Dbytes #200 (16 June 2015)

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

“While there is the Reef Plan, there is no cohesive state based reef program to support its achievement.” Queensland Audit Office (see item 1)

General News

1. Qld Audit Office criticizes Qld Govt on managing water quality in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

2. Reflections on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research (NERP Landscapes and Policy Hub)

3. How universities and science-based institutions measure and reward staff for engagement and outreach

4. Evaluating conservation programmes: what are the best methods?

5. The role of science in Australia’s environmental policy

EDG News
Perth:
Workshop on conservation of invertebrates
Brisbane:
UQ’s Roberto Salguero-Gomez held up as a role model in Nature
Melbourne: Ascelin Gordon and colleagues on the perverse risks of offsets – paper promoted across Europe
Canberra:
David Lindenmayer and colleagues on control of Bitou Bush

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General News

1. Qld Audit Office criticizes Qld Govt on managing water quality in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

From conclusions (p2): “While there is the Reef Plan, there is no cohesive state based reef program to support its achievement. The Queensland Government’s response to its Reef Plan commitments has lacked the programmatic rigour needed to address the serious issue of poor quality water entering the reef from catchments. Queensland’s response has lacked urgency and purpose, characterised by disparate projects with no central authority and no clear accountability for their delivery or for achievement. In the more than 12 years since the first Reef Plan, Queensland has yet to develop an overarching program for its contribution to the Reef Plan. Many of the initiatives that departments attribute to achieving the Reef Plan goal existed before the original Reef Plan in 2003. Land management practice programs are not achieving the changes needed to realise the Reef Plan goal within the established timelines and the extent and sustainability of change is not being comprehensively monitored at the farm scale.” Ref: Queensland Audit Office (2015). Managing water quality in Great Barrier Reef catchments. Report 20: 2014–15. https://www.qao.qld.gov.au/report-20:-2014-15

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2. Reflections on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research (NERP Landscapes and Policy Hub)

Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research doesn’t just happen, but it was something the Landscapes and Policy Hub deliberately set out to do. Building on lessons from past experience, the hub implemented a number of strategies to foster interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research. Managing for and eliminating the barriers to collaboration was the focus of the hub’s communication team.

So how did we do? Were we effective? In the final days of the hub an evaluation was undertaken and six recommendations emerged. Skilled knowledge brokering, face-to-face engagement with research users, and flexibility in funding allocation were identified as highly beneficial. But identifying common conceptual frameworks to facilitate interdisciplinary pursuit of shared research questions remained a challenge. More critically, major investments in skill and time are needed at the start to facilitate collaborative formulation of these agendas. The evaluation was led by Prof Sue Moore (Murdoch University) from the hub’s Social and Institutional Futures Team and the report written by Dr Michael Mitchell is available here. http://www.nerplandscapes.edu.au/publication/hub_evaluation_report

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3. How universities and science-based institutions measure and reward staff for engagement and outreach

A message from Gerald Singh (a former CEED Postdoc travelling fellow) “I’d like to recommend that you take a 10-15 minute survey that gets to the heart of what it means to be a scientist/researcher. Whereas research outputs and impacts are receiving a great deal of attention, relatively little attention has been paid to the measurement of excellence in science engagement/outreach (which some argue is key to making science relevant and contribute to ‘a better world’). A working group at the Global Young Academy is a launching a novel effort to understand how engagement is assessed in our jobs and how we perceive it. It also seeks to assess how these perceptions about engagement, measurement, and importance, differ between researchers and their managers/heads of department, etc.” http://chanslab.ires.ubc.ca/research/scientists-and-engagementoutreach/ -~<>~-

4. Evaluating conservation programmes: what are the best methods?

Monitoring and evaluation of conservation projects is vital to ensuring their success. However, there is currently a lack of clarity about the different methods available and the ways in which they can complement each other. For this study the researchers explore the characteristics of five approaches — ambient monitoring, management assessment, performance measurement, impact evaluation, and systematic review — and examine their strengths and weaknesses. The researchers conclude that clearly defining the evaluation question is crucial. Once this is established the appropriate monitoring and evaluation techniques can be identified and any synergies between them can be maximised. Impact evaluations and systematic reviews, which provide a clear, scientific, evidence base, are likely to be particularly useful in answering the crucial questions of: ‘what works, what does not, and why?’.

Ref: Mascia, M.B., Pailler, S., Thieme, M.L., Rowe, A., Bottrill, M. C., Danielsen, F., Geldmann, F., Naidoo, R., Pullin, A.S. & Burgess, N. D. (2014). Commonalities and complementarities among approaches to conservation monitoring and evaluation. Biological Conservation 169: 258–267.

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5. The role of science in Australia’s environmental policy Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Chubb, addressed an environmental policy event at the Shine Dome in Canberra and told the audience: “one of the important things to talk about is how does science interact with, engage with, and indeed influence public policy.” Also presenting was Dr Gordon de Brouwer, Secretary of the Environment Department. Audio of talk available at: http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2015/06/keynote-address-the-role-of-science-in-australias-environmental-policy/

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EDG News

Perth: Workshop on conservation of invertebrates Last week Melinda Moir (UWA), Michaela Plein (UniMelb) and Peter Vesk (UniMelb) hosted a CEED and UWA funded workshop on invertebrate conservation at UWA in Perth. The very productive workshop featured 17 people from diverse organisations and tackled questions on extinction cascades, sampling, listing and managing rare taxa. For more information, watch out for the Decision Point article in forthcoming months, and read Michaela’s blog at https://michaelaplein.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/saving-the-creepy-crawlies-a-workshop-on-invertebrate-conservation/

Brisbane: UQ’s Roberto Salguero-Gomez held up as a role model in Nature “Mobility: A strategic move. Ecologist Roberto Salguero-Gomez has moved countries six times in the past dozen years. Each move represented the next step in his academic career: he stacked up degrees in his native Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States before gaining his first postdoctoral position in Germany and then moving to his current postdoc job at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Along the way, he put in stints as a research assistant in Austria and Spain…” http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/science/articles/10.1038/nj7555-245a?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20150611

Melbourne: Ascelin Gordon and colleagues on the perverse risks of offsets – paper promoted across Europe Ascelin’s JApp Ecol paper on perverse incentives of offsetting has been picked up and promoted by the European Commissions ‘Science for Environment Policy’ alert. The alert goes to over 18,000 policymakers, academics and business people across Europe to assist in the development of effective, evidence-based policies.

“Biodiversity offset policy: dangers that must be avoided
Biodiversity offset policies may inadvertently incentivise behaviours which actually accelerate biodiversity loss, new research has found. The study’s authors identify four ways this can occur and make recommendations for prevention.” Ref: Gordon, A., Bull, J. W., Wilcox, C. & Maron, M. (2015). Perverse incentives risk undermining biodiversity offset policies. Journal of Applied Ecology. 52: 532–537. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12398. You can read the EC summary at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/biodiversity_offset_policy_dangers_that_must_be_avoided_415na1_en.pdf

Canberra: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on control of Bitou Bush “Invasive plant management is often justified in terms of conservation goals, yet progress is rarely assessed against these broader goals, instead focussing on short-term reductions of the invader as a measure of success. Key questions commonly remain unanswered including whether invader removal reverses invader impacts and whether management itself has negative ecosystem impacts. We addressed these knowledge gaps using a seven year experimental investigation of Bitou Bush, Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp. rotundata. Our case study took advantage of the realities of applied management interventions for Bitou Bush to assess whether it is a driver or passenger of environmental change, and quantified conservation benefits relative to management costs of different treatment regimes. Among treatments examined, spraying with herbicide followed by burning and subsequent re-spraying (spray-fire-spray) proved the most effective for reducing the number of individuals and cover of Bitou Bush. Other treatment regimes (e.g. fire followed by spraying, or two fires in succession) were less effective or even exacerbated Bitou Bush invasion. The spray-fire-spray regime did not increase susceptibility of treated areas to re-invasion by Bitou Bush or other exotic species. This regime significantly reduced plant species richness and cover, but these effects were short-lived. The spray-fire-spray regime was the most cost-effective approach to controlling a highly invasive species and facilitating restoration of native plant species richness to levels characteristic of uninvaded sites. We provide a decision tree to guide management, where recommended actions depend on the outcome of post-treatment monitoring and performance against objectives. Critical to success is avoiding partial treatments and treatment sequences that may exacerbate invasive species impacts. We also show the value of taking advantage of unplanned events, such as wildfires, to achieve management objectives at reduced cost.” Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Wood, J., MacGregor, C., Buckley, Y.M., Dexter, N., Fortescue, M., Hobbs, R.J. and Catford, J. (2015). A long-term experimental case study of the ecological effectiveness and cost effectiveness of invasive plant management in achieving conservation goals; Bitou Bush control in Booderee National Park in eastern Australia. PLOS One,10(6), e0128482.

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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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