More than 80 per cent of Perth’s most prominent native birds face extinction if land clearing continues at current rates, according to alarming new research that puts the spotlight on the State’s planning practices.
An extensive University of WA study of native birds on the Swan coastal plain has found that only about a dozen of the 65 birds examined would survive past 2050 if more native bush was not retained and exotic plant species banned.
The 15 species most at risk of extinction are the scarlet robin and a group containing 14 species including the splendid fairy-wren and the western, inland and yellow-rumped thornbill.
UWA School of Animal Biology research associate and study leader Robert Davis said Perth was facing a tide of potential bird extinctions. He said 83 per cent of the 65 birds studied needed a 2km radius of native vegetation for their survival.
Those areas were now limited to the fringes of the metropolitan area, with the exception of Kings Park and Bold Park and some other suburban reserves.
Clearing in regions such as Baldivis and Wanneroo was also taking place at a rapid rate, further depriving bush birds of natural habitat.
“The best thing that urban planners could do is to stop clearing all native bushland prior to housing construction, retaining as many native trees and plants as possible,” Dr Davis said. “Australia seems to be one of the few places in the world that develops in this way whereas in Europe trees are retained wherever possible.”
The two-year study, which was funded by the Federal Government, examined 121 sites and found common urban species such as the brown honeyeater, red wattlebird, singing honeyeater and Australian raven would be among the few that could survive land clearing in the future.
Dr Davis said long-term studies at Kings Park had documented the loss of nine species and the decline of 14 other species in the past 60 years. He said new estates needed to plant local native species and ban planting nonlocal species in public streetscapes.
The amount of native bushland left as public open space during development was “grossly inadequate” and the State Government needed to address this through planning and better legislation.
The study was a joint Perth Biodiversity Project and Birds Australia project led by the Perth Region Natural Resource Management group.
The management group said local government had a major role to play in banning the planting of exotic streetscape plants and providing free local plants to residents.
Chairman Colin Heinzman said the agency would work with land managers to ensure that planning for the metropolitan area took into account issues such as the loss of local native bird species.