Atlas 2 Introduction

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Atlas 2 Introduction

Fieldwork for the first Atlas of Australian Birds project took place from 1977 to 1981, and formed the largest environmental mapping project ever to have been carried out in Australia. Thousands of volunteers from the Australian community - people like you and me - joined in an adventure in which we visited every single one-degree square in Australia and recorded the birds we saw. More than twenty years later, that information still forms the most comprehensive picture of the distribution of our birds across the nation. Now the second Atlas project has begun, a new endeavour to update and refine the picture, and we want you to get involved as an Atlasser so that we may better understand our wild birds and so better protect them and the various habitats in which they live.

Why a new Atlas now?

The time is ripe. We need an updated Atlas because there have been many changes within the Australian natural environment over the last 20 years. Native vegetation has been cleared, coastal development has expanded with increases in the human population, pastoral development is changing northern Australia, and the creation of roads, dams, irrigation projects and tree-planting programs all have effects on birds and other wildlife.

Will atlassing be the same as before?

Yes, but with more options. As far as you are concerned, the new Atlas project will be very similar to the first. For the general Atlas, you simply record birds - the species, the location and the date - whenever it suits you, whether you are relaxing in your garden, on a fishing trip or on a camping holiday in the outback. You can do it anywhere in Australia, including its surrounding seas up to 200 nautical miles from the coast and islands. You will also have the opportunity to get involved in more detailed or specialist atlassing as an option - if you are willing to do regular surveys of a particular site, for example. There will also be a special wetland (focussing on Ramsar sites) monitoring program.

How will my records help?

They are vital to the project. If you look closely at a colour photograph in a newspaper, you will see that the whole image is made up of dots. Your records are like these dots; single records do not tell us much about wild birds, but combined with the records of other Atlassers they form a detailed picture of Australian birdlife. The first Atlas received nearly three million records. We hope to multiply this in the new project to achieve a much more detailed picture. Moreover, with more sophisticated project design and computer processing techniques we should be able to get a lot more information out of the records in the database.

Does this mean the first Atlas database is obsolete?

Not at all. In fact the existence of the first Atlas database actually increases the value and importance of the second. Instead of the picture being a snapshot, we will be able to see trends, changes happening to the distribution of our birds as some species shrink in range while others expand. We should be able to identify hotspots of bird diversity and core areas that need to be protected, as well as danger areas where birds are in decline from various threatening processes. This means that we will be in a much better position to do something effective for bird conservation.

How important is our participation?

Very important indeed. You are the people that appreciate our wild birds, can identify them, enjoy watching them, and are concerned for their wellbeing and the conservation of their habitats. The importance of your contribution is recognised by the fact that the Commonwealth Government, and all Australia's state governments, are fully supporting the project and will rely on its results to help with conservation planning in the future. Information from the Atlas project will help identify Australia's Important Bird Areas as part of a worldwide conservation program headed by BirdLife International.

Can we all be Atlassers?

Yes - if you can identify birds, or are willing to learn. Encourage all your club members and friends to get involved. Novice birders should start atlassing with more experienced ones at least until they become more confident about identifying birds correctly. During the first Atlas many non-birders joined up and soon became as keen and as competent as the more experienced. As part of a major national conservation project, you will certainly enjoy yourself as you learn more about birds and the Australian natural environment, and you will find the experience a very exciting and rewarding one.

What do I do now?

Do not wait!. Register with the Atlas project now to receive an information kit which will explain how to get started and include some Atlassing sheets. As an Atlasser you will receive a regular newsletter to let you know how the project and your fellow Atlassers are going. Special get-togethers and expeditions will be organised.



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