Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

The Mount Lofty Ranges and adjacent plains support an isolated woodland and open forest system that has been extensively cleared such that only 7% of the pre-European vegetation remains. The vegetation has been disproportionately cleared from the good quality agricultural land on lower elevations where only 2% remains. Within this region floral resources are more abundant during winter and spring when plants growing on poor quality soils flower. Honeyeaters recruit into these areas during winter and breed before departing as floral resources wane. Honeyeaters regularly move distances of 10-100 km in search of food within the Mt Lofty region. The habitats that provide floral nectar during late summer and autumn, the gum and box woodlands, however, have been disproportionately cleared and honeyeater populations decline during these times. As a consequence, honeyeaters are unable to recruit back in adequate numbers to service fully the pollination requirements of winter- and spring-flowering plants that suffer reduced seed production. These bird-plant systems operate at a regional scale, and restoration should focus on putting back native vegetation on good quality agricultural land, since components of this vegetation provide floral resources during late summer and autumn.

Based on the amount of vegetation that remains, 35-50 predominantly woodland bird species will go regionally extinct in the Mt Lofty region. Consistent with these predictions, 10 species are already considered regionally extinct and another 60 species continue to decline in abundance and or distribution. The critical requirement is to put back substantial amounts of appropriate habitat. Current revegetation efforts, however, are inadequate. The vast majority of revegetation effort produces patches of new vegetation that are too small (often<1ha), linear in shape, on poorer soils, consist of a few plant species planted in rows and at very high densities, and are largely disconnected from other patches of vegetation. These revegetation efforts support small numbers of widespread bird species and are rarely used consistently by declining species. Many of the declining woodland birds, however, use the extensive Monarto plantations, suggesting that larger areas of reconstructed habitat are needed elsewhere in the region. Based on the habitat needed by pairs of some the declining species, minimum patch sizes of the order of 20-100 ha need to be re-established on good quality agricultural lands. Rather than continuing to retire small plots of land on individual properties a different approach is urgently needed. An alternative is to retire whole farms, perhaps one in ten, and concentrate restoration efforts in fewer larger blocks. This will provide large areas (>100 ha) of good quality land for restoration but will need broad community support. Rather than purchasing farms, owners should be paid to remain on the land and do the restoration work.

This restoration program will take a 100 or more years to produce self-sustaining woodland habitats that the birds can use. In the interim the declining species will need to be managed wisely and intensively so that they will still be present in the landscape to colonize the new habitats. At present there is inadequate information about how to construct woodland habitats as opposed to just planting woodland species. There is also inadequate information on the ecology of the birds. Considerable research and adaptive management is needed to address the information gaps and to build the capacity to implement holistic recovery programs. There is an urgency to take action, since the longer we delay the fewer species that will be conserved. Future generations will not have the same opportunity.

Ashton, C.B. 1996. Changes in the avifauna using Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park. South Australian Ornithologist 32, 93-98.
Australian State of the Environment Committee 2001 Australia: State of the Environment 2001. Environment Australia, Canberra.
Baker, G.B., Dettmann, E.B., Scotney, B.T., Hardy, L.J., and Drynan, D.A.D. 1999 Report on the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme, 1996-97. Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme, Canberra, ACT.
Baxter, C.I. 1980. Some remarks on the birds of Kangaroo Island. South Australian Ornithologist 28, 172-174.
Bennett, A.F., Kimber, S.L., and Ryan, P.A. 2000 Revegetation and wildlife - A guide to enhancing revegetated habitats for wildlife conservation in rural environments. Report to Bushcare National and Research and Development Program, 2/00, Canberra.
Burgman, M.A., and Lindenmayer, D.B. 1998 Conservation biology for the Australian environment. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW.
Celebrezze, T. and Paton, D.C. 2004. Do introduced honeybees ( Apis mellifera, Hymenoptera) provide full pollination service to bird-adapted Australian plants with small flowers? An experimental study of Brachyloma ercoides (Epacridaceae). Austral Ecology 29, 129-136.
Cooper, C.B., and Walters, J.R. 2002a. Experimental evidence of disrupted dispersal causing decline of an Australian passerine in fragmented habitat. Conservation Biology 16, 471-478.
Cooper, C.B., and Walters, J.R. 2002b. Independent effects of woodland loss and fragmentation on Brown Treecreeper distribution. Biological Conservation 105, 1-10.
Davill, C. 2001. Ecology of the Yellow-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza chrysorrhoa in native and revegetated areas at Monarto, South Australia. BSc Honours thesis, The University of Adelaide.
Eckert, J. 2000. Birds. Pp. 25-85 in Natural history of Strathalbyn and Goolwa Districts, edited by Strathalbyn Naturalists Club. Douglas Press, Woodville North, SA
Ford, H.A. 1979. Interspecific competition in Australian honeyeaters - depletion of common resources. Australian Journal of Ecology 4, 145-164.
Ford, H.A. 1980. Breeding and moult in honeyeaters (Aves: Meliphagidae) near Adelaide, South Australia. Australian Wildlife Research 7, 453-463.
Ford, H.A. 1983. Relation between number of honeyeaters and intensity of flowering near Adelaide, South Australia. Corella 7, 25-31.
Ford, H.A., Barrett, G.W., Saunders, D.A., and Recher, H.F. 2001. Why have birds in the woodlands of Southern Australia declined? Biological Conservation 97, 71-88.
Ford, H.A., and Howe, R. 1980. The future of birds in the Mount Lofty Ranges. South Australian Ornithologist 28, 85-89.
Ford, H.A., and Paton, D.C. 1977. The comparative ecology of ten species of honeyeaters in South Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 2, 399-407.
Ford, H.A., and Paton, D.C. 1985. Habitat selection in Australian Honeyeaters, with special reference to nectar productivity. Pp. 367-388 in Habitat selection in birds, edited by ML Cody. Academic Press, Orlando
Foster, P. 2001. The ecological significance of sexual dimorphism in the Cresent Honeyeater, Phylidonyris pyrrhoptera. PhD thesis, University of Adelaide.
Freebairn, A. 1999. Pollination of Eucalyptus gardneri: implications for revegetation. BSc Honours thesis, University of Adelaide.
Groves, R.H. 1965. Growth of a Themeda australis tussock grassland at St. Albans, Victoria. Australian Journal of Botany 13, 291-302.
Harris, W. 1999. Revegetation: its biodiversity conservation effectiveness. BSc Honours thesis, University of Adelaide.
Heddle, C. 1999. The foraging ecology of the Scarlet Robin Petroica multicolor. BSc Honours thesis, University of Adelaide.
Kahn, B.A. 1993 Mistletoe (Amyema miquelii) in the Clare Valley of South Australia. Native Vegetation Council of South Australia, Adelaide.
Kraehenbuehl, D.N. 1996 Pre-european vegetation of Adelaide: A survey from the Gawler River to Hallett Cove. Nature Conservation Society of South Australia, Adelaide.
Leary, D.E. 1995. An ecological assessment of the Monarto revegetation program. BSc Honours thesis, University of Adelaide.
Lewis, T. 2000. The status of Banksia marginata (Proteaceae) populations in the Mount Lofty Ranges - with particular focus on reproductive performances. BSc Honours thesis, University of Adelaide.
McIntyre, S., and Hobbs, R. 1999. A framework for conceptualizing human effects on landscapes and its relevance to management and research models. Conservation Biology 13, 1282-1292.
Paton, D.C. 1985. Evolution of bird pollination in Australia. Pp. 32-41 in The dynamic partnership: birds and plants in southern Australia, edited by H.A. Ford and D.C. Paton. Government Printer, Adelaide, SA
Paton, D.C. 1988 Interdependence of Australian honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) and nectar-producing plants. In ‘Proceedings of the Acta XIX Congressus Internationalis Ornithologici’. Ottawa, Canada. Pp. 549-559. University of Ottawa Press, Ottawa
Paton, D.C. 1990. Budgets for the use of floral resources in mallee heath. Pp. 189-193 in The mallee lands: A conservation perspective, edited by J.C. Noble, P.J. Joss and G.K. Jones. CSIRO, Melbourne.
Paton, D.C. 1993. Honeybees in the Australian environment. Does Apis mellifera disrupt or benefit the native biota? Bioscience 43, 95-103.
Paton, D.C. 1996 Overview of feral and managed honeybees in Australia: Distribution, abundance, extent of interactions with native biota, evidence of impacts and future research. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.
Paton, D.C. 2000. Disruption of bird-plant pollination systems in southern Australia. Conservation Biology 14, 1232-1234.
Paton, D.C. 2001. Death of a treecreeper and we only celebrate. Xanthopus 19, 8-12.
Paton, D.C., Carpenter, G., and Sinclair, R.G. 1994. A second bird atlas of the Adelaide region. Part 1: Changes in the distribution of birds: 1974-75 vs 1984-85. Part 2: Distribution Maps 1984-85. South Australian Ornithologist 31, 151-265.
Paton, D.C., and Ford, H.A. 1977. Pollination by birds of native plants in South Australia. Emu 77, 73-85.
Paton, D.C., Pedler, L.P., and Gates, J.A. 2002. Birds. Pp. 88-110 in Natural history of Kangaroo Island, edited by M. Davies, C.R. Twidale and M.J. Tyler. Royal Society of South Australia (Inc.), Adelaide
Paton, D.C., Prescott, A.M., Davies, R.J.P., and Heard, L.M. 1999. The distribution, status and threats to temperate woodlands in South Australia. Pp. 57-85 in Temperate eucalypt woodlands in Australia: Biology, conservation, management and restoration, edited by RJ Hobbs and CJ Yates. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW
Read, J.L. 1994. The diet of 3 species of firetail finches in temperate South-Australia. Emu 94, 1-8.
Recher, H.F. 1999. The state of Australia's avifauna: a personal opinion and prediction for the new millennium. Australian Zoologist 31, 11-27.
Reid, J.R.W. 1999 Threatened and declining birds in the New South Wales Sheep-Wheat Belt: I. Diagnosis, Characteristics and Management. Report to N.S.W. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra.
Reid, J.R.W. 2000 Threatened and declining birds in the New South Wales Sheep-Wheat Belt: II. Landscape Relationships - Modelling Bird Atlas Data Against Vegetation Cover. Report to N.S.W. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra.
Reynolds, T. 2002. The feeding ecology of the Adelaide Rosella Platycercus elegans adelaidae in cherry growing districts of the Adelaide Hills. Master of Science thesis, University of Adelaide.
Robinson, D., and Traill, B.J. 1996 Conserving woodland birds in the wheat and sheep belts of southern Australia. Report to RAOU, 10.
Rogers, B.R. 1998. The habitat requirements of Brown Treecreepers, Climacteris picumnus, in the Mt Lofty Ranges. BSc Honours thesis, University of Adelaide.
SAOA 1977 A bird atlas of the Adelaide region. SAOA, Adelaide.
Saunders, D.A., and Ingram, J.A. 1995 Birds of southwestern Australia: an atlas of changes in the distribution and abundance of wheatbelt avifauna. Surrey Beatty and Sons in association with Western Australian Laboratory CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, Chipping Norton, N.S.W.
Schodde, R., and Mason, I.J. 1999 The directory of Australian birds: Passerines. CSIRO Publisher, Collingwood, VIC.
Specht, R.L. 1975 The vegetation of South Australia. 2nd ed. Government Printer, Adelaide.
Spooner, P., Lunt, I., and Robinson, W. 2002. Is fencing enough? The short-term effects of stock exclusion in remnant grassy woodlands in southern NSW. Ecological Management and Restoration 3, 117-126.
Tilman, D., May, R.M., Lehman, C.L., and Nowak, M.A. 1994. Habitat destruction and the extinction debt. Nature 371, 65-66.
This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal