation scientists. In 2019–2020, Australia experienced precedent‐setting fires that burned over several months, affecting seven states and territories and causing massive biodiversity loss. Whilst the fires were still burni...
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Aim: Comprehensive, global information on species' occurrences is an essential biodiversity variable and central to a range of applications in ecology, evolution, biogeography and conservation. Expert range maps often represent a species' only available distributional information and play an increasing role in conservation assessments and macroeco...
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After environmental disasters, species with large population losses may need urgent protection to prevent extinction and support recovery. Following the 2019–2020 Australian megafires, we estimated population losses and recovery in fire‐affected fauna, to inform conservation status assessments and management. Temperate and subtropical Australia. 20...
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Aims Reconnaissance surveys followed by monitoring are needed to assess the impact and response of biodiversity to wildfire. However, post‐wildfire survey and monitoring design are challenging due to the infrequency and unpredictability of wildfire, an urgency to initiate surveys and uncertainty about how species respond. In this article, we discus...
Article
Knowledge of where a threatened species occurs in a landscape is crucial for determining its habitat requirements and informing its conservation planning and management. We conducted the first broad-scale survey of the Endangered Alligator Rivers Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea tunneyi across much of its known range on drying coastal floodplains in n...
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Earth's rapidly warming climate is propelling us towards an increasingly fire-prone future. Currently, knowledge of the extent and characteristics of animal mortality rates during fire remains rudimentary, hindering our ability to predict how animal populations may be impacted in the future. To address this knowledge gap, we conducted a global syst...
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Sound taxonomy is the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation. Without a fundamental understanding of species delimitations, as well as their distributions and ecological requirements, our ability to conserve them is drastically impeded. Cryptic species – two or more distinct species currently classified as a single species – present a significant...
Article
Two introduced carnivores, the European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus , have had extensive impacts on Australian biodiversity. In this study, we collate information on consumption of Australian birds by the fox, paralleling a recent study reporting on birds consumed by cats. We found records of consumption by foxes on 128 nativ...
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Rock-wallabies (Petrogale spp.) are one of Australia’s most speciose genera of mammals, irregularly distributed across much of the continent and its offshore islands. The 25 taxa in the genus Petrogale (17 species and 8 subspecies) have specialised ecological requirements that render them vulnerable to numerous threats. Many rock-wallaby population...
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Conservation management is a rapidly evolving field in which scientific innovation and management practice can run ahead of social acceptability, leading to dispute and policy constraints. Here we use best-worst scaling (BWS) to explore the social preferences for two broad areas of threatened species management in Australia as well as support for e...
Article
Two introduced carnivores, the European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus, have had, and continue to have, major impacts on wildlife, particularly mammals, across Australia. Based mainly on the contents of almost 50,000 fox dietary samples, we provide the first comprehensive inventory of Australian mammal species known to be consum...
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More than a third of the world’s amphibian species are listed as Threatened or Extinct, with a recent assessment identifying 45 Australian frogs (18.4% of the currently recognised species) as ‘Threatened’ based on IUCN criteria. We applied structured expert elicitation to 26 frogs assessed as Critically Endangered and Endangered to estimate their p...
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Australia is in the midst of an extinction crisis, having already lost 10% of terrestrial mammal fauna since European settlement and with hundreds of other species at high risk of extinction. The decline of the nation's biota is a result of an array of threatening processes; however, a comprehensive taxon-specific understanding of threats and their...
Article
Monitoring of threatened species is a critical part of conserving biodiversity. It is needed to understand population trajectories, threatening processes, and the type and effectiveness of management responses needed to ensure persistence and recovery. Characteristics of some plant species (e.g. immobility) should render them amenable to monitoring...
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Recognizing the imperative to evaluate species recovery and conservation impact, in 2012 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) called for development of a "Green List of Species" (now the IUCN Green Status of Species). A draft Green Status framework for assessing species' progress toward recovery, published in 2018, proposed 2 s...
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Context. Invasive species are a major cause of biodiversity loss across much of the world, and a key threat to Australia's diverse reptile fauna. There has been no previous comprehensive analysis of the potential impact of the introduced European red fox, Vulpes vulpes, on Australian reptiles. Aims. We seek to provide an inventory of all Australia...
Article
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The red fox Vulpes vulpes is one of the world’s most widespread carnivores. A key to its success has been its broad, opportunistic diet. The fox was introduced to Australia about 150 years ago, and within 30 years of its introduction was already recognised as a threat to livestock and native wildlife. We reviewed 85 fox diet studies (totalling 3169...
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The continued loss, fragmentation, and degradation of forest habitats are driving an extinction crisis for tropical and subtropical bird species. This loss is particularly acute in the Atlantic Forest of South America, where it is unclear whether several endemic bird species are extinct or extant. We collate and model spatiotemporal distributional...
Article
Determining the factors that drive the distributions of threatened species is often critical for informing effective conservation management actions. Species distribution models can be used to distinguish common habitat features shared by limited historical records and identify other areas where a species might persist. In this study, we built a sp...
Technical Report
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The impacts of wildfire upon biodiversity can be compounded by other factors. There is some evidence that feral cats Felis catus may move to, or occur in increased abundance in, recently burnt areas. As such, wildlife that have survived fire may be at increased predation risk, in part because the burnt landscape offers less shelter from predation....
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The diversity and abundance of native invertebrates is declining globally, which could have significant consequences for ecosystem functioning. Declines are likely to be at least as severe as those observed for vertebrates, although often are difficult to quantify due to a lack of historic baseline data and limited monitoring effort. The Lepidopter...
Article
en • Cats Felis catus, in all their forms (domestic, free‐roaming/stray and feral), have been identified as a major global threat to biodiversity, especially birds and small mammals. However, there has been little previous consideration of the extent and impact of predation of bats by cats, or of whether specific characteristics make certain speci...
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Until recently, the reptile fauna of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean comprised five endemic species (two skinks, two geckos, and one snake) and one native, non-endemic skink. Four of these species were common and widespread until at least 1979, but by 2012 had disappeared from the wild. During the years of decline, little research was undertak...
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In response to Australia's current extinction crisis, substantial research efforts have been targeted towards some of the most imperilled species. One such species is the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), a marsupial predator that has recently suffered substantial declines in range and is now listed as Endangered. We conducted a systematic revi...
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ContextInvasive predators are a key threat to biodiversity worldwide. In Australia, feral cats are likely to be responsible for many extinctions of native mammal species in the south and centre of the continent. AimsHere we examine the effect of feral cats on native rodent populations in the second of two translocation experiments. Methods In a wil...
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Abstract Quantifying species population trends is crucial for monitoring progress towards global conservation targets, justifying investments, planning targeted responses and raising awareness about threatened species. Many global indicators are slow in response and report on common species, not on those at greatest risk of extinction. Here we deve...
Article
Context. Cats are the definitive or primary host for pathogens that cause diseases in people and livestock. These cat-dependent diseases would not occur in Australia if cats had not been introduced, and their ongoing persistence depends on contacts with cats. Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that cycles between cats and any other warm-bloo...
Article
Context. Recent global concern over invertebrate declines has drawn attention to the causes and consequences of this loss of biodiversity. Feral cats, Felis catus, pose a major threat to many vertebrate species in Australia, but their effect on invertebrates has not previously been assessed. Aims. The objectives of our study were to (1) assess the...
Article
Research and management attention on the impacts of the introduced domestic cat (Felis catus) on Australian fauna have focussed mainly on the feral population. Here, we summarise the evidence for impacts of predation by pet cats on Australian wildlife. We collate examples of local wildlife population decline and extirpation as a result, at least in...
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Australia’s 2019–2020 mega-fires were exacerbated by drought, anthropogenic climate change and existing land-use management. Here, using a combination of remotely sensed data and species distribution models, we found these fires burnt ~97,000 km2 of vegetation across southern and eastern Australia, which is considered habitat for 832 species of nat...
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Aichi Target 12 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) contains the aim to ‘prevent extinctions of known threatened species’. To measure the degree to which this was achieved, we used expert elicitation to estimate the number of bird and mammal species whose extinctions were prevented by conservation action in 1993–2020 (the lifetime of th...
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Australia hosts approximately 10% of the world's reptile species, the largest number of any country. Despite this and evidence of widespread decline, the first comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of Australian terrestrial squamates (snakes and lizards) was undertaken only recently. Here we apply structured expert elicitation to the...
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The Night Parrot Pezoporus occidentalis is one of the least known and most threatened of Australia’s bird species. In recent decades, breeding has been confirmed at only two remote regions in inland Australia. Consequently, reports of its presence in new locations have important conservation implications and elicit intense public interest. Between...
Article
The 2019–2020 megafires in Australia brought a tragic loss of human life and the most dramatic loss of habitat for threatened species and devastation of ecological communities in postcolonial history. What must be done now to keep impacted species from extinction? What can be done to avoid a repeat of the impacts of such devastating bushfires? Here...
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Aim An interaction between reduced habitat structural complexity and predation by feral cats (Felis catus) has been hypothesized as the primary driver of mammal decline in northern Australia. However, we have a limited understanding of the drivers of the distribution and abundance of feral cats at a landscape scale, including whether the occurrence...
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Understanding changes in species distributions is essential to disentangle the mechanisms that drive their responses to anthropogenic habitat modification. Here we analyse the past (1970s) and current (2017) distribution of 204 species of terrestrial non-volant mammals to identify drivers of recent contraction and expansion in their range. We find...
Article
In recent decades severe mammal declines have occurred in the vast and uncleared tropical savannas of northern Australia. Mounting evidence suggests that feral cats (Felis catus), large feral herbivores and increased frequency of high-severity fires, are all contributing to declines; however, the respective influence of each threat remains unclear....
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The threatened northern brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale pirata) is one of the most poorly known mammals in Australia. While the few available records indicate a decline in its distribution and abundance, it has not previously been subject to intensive targeted survey. Here, we trialled a specifically tailored methodology for detection of P. pir...
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Globally, freshwater fishes are declining at an alarming rate. Despite much evidence of catastrophic declines, few Australian species are listed as threatened under national legislation. We aim to help redress this by identifying the Australian freshwater fishes that are in the most immediate risk of extinction. For 22 freshwater fishes (identified...
Article
ContextPredation by feral cats (Felis catus) threatens a range of vertebrate species across Australia, and cat-free islands increasingly act as safe havens for biodiversity. A feral cat eradication program has begun on Kangaroo Island (4405km2) in South Australia, and poison baiting is likely to be one of the main methods used. Aims Here, we trial...
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Aim Species range contractions are increasingly common globally. The niche reduction hypothesis posits that geographic range contractions are often patterned across space owing to heterogeneity in threat impacts and tolerance. We applied the niche reduction hypothesis to the decline of a threatened marsupial predator across northern Australia, the...
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As with most governments worldwide, Australian governments list threatened species and proffer commitments to recovering them. Yet most of Australia's imperiled species continue to decline or go extinct and a contributing cause is inadequate investment in conservation management. However, this has been difficult to evaluate because the extent of fu...
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Strategies for mitigating climate change through altered land management practices can provide win–win outcomes for the environment and the economy. Emissions trading for greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement in Australia's remote, fire‐prone, and sparsely populated tropical savannas provides a financial incentive for intensive fire management that aims t...
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Hybrid cats—created by crossing different species within the family Felidae—are popular pets, but they could potentially threaten native species if they escape and establish free-roaming populations. To forestall this possibility, the Australian government imposed a specific ban on importation of the savannah cat, a hybrid created by crossing the d...
Experiment Findings
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In 2009, the Christmas Island blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko were headed for imminent extinction. Parks Australia acted quickly to collect remaining wild individuals in order to establish captive breeding programs on Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, which have been highly successful. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project team...
Article
Mammals comprise the bulk of the diet of free‐ranging domestic cats Felis catus (defined as including outdoor pet cats, strays, and feral cats) in most parts of their global range. In Australia, predation by introduced feral cats has been implicated in the extinction of many mammal species, and in the ongoing decline of many extant species. Here, w...
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Aim Species distribution models are an important conservation tool; however, performance can vary with factors including data inputs and modelling method. Model outputs are often under‐evaluated for explanatory and predictive capacity. Our aim was to evaluate the capacity of existing data for seven small mammal species to provide useful inferences...
Technical Report
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Feral cats threaten wildlife across Australia and as a result, broadscale feral cat baiting programs are being increasingly implemented. Few studies have examined the non-target impacts of such programs, particularly in areas where threatened native species have a low tolerance to 1080. Here we examine the potential non-target impacts of feral cat...
Technical Report
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Findings from the National Environmental Science Programme Threatened Species Recovery Hub, project 1.1.10, " The response of the Kangaroo Island dunnart (Sminthopsis fuliginosis aitkeni) to a feral cat control program.
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Here we provide geographic distribution ranges for 205 species of terrestrial non‐volant mammals in the 1970s. We selected terrestrial non‐volant mammals because they are among the most studied groups, have greater availability of historical distribution data for the 1970s decade, and also show the largest range contractions compared to other taxon...
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Conservation scientists and practitioners usually focus on understanding and managing individual threats to biodiversity. However, threats may interact, making management outcomes unpredictable. Here, we investigated whether interactions between fire regimes and introduced livestock affect the conservation goal of population recovery for small mamm...
Article
Monitoring threatened species is essential for quantifying population trends, understanding causes of species' declines, and guiding the development and assessment of effective recovery actions. Here, we provide a systematic , continental-scale evaluation of the extent and quality of monitoring for threatened species, focusing on terrestrial and fr...
Research Proposal
The Critically Endangered Christmas Island flying-fox is an important focus for conservation on Christmas Island, as it is the last surviving endemic mammal species and probably plays an important ecological role. It is believed to have suffered periods of decline in recent decades, but the drivers of the decline are not clearly understood. This pr...
Research Proposal
The Alligator Rivers yellow chat is a small, bright yellow insectivorous subspecies of bird living on the floodplains of several major rivers in the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory including within and nearby Kakadu National Park. Despite its listing as Endangered, little research has been conducted on the bird and its habitat requirements and...
Research Proposal
The Alligator Rivers yellow chat is endangered. It lives on floodplains in and near Kakadu National Park. We don’t know much about why it is so rare or the best ways to look after it. The floodplains where the bird lives are also important to Traditional Owners. This project is about learning more about the bird and the best ways to look after it a...
Technical Report
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Maintaining mammal populations on havens – whether they are naturally occurring or translocated – has helped to prevent further mammal extinctions, and consolidated protection for other species. These havens fall under the management of many organisations, ranging from local councils, community groups and small private organisations to large non-go...