Dbytes #151 (3 June 2014)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decision Group
“The failure here was not political; rather, it was the lack of sustained and effective public engagement by the medical-science community on the role of folate in the diet. As a result, the intervention did not get the social licence necessary to proceed.”
Peter Gluckman (The art of science advice to government, Nature http://www.nature.com/news/policy-the-art-of-science-advice-to-government-1.14838?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20140313

General News

1. Priorities in the Pilbara

2. The high cost of environmental degradation

3. An experimental review of the IPCC Report

4. The great Tasmanian fox hunt

5. Review of chytrid fungus abatement plan

EDG News

Canberra: Westgate et al find counting species is an inaccurate science

Perth: David Pannell on the Bush Telegraph on Landcare funding

Melbourne: QAECO stage an SDM morning tea

Brisbane: Poaching by numbers

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1. Priorities in the Pilbara
[From Josie Carwardine and colleagues] We are pleased to announce the release of our report on ‘Prioritising threat management for Pilbara species of conservation significance’. This was a very rewarding collaborative project with scientists from CSIRO, QUT, UQ, and WA Dept Parks and Wildlife, with input from 49 experts across land management, policy, industrial, agricultural, indigenous and academic sectors, and was funded by Atlas Iron through the Dept of Environment Pilbara Taskforce. The work comes at an important time in the Pilbara’s history and we hopeful that it will have a positive impact. The report assesses the cost-effectiveness of 17 feasible strategies for managing threats to the 53 most threatened Pilbara species. Key outcomes are that management likely to provide all species with a >50% chance of persistence costs less than $5 million/year. Amongst the most cost-effective strategies are managing introduced species and fire regimes. The report is launched on the CSIRO website: http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Environment/Biodiversity/Pilbara-threat-management-report.aspxAnd an associated article in The Conversation is here: https://theconversation.com/pilbara-shows-how-to-save-the-most-species-per-dollar-26971

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2. The high cost of environmental degradation

The value of the global environment to human well-being, health and livelihoods fell by around US$20 trillion (A$21.5 trillion) a year between 1997 and 2011 due to loss of wetlands, coral reefs and tropical forests, a new study from a team of international researchers has found. The study, published in Global Environmental Change, found the total value of global ecosystem services in 2011 was US$124.8 trillion (A$134 trillion) a year, down from $US145 trillion a year in 1997. That compares to global GDP of just $US75.2 trillion in 2011. Global ecosystem services measure the value of ecological systems to human well-being, on top of the usual economic measures contained in gross domestic product (GDP) figures. “Nature is not just a pretty place. Nature is a large and important part of the real economy which adds to human well-being,” said lead author Professor Robert Costanza, from The Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy. The report is the first time scientists and economists have put a dollar value on the loss of global ecosystem services, highlighting the need for policymakers to take a closer look at issues affecting environmental change. “It allows us to build a more comprehensive and balanced picture of the assets that support human well-being and human’s interdependence with the well-being of all life on the planet,” Professor Costanza said. He said Australia’s ecosystem services were estimated to be worth around US$5 trillion ($5.4 trillion) a year, compared to GDP of around US$1.5 trillion. The drop in the global value was partly due to the loss of tropical forests and wetlands around the world, and loss of coral reefs. The report found the global area of tropical forest had declined by 642 million hectares between 1997 and 2011, while deserts had grown by 234 million hectares. It found coral reefs have gradually been turned into seagrass and algae beds. The area of ocean coral has shrunk by 34 million hectares, while seagrass and algae beds had grown by the same amount between 1997 and 2011. It found the global area of wetlands has shrunk by 14 million hectares. “We are losing wetlands as they are converted into farmlands, urban and other uses” Professor Costanza said. The report was written by scientists and economists from the ANU, Wageningen University in The Netherlands, the University of Denver in the United States, the University of South Australia, the University of Pittsburgh in the United States, and the University of East Anglia in Britain. Reference Robert Costanza, Rudolf de Groot, Paul Sutton, Sander van der Ploeg, Sharolyn J. Anderson, Ida Kubiszewski, Stephen Farber, R. Kerry Turner, Changes in the global value of ecosystem services, Global Environmental Change, Volume 26, May 2014, Pages 152-158, ISSN 0959-3780, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.04.002.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378014000685

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3. An experimental review of the IPCC Report
[From Kim Millers, UMelb, who participated in this experiment]
“This ‘experiment’ used 90 PhD students across the world to review the IPCC Report before it was published/made public, to see if we could critically review the Report and find any errors or phrasing that need clarity. I was one of three Australian PhD students to volunteer among the 90 students. This project was lead by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. It was a great success as it produced 3155 comments of which 1407 comments where incorporated into the government review. From comments received via PBL Netherlands the IPCC was suitably impressed by the student’s comments and as a result our names have been mentioned as expert reviewers in the published report.” Link to paper describing the “experiment”

http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/276/art%253A10.1007%252Fs10584-014-1145-9.pdf?auth66=1401924734_bcd1f00094df2c5103832af9fd962636&ext=.pdf
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4. The great Tasmanian fox hunt

A discredited story about fox cubs being released in Tasmania triggered a decade-long hunt for the predators. It was described as the greatest wildlife extinction threat since the last ice age but despite millions of public funds spent on an eradication program, an independent review says there’s been no evidence of foxes living in Tasmania.” A Background Briefing story on Radio National on foxes in Tassie. It’s a great story of science, politics, risk assessment and myth making. [Editor’s note: this is a must-listen-to documentary for anyone interested in invasive species, eradication, proof of absence and uncertainty – which should be everyone in EDG. The feedback comments at the end are a good read, too.] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/2014-05-04/5418860#transcript

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5. Review of chytrid fungus abatement plan Call for public comment – Review of the threat abatement plan for Infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis The threat abatement plan for Infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis (2006) was reviewed in 2012 by the Minister as required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The actions that have been undertaken to abate the threat of chytrid fungus in amphibians as identified through the actions, goals and objectives of the threat abatement plan were assessed to determine whether the threat abatement plan is still a feasible, effective and an efficient way to abate the threatening process. The Minister considered the findings of the review and recommended that the threat abatement plan be revised and a threat abatement advice be prepared. The 2006 plan will remain current until the revised threat abatement plan is approved by the Minister. The Minister for the Environment has released the draft ‘Threat abatement planfor infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis’ for three-month public consultation which closes on 21 August 2014. http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/infection-amphibians-chytrid-fungus-resulting-chytridiomycosis

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EDG News

Canberra: Westgate et al find counting species is an inaccurate science Knowledge of the number and distribution of species is fundamental to biodiversity conservation efforts, but this information is lacking for the majority of species on earth. Consequently, subsets of taxa are often used as proxies for biodiversity; but this assumes that different taxa display congruent distribution patterns. For example, one method is by counting a well-known group, such as birds, and assuming they represent the diversity of other groups. A group of researchers at ANU, led by Dr Martin Westgate, has compared many of these different estimation methods to test their validity. They whittled down over 8,000 biodiversity papers to 81 papers that could be directly compared. Their comparisons found a serious lack of consistency between the different assessments of biodiversity. In particular, they found that studies at different latitudes or spatial scales rarely find similar results, even when they consider the same groups of plants or animals. These results undermine the assumption that a subset of taxa can be representative of biodiversity. Therefore, researchers whose goal is to prioritize locations or actions for conservation should use data from a range of taxa. Reference: Westgate MJ, PS Barton, PW Lane & DB Lindenmayer (2014). Global meta-analysis reveals low consistency of biodiversity congruence relationships. Nature Communications 5:3899. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4899

Perth: David Pannell on the Bush Telegraph on Landcare funding David Pannell interviewed as part of a Radio National Bush Telegraph show called: ‘The spirit of Landcare is lost’: “In 1989 Prime Minister Bob Hawke stood near the junction of the Murray and Darling rivers at Wentworth in New South Wales and unveiled an ambitious scheme to roll out Landcare programs across the nation. Alongside him stood then shadow minister for Primary Industry Bruce Lloyd, in a gesture of bi-partisanship that spoke to a deepening realisation of the scale of land degradation. Fast forward to 2014 and Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first federal budget has slashed Landcare funding by $483 million. At the same time, $525 million will go to a Green Army – a workforce made up of young people, who’ll be assigned to sustainability projects Australia-wide…”

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bushtelegraph/landcare-funding/5455356

Melbourne: QAECO stage an SDM morning tea

Choose your cake and eat it too: A very QAECO morning teaBy Natasha Cadenhead

“How do academics forage at morning tea? Do sweets go extinct faster than savouries? Which cake should you eat? How much should you eat? How close should you be to the coffee? The exit? Yesterday we hosted a structured decision making themed morning tea for staff and students in the School of Botany at The University of Melbourne. Each month one of the research groups in the school provides tea, coffee and delicious baked goods for everyone else. It’s a great chance to get to know people you pass in the hallways every day and learn about research going on in other groups. http://qaeco.com/2014/05/21/choose-your-cake-and-eat-it-too-a-very-qaeco-morning-tea/

Brisbane: Poaching by numbers

ABC Environment has just done a story on the conservation planning work done by Andrew Plumptre and James Watson: “The Kruger National Park rangers have the responsibility of protecting 90 per cent of all remaining white rhinos in the wild, but they are trying to monitor them over an area the size of Israel. That’s only one ranger for every 50 square kilometres, with no funding available to hire more staff. Thankfully scientists are working on a secret weapon that could help the rangers fight back: data. It’s not the most likely tool in the war on illicit animal trade, but new research suggests that simple mathematical modelling may be the key to finding poachers more effectively in large areas, and stopping them before they kill an animal. Scientists from University of Queensland in Australia, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Imperial College London and the Uganda Wildlife Authority have recently tried the approach in central Africa, an area that’s rife with elephant poaching. http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2014/05/27/4012251.htm

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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. 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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