Saving species in rapidly changing landscapes

Nearly 20,000 species are currently threatened by extinction, and habitat loss has been identified as the single biggest driver. In the face of human land use pressure, how do we identify which regions and habitats should be preserved to protect a large and diverse number of species. Researchers in the School of Biosciences are world leaders in solving precisely this kind of problem. Not only do they develop the fundamental tools, they also reach across disciplines—into mathematics, statistics, computation, and operations research—to do so. They also engage strongly with land managers and governments to see these results realized in the real world. Their work, for example, has identified which habitats around Perth can best protect nearly 200 threatened species. The outcome has been a regional plan setting aside 170,000ha for new natural reserves, optimally arrayed so as to protect biodiversity.

As species extinction rates increase, and the human population grows, there is a growing need to develop and implement such projects. A research centre dedicated to this work would not only establish the University as the place to come to have these planning problems solved, but would also act as a valuable training ground to grow the global expertise at the rate that is needed to keep pace with the scale of the problem.