Loss of Vertebrate Diversity Following European Settlement of Australian Mediterranean Regions
The loss of vertebrate diversity in Australia has been dramatic in the two centuries since the European occupation. It has been possible to document this decline because an accurate assessment of the pre-European fauna was available. The information enabling the reconstruction of the mammal fauna was obtained from many sources including owl pellets from roost sites and subfossil cave deposits (Morton and Baynes 1985). Burbidge et al. (1988) were able to make use of an extremely important source of information by gathering the knowledge of the mammals that occupied the central deserts of Australia from memories of the aboriginal inhabitants. Museum collections of skins and preserved specimens were used to obtain positive identification in each local area for each species that had lived in that area, together with the name used by that aboriginal language group. As almost 500 distinct language groups have been identified in Australia this provided reliable and detailed information for localised areas. In addition to the work of Burbidge et al. (1988) in semi-arid and arid regions in central western Australia (see Fig. 19.1), a similar technique has also been used in the Flinders Ranges in the eastern mediterranean region of southern Australia (Tunbridge 1991).
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