The impact of climate change on Bristlebirds

Seasons greetings folks.

On two occasions last year, I heard the melodic tones of an Eastern Bristlebird calling from the montane heath near one of the summits of Mt Barney [on the McPherson Range in SEQ and one of the best bushwalking locations in Australia]. This was a positive note given the tenuous status of EBBs in SEQ.

Mt Barney NP is also home to Alberts Lyrebirds, Rufous Bristlebirds and Glossy Black Cockatoos.

Sadly 2019 was exceptionally hot and dry – the average annual rainfall at the nearby BoM Carneys Creek station is 1030 mm. The 2019 total was 423 mm, the lowest on record. [My rain gauge in Brisbane recorded a similarly dismal 409 mm].

As was the case in many scleroplyll regions around Australia, a fire broke out on the western flank of Mt Ballow in November and over a number of weeks burnt its way through most the Barney National Park. One of the park rangers told me that the fire was unprecedented, the firebreaks failed, and that they were losing many old trees on a daily basis. The area where I had heard the bristlebirds had been comprehensively crisped. Time will tell if they survived.

Similarly, there were extensive fires along the nearby Main Range and Lamington national parks [most of you would have read about the fire that burnt Binna Burra], as well as other noted bristlebird habitats in NSW and Victoria [the south coast of NSW from Wollongong to Lakes Entrance in Victoria].

Time after time the term used to describe the fires around Australia is unprecedented. In short, the climate change signal [heat and aridity] is clear and unmistakable. Even Blind Freddy can smell it.

As I see it, the biggest threat to the survival of all three bristlebird species isn’t directly increased temperatures and decreased rainfall, but the associated increased frequency of widespread severe bushfire conditions. The outlook for bristlebirds and other species living in fire prone areas is not good.

Regards, Laurie.

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