A new data portal from James Cook University will allow free access to information on more than 1400 rare, threatened and other plants and animals of conservation concern found in northern Australia.
The research was supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program under the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub.
The new portal provides access to maps of species distributions and shows where each species is most vulnerable to potential threats such as climate change, disease, changes in fire intensity, invasive species and the expansion of mining and agriculture.
“The maps are a useful tool to help people visualise where these species are most at risk from one or more of the threats they face,” said JCU’s Dr Anna Pintor, who led the research.
“The maps can help managers to prioritise which species need most urgent conservation management. Conversely, they can also help to show where the best opportunities for conservation exist,” she said.
Prior to the project, there was little information available for many species of conservation concern in northern Australia. With proposals for mining and agricultural development increasing across the region, this new information will assist government agencies and Indigenous land managers to make more informed decisions.
The researchers used statistical models to map where there is suitable habitat for each species and where they are most vulnerable to extinction, based on their exposure and sensitivity to 11 threatening processes.
Both the data used to create the models and the maps generated from the models can be accessed via the data portal.
“The data management system has been designed so that the data and maps can be accessed in a flexible way,” said Dr Pintor.
“We have also published a user guide that explains which data are available for public access and how the models and maps were constructed from the available data. Because the information for some species and threatening processes was limited, we also explain the caveats on how the data and maps should be interpreted,” she said.
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