Dbytes #177 (9 December 2014)


 Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decision Group “Olympic gymnasts peak in their teens; poets in their twenties; chess players in the thirties; applied economists in their forties; and the average age of a Fortune 500 CEO is 55.”
Nate Silver

General News

1. Great Western Woodland under threat

2. Top5under40

3. Bringing biodiversity information to life

4. Greenfire Science

5. CAPAD: protected area data:  2014 data now online

EDG News

Melbourne: Bonnie Wintle runs horizon scanning workshop with Parks Australia
Canberra: Melissa Wynn and Robyn Shaw score funds from the Margaret Middleton Fund
Perth: Paper published on “Managing the whole landscape: historical, hybrid, and novel ecosystems”
Brisbane: Rob Salguero-Gomez on the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database


1. Great Western Woodland under threat

“The Shire of Esperance, in conjunction with the Goldfields-Esperance Development Commission have identified around 500,000 hectares of Crown land that they believe should be considered for agricultural development.” ABC News http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-08/fears-over-proposal-to-release-500000-hectares-of-wa-woodland/5950072

“The Great Western Woodland is largest intact area of Mediterranean woodland habitat in the world. Mediterranean habitats have had a long history of human influence and undergone much anthropogenic modification. Over 40% of the area of this biome has been modified, and there is ongoing loss and degradation of habitat through development, population growth, and the conversion of native vegetation for urban and agriculture development. Less than 5% of the remaining habitats are protected. As a consequence, the Mediterranean biome consistently emerges as a global priority for biodiversity conservation.”
From a story by James Watson in Decision Point #20 http://decision-point.com.au/images/DPoint_files/DPoint_20/dp20%20tws%20watson%20p8.pdf

“The Great Western Woodland is at risk of suffering a ‘death by a thousand cuts’. This is largely due to the fact that most of GWW has no conservation status at all – it is classified as merely ‘Unallocated Crown Land’. Governments are slowing coming to recognise the importance of the Woodlands but so far have failed to adequately recognise, protect, and manage this bioregion. – See more at: http://www.wilderness.org.au/campaigns/great-western-woodlands#sthash.ktmPWFQ3.dpuf

[Editor’s note: and here’s one more on the GWW and its carbon potential]

“This report presents a landscape-wide green carbon account of the ‘Great Western Woodlands’ (GWW), sixteen million hectares of mostly contiguous natural woody vegetation to the east of the wheatbelt in south-western Western Australia. For the first time, we provide an overview of the vegetation structure, climate, geology and historical land use of the GWW, and examine how these interact to affect the carbon dynamics of this region’s landscape ecosystems.” http://press.anu.edu.au/titles/green_carbon2_citation/


2. Top5under40

Are you a young scientist with a passion for communicating your research? UNSW and ABC RN want to help you make an impact and turn your vital work into compelling radio programs and online features to reach a wider audience. A fantastic opportunity to get your science in the media and to learn about science communication. The link below explains all the details, but basically it is a completion where five winners – our Top 5 under 40 [years of age] – will undertake a 10-day media program as ‘Scientists in Residence’ at RN’s Sydney studios. http://www.unsw.edu.au/top5under40


3. Bringing biodiversity information to life

The inaugural GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge aims to inspire scientists, informaticians, data modelers, cartographers and other experts to create innovative applications of open-access biodiversity data. For the past 12 years, GBIF has awarded the Ebbe Nielsen Prize to recognize outstanding contributions to biodiversity informatics while honouring the legacy of Ebbe Nielsen, one of the principal founders of GBIF, who tragically died just before it came into being. The Science Committee, working with the Secretariat, has revamped the award for 2015 as the GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge. This open incentive competition seeks to encourage innovative uses of the more than half a billion species occurrence records mobilized through GBIF’s international network. These creative applications of GBIF-mediated data may come in a wide variety of forms and formats—new analytical research, richer policy-relevant visualizations, web and mobile applications, improvements to processes around data digitization, quality and access, or something else entirely. Judges will evaluate submissions on their innovation, functionality and applicability. First prize is €20,000 http://gbif.challengepost.com/


4. Greenfire Science

Green Fire Science is an interdisciplinary conservation research group between the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and The Wildlife Conservation Society. We are motivated to ensure our science makes a substantive difference when it comes to conservation outcomes. Check it out for yourself at http://www.greenfirescience.com/


5. CAPAD: protected area data:  2014 data now online Every two years, the Australian Government collects information on protected areas from state and territory governments and other protected area managers. This information is published in the Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database (CAPAD), which provides a national perspective on the conservation of biodiversity in protected areas. CAPAD is a textual and spatial database with information available for 1997, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. CAPAD14 includes 10,340 terrestrial protected areas covering 137,501,544 ha (17.88 per cent) of the Australian landmass. Marine data and information is also available as a separate dataset.

-~<>~- EDG News

Melbourne: Bonnie Wintle runs horizon scanning workshop with Parks Australia On Tuesday November 25th, NERP ran a very successful horizon scanning workshop with Parks Australia in Canberra. The workshop was the culmination of three months of collating new and emerging issues that participants and their networks believed to be on the horizon for conservation. The purpose was to identify and discuss threats to biodiversity in Parks Australia’s parks before their full impact is realised, and while it is still feasible and politically realistic to do something about it. Participants also identified new opportunities for conservation, for example, new technologies for controlling invasive species, or new approaches to monitoring. The 26 participants included scientists and managers from diverse areas of the agency and Parks Australia’s parks. They were also joined by academics and other external scientists who brought additional expertise in biosecurity, conservation planning and ecology, including expert horizon scanner, Professor Bill Sutherland from Cambridge University, who helped facilitate the engaging discussion. The workshop was organised and co-facilitated by NERP postdoc, Bonnie Wintle, who had recently also contributed to Bill Sutherland’s annual horizon scan for global conservation issues in Cambridge, UK. The top 15 issues identified in that exercise will be published before the year is out, in Trends in Ecology & Evolution. For an overview of horizon scanning and other strategic foresight methods, see the recent NERP review paper by Carly Cook and others: Cook, C. N., S. Inayatullah, M. A. Burgman, W. J. Sutherland, and B. A. Wintle. 2014. Strategic foresight: Planning for the unpredictable in environmental decision-making. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2014.07.005

Canberra: Melissa Wynn and Robyn Shaw score funds from the Margaret Middleton Fund Melissa Wynn and Robyn Shaw (PhD students at ANU working with EDG researchers) win grants from the Margaret Middleton Fund for endangered Australian native vertebrate animals. Robyn Shaw is working on ‘Halting Australia’s mammal declines: a demographic, ecological and genetic approach to fire response in Australian native rodents’. Melissa Wynn is working on ‘Threat mitigation to support reintroduction of critically endangered reptiles on Christmas Island’ http://www.sciencearchive.org.au/awards/awards/conservation.html

Perth: Paper published on “Managing the whole landscape: historical, hybrid, and novel ecosystems” Richard Hobbs, along with Rachel Standish and an array of co-authors have just published a paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment that resulted from a workshop held in Canada in 2011 on the topic of novel ecosystems. They aim to place the discussion of novel ecosystems in a broader landscape perspective. They suggest that landscapes are increasingly composed of ecosystems that are altered to different degrees, and that decisions on when and how to intervene in varying situations need to be made on the basis of the degree of alteration, likelihood of success, and landscape context. Further, intervention in systems that are now radically altered from historical configurations needs to take into account their current values (particularly for ecosystem functions, services, and conservation outcomes) and the full range of options available, rather than being limited to traditional conservation or restoration measures. Reflecting recent debate on the topic, they suggest that, instead of posing a threat to existing practice, expanding the options available provides a more robust and comprehensive toolkit for intervening in rapidly changing landscapes. Reference: Hobbs, R. J., E. Higgs, C. M. Hall, P. Bridgewater, F. S. Chapin, E. C. Ellis, J. J. Ewel, L. M. Hallett, J. Harris, K. B. Hulvey, S. T. Jackson, P. L. Kennedy, C. Kueffer, L. Lach, T. C. Lantz, A. E. Lugo, J. Mascaro, S. D. Murphy, C. R. Nelson, M. P. Perring, D. M. Richardson, T. R. Seastedt, R. J. Standish, B. M. Starzomski, K. N. Suding, P. M. Tognetti, L. Yakob, and L. Yung. 2014. Managing the whole landscape: historical, hybrid, and novel ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12:557-564. http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/130300

Brisbane: Rob Salguero-Gomez on the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database From Rob Salguero-Gomez: “A network of researchers primarily based at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR, Rostock, Germany), led by Dr Rob Salguero-Gomez (DECRA fellow of CEED at the University of Queensland, and fellow of MPIDR), and in collaboration with renowned researchers around the globe (e.g. Vaupel, Silvertown, Franco, Caswell, Buckley, Lebreton, Hodgson, etc), have worked since early 1990s on the development of a database containing demographic information, the so-called COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database Thus far the internal records of COMPADRE contain demographic information for over 1,000 plant species, with demographic records of survival, growth and reproduction standardised into population matrix models for over 40,000 matrices. Coinciding with the early online publication of the manuscript introducing the database, we are making the first open-access online version (COMPADRE 3.0) available at www.compadre-db.org. This unique repository currently contains ca. 600 plant species with over 5,500 matrices. In addition, this data-rich source contains important covariates such as a species-level reconstructed phylogeny, abiotic and biotic covariates, and biogeographic information about the studied sites. More information will be added through frequent updates. The large toolbox of demographic techniques available to ecologists and evolutionary biologists, with a explicit application to population matrix models, coupled with this unprecedented data resource, will allow researchers to address timely questions in the fields of conservation biology, ecology and evolution, which to date have remained unanswered because the necessary data were not available in a single, open-access repository. http://www.compadre-db.org/Compadre/Home


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. To unsubscribe or change your details please visit: http://lists.science.uq.edu.au/mailman/listinfo/dbites

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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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