October 12, 2023

New study indicates majority of endangered greater glider habitat in Queensland unprotected

A southern greater glider with a dark morph. The gliders range in colour from pale white and gray to black. Copyright Josh Bowell

Researchers at Griffith University have discovered that the majority of critical habitat and movement pathways for southern greater gliders in Queensland lie outside of protected areas.

Dr Patrick Norman and Professor Brendan Mackey used cutting-edge technology to map mature forests to identify potential habitat and corridors that are essential for the survival of the endangered species. It is only these 200+ year old forests in which tree hollows large enough to support the cat-sized gliders occur.

Worryingly, the researchers discovered that most of the important remaining glider habitat in the state occurs within privately owned, lease-owned land and state forest, leaving it vulnerable to logging, clearing and other threats.

The marsupials, whose specialist diet consists almost exclusively of young eucalypt leaves, use between 4-18 nesting hollows in their home range.  Many of these vital hollow-bearing trees were lost during the Black Summer bushfires making those that remain even more essential.

The same issue applied when the researchers explored areas that serve as important habitat corridors enabling greater gliders to move between forest patches.

“We identified 88 critical movement pathways for greater gliders in Queensland, most of which we found were outside of existing conservation areas,” said Dr Patrick Norman, a researcher at Griffith University’s Climate Action Beacon.

We also noted that there were a few missing links where targeted restoration of forests to create wildlife corridors would have a particularly positive impact for greater gliders.”

If patches of forest are not well connected, greater gliders are forced to move along the ground putting them at risk of being preyed upon or injured.

“The findings will be valuable for helping inform conservation efforts to support Queensland’s greater gliders and prioritise important areas of habitat for protection,” said Dr Norman.

The study was funded by Great Eastern Ranges, as part of a broader project aimed at identifying priority landscapes and linkages for focusing conservation efforts.

“We are working to secure the funding needed to replicate this study in other states, but also to map the important habitat and corridors for animals with different movement needs, such as spotted-tailed quolls,” said Gary Howling, CEO of Great Eastern Ranges.

“Trying to conserve our wildlife in isolated protected areas is not sufficient by itself to ensure their long-term survival, particularly in the face of climate change. We also need to be restoring and protecting habitat between those protected areas so that animals have the room they need to move and adapt to changing conditions and food supplies.”

The research paper, ‘Priority areas for conserving greater gliders in Queensland, Australia’, is available at: www.publish.csiro.au/pc/pdf/PC23018

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