University Of Tasmania
152570 - Past and future potential range changes in one of the last large vertebrates of the Australian continent, the emu Dromaius novaehollandiae.pdf (1.5 MB)

Past and future potential range changes in one of the last large vertebrates of the Australian continent, the emu Dromaius novaehollandiae

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 12:22 authored by Ryeland, J, Tristan DerhamTristan Derham, Spencer, RJ
In Australia, significant shifts in species distribution have occurred with the loss of megafauna, changes in indigenous Australian fire regime and land-use changes with European settlement. The emu, one of the last megafaunal species in Australia, has likely undergone substantial distribution changes, particularly near the east coast of Australia where urbanisation is extensive and some populations have declined. We modelled emu distribution across the continental mainland and across the Great Dividing Range region (GDR) of eastern Australia, under historical, present and future climates. We predicted shifts in emu distribution using ensemble modelling, hindcasting and forecasting distribution from current emu occurrence data. Emus have expanded their range northward into central Australia over the 6000 years modelled here. Areas west of the GDR have become more suitable since the mid-Holocene, which was unsuitable then due to high precipitation seasonality. However, the east coast of Australia has become climatically sub-optimal and will remain so for at least 50 years. The north east of NSW encompasses the range of the only listed endangered population, which now occurs at the margins of optimal climatic conditions for emus. Being at the fringe of suitable climatic conditions may put this population at higher risk of further decline from non-climatic anthropogenic disturbances e.g. depredation by introduced foxes and pigs. The limited scientific knowledge about wild emu ecology and biology currently available limits our ability to quantify these risks.


Publication title

Scientific Reports



Article number







School of Natural Sciences


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2021 the authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems

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