Mapping the flyways of Australia’s ‘Great Eastern Ranges’

Mr Gary Howling1, Professor Brendan Mackey2

1Great Eastern Ranges Initiative, Albion Park, Australia, 2Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith, Australia

Few Australians are aware of the extent to which seasonal migration and other long-distance movements are vital part to the life history and adaptive strategies for many native species. The public is often more aware of the great migration events that have long been documented for other continents  and regularly feature in popular media.

Each year on the Australian mainland, however, tens of millions of birds, bats, butterflies and moths embark on epic journeys and travel vast distances between Tasmania and Cape York. For example the arrival of the wet season in the ‘Top End’ regularly carries dragonflies from the Asian sub-continent as far as the southern states, while the dry seasons in between trigger the migration of tropical species across the Torres Strait to New Guinea, the Indonesian archipelago and beyond.

As part of the Great Eastern Ranges connectivity conservation initiative, our project aims to map and understand the environmental and habitat determinants of long-distance movements, including seasonal migrations, in Australia’s birds, bats, flying foxes and airborne invertebrates. We draw upon available space/time data on species locations and functional responses combined with information about current and future climate, weather patterns, vegetation-based habitat resources, and habitat condition.

Our project provides invaluable insights into why and how our wildlife embark on long and hazardous journeys, with the aim of (1) providing useful information for connectivity conservation practitioners and (2) inspiring community action in key areas along the length of Australia’s most significant wildlife migration corridors – the ‘Great Eastern Ranges’.


Gary is Executive Director of the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative (GER) with a long involvement in connectivity conservation and Australasian migration ecology. He has worked as part of the team implementing the GER since its establishment in 2007. Over the last decade Gary has been responsible for providing regional partnerships and partner organisations with specialist connectivity conservation and threatened species recovery advice. He continues to be instrumental in initiating a series of large-scale spatial analyses that highlighted the importance of a network of interconnected habitats across eastern Australia and continues to enjoy sharing the lessons learned along the way with others involved in connectivity conservation in Australia and overseas.

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