Conserving the forest mammals of New South Wales
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Of the 89 species of forest mammals of NSW, 8 are presumed extinct in the state and 40 are currently threatened, and 34 of the 41 species not listed as threatened have declined. Most of the records of forest mammals in the Atlas of NSW Wildlife have been taken along the coastal section, an area comprising 15% of the state but holding 88% of the state's human population. The primary threats to wildlife here are the continued impact of land clearing for urban expansion, clearing of trees on farms, the creation of more roads, droughts, altered fire regimes, exotic predators and continued logging, which takes the older trees and shifts the age-class distribution to younger trees with fewer hollows. A looming threat is climate change. We need an expanded vision that looks beyond the paradigm of conserving special species (e.g. threatened species) and selected spaces (e.g. national parks) to encompass the management of entire landscapes that focuses on the ecology of the mammal fauna itself and does not rely on surrogates, such as conserved tenure based on vegetation patterns. We propose a more species-specific system of reporting than currently seen in the State of Environment reports, biodiversity assessments and the State of the Forest reports and urge that state and national commitments to research-oriented monitoring and long-term studies be taken up in a more determined fashion, along with a deeper engagement with forest history and community knowledge. One can look at either side of a road in a fragmented forest landscape and visualise a different past. It is far harder to gaze along the unknown road ahead and conjure up an image of our native forest mammal fauna in 2104, a mere century from now, yet the need to do so is upon us if we are to conserve the remaining forest mammals of NSW.