Dbytes #288 (18 May 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“The criteria used to guide the installation of the nest boxe states that: To ensure success, nest-boxes must provide suitable habitat until such time that retained trees close to the alignment develop nest hollows and cavities to replace those that were lost.”
Lindenmayer et al, 2017 (See ANU Node News)


General News

1. NSW travelling stock reserves review
2. How can I share it (that journal article)
3. A 10-year strategic plan for biosystematics and taxonomy
4. APEEL for better environmental laws
5. World Ecoregions & Biomes map

EDG News

General news: CEED Alumni Network and Early and Mid-Career Mentoring Program – EoIs close on 23 May 2017.
UQ Node: Maria Martinez-Harms and colleagues on the wake of devastating fires through central Chile.
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer and colleagues on the anatomy of a failed offset
RMIT Node:
Freya Thomas on ‘are trait-growth models transferable?’
UWA node:
Richard Hobbs on what do you save when the art gallery catches fire?

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General News

1. NSW travelling stock reserves review

The NSW Government is seeking the community’s input on the Travelling Stock Reserve (TSR) network in NSW to ensure it remains connected, viable and well maintained. There are more than 6,500 TSRs on Crown land in NSW, covering approximately two million hectares. The NSW Government is committed to maintaining a viable, well maintained and connected TSR network for the future. The Crown Lands Management Review in 2012 found that many TSRs are no longer used for their original purpose. A new, comprehensive review of the network will examine the parcels of land required for the TSR network in the future. The aim of the TSR review is to determine which TSRs are still used or required for the original purpose they were set aside for and to determine if they are important for other reasons. This information will feed future decisions about how this land can be best reserved, managed and owned. The information will also be used to develop a comprehensive map of the TSR network in NSW — where they are, what they are now used for, who uses them and how often.
Submissions close 5 pm Thursday 22 June 2017.
http://open.lls.nsw.gov.au/TSR-review

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2. How can I share it (that journal article)

[Recommended by Ascelin Gordon]

You can enter a paper’s DOI and it will give you info about where you can legally share different version of the of the paper (preprint, journal formatted copy etc.).

Useful site: http://www.howcanishareit.com/

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3. A 10-year strategic plan for biosystematics and taxonomy

The Academy of Science announced an initiative to develop a 10-year strategic plan for biosystematics and taxonomy in Australasia.

Australasia is one of the world’s most megadiverse regions, with large numbers of endemic and evolutionarily important species, and a high rate of discovery of new species. Biosystematists and taxonomists work to discover, name and document new plant and animal species and their relationships. Every species of plant or animal that is known to humanity was named and described by a taxonomist or biosystematist.

Over the next three years, the Academy and its partners will consult extensively with the research sector and end-users of biosystematics and taxonomy information and capabilities, to identify opportunities and priorities for advancing these disciplines and their services in Australasia.

https://www.science.org.au/news-and-events/news-and-media-releases/new-plan-unlock-secrets-australasian-megadiversity

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4. APEEL for better environmental laws

The Australian Panel of Experts in Environmental Law (APEEL) has released 8 technical papers discussing reform of various areas of environmental law (listed below). The papers and recommendations are available at: www.apeel.org.au
The panel seeks feedback by 2nd June if you are interested in contributing to this project. And please forward to anyone who may be interested.

The series of technical discussion papers focus on the following themes:
1. The foundations of environmental law
2. Environmental governance
3. Terrestrial natural resources management
4. Marine and coastal issues
5. Climate law
6. Energy regulation
7. The private sector, business law and environmental performance
8. Democracy and the environment
You can access an Overview Paper of the key ideas at
https://ozdbytes.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/57ef0-apeel_future_of_australian_environmental_laws_overview.pdf

and the full List of Recommendations reforms.
https://ozdbytes.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/2e693-apeel_recommendations.pdf

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5. World Ecoregions & Biomes map
[Recommended by Peter Ramshaw]

This new map offers a depiction of the 846 ecoregions that represent our living planet. Ecoregions are ecosystems of regional extent. These are color coded on this map to highlight their distribution and the biological diversity they represent. This new map is based on recent advances in biogeography – the science concerning the distribution of plants and animals. The original ecoregions map has been widely used since its introduction in 2001, underpinning the most recent analyses of the effects of global climate change on nature by ecologists to the distribution of the world’s beetles to modern conservation planning. In the same vein, our updated ecoregions can now be used to chart progress towards achieving the visionary goal of Nature Needs Half, to protect half of all the land on Earth to save a living terrestrial biosphere.
http://www.ecoclimax.com/2017/04/world-ecoregions-biomes.html#more

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EDG News

General news: CEED Alumni Network and Early and Mid-Career Mentoring Program

CEED is putting out a call for participation in our new CEED Alumni Network and Early and Mid-Career Mentoring Program being undertaken in 2017 – 2018.
Expressions of Interest for both schemes close on 23 May 2017.

The CEED Alumni Network is designed to create and foster connectivity and opportunities for our past associates and members and is open to past members or associates of CEED either through supervision, visiting, employment or collaboration since 2011. It will also help us capture the career trajectories of CEED-lings since commencement!

The Early and Mid-Career Mentoring Program aims to provide range of activities for ECRs and MCRs that foster: conservation leadership, skills development, access to international networks, entrepreneurship, accelerated career trajectories, strategies for conservation impact and individual empowerment for their careers. If you are a PhD student, then please consider signing up to be a mentee. If you are within 5 years of having completed your PhD, then you may wish to be a mentee or if you have knowledge and expertise you’d like to share then please consider becoming a mentor. Our mid and late career researchers and friends of CEED will act as mentors in the program as well.
http://ceed.edu.au/ceed-people/alumni-and-mentoring.html

UQ Node: Maria Martinez-Harms and colleagues on the wake of devastating fires through central Chile.
Recent large-scale wildfires have affected almost 1000 km² of native forest in Mediterranean Chile (a globally threatened biodiversity hotspot). In the aftermath of the fires, the government plans to restore the Mediterranean landscape with native forest on public land. However, almost all of the native forest affected by the fires occurs on private land. Researchers Maria Martinez-Harms, Hernan Caceres, Duan Biggs and Hugh Possingham make an urgent call to the Chilean government to facilitate the restoration of native forest on private land through government compensation to land owners. Central Chile is particularly sensitive to climate change, and the recent fires highlight the need for a robust landscape-scale institutional response to reduce the risk fire poses to people, ecosystem services, and biodiversity in Mediterranean native forest.
Ref: Martinez-Harms, M. J., H. Caceres, D. Biggs and H. P. Possingham. 2017. After Chile’s fires, reforest private land. Science 356:147-148. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aan0701.


ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on the anatomy of a failed offset
Biodiversity offsetting is widely applied but its effectiveness is rarely assessed. We evaluated a nest box program intended to offset clearing of hollow-bearing trees. The offset targeted 3 threatened species but low rates of nest box use were observed. The offset program did not counterbalance the loss of hollow-bearing trees. We suggest improving future offset programs with greater compliance and offset ratios.
Ref: David B. Lindenmayer, Mason Crane, Megan C. Evans, Martine Maron, Philip Gibbons, Sarah Bekessy, Wade Blanchard, The anatomy of a failed offset, Biological Conservation, Volume 210, Part A, June 2017, Pages 286-292, ISSN 0006-3207, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.04.022


RMIT Node: Freya Thomas on ‘are trait-growth models transferable?’
[Note: Freya has recently moved to RMIT from UMelb]
“I have a new paper out! Read it here:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176959
Plant functional traits are increasingly used to generalize across species, however few examples exist of predictions from trait-based models being evaluated in new species or new places. In this paper Peter Vesk and I ask, can we use functional traits to predict growth of unknown species in different areas? We used three independently collected datasets (thank you Daniel Falster and Annette Muir for contributing their data), each containing data on heights of individuals from non-resprouting plant species over a chronosquence of time-since-fire sites from three ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. We examined the influence of specific leaf area, woody density, seed size and leaf nitrogen content on three aspects of plant growth; maximum relative growth rate, age at maximum growth and asymptotic height.”
https://fmthomasresearch.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/are-trait-growth-models-transferable-predicting-multi-species-growth-trajectories-between-ecosystems-using-plant-functional-traits/


UWA node: Richard Hobbs on what do you save when the art gallery catches fire?
A new paper by Richard Hobbs (UWA) and colleagues likens conservation prioritisation to deciding what paintings to save from a burning art gallery.

Unprecedented rates of environmental change complicate priority setting for conservation, restoration, and ecosystem management. Setting priorities, or considering the value of ecosystems and the cost and likely effectiveness of management actions required, is like deciding which paintings to save first if an art gallery catches fire: a few masterpieces, such as the Mona Lisa, or a wider selection of the gallery’s collection? A portfolio approach is required that allows for a suite of goals ranging from the maintenance of existing high-value conservation assets (the Mona Lisas) to alternative management approaches in the altered parts of the landscape (the broader art collection). Management goals can be set on the basis of the relative values, services provided, and array of approaches available. Such an approach maintains aspirations to conserve relatively unaltered ecosystems as a priority but also recognizes the need to manage the overall landscape effectively.

Ref: Hobbs, RJ, Higgs, E.S. and Hall, C.M. 2017. Expanding the portfolio: conserving nature’s masterpieces in a changing world. BioScience doi:10.1093/biosci/bix043

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

 

Dbytes #287 (11 May 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“This is not a budget that gives our communities any confidence that our elected representatives are taking their responsibility to Australia’s reefs, rivers, people, forests and wildlife seriously.”
Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy on Budget 2017
https://www.acf.org.au/2017_budget_review


General News

1. Australia’s natural capital reaches $6,138 billion
2. Applications open for Threatened Species Recovery Fund
3. The Pest animal and Weed Management Survey: National landholder survey results
4. The Margaret Middleton Fund for endangered Australian native vertebrate animals
5. Minimising fishing impacts on Australian seabirds

EDG News

General news: CEED Alumni Network and Early and Mid-Career Mentoring Program
UWA node: The musical side of Richard Hobbs and the ecology of guitar trees
UQ Node:
Selecting simultaneous actions of different durations to optimally manage an ecological network
UMelb Node: Freya Thomas on the Victorian Biodiversity Managers’ Network
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer co-author on improving the design of a conservation reserve for a critically endangered species
RMIT Node:
Ascelin Gordon co-author on quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to roads and rails

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General News

1. Australia’s natural capital reaches $6,138 billion
The total value of Australia’s environmental assets or natural capital was $6,138 billion at 30 June 2016, more than double the value of $2,953 billion in 2006, according to a report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

These values have been generated using data sourced from major commonwealth and state government agencies according to relevant international statistical standards.

Steve May, Director of the ABS Environmental Accounts Development Section, said that Australia’s land, mineral, energy and timber resources added up to a high level of natural capital.

“Although we are not able to value everything in the environment at this stage, what we can value is still very large,” Mr May said.

“Land now makes up 83 per cent of the value of Australia’s environmental assets and was valued at $5,105 billion at 30 June 2016. The total value of Australia’s environmental assets amounts to $254,406 for every person in Australia (based on a population of just over 24 million).

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs%40.nsf/mediareleasesbyCatalogue/D93FAC5FB44FBE1BCA257CAE000ED1AF?OpenDocument

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2. Applications open for Threatened Species Recovery Fund

 

The Turnbull Government invites community organisations across Australia to apply for funding under the Government’s Threatened Species Recovery Fund to help fight extinction.

The $5 million Threatened Species Recovery Fund, through the National Landcare Programme, makes funds available for projects that can help meet the targets and objectives in the Threatened Species Strategy through strengthened community involvement in the recovery efforts.

The Fund will provide seed money and community grants—worth between $20,000 and $250,000 (GST exclusive)—for local projects that strongly align with the targets and objectives of the Strategy. The grants will be awarded to eligible groups through a competitive process.

http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/frydenberg/media-releases/mr20170505.html

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3. The Pest animal and Weed Management Survey: National landholder survey results

This report presents the key results from a national survey of 6470 agricultural land managers undertaken by ABARES in 2016 about pest and weed management on their property and local area. The survey respondents represented land managers across broadacre, horticulture, dairy and other livestock (poultry, deer, horses, bee-keeping) industries, each with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5000 per year or more, across 53 natural resource management regions in Australia. The data were collected through a combination of hardcopy postal and online versions of the survey. Approximately 77 per cent of responses received were via the postal survey and 23 per cent via the online survey. This report presents results on a range of topics from the survey including:

  • level of awareness of pest animals and Weeds of National Significance (WoNS)
  • impacts of pest animals and weeds
  • pest animal and weed management activities on the property and in the local area
  • and information sources and participation in local support networks.

http://agriculture.gov.au/abares/research-topics/social-sciences/pest-animals-weed-management-survey

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4. The Margaret Middleton Fund for endangered Australian native vertebrate animals
Applications for 2018 for the Academy of Science’s Margaret Middleton Fund are now open until 1 June 2017.  This fund is for endangered Australian native vertebrate animals and can provide grants to Post-graduates and early career researchers of up to $15,000 each to support field-based, high-quality ecological research. The objective of the grant is to provide financial support for conservation-based research of Australian ecosystems (including off-shore islands and the continental shelf) that ultimately will lead to tangible outcomes for management.

https://www.science.org.au/opportunities/research-funding/margaret-middleton-fund
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5. Minimising fishing impacts on Australian seabirds

The Turnbull Government has called for public comment on the draft National Plan of Action for minimising the incidental catch of seabirds in Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries. The draft National Plan of Action is open for public consultation until 9 June, 2017.

http://www.afma.gov.au/minimising-fishing-impacts-australian-seabirds/

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EDG News

General news: CEED Alumni Network and Early and Mid-Career Mentoring Program

CEED is putting out a call for participation in our new CEED Alumni Network and Early and Mid-Career Mentoring Program being undertaken in 2017 – 2018.

The CEED Alumni Network is designed to create and foster connectivity and opportunities for our past associates and members and is open to past members or associates of CEED either through supervision, visiting, employment or collaboration since 2011. It will also help us capture the career trajectories of CEED-lings since commencement!

The Early and Mid-Career Mentoring Program aims to provide range of activities for ECRs and MCRs that foster: conservation leadership, skills development, access to international networks, entrepreneurship, accelerated career trajectories, strategies for conservation impact and individual empowerment for their careers. If you are a PhD student, then please consider signing up to be a mentee. If you are within 5 years of having completed your PhD, then you may wish to be a mentee or if you have knowledge and expertise you’d like to share then please consider becoming a mentor. Our mid and late career researchers and friends of CEED will act as mentors in the program as well. Expressions of Interest close on 23 May 2017.

http://ceed.edu.au/ceed-people/alumni-and-mentoring.html

UWA node: The musical side of Richard Hobbs and the ecology of guitar trees
Many of you may not know but Richard Hobbs, on occasion, enjoys to spend a few hours noodling and strumming away on his guitar. His collection of assorted guitars is slowly growing and he used a recent visit to Stanford in California to start work on a new book project focusing on the ecology and conservation of the trees that produce the woods used in guitar making.  Are luthiers across the globe considering the environmental aspects of their craft and how is the industry responding to environmental regulation changes? Richard was interviewed by Joe Luttwak – one of the founders and designers of Blackbird Guitars in San Francisco, a company leading the way in the use of alternative materials.
https://www.blackbirdguitar.com/blogs/news/interview-with-professor-richard-hobbs

UQ Node: Selecting simultaneous actions of different durations to optimally manage an ecological network
Species management requires decision-making under uncertainty. Given a management objective and limited budget, managers need to decide what to do, and where and when to do it. A schedule of management actions that achieves the best performance is an optimal policy. A popular optimisation technique used to find optimal policies in ecology and conservation is stochastic dynamic programming (SDP). Most SDP approaches can only accommodate actions of equal durations. However, in many situations, actions take time to implement or cannot change rapidly. Calculating the optimal policy of such problems is computationally demanding and becomes intractable for large problems. In this paper we tackle the management of a dynamic ecological network of Aedes albopictus, an invasive mosquito in Australia from colonizing the mainland from the nearby Torres Straits Islands where managers must decide between management actions that differ in duration and effectiveness. We demonstrate analytically that synchronising actions and their durations provide upper and lower bounds of the optimal performance. These bounds provide a simple way to evaluate the performance of any policy, including rules of thumb, which can be replicated for any problem where simultaneous actions of different durations need to be implemented.
Ref: Péron, Martin, Cassie C. Jansen, Chrystal Mantyka‐Pringle, Sam Nicol, Nancy A. Schellhorn, Kai Helge Becker, and Iadine Chadès. “Selecting simultaneous actions of different durations to optimally manage an ecological network.” Methods in Ecology and Evolution (2017) DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12744
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.12744/abstract

UMelb Node: Freya Thomas on the Victorian Biodiversity Managers’ Network
“I recently attended a Forum on Planning and Monitoring for Biodiversity Management held by the Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association’s Victorian Biodiversity Managers’ Network, in conjunction with Rob Scott from Naturelinks, hosted at The Arthur Rylah Institute. The Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association (IFFA) is a volunteer based organization created in 1986 whose aim is “to promote the appreciation, study, conservation and management of indigenous flora and fauna through research and discussion, networking and advocacy, and information exchange”. Check out their website here: http://www.iffa.org.au. The Victorian Biodiversity Managers’ Network is in creation! IFFA recognised the need for a network to promote biodiversity management and to bring together people who manage land for biodiversity in Victoria to facilitate knowledge exchange. IFFA recently hosted a workshop with a people from a wide range of organisations to brainstorm the scope of a biodiversity managers’ network. From this workshop it was decided the scope and direction of the Victorian Biodiversity Managers’ Network would be to…”
https://fmthomasresearch.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/the-victorian-biodiversity-managers-network/

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer co-author on improving the design of a conservation reserve for a critically endangered species
Setting aside protected areas is a key strategy for tackling biodiversity loss. Reserve effectiveness depends on the extent to which protected areas capture both known occurrences and areas likely to support the species. We assessed the effectiveness of the existing reserve network for Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) and other forest-dependent species, and compared the existing reserve system to a set of plausible reserve expansion options based on area targets implied in a recent Population Viability Analysis (PVA). The existing Leadbeater’s Reserve and surrounding reserve system captured 7.6% and 29.6% of cumulative habitat suitability, respectively, across the landscape. Expanded reserve scenarios captured 34% to 62% of cumulative habitat suitability. We found acute trade-offs between conserving Leadbeater’s Possum habitat and conserving habitat of other forest-dependent species. Our analysis provides a template for systematically expanding and evaluating reserve expansion options in terms of trade-offs between priority species’ needs.
Ref: Taylor, C., Cadenhead, N., Lindenmayer, D.B., and Wintle, B.A. (2017). Improving the design of a conservation reserve for a critically endangered species. PLOS One, 12(1), e0169629.
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0169629


RMIT Node: Ascelin Gordon co-author on
quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to roads and rails
The proliferation of linear infrastructure such as roads and rail is a major global driver of cumulative biodiversity loss. Creative interventions to minimise the impacts of this infrastructure whilst still allowing development to meet human population growth and resource consumption demands are urgently required. One strategy for reducing habitat loss associated with development is to encourage linear infrastructure providers and users to share infrastructure networks. Here we quantify the reductions in biodiversity impact and capital cost under linear infrastructure sharing and demonstrate this approach with a case study in South Australia. By evaluating proposed mine-port links we show that shared development of linear infrastructure could reduce overall biodiversity impacts by up to 75%. We found that such reductions are likely to be limited if the dominant mining companies restrict access to infrastructure, a situation likely to occur without policy to promote sharing of infrastructure. Our research helps illuminate the circumstances under which infrastructure sharing can minimise the biodiversity impacts of development.

Ref: Runge, C. A., Tulloch, A. I. T., Gordon, A. and Rhodes, J. R. (2017), Quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12952
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12952/abstract?campaign=wolacceptedarticle

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

Dbytes #286 (4 May 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“The decision by Westpac to rule out lending to new coal basin developments is a textbook case of cynical virtue signalling.”
Minerals Council of Australia


General News

1. Survey on the management of overabundant koalas
2. Comments invited on the Draft Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi
3. Feeling helpless about the Great Barrier Reef? Here’s one way you can help
4. Paradoxes of probability and other statistical strangeness
5. Hugh Possingham inducted into the (US) National Academy of Science

EDG News

RMIT node: Matthew Selinske and colleagues on motivations for

long-term private land conservation
UQ Node:
Maria Martinez-Harms and colleagues on scenarios for land use and ecosystem services under global change
UMelb Node: Josephine Walker and colleagues on networks of association between large mammal herbivores and their gut parasites in Botswana
ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on ‘please do not disturb ecosystems further’

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General News

1. Survey on the management of overabundant koalas

A message from Margreet Drijfhout, a PhD student from La Trobe University:
“You are invited to participate in our research project on perceptions about the management of overabundant koalas by filling out our questionnaire. You have been selected to participate through your professional and/or personal involvement in nature conservation. Participation is completely voluntary and anonymous. The questionnaire should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete.
The questionnaire can be found here: Take the Survey

Or copy and paste this link into your internet browser: https://latrobe.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0cELLjNZyOd1F1r?Q_CHL=email

Through this research, we aim to quantify to what extent people are aware of issues with overabundant koalas, how acceptable different strategies are for managing overabundant koalas and how this relates to people’s values and beliefs in life.

I would like to point out that not all management strategies mentioned in the questionnaire are currently allowed or used by wildlife managers. Whether strategies should or should not be used is not the focus of this research. Instead, we aim to understand why people respond to different management actions. This research project is funded by La Trobe University, the University of Melbourne, and the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment.”

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2. Comments invited on the Draft Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi

Phytophthora cinnamomi is a species of water mould which can cause the plant disease commonly referred to as ‘dieback’ in susceptible native plants and forestry species. This pathogen has been recognised under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 as a serious threat to many native plant species and ecosystems. Phytophthora dieback affects more than a million hectares of native vegetation in Australia and continues to spread. It can significantly change the structure and composition of native plant communities, leading to loss or degradation of habitat for dependent plants and animals. The draft Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi (2017) provides a national strategy to abate the threat and guide investment and effort by the Australian Government, state and territory governments, research organisations and non-government organisations. The Draft threat abatement plan is open for public comment until 24 July 2017.
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3. Feeling helpless about the Great Barrier Reef? Here’s one way you can help

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when confronted with reports of the second mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef in as many years. But there is a way to help scientists monitor the reef’s condition. CoralWatch is a citizen science program started at The University of Queensland 15 years ago, with two main aims: to monitor the environment on a vast scale, and to help people get informed about marine science. These goals come together with coral health monitoring. Divers, snorkelers or people walking around reef areas during low tides can send us crucial information about coral bleaching, helping us to build detailed pictures of the health of different reefs. Participants can use a colour chart, backed up through the CoralWatch app or website, to measure accurately the colour and type of coral they see. The chart covers 75% of known corals, and can be used with no prior training.
https://theconversation.com/feeling-helpless-about-the-great-barrier-reef-heres-one-way-you-can-help-76014?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitterbutton

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4. Paradoxes of probability and other statistical strangeness
[Recommended by Michael Vardon]

Statistics is a useful tool for understanding the patterns in the world around us. But our intuition often lets us down when it comes to interpreting those patterns. In this [The Conversation] series we look at some of the common mistakes we make and how to avoid them when thinking about statistics, probability and risk.

You don’t have to wait long to see a headline proclaiming that some food or behaviour is associated with either an increased or a decreased health risk, or often both. How can it be that seemingly rigorous scientific studies can produce opposite conclusions? Nowadays, researchers can access a wealth of software packages that can readily analyse data and output the results of complex statistical tests. While these are powerful resources, they also open the door to people without a full statistical understanding to misunderstand some of the subtleties within a dataset and to draw wildly incorrect conclusions. Here are a few common statistical fallacies and paradoxes and how they can lead to results that are counterintuitive and, in many cases, simply wrong…
https://theconversation.com/paradoxes-of-probability-and-other-statistical-strangeness-74440

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5. Hugh Possingham Inducted Into National Academy of Science

The Chief Scientist of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Dr. Hugh Possingham, has been inducted as a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Possingham was recognized for his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. He, and others elected this past year, were introduced to their colleagues in the Academy and signed the “Registry of Membership” at a ceremony on April 29, 2017.

“Membership in the National Academy of Sciences is a tremendous honor,” said Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “We’re delighted to see Hugh recognized for his outstanding achievements, which are transforming the way we approach today’s complex environmental challenges.”

https://www.nature.org/newsfeatures/pressreleases/hugh-possingham-inducted-into-national-academy-of-science.xml

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EDG News

RMIT node: Matthew Selinske and colleagues on motivations for long-term private land conservation
A variety of policy instruments are used to promote the conservation of biodiversity on private land. These instruments are often employed in unison to encourage land stewardship beneficial for biodiversity across a broad range of program types, but questions remain about which instruments are the appropriate tools when seeking long-term change to land-management practice. Drawing on three case studies, two in Australia and one in South Africa, spanning various program types—a biodiverse carbon planting scheme, a covenanting program, and a voluntary stewardship program—we investigate the importance of financial incentives and other mechanisms from the landholder’s perspective. From participant interviews we find that landholders have preconceived notions of stewardship ethics. Motivations to enroll into a private land conservation program are not necessarily what drives ongoing participation, and continued delivery of multiple mechanisms will likely ensure long-term landholder engagement. Financial incentives are beneficial in lowering uptake costs to landholders but building landholder capacity, management assistance, linking participants to a network of conservation landholders, and recognition of conservation efforts may be more successful in fostering long-term biodiversity stewardship. Furthermore, we argue that diverse, multiple instrument approaches are needed to provide the flexibility required for dynamic, adaptive policy responses. We raise a number of key considerations for conservation organizations regarding the appropriate mix of financial and nonfinancial components of their programs to address long-term conservation objectives.
Ref: Selinske, M. J., B. Cooke, N. Torabi, M. J. Hardy, A. T. Knight and S. A.
Bekessy. 2017. Locating financial incentives among diverse motivations for
long-term private land conservation. Ecology and Society 22 (2):7. [online] URL:
https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol22/iss2/art7/

UQ Node: Maria Martinez-Harms and colleagues on scenarios for land use and ecosystem services under global change
We present ecosystem service scenarios for rapidly transforming and threatened landscapes in Central Chile. Local experts from Central Chile identified climate change, urbanization, and fire regimes as key drivers of change and we developed scenarios illustrating the cumulative impacts of these drivers on carbon storage, wine production and scenic beauty for the year 2050. Our results show substantial reductions in ecosystem services by mid-century, revealing the need for stronger planning regulations to manage land-use change in Central Chile.
Ref: Martinez-Harms, M.J. B. Bryan, E. Figueroa, P. Pliscoff, R. Runting, and K. Wilson. 2017. Scenarios for land-use and ecosystem services under global change. Ecosystem Services 25:56-68. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.03.021

UMelb Node: Josephine Walker and colleagues on networks of association between large mammal herbivores and their gut parasites in Botswana
For many parasites, the full set of hosts that are susceptible to infection is not known, and this could lead to a bias in estimates of transmission. We used counts of individual adult parasites from historical parasitology studies in southern Africa to map a bipartite network of the nematode parasites of herbivore hosts that occur in Botswana. Bipartite networks are used in community ecology to represent interactions across trophic levels. We used a Bayesian hierarchical model to predict the full set of host–parasite interactions from existing data on parasitic gastrointestinal nematodes of wild and domestic ungulates given assumptions about the distribution of parasite counts within hosts, while accounting for the relative uncertainty of less sampled species. We used network metrics to assess the difference between the observed and predicted networks, and to explore the connections between hosts via their shared parasites using a host–host unipartite network projected from the bipartite network. The model predicts a large number of missing links and identifies red hartebeest, giraffe and steenbok as the hosts that have the most uncertainty in parasite diversity. Further, the unipartite network reveals clusters of herbivores that have a high degree of parasite sharing, and these clusters correspond closely with phylogenetic distance rather than with the wild/domestic boundary. These results provide a basis for predicting the risk of cross-species transmission of nematode parasites in areas where livestock and wildlife share grazing land.
Ref: Josephine Walker, Michaela Plein, Eric R. Morgan and Peter A. Vesk (2017). Uncertain links in host – parasite networks: lessons for parasite transmission in a multi-host system. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 372
http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/372/1719/20160095

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on ‘please do not disturb ecosystems further’
Clearing up after natural disturbances may not always be beneficial for the environment. We argue that a radical change is needed in the way ecosystems are managed; one that acknowledges the important role of disturbance dynamics.

Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Thorn, S., and Banks, S. (2017). Please do not disturb ecosystems further. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1, Art. 31.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-016-0031

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

 

Dbytes #285 (27 April 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“Would we knock down the pyramids or flatten the Acropolis to make way for housing estates, roads or farms? You would hope not… …Yet right now, across our planet, many of the United Nations’ World Heritage sites that have been designated for natural reasons are being rapidly destroyed in the pursuit of short-term economic goals.”
James Watson, James Allan and Sean Maxwell in The Conversation


General News

1. Invasive species: A leading threat to Australia’s wildlife
2.
Commentary: Is the [US] Endangered Species Act facing extinction?
3. Defending scientific integrity in conservation policy processes: lessons from Canada, Australia, and the United States
4. Saved: the endangered species back from the brink of extinction
5. Night Parrot: What happens when the world’s most endangered species is discovered on your property

EDG News

ANU Node: Stephanie Pulford and colleagues on remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes
RMIT node:
Laura Mumaw and Sarah Bekessy on Wildlife gardening for collaborative public–private biodiversity conservation
UWA Node:
Impact of water allocation strategies to manage groundwater resources in Western Australia: Equity and efficiency considerations
UQ Node:
Martina Di Fonzo and colleagues on a the ‘Cost-Effective Resource Allocator’ tool for prioritising management actions
UMelb Node: David Duncan returns to UMelb to work on Buloke restoration

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General News

1. Invasive species: A leading threat to Australia’s wildlife

Invasive Species Council report: Habitat loss is often assumed to be the main threatening process in Australia, but the evidence indicates that invasive species have caused the most animal extinctions, and pose the main threat to some animal groups. The evidence for this comes from a number of sources and is summarised in this report, firstly as it applies to threatened species (drawing upon three studies), secondly to threatened ecological communities, and thirdly to extinct animals.
https://invasives.org.au/publications/invasive-species-leading-threat/

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2. Commentary: Is the [US] Endangered Species Act facing extinction?
Before we overhaul the Endangered Species Act, we should better understand what it means to deliberately allow a species to go extinct.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/Breakthroughs-Voices/2017/0413/Commentary-Is-the-Endangered-Species-Act-facing-extinction?cmpid=gigya-tw

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3. Defending scientific integrity in conservation policy processes: lessons from Canada, Australia, and the United States

Government agencies faced with politically controversial decisions often discount or ignore scientific information, whether from agency staff or non-governmental scientists. Recent developments in scientific integrity (the ability to perform, use, communicate and publish science free from censorship or political interference) in Canada, Australia and the United States demonstrate a similar trajectory: a perceived increase in scientific integrity abuses is followed by concerted pressure by the scientific community, leading to efforts to improve scientific integrity protections under a new administration. However, protections are often inconsistently applied, and are at risk of reversal under administrations that are publicly hostile to evidence-based policy. We compare recent challenges to scientific integrity to determine what aspects of scientific input into conservation policy are most at risk of political distortion and what can be done to strengthen safeguards against such abuses. To ensure the integrity of outbound communication from government scientists to public, we suggest that governments strengthen scientific integrity policies, include scientists’ right to speak freely in collective bargaining agreements, guarantee public access to scientific information, and strengthen agency culture supporting scientific integrity. To ensure the transparency and integrity with which information from non-governmental scientists (e.g., submitted comments or formal policy reviews) informs the policy process, we suggest that governments broaden the scope of independent reviews, ensure greater diversity of expert input with transparency regarding conflicts of interest, require substantive response to input from agencies, and engage proactively with scientific societies. For their part, scientists and scientific societies have a civic responsibility to engage with the wider public to affirm that science is a crucial resource for developing evidence-based policy and regulations that are in the public interest.

Carroll C, Hartl B, Goldman GT, Rohlf DJ, Treves A, Kerr JT, Ritchie EG, Kingsford RT, Gibbs KE, Maron M, Watson JEM. (2017) Defending scientific integrity in conservation policy processes: lessons from Canada, Australia, and the United States. PeerJ Preprints 5:e2946v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.2946v1

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4. Saved: the endangered species back from the brink of extinction

Human activity has put wildlife around the world at risk, but many creatures are now thriving thanks to conservationists

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/08/endangered-species-conservation-successes?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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5. Night Parrot: What happens when the world’s most endangered species is discovered on your property

Thought to be extinct, the discovery of the night parrot on a remote Queensland cattle station was thrilling for the science world … but not so for the grazier. Kathy McLeish went bush to find out what happens when the world’s most endangered species turns up on your property.
The night parrot disappeared more than a hundred years ago and was long thought to be extinct.

But it was in fact, hiding in plain sight.

So what happens when one of the world’s most endangered species turns up on your property?

For one landholder it’s actually proved to be a positive.

http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2017/s4650656.htm

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EDG News

ANU Node: Stephanie Pulford and colleagues on remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes
How do remnant patches, paddock types and grazing regimes influence reptile assemblages in a grazing landscape? At 12 sites, we surveyed reptiles and environmental covariates in remnant woodland patches and in four paddock types: a) grazed pasture, b) linear plantings, c) coarse woody debris added to grazed pasture and d) fences between grazed pasture. Each site was either continuously or rotationally grazed. Remnant vegetation and other vegetation attributes such as tree cover and leaf litter greatly influenced reptiles. We recorded higher reptile abundance and species richness in areas with more tree cover and leaf litter. For rare species (captured in ≤4 sites <70 captures) there were 5.7 more animals and 2.6 more species in sites with 50% woody cover within 3 km compared to 5% woody cover. The abundance and richness of rare species, and one common species differed between paddock types and were higher in linear plantings and fence transects compared to coarse woody debris and pasture transects.
Synthesis and applications: Grazed paddocks, particularly those with key features such as fences and plantings can provide habitat for reptiles. This suggests that discrete differentiation between patch and matrix does not apply for reptiles in these systems. Management to promote reptile conservation in agricultural landscapes should involve protecting existing remnant vegetation, regardless of amount; and promote key habitat features of trees, leaf litter and shrubs. Establishing plantings and fences is important as they support high numbers of less common reptiles and may facilitate reptiles to move through and use greater amounts of the landscape.
Ref: Pulsford, S. A., Driscoll, D. A., Barton, P. S. and Lindenmayer, D. B. (2017), Remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12923/full

RMIT node: Laura Mumaw and Sarah Bekessy on Wildlife gardening for collaborative public–private biodiversity conservation
In this article we explore how the Knox Gardens for Wildlife program, a collaboration between a municipality (Knox City Council) and community group (Knox Environment Society) in greater Melbourne involves residents in gardening to help conserve indigenous biodiversity. We used semi-structured interviews and Council survey data to identify key program features that engaged and supported members to modify their gardening: on site garden assessment; community nursery; communication hubs; a framework that fosters experiential learning and community linkages; and endorsement of each garden’s potential contribution. We discuss the implications for managing urban landscapes for biodiversity conservation.
Ref: Mumaw L & S Bekessy (2017). Wildlife gardening for collaborative public–private biodiversity conservation. Aust Journal of Environ Manag.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14486563.2017.1309695


UWA Node: Impact of water allocation strategies to manage groundwater resources in Western Australia: Equity and efficiency considerations
Globally, billions of people depend on groundwater resources. Groundwater accounts for about 50% of global drinking water and 43% of global irrigation. In Australia, 5,000GL of water is sourced from groundwater per year, providing almost one-third of the total drinking water and 70% of the water used in agriculture. There are also many groundwater dependent ecosystems of significant ecological value. However, in many parts of the world groundwater is being depleting at an alarming rate causing substantial economic, environmental and ecological loss. Where groundwater extraction is licenced, regulators often respond to resource depletion by reducing all individual licences by a fixed proportion. This approach can be effective in achieving a reduction in the volume of water extracted, but the approach is not efficient. In water resource management the issue of the equity efficiency trade-off has been explored in a number of contexts, but not in the context of allocation from a groundwater system. To contribute to this knowledge gap we conduct an empirical case study for Western Australia’s most important groundwater system: the Gnangara Groundwater System (GGS). Resource depletion is a serious issue for the GGS, and substantial reductions in groundwater extraction are required to stabilise the system. Using an individual-based farm optimization model we study both the overall impact and the distributional impact of a fixed percentage water allocation cut to horticulture sector licence holders. The model is parameterised using water licence specific data on farm area and water allocation. The modelling shows that much of the impact of water allocation reductions can be mitigated through changing the cropping mix and the irrigation technology used. The modelling also shows that the scope for gains through the aggregation of holdings into larger farms is much greater than the potential losses due to water allocation reductions. The impact of water allocation cuts is also shown to impact large farms more than small farms. Adoption of a more efficient approach would allow to stabilize groundwater resources at lower cost.
Ref: James Fogarty & Md Sayed Iftekhar (2017). Impact of water allocation strategies to manage groundwater resources in Western Australia: Equity and efficiency considerations, Journal of Hydrology, 548, p145–156. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.02.052

UQ Node: Martina Di Fonzo and colleagues on a the ‘Cost-Effective Resource Allocator’ tool for prioritising management actions
Faced with increasing rates of biodiversity loss and modest conservation budgets, it is essential that natural resource managers allocate their financial resources in a cost-effective manner and provide transparent evidence for extra funding. We develop the ‘Cost-Effective Resource Allocator’, a Microsoft Excel-based decision support tool to assist natural resource managers and policy makers to prioritise the set of management strategies that maximise the total number of years that a suite of species are expected to persist given a budget constraint. We describe this tool using a case-study of four locally threatened species from the Australian Commonwealth National Park of Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. These include: a native fern (Pneumatopteris truncata), the Christmas Island Red Crab (Gecarcoidea natalis), the Golden Bosun (Phaethon lepturus fulvus), and Abbott’s Booby (Papasula abbotti). Under a hypothetical budget of 8,826,000 AUD over ten years, in which all species are considered equal, our tool recommends funding: fern propagation and planting, rat control, cat control, and Yellow Crazy Ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) survey and control. We found that the cost-effectiveness rankings of these strategies were sensitive to the importance that assessors’ assigned to different species. The ‘Cost-Effective Resource Allocator’ can accommodate input from up to eight assessors, and analyse a maximum of 50 management strategies for 30 species.
Ref: Di Fonzo, M.M.I., Nicol, S., Possingham, H. P., Flakus, S., West, J. G., Failing, L., Long, G., and Walshe, T. 2017. Cost-Effective Resource Allocator: A decision support tool for threatened species management. PARKS 23.1, 101-113, doi: 10.2305/IUCN.CH.2017.PARKS-23-1MMIDF.en
https://martinadifonzo.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/introducing-the-cost-effective-resource-allocator-a-free-tool-for-prioritising-management-actions/

UMelb Node: David Duncan returns to UMelb to work on Buloke restoration
David Duncan recently returned to Melbourne University for a one-year research fellowship with Peter Vesk on native vegetation management problems for NESP and CEED. On the NESP side he’ll be joining his efforts to the problem of restoring the nationally Endangered Buloke Woodland community in the Mallee Parks of north-west of Victoria, where there is a persistent and concerning lack of regeneration of the dominant structural species Buloke and Slender Pine. In his CEEDier moments he’ll be exploring broader decision problems of woody regeneration. David returned to Australia in January having spent 2015&16 lecturing and developing courses in statistics at the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja in Ecuador.
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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO.

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

Dbytes #284 (19 April 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“If you already consider climate change a pressing issue, you might not think carefully about the way you talk about it – regardless of how you discuss it, you already think of global warming as a problem. But the way we talk about climate change affects the way people think about it.”
Rose Hendricks; The Conversation, Communicating climate change: Focus on the framing, not just the facts
[and see item 4]


General News

1. (Vic) Biodiversity plan 2037
2. Tools and models to support sustainable development decisions in northern Australia
3. The Future of Conservation survey
4. Rapid and significant sea-level rise expected if global warming exceeds 2°C, with global variation
5. The Native Australian Animal Trust

EDG News

UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire and biodiversity
ANU Node: Mason Crane and colleagues on Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider in agricultural landscapes
RMIT node: Ascelin Gordon co-author on study on integrated species distribution models
UWA Node: Maksym Polyakov and colleagues on Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics
UQ Node: Stephanie Avery-Gomm helps produce the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference

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General News

1. Biodiversity plan 2037
Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 is Victoria’s plan to stop the decline of our native plants and animals and improve our natural environment so it is healthy, valued and actively cared for.
The Victorian Government has delivered on its commitment to develop Victoria’s biodiversity plan, Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037. Coupled with reviews of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) and native vegetation clearing regulations, the Plan will ensure that Victoria has a modern and effective approach to protecting and managing Victoria’s biodiversity.
https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-plan?mc_cid=378e6494af&mc_eid=a7fb2bf62c

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2. Tools and models to support sustainable development decisions in northern Australia
There is a lot of interest in developing northern Australia while also caring for its unique natural landscape. However, trying to decide how to develop and protect at the same time can be a challenge. A NESP Northern Hub project is supporting planning and development decisions across the north by comparing and contrasting available modelling and decision tools and helping potential users know what might work best for them. This research identified nine categories of models and assessed the suitability of each one for supporting different types of development decisions in northern Australia. Real-world case studies, many from northern Australia, show how these models have been used in the region. A decision tree was also developed to help practitioners in choosing the most appropriate model for their needs. This decision tree and other resources will be turned into an online tool to help researchers choose the best model for their needs. The wrap-up factsheet is available here, along with the full report and a stand-alone summary.
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3. The Future of Conservation survey

“There have long been debates regarding the future direction of biodiversity conservation, but these have tended to be dominated by a few powerful individuals.

This survey allows you to contribute your views, so that a broader range of voices can be taken into account. It will take just 15 minutes to complete, and at the end you will be presented with a graphical representation of your views and how they compare to others who have taken the survey. We hope that you enjoy the survey and encourage you to share your experience by asking others to take part!”

http://www.futureconservation.org/

[Editor’s note: unlike most surveys in which you never seem to find out what the survey uncovered until months or years later or never, this survey gives you an immediate classification –whether you are leaning more towards ‘new conservation’ vs ‘traditional conservation’ vs ‘market biocentrism’ vs ‘critical social science’ – and a comparison with other survey takers. Not surprisingly (after being ‘influenced’ by the thinking of the Environmental Decisions Group over several years), I ended up in the ‘new conservation camp’. Highly recommended survey.]

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4. Rapid and significant sea-level rise expected if global warming exceeds 2°C, with global variation

The world could experience the highest ever global sea-level rise in the history of human civilisation if global temperature rises exceed 2 °C, predicts a new study. Under current carbon-emission rates, this temperature rise will occur around the middle of this century, with damaging effects on coastal businesses and ecosystems, while also triggering major human migration from low-lying areas. Global sea-level rise will not be uniform, and will differ for different points of the globe.

Source: Jevrejeva, S., Jackson, L.P., Riva, R.E.M., Grinsted, A. and Moore, J.C. (2016). Coastal sea level rise with warming above 2 °C. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(47): 13342–13347. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1605312113.
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5. The Native Australian Animal Trust
The Native Australian Animal Trust established in 2017 will provide a way for people who are passionate about Australia’s wildlife and their environments to connect with and support the University of Melbourne’s research, teaching and engagement activities. The idea for the Trust came about after researchers found 20 new species of freshwater fish in the remote Kimberley region.
While the trust will support a wide range of activities, the first major initiative of the Trust will be to establish the ‘Award for Conservation Research into Northern Australian Animals and their Ecosystems’. The award’s aim is to understand more about the animals of northern Australia so as to better protect them. Small to medium-sized mammals in northern Australia are in rapid decline, and many other fish, animals and birds may suffer the same fate. There is clearly an opportunity to learn from the mistakes made in the south, to create better outcomes for the animals of the north.
http://biosciences.unimelb.edu.au/engage/native-australian-animals-trust#about
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EDG News

UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire and biodiversity
All around the world fire is profoundly influencing people, climate and ecosystems. Many plants and animals need fire for their survival, yet even in fire-prone areas, some species are sensitive to fire. How then, can a fire regime support the conservation of species with different requirements? A new paper by Luke Kelly in Science magazine shows how researchers and fire managers are confronting this challenge in a rapidly changing world.
Ref: Kelly, L.T., Brotons, L. (2017) Using fire to promote biodiversity. Science, 355, 1264-1265. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6331/1264

ANU Node: Mason Crane and colleagues on Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider in agricultural landscapes
Southern Squirrel Glider populations are genetically distinct and generally found in the agricultural landscapes inland of Australia’s Great Dividing Range. These populations are considered to be under greater threat of extinction than northern, coastal populations and face a unique set of environmental conditions and conservation challenges. For these reasons, we suggest that southern populations qualify as a separate evolutionarily significant unit to those from the northern, coastal segment of the range and should be managed separately. We summarize the species’ ecology specific to southern populations and relevant to management. We conduct a basic SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to highlight potential future management directions. From our review of new and existing ecological data and SWOT analysis, we outline ten points of action important for securing the future of southern Squirrel Glider populations.
Ref: Crane, M., Lindenmayer, D.B., and Banks, S.C. (2017). Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) in agricultural landscapes. Ecological Management and Restoration, 18, 15-25. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/emr.12245/full

RMIT node: Ascelin Gordon co-author on study on integrated species distribution models
1. Two main sources of data for species distribution models (SDMs) are site-occupancy (SO) data from planned surveys, and presence-background (PB) data from opportunistic surveys and other sources. SO surveys give high quality data about presences and absences of the species in a particular area. However, due to their high cost, they often cover a smaller area relative to PB data, and are usually not representative of the geographic range of a species. In contrast, PB data is plentiful, covers a larger area, but is less reliable due to the lack of information on species absences, and is usually characterised by biased sampling. Here we present a new approach for species distribution modelling that integrates these two data types.
2. We have used an inhomogeneous Poisson point process as the basis for constructing an integrated SDM that fits both PB and SO data simultaneously. It is the first implementation of an Integrated SO–PB Model which uses repeated survey occupancy data and also incorporates detection probability.
3. The Integrated Model’s performance was evaluated, using simulated data and compared to approaches using PB or SO data alone. It was found to be superior, improving the predictions of species spatial distributions, even when SO data is sparse and collected in a limited area. The Integrated Model was also found effective when environmental covariates were significantly correlated. Our method was demonstrated with real SO and PB data for the Yellow-bellied glider (Petaurus australis) in south-eastern Australia, with the predictive performance of the Integrated Model again found to be superior.
4. PB models are known to produce biased estimates of species occupancy or abundance. The small sample size of SO datasets often results in poor out-of-sample predictions. Integrated models combine data from these two sources, providing superior predictions of species abundance compared to using either data source alone. Unlike conventional SDMs which have restrictive scale-dependence in their predictions, our Integrated Model is based on a point process model and has no such scale-dependency. It may be used for predictions of abundance at any spatial-scale while still maintaining the underlying relationship between abundance and area.
Integrated species distribution models: combining presence-background data and site-occupancy data with imperfect detection.
Refe: Koshkina, V., Wang, Y., Gordon, A., Dorazio, R. M., White, M. and Stone, L. (2017), Integrated species distribution models: combining presence-background data and site-occupancy data with imperfect detection. Methods Ecol Evol, 8: 420–430. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12738
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.12738/abstract

UWA Node:
Maksym Polyakov and colleagues on Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics
Environmental and Resource Economics is one of the premier journals in the field of environmental economics. It was established with an aspiration to focus more on applied and policy relevant research compared to other established journals, and to establish better channels of communication and collaboration between researchers from Europe and other parts of the world. We present a text based exploratory analysis of 1630 articles published in the Journal from 1991 to 2015 that suggests the Journal has been somewhat successful in meeting both these aims. Perhaps more importantly, it shows the Journal continues to progress toward these goals. The European authors are the largest contributors to the Journal, which is in contrast to other prominent journals (such as Journal of Environmental Economics and Management and Ecological Economics). And while most of the collaboration has occurred within this geographic region (e.g., European authors collaborated with other European authors more frequently), this trend appears to be changing as the proportion of articles written by international collaborators is gradually increasing. Topic analysis reveals that almost all of the articles could be grouped under applied and/or policy relevant topics, and almost two-thirds of the articles are empirical in nature, which suggest that the journal has been able to fulfil both of its commitments. We also investigate trends in research foci over the last 25 years and what kind of research gaps can be discerned.
Ref: Polyakov, M., Chalak, M., Iftekhar, M.S. et al. (2017). Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics 1991–2015, Environmental and Resource Economics, 28th March 2017 online, 1-23. doi:10.1007/s10640-017-0147-2

UQ Node: Stephanie Avery-Gomm helps produce the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference
Last week saw the running of the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference (#WSTC3), staged over 3 days. It was a carbon friendly and free science communication event held exclusively on Twitter. Seabird researchers, conservationists and NGOs from all over the world shared their work in 6 tweets. There were over 125 presentations, grouped into 22 themed sessions and scheduled across all time zones. Stephanie Avery-Gomm was on the Organizing Committee and reports that the ‘audience’ of WSTC# was 3.5 million Twitter users (i.e., the number of users who could have seen the conference hashtag). Obviously, not all of those reached were seabird scientists, thus demonstrating the immense value of these conferences for communicating science to a broader audience. Stephanie will be discussing the virtues of virtual conferencing in an up and coming issue of Decision Point.

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO.

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

Dbytes #283 (5 April 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“Giving nature legal rights means the law can see ‘nature’ as a legal person, thus creating rights that can then be enforced.”

Erin o’Donnell and Julia Talbot-Jones (see item 1)


General News

1. Three rivers are now legally people – but that’s just the start of looking after them
2. World Heritage Species
3. Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being
4. Harnessing nature’s bounty: strong outlook for Murray–Darling Basin environment
5. New plan to prevent exotic snakes as future pests

EDG News

UQ Node: Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on: Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning
UMelb Node:
Hannah Fraser on the value of virtual conferencing
ANU Node:
Sachiko Okada and colleagues on: How does a transforming landscape influence bird breeding success?
RMIT node:
Chris Ives and colleagues on capturing residents’ values for urban green space
UWA Node: Ram Pandit a co-author on valuing nature’s contributions to people: the IPBES approach

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General News

1. Three rivers are now legally people – but that’s just the start of looking after them
The Conversation, an editorial by Erin o’Donnell and Julia Talbot-Jones

In the space of a week, the world has gained three notable new legal persons: the Whanganui River in New Zealand, and the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers in India.

In New Zealand, the government passed legislation that recognised the Whanganui River catchment as a legal person. This significant legal reform emerged from the longstanding Treaty of Waitangi negotiations and is a way of formally acknowledging the special relationship local Māori have with the river.

In India, the Uttarakhand high court ruled that the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers have the same legal rights as a person, in response to the urgent need to reduce pollution in two rivers considered sacred in the Hindu religion.

https://theconversation.com/three-rivers-are-now-legally-people-but-thats-just-the-start-of-looking-after-them-74983?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitterbutton

[Editor’s note: And if a river can have ‘person’ rights, why not give species World Heritage protection; see the next item]

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2. World Heritage Species
A Conservation Bytes editorial

“Clearly our existing systems aren’t working, and just listing a species as threatened, or highlighting their uniqueness in nature documentaries, isn’t going to cut it. This could be just another public-relations tool in the conservation toolbox that might save a few of our most special species.”
Corey Bradshaw on the idea of declaring ‘World Heritage Species’ (See Conservation Bytes)

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3. Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being

Distributions of Earth’s species are changing at accelerating rates, increasingly driven by human mediated climate change. Such changes are already altering the composition of ecological communities, but beyond conservation of natural systems, how and why does this matter? We review evidence that climate-driven species redistribution at regional to global scales affects ecosystem functioning, human well-being, and the dynamics of climate change itself. Production of natural resources required for food security, patterns of disease transmission, and processes of carbon sequestration are all altered by changes in species distribution. Consideration of these effects of biodiversity redistribution is critical yet lacking in most mitigation and adaptation strategies, including the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Ref: Pecl, G. T., Araújo, M. B., Bell, J. D., Blanchard, J., Bonebrake, T. C., Chen, I.-C., . . . Williams, S. E. (2017). Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being. Science, 355(6332). doi: 10.1126/science.aai9214
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6332/eaai9214

The Guardian has also written a piece on the article:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/30/climate-change-global-reshuffle-of-wildlife-will-have-huge-impacts-on-humanity
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4. Harnessing nature’s bounty: strong outlook for Murray–Darling Basin environment

Forecasting released by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) today shows that active use of environmental water in the coming year will extend the benefits already emerging from the wet conditions experienced across much of the Murray–Darling Basin last spring. The MDBA head of environmental management, Carl Binning, said the best results for the environment would be achieved by using available water to extend the benefits of the 2016 flows and build on the current good conditions.

https://www.mdba.gov.au/media/mr/harnessing-natures-bounty-strong-outlook-murray-darling-basin-environment

The Basin environmental watering outlook 2017–18 is available at https://www.mdba.gov.au/publications/mdba-reports/basin-environmental-watering-outlook-2017-18

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5. New plan to prevent exotic snakes as future pests

A new National Incursion Response Plan for Terrestrial Snakes has been launched to provide important information and procedures that can be used by biosecurity specialists and professional snake handlers to respond to terrestrial snake incursions in Australia. The plan was developed through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre in consultation with the Invasive Animals and Plants Committee (IPAC) Vertebrate Pest Incursions Expert Group and the Australian and State and Territory Governments.

To reduce the risks posed by new and emerging vertebrate pests, Australia is committed to improving national incursion management and the development of this plan is part of the improvement process. The plan focuses on five of the 17 snake families present around the world that, if established in Australia, would have detrimental impacts on our environment, human health and agricultural industries.

http://www.canberraiq.com.au/downloads/2017-4-3-3.pdf
The National Incursions Response Plan for Terrestrial Snakes can be downloaded via PestSmart at www.pestsmart.org.au/national-incursion-response-plan-for-terrestrial-snakes

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EDG News

UQ Node: Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on: Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning
Range maps represent the geographic distribution of species, and they are commonly used to determine species coverage within protected areas and to find additional places needing protection. However, range maps are characterized by commission errors, where species are thought to be present in locations where they are not. When available, habitat suitability models can reduce commission errors in range maps, but these models are not always available. Adopting a coarse spatial resolution is often seen as an alternative approach for reducing the effect of commission errors, but this comes with poorly explored conservation trade-offs.
2.Here, we characterize these trade-offs by identifying scenarios of protected area expansion for the world’s threatened terrestrial mammals under different resolutions (10–200 km) and distribution data deriving from range maps and habitat suitability models.
3.We found that planning new protected areas using range maps results in an overestimation of the species protection level when compared with habitat suitability models (which are more closely related to species presence). This overestimation increases when more area is selected for protection and is higher when higher spatial resolutions are employed.
4.Adopting coarse resolutions reduced the overestimation of species protection and also halved the spatial incongruence between protected areas prioritized from range maps or habitat suitability models. However, this came at a very high cost, with an area of up to four times greater (12 M km2 vs. 3 M km2) needed to adequately protect all species.
5.Synthesis and applications. Our findings demonstrate that adopting coarse resolutions in protected area planning results in unsustainable increases in costs, with limited benefits in terms of reducing the effect of commission errors in species range maps. We recommend that, if some level of uncertainty is acceptable to practitioners, using range maps at resolutions of 20–30 km is the best compromise for reducing the effect of commission errors while maintaining cost-efficiency in conservation analyses.
Ref: Di Marco, M., Watson, J. E. M., Possingham, H. P. and Venter, O. (2017), Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning. J Appl Ecol, 54: 402–411. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12771
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12771/full

UMelb Node: Hannah Fraser on the value of virtual conferencing
“Ecologists and conservation researchers often research and express concern about climate change. These same researchers travel long distances to conferences contributing substantively to global carbon emissions that cause climate change. Many of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and most pressing conservation problems happen in the developing world but the financial cost of travelling to conferences means that many of these researchers are unable to communicate their research or learn from recent research at international conferences. Holding virtual conferences have the potential to overcome both problems: reducing researchers’ carbon footprint and increasing the accessibility of conferences from more poorly funded institutions such as those in developing countries.
https://hsfraser.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/publication-the-value-of-virtual-conferencing-for-ecology-and-conservation/

ANU Node: Sachiko Okada and colleagues on: How does a transforming landscape influence bird breeding success?
The conversion of agricultural landscapes to tree plantations is a major form of landscape transformation worldwide, but its effects on biodiversity, particularly key population processes like reproductive success, are poorly understood. We compared bird breeding success between woodland remnants surrounded by maturing stands of plantation Radiata Pine and a matched set of woodland remnants in semi-cleared grazing land. Our study was conducted in the Nanangroe region in south-eastern New South Wales, Australia. Using repeated field measurements, we quantified bird breeding success in 23 woodland remnants; 13 surrounded by Radiata Pine plantations and 10 on farms where remnants were surrounded by semi-cleared grazing land. We matched the attributes of native remnant patches between two types of matrix. We found that: (1) rates of nesting success of smaller-bodied birds in woodland remnants surrounded by grazing land were significantly higher than in woodland remnants surrounded by pine plantations; and (2) taxa with domed nests were more successful at nesting than species that constructed open cup/bowl nests in woodland remnants within farmlands.
Our findings suggest that bird breeding success in remnant woodland patches is significantly diminished as a result of the conversion of semi-cleared grazing land to pine plantations.
Ref: Okada, S., Lindenmayer, D.B., Wood, J.T., Crane, M.J., and Pierson, J.C. (2017). How does a transforming landscape influence bird breeding success? Landscape Ecology, doi:10.1007/s10980-017-0507-x.


RMIT node: Chris Ives and colleagues on capturing residents’ values for urban green space
Planning for green space is guided by standards and guidelines but there is currently little understanding of the variety of values people assign to green spaces or their determinants. Land use planners need to know what values are associated with different landscape characteristics and how value elicitation techniques can inform decisions. We designed a Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) study and surveyed residents of four urbanising suburbs in the Lower Hunter region of NSW, Australia. Participants assigned dots on maps to indicate places they associated with a typology of values (specific attributes or functions considered important) and negative qualities related to green spaces. The marker points were digitised and aggregated according to discrete park polygons for statistical analysis. People assigned a variety of values to green spaces (such as aesthetic value or social interaction value), which were related to landscape characteristics. Some variables (e.g. distance to water) were statistically associated with multiple open space values. Distance from place of residence however did not strongly influence value assignment after landscape configuration was accounted for. Value compatibility analysis revealed that some values co-occurred in park polygons more than others (e.g. nature value and health/therapeutic value). Results highlight the potential for PPGIS techniques to inform green space planning through the spatial representation of complex human-nature relationships. However, a number of potential pitfalls and challenges should be addressed. These include the non-random spatial arrangement of landscape features that can skew interpretation of results and the need to communicate clearly about theory that explains observed patterns.”
Ref: Christopher D. Ives, Cathy Oke, Ailish Hehir, Ascelin Gordon, Yan Wang, Sarah A. Bekessy, Capturing residents’ values for urban green space: Mapping, analysis and guidance for practice, Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 161, May 2017, Pages 32-43, ISSN 0169-2046, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.12.010.

UWA Node: Ram Pandit a co-author on valuing nature’s contributions to people: the IPBES approach
Perth: Nature is perceived and valued in starkly different and often conflicting ways. This paper presents the rationale for the inclusive valuation of nature’s contributions to people (NCP) in decision making, as well as broad methodological steps for doing so. While developed within the context of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), this approach is more widely applicable to initiatives at the knowledge–policy interface, which require a pluralistic approach to recognizing the diversity of values. We argue that transformative practices aiming at sustainable futures would benefit from embracing such diversity, which require recognizing and addressing power relationships across stakeholder groups that hold different values on human nature relations and NCP.
Ref: Unai Pascual, Patricia Balvanera et al. (2017). Valuing nature’s contributions to people: the IPBES approach, Science Direct, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 26: 7–16.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343517300040

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David Salt (David.Salt@anu.edu.au). Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO.

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

 

 

Dbytes #282 (30 March 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“Supporting this mine would fly in the face of advice from experts who have collectively devoted over 1,200 years studying climate change, marine ecosystems and coral reefs”
Will Steffen and Lesley Hughes in a letter from the Climate Council to Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Board on the development of the Carmichael Coal Mine Rail Link. [And see item 3]

General News

1. MPA effectiveness relates three times more to staffing & resources than biological, geological or ecological factors.
2. Blogging for nature
3.
Why speak?
4. Submissions invited on the Review of Australia’s Climate Change Policies

5. Communicating climate extremes

EDG News

UWA Node: Predicting soil organic carbon in reforested lands
UQ news: What motivates ecological restoration
UMelb Node: Online graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling
ANU Node: Ben Scheele and colleagues on Niche Contractions in Declining Species
RMIT node: Florence Damiens and colleagues on: Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy (a response to Kareiva and Fuller, 2016)

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General News

1. MPA effectiveness relates three times more to staffing & resources than biological, geological or ecological factors.

Nature paper: Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally

Abstract: Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being used globally to conserve marine resources. However, whether many MPAs are being effectively and equitably managed, and how MPA management influences substantive outcomes remain unknown. We developed a global database of management and fish population data (433 and 218 MPAs, respectively) to assess: MPA management processes; the effects of MPAs on fish populations; and relationships between management processes and ecological effects. Here we report that many MPAs failed to meet thresholds for effective and equitable management processes, with widespread shortfalls in staff and financial resources. Although 71% of MPAs positively influenced fish populations, these conservation impacts were highly variable. Staff and budget capacity were the strongest predictors of conservation impact: MPAs with adequate staff capacity had ecological effects 2.9 times greater than MPAs with inadequate capacity. Thus, continued global expansion of MPAs without adequate investment in human and financial capacity is likely to lead to sub-optimal conservation outcomes
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature21708.html

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2. Blogging for nature
[Editor’s note: Geoff Park, long-term friend to the Environmental Decisions Group, runs Natural Newstead, a photo-based bird-blog documenting the bird life (and other natural history) around his place of residence in Newstead, central Victoria. If you haven’t seen it, check it out at https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/ Geoff has just written a story about the rise and rise of his blog in the Victorian Landcare Magazine. It’s a highly recommended read for anyone wanting their own natural-history blogging to change the world.]

“Two days before Christmas in 2008 I sat down and wrote my first blog post. It was called ‘A Walk in the Rise and Shine’: “Have just enjoyed a nice walk in the Rise and Shine Nature Conservation Reserve with one of our three boys, Joe. There was lots of bird activity with Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters, a family of White-browed Babblers, Dusky Woodswallows and a pair of Jacky Winters feeding a young fledgling. We also found active nests of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters with at least one nest hung in the low foliage of a Long-leaf Box.

Little did I realise at the time that the blog, Natural Newstead, would become a minor personal obsession that is regarded with affection by readers from our local patch and around the world. With more than 2000 posts and nearly half a million page hits, Natural Newstead is now one of the top 100 birding web sites in the world…”

https://www.landcarevic.org.au/magazine-issues/summer-2017/blogging-for-nature/

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3. Why speak?
By Emma Johnston
“In an information free-for-all why should scientists bother to add their voice? In this commentary piece I argue there is an increasingly important role for scientists amongst the growing ranks of public intellectuals and the many who style themselves as such. First, we must become the sifters and sorters. We need to be willing to use our research and analytical skills to identify what is valuable amongst all the noise, and, if necessary, to volubly reject what is not. And, second, we need to create and defend the space everyone needs for deep thought and consideration. We need to influence ongoing debates by seeking to push them towards evidence-based arguments and areas of scientific consensus. To sift out the deliberately distracting stories and to counter fake news.”
Ref: Johnston, E. L. (2017). ‘Why speak?’. JCOM 16 (01), C02

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4. Submissions invited on the Review of Australia’s Climate Change Policies

The Department of the Environment and Energy has released a discussion paper on the review of Australia’s climate change policies. The discussion paper invites input from business and the community. It is open for public consultation until 5 May 2017. The discussion paper follows the Government’s commitment to review its climate change policies when it set Australia’s target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/review-climate-change-policies/discussion-paper-2017

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5. Communicating climate extremes

There is still widespread confusion about the linkages between human-induced climate change and extreme weather. In an article published in the World Meteorological Organization Bulletin, several simple guidelines for clear communication were proposed regarding extremes, including:
-lead with what we know, and save the caveats for later
-use metaphors to explain risk and probabilities
-avoid loaded language like ‘blame’
-use accessible language
-try to avoid language that creates a sense of hopelessness.

Ref: (Un)Natural Disasters: Communicating Linkages Between Extreme Events and Climate Change. (2016)
https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/bulletin/unnatural-disasters-communicating-linkages-between-extreme-events-and-climate
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EDG News

UWA Node: Predicting soil organic carbon in reforested lands
In a recent study of mixed species environmental plantings on agricultural land, Dr Mike Perring and his colleagues investigated the organic carbon content of soil collected at 117 paired sites from a range of climate types including Mediterranean, temperate and tropical regions across Australia. Soil samples were used to calibrate a soil carbon accounting model in a bid to better predict sequestration rates of atmospheric carbon in these kind of plantings.
Ref: Dinesh B. Madhavan, Jeff A. Baldock, Zoe J. Read, Simon C. Murphy, Shaun C. Cunningham, Michael P. Perring, Tim Herrmann, Tom Lewis, Timothy R. Cavagnaro, Jacqueline R. England, Keryn I. Paul, Christopher J. Weston, Thomas G. Baker, Rapid prediction of particulate, humus and resistant fractions of soil organic carbon in reforested lands using infrared spectroscopy, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 193, 15 May 2017, Pages 290-299, ISSN 0301-4797, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.02.013

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479717301172

UQ news: What motivates ecological restoration
“Ecological restoration projects are motivated by diverse environmental and social reasons. Motivations likely vary between stakeholders or regions, and influence the approach taken to plan, implement, and monitor restoration projects. We surveyed 307 people involved in the restoration of native vegetation across Australia to identify their underlying motivations. We also elicited information on planning, implementation, and monitoring of restoration projects. We found that biodiversity enhancement is the main motivation for undertaking restoration, with biodiversity offsetting, water quality improvements, and social reasons as important secondary motivations. Motivations varied significantly by stakeholder type and region. Restoration projects primarily motivated by ecosystem service provision (e.g. water quality improvements and social reasons) sought less pristine ecological outcomes than projects motivated by biodiversity enhancement or offsetting. Rigorous monitoring designs (e.g. quantitative, repeatable surveys, and use of performance indicators) were rarely used in restoration projects, except for projects motivated by scientific research. Better alignment of different restoration motivations with the planning and monitoring of restoration projects should deliver greater benefits through setting appropriate objectives and evaluating outcomes against these objectives. These improvements will increase the capacity of the restoration practice to meet international biodiversity commitments and communicate restoration outcomes to stakeholders.”
Ref: Hagger V, Dwyer J and Wilson K (2017). What motivates ecological restoration? Restoration Ecology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec.12503/full

UMelb Node: Online graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling
“Are you interested in modelling? Are you a graduate student, and your project involves studying species distributions? Or maybe you are a research professional or a manager wanting to expand your quantitative skills? Species distribution modelling is one of the most highly cited areas of ecological research. And it is not just about research; species distribution models are also very useful for supporting a wide range of environmental decisions. So why not learn more about them? We are pleased to announce that at the University of Melbourne we are running a graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling, delivered entirely online. The subject runs this year from 24 July to 22 October, and it is offered to externals (with a cost) through the university’s Community Access Program (CAP). Through this program, you may choose to study in either assessed or non-assessed mode. The subject covers species distribution modelling from two different angles, ecophysiological models and correlative models (GLMs, Maxent, BRTs…), and consists of video lectures and guided computer practicals in R. The content emphasises an understanding of the problem, the data, and the model, and provides practical skills in fitting the models. The subject team includes Mike Kearney and Jane Elith, two internationally recognised experts in the field! Tempted? Get in touch if you are; we will be happy to answer your queries.
https://qaeco.com/2017/03/23/wanting-to-learn-species-distribution-modelling-consider-enrolling-in-our-online-subject/

ANU Node: Ben Scheele and colleagues on Niche Contractions in Declining Species
“A fundamental aim of conservation biology is to understand how species respond to threatening processes, with much research effort focused on identifying threats and quantifying spatial and temporal patterns of species decline. Here, we argue that threats often reduce the realized niche breadth of declining species because environmental, biotic, and evolutionary processes reduce or amplify threats, or because a species’ capacity to tolerate threats varies across niche space. Our ‘niche reduction hypothesis’ provides anew lens for understanding why species decline in some locations and not others. This perspective can improve management of declining species by identifying where to focus resources and which interventions are most likely to be effective in a given environment.”
Ref: Scheele B, Claire N.Foster, Sam C.Banks, and David B.Lindenmayer (2017).
Niche Contractions in Declining Species: Mechanisms and Consequences. TREE
http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(17)30049-6

RMIT node: Florence Damiens and colleagues on: Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy (a response to Kareiva and Fuller,2016)
“Kareiva and Fuller (2016) consider the future prospects for biodiversity conservation in the face of the profound disruptions of the Anthropocene. They argue that more flexible and entrepreneurial approaches to conservation are needed. While some of the approaches they promote may work in particular situations, we believe their proposal risks unintended and detrimental social and ecological consequences by presenting them as global solutions to complex political, economic, social and ethical problems that are context-dependent. Here we argue that the authors inadequately considers the following core issues of biodiversity conservation, namely: (1) the structural causes of biodiversity depletion and the responsibilities of key actors; (2) the questions around what should be conserved, the processes by which biodiversity is valued, and who has the legitimate authority to value it; (3) the fact that new tools, technologies and innovative approaches are unsuitable as guiding principles to solve complex, context-dependent social-ecological problems; (4) the challenges of choosing relevant interventions, given experts’ limited ability to ‘manage for change and evolution’; and (5) the risks associated with promoting a utilitarian approach and a neoliberal governance model for conservation at the global scale.”
Ref: Damiens, F. L. P., Mumaw, L., Backstrom, A., Bekessy, S. A., Coffey, B., Faulkner, R., Garrard, G. E., Hardy, M. J., Kusmanoff, A. M., Mata, L., Rickards, L., Selinske, M. J., Torabi, N. and Gordon, A. (2017), Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy. Glob Policy. doi:10.1111/1758-5899.12415
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1758-5899.12415/abstract


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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David Salt (David.Salt@anu.edu.au). Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO.

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/