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1National Parks and Wildlife Service, 43 Bridge Street Hurstville, New South Wales, Australia 2220.
The future of Australia’s forest fauna will depend, in large measure, on the quality of the research conducted and skill in communicating the findings. This book presents thoughtful and provocative chapters from a wide range of researchers across Australia. This chapter reviews the diverse contributions in this field and identifies common themes. One of these is the urgency of undertaking further survey and research, ranging from studies of on e species in one forest to new approaches such as the use of geographic information systems, population viability analyses, and recent economic evaluations of resources, as well as applying findings from the fossil and historical records to identify species of concern. The lack of knowledge about the distribution of Australia’s forests has been partly filled by the Resource Assessment Commission’s Forest and Timber Inquiry, which this chapter reviews critically. The strength of the draft report is that it presents the most comprehensive account to date of the state of the forest resource and timber industry in Australia. Its weaknesses include a failure to incorporate the concept of “restoration” into the Inquiry’s definition of “conservation”; this precluded the Inquiry from dealing with the question of the potential restitution of the fifty per cent of forested lands lost since settlement. In revealing that the Australian public places a high value o n fauna conservation, the Resource Assessment Commission’s survey into public attitudes gives governments and managers powerful policy cues for action, including the urgency of funding long-term scientific studies. This review and the chapters of the book provide directions and emphases for the policies indicated by the Commission. Urgent action is required if the future of Australia’s forest fauna is to be assured. This action needs to include applying the results of current research and recognizing that if fauna conservation is not given higher priority than previously, then continued loss of fauna is inevitable. Increased research effort using a diversity of skills is essential if Australia’s forest fauna is to have a future.