Tree decline and the future of Australian farmland biodiversity

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Farmland biodiversity is greatly enhanced by the presence of trees. However, farmland trees are decliningworldwide, including inNorth America, Central America, and parts of southern Europe. We show that tree decline and its likely consequences are particularly severe in Australia's temperate agricultural zone, which is a threatened ecoregion. Using field data on trees, remotely sensed imagery, and a demographic model for trees, we predict that by 2100, the number of trees on an average farm will contract to two-thirds of its present level. Statistical habitat models suggest that this tree decline will negatively affect many currently common animal species, with predicted declines in birds and bats of up to 50%by 2100. Declines were predicted for 24 of 32 bird species modeled and for all of six bat species modeled. Widespread declines in trees, birds, and bats may lead to a reduction in economically important ecosystem services such as shade provision for livestock and pest control. Moreover, many other species forwhichwe have noempirical data also depend on trees, suggesting that fundamental changes in ecosystem functioning are likely. We conclude that Australia's temperate agricultural zone has crossed a threshold and no longer functions as a selfsustaining woodland ecosystem. A regime shift is occurring, with a woodland system deteriorating into a treeless pasture system. Management options exist to reverse tree decline, but newpolicy settings are required to encourage their widespread adoption.

ZeitschriftProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)
Seiten (von - bis)19597-19602
Anzahl der Seiten6
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 09.11.2010
Extern publiziertJa