Dbytes #144 (8 April 2014)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decision Group “Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.” Bill Gates

General News

1. The Threatened Species Commissioner

2. Lessons from the Carbon Farming Initiative and other schemes: Coverage, Additionality and Baselines

3. The Citizen Science Network Australia

4. Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts, 2014

5. New Regulation, new ways of managing native vegetation

EDG News (more details on these items follows general news)

Brisbane: The UQ mob now have a common space

Canberra: Ben Scheele publishes on tree frogs coming back from chytrid attack

Perth: Losses in environmental outcomes resulting from using poor project scoring metrics

Melbourne: Michelle Freeman: From Forestry to PhD


1. The Threatened Species Commissioner

The Threatened Species Commissioner (the Commissioner) is a non-statutory, advisory position established by the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP. To help address the growing number of native flora and fauna that are faced with extinction, the Government is appointing Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner to bring a new national focus to conservation efforts. The Threatened Species Commissioner will focus on practical action and ensure that conservation efforts and investment are better targeted, better coordinated and more effective. The Commissioner will complement the Government’s responsibilities for threatened species protection and recovery under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, by having oversight for the development, implementation and reporting of threatened species recovery programmes. The work of the Commissioner will complement but not duplicate or override the statutory responsibilities of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee. The Commissioner will be appointed by 1 July 2014.
Draft terms of reference have been developed, identifying the potential roles and responsibilities for the position. The public is invited to provide comment on these draft terms of reference. Comments received during the public comment period will be considered in finalising this document. Comments must be received by 5 pm (AEST) 18 April 2014. http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/commissioner


2. Lessons from the Carbon Farming Initiative and other schemes: Coverage, Additionality and Baselines This Climate Change Authority Releases Research Paper specifically looks at how other schemes have approached three central design features – what sectors or activities are covered; how to ensure emissions reductions are genuinely ‘additional’; and how baselines are set. http://climatechangeauthority.gov.au/cfi


3. The Citizen Science Network Australia Citizen Science Network Australia (CSNA) is holding an inaugural workshop on May 6th at the Queensland Museum from 8:30am to 5:00pm. Anyone who is interested in contributing to the development of a community of practice to support researchers, educators, businesses, science communicators, government, community groups and community volunteers in all aspects of citizen science is invited to attend this free event. RSVP is required for the workshop and may be completed via http://bit.ly/Nw8nkh. Please visit the CSNA website at http://www.citizenscience.org.au/ for more information and to join the CSNA mailing list.


4. Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts, 2014 [#144] This publication represents the first issue of Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts (AEEA). It brings all ABS environmental accounts together in one place to deliver a broad and cohesive picture of the environmental stocks and flows of relevance to the Australian economy and society. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4655.0main+features12014 -~<>~-

5. New Regulation, new ways of managing native vegetation The NSW Government is reforming native vegetation management in NSW to deliver multiple benefits and strike the right balance between sustainable agriculture and protecting the environment. The new Native Vegetation Regulation 2013 (the Regulation) commenced on 23 September 2013 and a number of provisions have already been introduced, including: new or expanded exemptions to clear native vegetation without a property vegetation plan (PVP); the common-sense decision to declare that yellow mimosa, a feral native species, can be cleared without approvals. Self-assessable codes of practice for certain low-risk clearing activities are due to be implemented in 2014, in some cases replacing the need for a PVP. The first three self-assessable codes are now open for public exhibition. The rules for clearing native vegetation without approval remain in place until the new self-assessable codes are finalised. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/vegetation/ -~<>~-

EDG News

Brisbane: The UQ mob now have a common space UQ EDGers have been battling construction and working out of two locations (St Lucia and Longpocket) for many many months. Well, now construction on their new space has finished and UQers have moved to their new home – the fifth floor of the Goddard Building (overlooking the Great Court).

Canberra: Ben Scheele publishes on tree frogs coming back from chytrid attack “While chytridiomycosis can cause extinction, many susceptible species persist after an initial period of decline, albeit with reduced abundance and distribution. Emerging evidence indicates that amphibian abundance can recover within remnant populations, but to date, the capacity of amphibian populations to re-expand into historically occupied habitat has received limited research attention. We surveyed 145 sites in 2011 and 2012 to determine if populations of the whistling tree frog (Litoria verreauxii verreauxii) have re-expanded compared with historical data from 1975–1976, 1990 and 1996. L. v. verreauxii underwent a major range contraction likely caused by chytridiomycosis between the first two time periods. Populations have recently re-expanded, with 39 new sites colonised despite high prevalence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. We suspect that changes in disease dynamics have resulted in the increased coexistence of L. v. verreauxii and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Habitat attributes at sites that retained frogs for the duration of the study indicate that high quality habitat may contribute to buffering against population level effects of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Colonised sites had more coarse woody debris, suggesting a possible habitat management strategy to encourage range expansion for this species. Given sufficient time and adequate source populations in high quality habitat, it is possible that other amphibian species may re-expand from chytridiomycosis-induced declines. SCHEELE, B. C., GUARINO, F., OSBORNE, W., HUNTER, D. A., SKERRATT, L. F. & DRISCOLL, D. A. (2014). Decline and re-expansion of an amphibian despite high prevalence of chytrid fungus. Biological Conservation 170, 86-91.

Perth: Losses in environmental outcomes resulting from using poor project scoring metrics In a recent working paper Fiona Gibson and David Pannell estimate the losses in environmental outcomes resulting from using poor project scoring metrics to rank projects for funding. A number of common errors result in large environmental losses. http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/handle/163211 “There is often a loss of environmental benefits due to poor prioritisation of projects. The magnitudes of these losses are estimated for various metrics that deviate from theory. We examine cases where relevant variables are omitted from the benefits metric, project costs are omitted, and where parameters are weighted and added when they should be multiplied. Distributions of parameters are estimated from 129 environmental projects from Australia, New Zealand and Italy for which Benefit: Cost Analyses had previously been completed. The cost of using poor prioritisation metrics (in terms of lost environmental values) is often high – up to 80 per cent in the scenarios examined. The cost is greater where the budget is smaller. The most costly errors were found to be omitting information about environmental values, project costs or the effectiveness of management actions, and using a weighted additive decision metric for variables that should be multiplied. The latter three of these are errors that occur commonly in real-world decision metrics, often reducing potential environmental benefits by 30 to 50 per cent.”

Melbourne: Michelle Freeman: From Forestry to PhD“This being my first ever post, I thought it would be appropriate to share the (abridged) story of where I come from. I started my PhD almost a year ago (how time flies!) and every day I ask myself – “Why on earth did I quit my job to do a PhD??!”. There’re many of reasons I suppose. I wanted a new challenge, I wanted to learn new skills, I wanted to stop doing long distance with my partner….In fact I don’t regret making the decision at all, but I have to admit, my job pre-PhD was pretty sweet…”



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. Also, email David if you want to unsubscribe (or subscribe someone else). 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 is jointly funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (NERP) and the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence program (CEED). CEED: http://ceed.edu.au/ NERP ED: http://www.nerpdecisions.edu.au/ EDG: http://www.edg.org.au/

EDG major events: http://www.edg.org.au/events.html Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/


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