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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: November 2014

Chapter 15 - Terrestrial mammal diversity, conservation and management in Australia



As a result of its long-term isolation as an island continent, Australia’s mammal fauna is exceptional both for its evolutionary diversity and high endemism. It is the only place where representatives of the three surviving major mammal lineages coexist and is the only continent dominated by marsupials. Endemism is also high amongst the Australian rodent and microbat radiations. Over recent millennia and especially in the past 200 years, the trajectory of this unique mammal fauna has been one of decline and extinction, leaving the ecosystems of the continent profoundly altered. While much unique diversity been lost, increased scientific knowledge and growing management expertise has prevented many further extinctions. In such a dynamic and altered landscape, managing Australia’s unique mammals is a formidable challenge that includes encouraging the persistence of threatened species, as well as suppressing introduced mammalian competitors and predators and some endemic species that are now over-abundant. While many threats to Australia’s mammals are ongoing and novel threats continue to arise, it is hoped this unique fauna will persist and continue to fascinate.

Introduction: why Australian mammals are different

Ever since Australia was first visited by Europeans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the continent’s unusual mammals have fascinated and perplexed western science (Deakin et al., 2012; Olsen, 2010). While such bizarre species as the platypus, koala and kangaroo are now iconic to Australians and are internationally recognised symbols of the island continent, many unique features of the Australian mammal fauna remain unappreciated.

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