A/Prof Ian Mansergh, Life Sciences, La Trobe University: Burramys
(Mountain Pygmy-possum): learnings from 30 years of research and management for a changing climate.
Four species comprise this genus, which together with the genus Burramys
make up the marsupial family Burramyidae.
Using the computer program, VORTEX, to simulate genetic, demographic, environmental, and random events, workshop participants: (1) examined the status of data on six threatened species (mountain pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus; leadbeater's possum, Gymnobelideus leadbeateri; eastern barred bandicoot, Perameles gunnii; long-footed potorroo, Potorous longipes; orange-bellied parrot, Neophema chrysogaster, and helmeted honeyeater, Lichenostomus melanops cassidix); (2) simulated their vulnerability to extinction; (3) examined outcomes of management options to restore the species; (4) estimated population targets needed for recovery planning; and (5) evaluated the potential of PVA as a teaching aid to illustrate extinction processes and management options.
An unusual feature of the life history of Burramys is the fact that sexes are segregated during the non-breeding season.
At the height of the last glacial period 18 000 years ago, the mountain pigmy possum, Burramys parvus, ranged widely across the frigid high country of south-eastern Australia.
Burramys is the only Australian mammal that lives exclusively above the treeline, and is vulnerable to heat stroke when temperatures consistently exceed 28 [degrees] C.
At the end of the glacial period some 10 000 years ago, the warming climate forced Burramys to retreat upslope in pursuit of its comfort zone.
But Burramys may literally be the tip of the iceberg.
A long-term population study of the critically endangered Mountain Pygmy Possum Burramys
parvus, revealed that the Great Alpine Road bisected important habitat patches (Mansergh and Scotts 1989).
It was taken to the Fisheries and Wildlife Department for identification and was identified as a Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys
parvus, a species only known and described from fossil deposits in New South Wales in 1896 (Menkhorst 1996);