Dbytes #189 (24 March 2015)

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

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”
Herbert Stein [sometimes knows as Stein’s Law and often rephrased as: “Trends that can’t continue, won’t.”]

General News

1. The Wentworth Group issued ‘Australian Regional Environmental Accounts Trial: Report to NRM Regions Australia’.

2. Land clearing in Queensland triples after policy ping pong

3. NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub – a new collection of marine science images for public use
 
4. NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub – River discharge into the GBR impacts further than previously thought

5. Red List Index can measure conservation organisations’ effectiveness

EDG News

Brisbane: Duan Biggson illegal trade in wildlife
Melbourne:
Emily Nicholson is now at Deakin Uni
Canberra:
Megan Evans et al on carbon farming in agricultural landscapes: assisted natural regeneration
Perth: Woody biomass variation in restored woodland and the implications for carbon farming

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General News

1. The Wentworth Group issued ‘Australian Regional Environmental Accounts Trial: Report to NRM Regions Australia’. This report to NRM Regions Australia describes the application of an environmental asset condition accounting method, called Accounting for Nature, at a regional (sub-national) scale, based on the findings of a three year trial. The purpose of environmental accounting is to compile environmental information for improving decision making relating to policy development, investment, monitoring, review of outcomes and reporting on progress. The purpose of the trial was to evaluate whether the Accounting for Nature model was a practical, feasible, statistically and scientifically robust method to establish regional scale national environmental accounts that measure and track changes in the condition of Australia’s major environmental assets. http://wentworthgroup.org/2015/03/report-to-nrm-regions-australia/2015/

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2. Land clearing in Queensland triples after policy ping pong A Conversation Editorial: Land clearing in Queensland has tripled since 2010 after wind backs to regulations. “In 2013, a group of 26 senior scientists in Queensland (including ourselves) expressed serious concern that proposed changes to vegetation protection laws would mean a return to large-scale land clearing. The loss of these protections followed a Ministerial announcement in early 2012 that investigations into and prosecutions of illegal clearing would be halted.

Our statement of concern pointed out that tens of thousands of hectares of Queensland’s woodland and forests were being lost every year, even before the vegetation protections were wound back. Just two years later, it appears we must now measure the annual losses in hundreds of thousands of hectares…” http://theconversation.com/land-clearing-in-queensland-triples-after-policy-ping-pong-38279 [Editor’s note: several EDG researchers were co-authors on this editorial; they are Martine Maron, lead author, James Watson and Jonathan Rhodes.]

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3. NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub – a new collection of marine science images for public use Sometimes words are not enough to convey understanding or appreciation about what marine scientists do and see. Images, video, maps and animations provide an alternative, and sometimes better, means of communicating the work and interests of marine scientists. To encourage better communication of marine science, hub scientists are progressively collating their interesting imagery to make better use of it in communicating their research and making it available to the public. http://www.nerpmarine.edu.au/hub-imagery/search

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4. NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub – River discharge into the GBR impacts further than previously thought A new report from the Tropical Ecosystems Hub examines the effect of freshwater river discharge on water clarity in the Great Barrier Reef. The final technical report, compiled by researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the University of Queensland, finds that sediment discharge from rivers in the Northern Wet Tropics has a strong effect on water turbidity even at the Outer Reef, meaning previous assumptions that coastal runoff only affects inshore reef areas must be revised. Water clarity can take up to 260 days to fully recover after a large-scale flood discharge event from rivers. The research findings have been used to help formulate Water Quality Improvement Plans (WQIPs) in the Mary-Burnett and Wide Bay regions and will most likely be used for future WQIPs along the Queensland coast. http://www.nerptropical.edu.au/sites/default/files/publications/files/NERP-TE-PROJECT-4.1-FINAL-REPORT-COMPLETE.pdf

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5. Red List Index can measure conservation organisations’ effectiveness

The IUCN’s Red List Index (RLI) of threatened species can be used to measure the effectiveness of conservation organisations. This is according to a new study which used the index to assess an organisation’s conservation impact on 17 species. Eight of these species saw improvements in their threat status, whereas 16 would have seen no improvement at all, or even deterioration, if there was no conservation action. Source: Young, R.P., Hudson, M. A., Terry, A. M.R., et al. (2014) Accounting for conservation: Using the IUCN Red List Index to evaluate the impact of a conservation organization. Biological Conservation 180: 84–96.

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EDG News

Brisbane: Duan Biggson illegal trade in wildlife CEED Researcher Duan Biggs and Jacob Phelps (Center for International Forestry Research CIFOR) discuss on a YouTube video contentious policy responses to the booming illegal trade in wild plants and animals. When are sustainable use and captive breeding viable options, and what are their limitations? http://www.edg.org.au/edg-youtube.html

Melbourne: Emily Nicholson is now at Deakin Uni “I’ve just started a new job – huzzah!

I am now a senior lecturer in quantitative ecology at Deakin University, in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, and part of the Centre for Integrative Ecology. I plan to keep collaborating with my mates at the quantitative and applied ecology group (QAECO) at The University of Melbourne. Along with colleagues at Deakin, we are developing a group website – Deakin Conservation Science – to list our ongoing research and projects: www.conservationscience.org.au My new contact details are: e.nicholson[at]deakin.edu.au, 0404161771

Canberra: Megan Evans et al on carbon farming in agricultural landscapes: assisted natural regeneration From Megan: “In this paper, we compared the economic viability of two carbon farming methods: environmental plantings, and assisted natural regeneration (managed regrowth). We found that assisting vegetation to grow back naturally could be a far more profitable way for farmers to lock in carbon than the more commonly considered method of planting trees and shrubs. If this sounds obvious to you, then you are correct 🙂 However, assisted natural regeneration hasn’t received much attention so far, despite the potential economic and biodiversity benefits. “

Ref: Evans, M.C., Carwardine, J., Fensham, R.J., Butler, D., Wilson, K.A., Possingham, H.P., Martin, T.G., 2015. Carbon farming in agricultural landscapes: assisted natural regeneration as a viable mechanism for restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services. Environmental Science & Policy 50: 114-129.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2015.02.003 Plus see press release at: http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/assisted-regeneration-could-make-farmers-money

Perth: Woody biomass variation in restored woodland and the implications for carbon farming A recent collaborative study among researchers at UWA, Greening Australia, Threshold Environmental, ANU and Carbon Interactions highlights the variation in woody biomass accrual that can occur within restoration plantings. The team estimated above and below ground woody biomass across soil-vegetation associations at Peniup, a Gondwana Link property, five years after the site had been planted and seeded with native woodland species. They found that biomass variation was substantial, and explained by soil-vegetation associations in the first instance, and stem density and species richness in the second instance. These data highlight the potential inadequacy of applying regional scale projections of biomass accrual to finer scales, and also provide evidence that it is possible to achieve high levels of plant diversity while at the same time maximising carbon sequestration in woodland restoration. Ref: Perring, M.P., Jonson, J., Freudenberger, D., Parsons, R., Rooney, M., Hobbs, R.J., Standish, R.J. (2015) Soil-vegetation type, stem density and species richness influence biomass of restored woodland in south-western Australia. Forest Ecology and Management 344:53-62. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.02.012

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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. 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/

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

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