Dbytes #201 (23 June 2015)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group “Adaptive management of the environment is based on strong principles. Our legislation, for example, requires that we take a precautionary approach to environmental management. The precautionary principle argues that policymakers should be confident about the future environmental effects of an activity before allowing it, and should not wait for conclusive proof of environmental harm before adopting appropriate remedial measures. Our legislation also requires the Minister for the Environment to consider economic and social factors when making environmental approvals. Science is an important part of making decisions under uncertainty and informs how we sequence and set thresholds for decision steps in completing an action.”
Gordon de Brouwer, Secretary of the Environment Department, on Science in Australia’s environmental policy (see item 5).

General News

1. The latest issue of Communities for Communities is now available

2. Government releases its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia

3. Does conservation make a difference? A counterfactual

4. How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?

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

EDG News

Brisbane: Truly Santika on koala recovery strategies in NSW
Melbourne: Brendan Wintle and Sarah Bekessy on New technology can help restore our ailing democracy
Canberra: Megan Evans joins Conservation Letters as social media editor
Perth:
Maksym Poyakov and colleagues on restoring native vegetation in an agricultural landscape

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General News

1. The latest issue of Communities for Communities is now available Communities for communities is a newsletter which will help keep you informed about threatened ecological communities nominated for listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) and related information available on the department’s web site. The latest issue of Communities for Communities is now available. In Issue 19, you will find updates on the work undertaken by the Ecological Communities Section since the previous issue in May 2014. Issue 19 includes details of the new ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act since the previous issue. These new additions bring the total number of listed Ecological Communities to 72. Other things that you will find in this issue include:

-Ecological Communities section brief update

-New fact sheets

-Technical workshops

-Banksia Dominated Woodlands of the Swan Coastal Plain Bioregion

-Poplar/Bimble Box Grassy Woodland on Alluvial Plains

-What happens to a nomination

-Conferences and events in 2015 http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/communities-newsletter

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2. Government releases its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia

Excerpts from PM’s press release: “With a land mass covering over three million square kilometres, and a population of over one million people, the north has untapped potential. It is home to some of our most treasured icons including the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics of Queensland, Uluru, Kakadu and Cable Beach…” “…We will drive down the costs of operating in the north for business; making it a more attractive place to invest and work. By building a prosperous north, we will build a better future for all Australians.” http://www.pm.gov.au/media/2015-06-18/our-north-our-future-vision-developing-north-australia

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3. Does conservation make a difference? A counterfactual

If all conservation measures had ceased in 1996 the conservation status of the world’s ungulate species would have been nearly eight times worse by 2008 than they were in reality, a new study suggests. The researchers generated a hypothetical scenario without any protection measures to show the substantial impact that conservation has for wildlife. Some previous studies have attempted to estimate the value of conservation by showing that in some cases extinctions have been prevented, or declining populations have recovered. However, it is very difficult to understand the true value of conservation because we do not know what would have happened without it. Ref: Hoffmann, M., Duckworth, J.W., Holmes, K., Mallon, D., Rodrigues, A. S. L. & Stuart, S. N. (2015). The difference conservation makes to extinction risk of the world’s ungulates. Conservation Biology. Early online. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12519. The study is free to view at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12519/abstract

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4. How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?

An International Monetary Fund paper. This paper provides a comprehensive, updated picture of energy subsidies at the global. A key finding of the study was that global post-tax subsidies at $2 trillion were substantially bigger than pre-tax subsidies of $492 billion and mainly reflected under charging for the environmental damage associated with energy consumption regional levels. The paper also estimates the fiscal, environmental, and net welfare gains from eliminating these energy subsidies. Key findings include: -Post-tax energy subsidies are dramatically higher than previously estimated—$4.9 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2013, and projected to reach $5.3 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2015. -Among different energy products, coal accounts for the biggest subsidies, given its high environmental damage and because (unlike for road fuels) no country imposes meaningful excises on its consumption. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.aspx?sk=42940.0

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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/ [Editor’s note: this item is a repeat from last week. This week we include links to a video recording https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa83pw67UFs&list=PLwAZt5HIhuhdyl3K29Mwj71Gq3CpEKnEy&index=1

and a transcript of Gordon de Brouwer’s talk http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/media-releases/c8a13790-7a11-4759-a0c9-a02311ab81dd/files/secretary-aas-speech.pdf

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EDG News

Brisbane: Truly Santika on koala recovery strategies in NSW In this paper we integrate dynamic species occupancy models with optimisation to prioritise conservation actions across broad spatial extents. But, a key result is that we show that using static, rather than dynamic, species’ distribution models can result in highly sub-optimal outcomes. We illustrate this using a case study of koalas in NSW. To maximize the probability of koala occupancy in 50 years’ time, with an annual budget of up to AU$20 million, investment priorities were located in the eastern part of koala’s range, focusing on dog control with some investment in habitat protection and restoration. With higher budgets, investment priorities shifted towards habitat protection and restoration in the western part of the range. However, priorities based on the static distribution model, which had a lower predictive accuracy than the dynamic model, were different. Regardless of budget, priorities derived from the static model were predominantly located in the western part of koala’s range, focusing on highway fencing with some investment in dog control. Reference

Santika, T., McAlpine, C. A., Lunney, D., Wilson, K. A., Rhodes, J. R. (2015), Assessing spatio-temporal priorities for species’ recovery in broad-scale dynamic landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12441 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12441/full

Melbourne: Brendan Wintle and Sarah Bekessy on New technology can help restore our ailing democracy

“Modern technology now makes a ‘direct democracy’; a ‘people’s parliament’, a plausible and practical alternative to the representative party system that consistently fails to adequately represent citizens’ views. The most famous direct democracy existed in Athens in the fifth century BC. Unless you happened to be female, young, a slave or foreigner, citizens had a say in government on an issue-by-issue basis. The thread of democracy persisted through Ancient Greece to the modern day. But in large, dispersed populations there was no practical way to maintain direct democracy as it was originally conceived. So rather than voting on issues, we now vote for parties that represent us on a range of issues. The problem, of course, is that the policy platforms of two or more major parties are unlikely to completely accord with the values held by individual voters. By electing a party you are instantly trading between your values with respect to economic management, social justice, environment, and many other complex issues. Political parties are complicated, cumbersome, corruptible machines; blunt instruments for developing and implementing public policy that represents the views of citizens.” http://icsrg.com/2015/06/19/get-rid-of-politicians-and-restore-democracy/

Canberra: Megan Evans joins Conservation Letters as social media editor Megan Evans has joined the Editorial Board of Conservation Letters as their social media editor. Stay up to date with new articles and journal news by following Conservation Letters on twitter and on Facebook. https://twitter.com/ConLetters/ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Conservation-Letters/141207099235519?fref=ts

Perth: Maksym Poyakov and colleagues on restoring native vegetation in an agricultural landscape NERP ED researcher Maksym Polyakov and his team demonstrate how to develop a spatially explicit bioeconomic model that optimizes ecological restoration of habitat for woodland-dependent birds in Victoria. Spatial optimization identifies strategies that would generate substantially greater environmental benefits than are likely to be achieved in current programs. Greater biodiversity outcomes can be expected where restoration is optimized across multiple species rather than just individual species, and if the program does not require an even distribution of restoration effort among farmers. Ref: Maksym Polyakov, David J. Pannell, Morteza Chalak, Geoff Park, Anna Roberts and Alexei D. Rowles. 2015. Restoring Native Vegetation in an Agricultural Landscape: Spatial Optimization for Woodland Birds. Land Economics. 91(2):252–271. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/land_economics/v091/91.2.polyakov.html

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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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