Dbytes #150 (27 May 2014)

 Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decision Group
“It took considerable dialogue with the scientists for them to understand the need for simple and consistent communication, and to accept that erudite and, in many ways, self-serving scholarly discourse did not belong on the front page of newspapers every day. What was needed was clear communication of the knowns and unknowns.”
Peter Gluckman (The art of science advice to government, Nature 12 March 2014 http://www.nature.com/news/policy-the-art-of-science-advice-to-government-1.14838?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20140313)

General News

1. David Pannell on an index for Evaluation Quality
2. New study dismisses the ‘Neutral Theory of Biodiversity’
3. Agricultural expansion and its impacts on tropical nature
4. Bitterns in rice -A pilot study of the endangered Australasian Bittern and its use of rice crops
5. Brown Pelicans: A Test Case For the Endangered Species Act

EDG News

Brisbane: The next Marxan course is being run in June
Chloe Sato on managing ski resorts to improve biodiversity
Keren Raiter presents enigmatic impacts research to Goldfields Environmental Management Group Workshop in Kalgoorlie.
Chris Ives on values-based approach to urban nature research


General News

1. David Pannell on an index for Evaluation Quality Here is an idea: an index measuring the quality of the process used to evaluate environmental projects? It would provide a simple summary of the extent to which the evaluation process can be relied on to produce information that is useful for decision making. It would also provide a checklist of issues for people to think about when they are putting together an evaluation or prioritisation process. Let’s call it the EQ Index, for Evaluation Quality. http://www.pannelldiscussions.net/2014/04/263-the-eq-index/


2. New study dismisses the ‘Neutral Theory of Biodiversity’ Researchers have today released ground-breaking findings that dismiss the ‘Neutral Theory of Biodiversity’, with critical implications for how marine conservation areas are managed. Professor Sean Connolly from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University (JCU) is the lead author of the international study, which he says overturns the long-used theory by employing a novel mathematical method. It is the largest study of its kind, covering a broad range of marine ecosystems on Earth. “The aim of neutral theory is to explain diversity and the relative abundances of species within ecosystems. However, the theory has an important flaw: it fails to capture how important the highly abundant species that dominate marine communities are,” Professor Connolly says. The theory has dominated biodiversity research for the past decade, and been advocated as a tool for conservation and management efforts. Reference: ‘Commonness and rarity in the marine biosphere’ by Sean R. Connolly, M. Aaron MacNeil, M. Julian Caley, Nancy Knowlton, Ed Cripps, Mizue Hisano, Loïc Thibaut, Bhaskar D. Bhattacharya, Lisandro Benedetti-Cecchi, Russell E. Brainard, Angelika Brandt, Fabio Bulleri, Kari E. Ellingsen, Stefanie Kaiser, Ingrid Kröncke, Katrin Linse, Elena Maggi, Timothy D. O’Hara, Laetitia Plaisance, Gary C. B. Poore, Santosh K. Sarkar, Kamala K. Satpathy, Ulrike Schückel, Alan Williams, and Robin S. Wilson appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


3. Agricultural expansion and its impacts on tropical nature William F. Laurance, Jeffrey Sayer, Kenneth G. Cassman. Trends in ecology and evolution Volume 29 No 2, February 2014: 107-116. The human population is projected to reach 11 billion this century, with the greatest increases in tropical developing nations. This growth, in concert with rising per-capita consumption, will require large increases in food and biofuel production. How will these megatrends affect tropical terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity? We foresee (i) major expansion and intensification of tropical agriculture, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America; (ii) continuing rapid loss and alteration of tropical old-growth forests, woodlands, and semi-arid environments; (iii) a pivotal role for new roadways in determining the spatial extent of agriculture; and (iv) intensified conflicts between food production and nature conservation. Key priorities are to improve technologies and policies that promote more ecologically efficient food production while optimizing the allocation of lands to conservation and agriculture.


4. Bitterns in rice -A pilot study of the endangered Australasian Bittern and its use of rice crops The Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) is an endangered waterbird known to use rice crops in the Riverina region of New South Wales. The relative importance and conservation value of these habitats for this species was previously unknown. Potentially, rice farmers can make a significant contribution to the conservation of Australia’s ‘Bunyip Bird’. This report is targeted at the rice industry and organisations involved in the environmental management and ecological sustainability of rice farms, such as government departments and Landcare groups. https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/14-007


5. Brown Pelicans: A Test Case For the Endangered Species Act Brown pelicans were removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 2009, in what was considered a major conservation success story. But a recent crash in Pacific Coast populations of sardines, the pelican’s prime food, is posing new threats to these oddly elegant birds. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/brown_pelicans_a_test_case_for_the_endangered_species_act/2764/ [This story appeared on the front page of Yale environment 360, a website recommended by Nadeem Samnaky, see http://e360.yale.edu/]


EDG News 

Brisbane: The next Marxan course is being run in June The Intro to Marxan course is being run 24-25 June at UQ. It takes up to 30 participants. A Marxan Train the Trainer course is also being run 23-25 June (takes up to six people) Marxan is the most utilized conservation planning tool worldwide; over 60 countries, 1100 users, and 600 organizations use Marxan to support the design of terrestrial and marine reserves. More info: http://www.uq.edu.au/marxan/intro-register and http://www.uq.edu.au/marxan/ttt-register

Canberra: Chloe Sato on managing ski resorts to improve biodiversity Abstract: Alpine/subalpine environments are diverse systems that support many endemic species. Worldwide, these ecosystems are under threat from ski resort disturbances – even in areas broadly designated for biodiversity conservation. The effects of ski resorts on reptiles are largely unknown, making it difficult to implement effective conservation actions. Many ski resorts do not currently address the needs of reptiles, even those listed as threatened, in their management plans. If reptiles are to continue inhabiting ski resorts in Australia, strategies must be implemented that target their conservation. To begin to address this problem, we summarise current research investigating the effects of ski resorts on reptiles. Based on this information, we recommend strategies that will enhance the conservation of reptiles in areas affected by ski-related disturbances. Suggested strategies include (i) restricting intensive disturbances to already highly modified areas of Australian ski resorts, (ii) avoiding disturbance of remaining native vegetation and structural complexity in ski resorts and (iii) re-establishing structural complexity at highly modified sites through revegetation programmes, or through the cessation of mowing during peak reptile activity periods. While these strategies are designed to facilitate the persistence of reptiles in ski resorts, their long-term success can only be evaluated by monitoring their effectiveness. Reference: Sato, C.F., Schroder, M., Green, K., Michael, D.R., Osborne, W.S., and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2014). Managing ski resorts to improve biodiversity conservation: Australian reptiles as a case study. Ecological Management & Restoration, 15, 147-154.

Perth: Keren Raiter presents enigmatic impacts research to Goldfields Environmental Management Group Workshop in Kalgoorlie. Two hundred and fifty environmental professionals including scientists, consultants, managers, regulators and representatives of NGOs gathered on 21-23rd May in Australia’s largest outback city to share information and experience on environmental management practices, with a focus on the mining industry in the Western Australian Goldfields. Keren presented her PhD research on mitigating enigmatic ecological impacts of mining and exploration in south-western Australia’s Great Western Woodlands, which seeks to improve our understanding of the ecological impacts of development that tend to be overlooked by conventional impact evaluations. Such impacts include cumulative habitat disturbance by numerous exploration tracks, drill pads, and mining projects; the cryptic consequences of track establishment for predator activity across the landscape, and the effects of linear infrastructure corridors on landscape water movement. Keren was interviewed by the Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper and received a lot of interest from mining companies, consultants and NGOs working on intersecting themes. http://www.gemg.org.au/

Melbourne: Chris Ives on values-based approach to urban nature research Chris Ives has written a blog on The Nature of Cities website on the need to take a values-based approach to urban nature research and practice. “I believe that understanding what people value in urban environments, and why, is fundamental to achieving sustainable and biodiverse cities. However, much of the work on urban ecosystem services has failed to explore the breadth and depth of the concept of values. In this post, I outline how taking a ‘values based’ approach to urban ecosystem services studies can complement current research efforts and provide new insights into how to plan and manage urban ecosystems. http://www.thenatureofcities.com/2014/04/30/a-values-based-approach-to-urban-nature-research-and-practice/


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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