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Taxonomy and Classification of Koala

Disucss about the Applying Ecological Principles for Koala.

Ecology has been defined as the branch of science that deals with the biotic and abiotic environment surrounding an organism. It takes into accounts the different types of relationships prevailing between an organism and their immediate surrounding and the environment. The study of ecology emphasizes on the significance of such relationships on sustainability of organism. Various ecological principles are set for maintain an optimum natural environment and ensure the safety of endangered species of Australia. Our current report focuses on a particular animal of Australia, the Koala, which is considered to be one of the threatened species in the country. The report elaborates the ecology of the concerned animal, the relevant ecological issues concerning the species and tries to manifest how ecological principles can be applied in order to create a sustainable environment for conservation of our chosen animal species.

The scientific name of the animal is Phascolarctoscinereus. Following is the detailed taxonomic classification of the animal:

Kingdom: Animalia; Phylum: Chordata; Sub-phylum: Vertebrata; Class: Mammalia; Sub-class: Marsupialia; Order: Diprotodontia; Sub-order: Vombatiformes; Family: Phascolarctidae; Genus: Phascolarctos; Species: Cinereus(Iucnredlist.org, 2016).

It is classified as Animalia because of its capability of locomotion and its multicellular and heterotrophic characteristics. Presence of Spinal cord classifies it as Chordate and Vertebrate. Koalas produce milk to feed their young ones, hence they are Mammals. Presence of pouches to carry their young ones qualifies them as Marsupials. The arrangement of their teeth on the jaw and fusion of the second and third digits in its back paw puts it in the order Diprotodontia. Koala is the only still existing member of its family Phascolarctidae. Several characteristics like type and number of teeth and digits are considered to classify it into this family. Considering the features of its urogenital tract, spermatozoa, karyotype and serology it is stated to belong to the genus Phascolarctos.Ecology of Koala

Koalas are one of the few animal species of Australia that solely depend on the foliage of Eucalyptus for the source of energy and nutrient. However, specific species of eucalyptus are preferred by the animal and accordingly their population is distributed with their preferred tree species.In general Koalas have a sedentary lifestyle and are solitary animals. Most of them live in overlapping home ranges, which aid them in the process of mating. Both males and females start mating at an age of around two to three years and generally give birth each year.

Ecology of Koala

Over-browsing of trees has been a sustainability issue in many areas, which has led to undertaking of several actions like habitat protection, fertility suppression and translocation (Mc Lean 2003). Studies have shown that the tree species koalas use for resting are not necessarily the same species they use for feeding purposes and hence studying their feeding patterns are somewhat difficult (Marsh et al 2014).It has been reported that Koala population increased dramatically in the late 1800s and suffered a considerable decline in the late 1900s due to ecological factors. Currently Koalas are found in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia (Melzer et al 2000). In most of the regions the animal has been declared to be Vulnerable by the Australian Government.

Koalas were declared to be a threatened species in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) by the Australian Government. Further the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared Koala to be a “Potentially Vulnerable” species(Savethekoala.com, 2016). Several ecological factors have been identified that have a direct impact on the survival of the animal. Loss of habitat is the most significant of all the issues in this regard. Expansion of human settlement and demands of modern life like roads, factories, agriculture and housing has caused much loss of the wildlife habitats where the animals were already found. Due to increased human population, subsequent increase in cars and dogs has turned to be a serious threat to the animal species. Around 4000 koala deaths have been reported to be caused by cars and domestic dogs each year (Cork et al 2000). It has been reported that Koalas suffer from various diseases such as conjunctivitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infection and reproductive tract infection that might lead to infertility. Chlamydia is most prevalent pathogen found to be affecting the species (Waugh et al 2016). Other threats faced by koalas are bushfires and danger from other wild animals.

Ecology deals with the interactions and interrelationships at various levels ranging from populations and communities to ecosystems and biospheres. Populations comprise interbreeding groups of animals belonging to the same species and inhabiting in the same habitat. When populations of different species interact, communities are formed. Ecosystems are the abiotic and biotic components of a predefined area that influences all the populations and communities of that region. Biosphere includes all the biological and physical processes that directly or indirectly influence life on Earth. Several ecological principles play an important role in maintaining a harmony between all the components of an ecosystem.

Relevant Ecological Issues

Ecological interdependence is a key factor that determines the survival of a species. Despite of dynamic changes in the ecological systems each and every species residing in a particular area are dependent on other animals and plants. This dependence arises mainly from the food chain and for obtaining energy and nutrients. Each component of an ecosystem aims at reaching goals that are beneficial for the whole and any organism that acts against this notion is considered as a disturbing factor for the overall ecological harmony. Human beings play a huge role in altering ecosystems by changing the physical environment of the same and disturbing the residing organism of the particular region. This proves to be detrimental to the human species itself on the long run. It has been already discussed that changes in the habitat is the most concerning ecological issue for koalas, where human play a significant part(Little et al 2007).Loss of habitat can cause longstanding impacts on the interaction between the biotic components of an ecosystem. Human intervention must be stopped to conserve the Koala habitats. This can be done by forming certain legislations and laws on part of the government and thus restricting human impact on concerned regions. Koalas solely thrive on eucalyptus plants that too on certain species of the plants are preferred by the animal. Loss of habitat may lead to loss of certain species of the plant essential for survival of Koalas. Disruption of the food chain due to such losses is often life threatening for animals species.

Even natural disturbances affect the population and species of an ecosystem. Natural disturbances can influence the shape size          and distribution of ecosystems and subsequently thre animal species residing there. The intensity and frequency of forest fires have shapes ecosystems in several regions of the earth. Composition and structure of habitats need to be studied at a landscape level to get an insight about the impacts of natural disturbances. For terrestrial ecosystems the species and community composition and the patch size distribution are of utmost relevance. Bushfire have caused much harm to Koalas consistently. Certain measures are necessary to prevent such fires and deaths of the vulnerable species.

Chlamydial diseases in Koalas continue to be one of the most common diseases occurring in the animal (Timms 2005). The causes of preventable disease caused by Chlamydial infection needs to be identified and preventable measures should be taken to avoid further deaths due to such causes.

Conclusion

Koalas of Australia are already considered a vulnerable species. Several ecological factors that influence the habitat and consequently their survival of the species have been addressed. Loss of habitat being the most determining factor for the decline in the animal population in recent years needs immediate attention. The indispensible step that needs to be taken is preventing and/or restricting impact of humans on the habitat of the animal. Certain natural disturbances like diseases and bushfires needs to be studied to figure out preventive measures. The role of the government is crucial in this regard. Laws and guidelines must be set considering the significance of the alarming situation. After formulation of such laws the government must ensure effective implementation of the same in order to reach the desired goals. 

References

Bioweb.uwlax.edu. (2016).Classification. [online] Available at: https://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2007/mundt_meli/classification.htm [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Cork, S.J., Clark, T.W. and Mazur, N., 2000. Introduction: an interdisciplinary effort for koala conservation. Conservation Biology, 14(3), pp.606-609.

Iucnredlist.org. (2016).Phascolarctoscinereus (Koala). [online] Available at: https://www.iucnredlist.org/details/16892/0 [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Little, G., Lau, T.A., Cypher, A., Lin, J., Haber, E.M. and Kandogan, E., 2007, April. Koala: capture, share, automate, personalize business processes on the web. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 943-946). ACM.

Marsh, K.J., Moore, B.D., Wallis, I.R. and Foley, W.J., 2014. Continuous monitoring of feeding by koalas highlights diurnal differences in tree preferences. Wildlife Research, 40(8), pp.639-646.

Mc Lean, N., 2003. Ecology and management of overabundant koala (Phascolarctoscinereus) populations (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Melbourne).

Melzer, A., Carrick, F., Menkhorst, P., Lunney, D. and John, B.S., 2000.Overview, critical assessment, and conservation implications of koala distribution and abundance. Conservation Biology, 14(3), pp.619-628.

Savethekoala.com. (2016).The Koala - Endangered or Not? | Australian Koala Foundation. [online] Available at: https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/koala-endangered-or-not [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].

Timms, P., 2005. Chlamydial infection and disease in the koala. Microbiology Australia, 26(2), pp.65-68.

Waugh, C., Hanger, J., Timms, P. and Polkinghorne, A., 2016. Koala translocations and Chlamydia: Managing risk in the effort to conserve native species. Biological Conservation, 197, pp.247-253.

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