Birds have flown from mined areas: research
NEARLY one third of the bird species that lived in the eucalyptus forests near Weipa before mining started in the area have not returned to the rehabilitated areas because of habitat loss, new research shows.
Ecologist Dr Sue Gould said her research found that rehabilitation had established some vegetation at areas where bauxite had been mined, but it is not similar to the original eucalyptus forests that provided habitat for many bird species.
Palm cockatoos, pied imperial pigeons, brown treecreepers, varied sittellas, grey-crowned babblers and emus were some of the species not found at the rehabilitated sites, she said.
The findings are troubling because many of these birds species are in decline across Australia because of loss of habitat, she said.
"We’re removing the big old trees that they either need to nest in or to feed in," she said.
The tall, open eucalyptus forests that characterised the Weipa landscape before mining have been replaced with dense woodland that is dominated by wattles, she said.
"The mining company tells people it can restore the original forest, but the evidence so far shows that they can’t restore vegetation that’s the same as what was there before mining," she said.
"My research shows that rehabilitation should not be seen as an alternative to conservation."
Dr Gould assessed 30 rehabilitated former mine sites near Weipa, ranging in time from one year to 23 years since the rehabilitation process started.
"People need to understand that there are technical limitations to what rehabilitation can achieve after a major disturbance like mining," she said.
"Given the increasing pressure for mining development on Cape York Peninsula, there is an urgent need for conservation planning to ensure that ecosystems and species are adequately protected."
A spokesman for Rio Tinto
Alcan said the company supported Dr Gould’s research at its rehabilitated mine sites near Weipa.
"We contribute funds towards work such as this as we are continually looking to improve environmental outcomes through research and monitoring," he said.
"By supporting such research, Weipa is able to incorporate those learnings to achieve better and better results."
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Habitat loss: New research shows bird species including emus, pied imperial pigeons, grey-crowned babblers, brown treecreepers and palm cockatoos have not returned to areas around Weipa that have been rehabilitated after mining.