The importance of integrating science and management: lessons from terrestrial vegetation change on Macquarie and Heard Islands
Kirkpatrick, JB, The importance of integrating science and management: lessons from terrestrial vegetation change on Macquarie and Heard Islands, Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, 143, (1) pp. 25-32. ISSN 0080-4703 (2009) [Refereed Article]
Scientific observations have demonstrated massive changes in tall tussock and megaherb cover on Macquarie Island, substantial colonisation of bare ground by native vegetation on Heard Island, expansion of the range of Poa annua on Heard Island, and local changes in vegetation associated with changes in the locations of animal aggregations. Suggested recent declines in Sphagnum and Azorella on Macquarie Island may have occurred but are yet to be proven. Climate change seems certain to have been responsible for vegetation expansion on Heard Island, but its role on Macquarie Island is less clear. The role of variation in rabbit populations on Macquarie Island in causing changes in the areas of vegetation dominated by tall tussocks and megaherbs is scientifically well-established. However, the relative contribution of variation in cat populations, variation in the effectiveness of the Myxoma virus and climate change on variation in rabbit populations has been the subject of unresolvable differences in scientific opinion. While science has been generally productive in determining needs for vegetation management and its appropriate course when needed, the bureaucratic separation of managers and scientists within Tasmania, and an emphasis on peer review and strategic research within the Australian Antarctic Division, have contributed to some fracturing of management-related science in the twenty-first century, and have resulted in scientific publication and publicity that has criticised, rather than supported, appropriate conservation management. Long-term involvement of individual scientists in both research and management planning seems to have been a key driver of good nature conservation. A renewed focus on the integration of science and management is recommended.
bioturbation, cats, climate change, exotic plant invasion, Heard Island, management, Macquarie Island, myxomatosis, rabbits, science, vegetation change