Dbytes #203 (7 July 2015)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group Two views on the responsibility of government: “While farmers are modernising, one of the larger roadblocks to serious advancement has been policy settings such as excessive environmental regulation and unco-ordinated state, territory and Commonwealth regulations holding the farm back.” Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture (see item 1) “What could not be envisaged or contemplated by the colonies more than 100 years ago must be accepted now – that nature is our shared heritage and that the Australian government is responsible and should be held accountable for its fate.” John Woinarski and Margaret Blakers (see item 2)

General News

1. The Government issued the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

2. Australian Life, as essay by John Woinarski and Margaret Blakers

3. TEEB for Agriculture & Food’ (TEEBAgFood) study

4. Native grasses make new products – RIRDC report

5. Common European birds have declined more rapidly than rarer species

EDG News

Canberra: Philip Barton and colleagues on using movement science in policy
Mike Craig collects data on Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo nesting sites
Liz Law and colleagues on measurement and management of landscape carbon
Geoff Heard on growling grass frogs, disease, refugia and connectivity


General News

1. The Government issued the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. http://agwhitepaper.agriculture.gov.au/ and see http://www.agricultureminister.gov.au/Pages/Transcripts/agwp-address-to-npc.aspx for the Minister’s speech delivering the paper.


2. Australian Life, as essay by John Woinarski and Margaret Blakers A new essay on the Green Agenda blog site on threatened species, conservation and extinction in Australia. Also covers the topics of conservation triage, the national reserve system and government responsibility. http://greenagenda.org.au/2015/07/australian-life/#more-757


3. TEEB for Agriculture & Food’ (TEEBAgFood) study

[Recommended by Dean Ansell]

Ecosystems and agricultural & food systems are typically evaluated in isolation from one another, despite their many and significant links. The economic invisibility of many of these links is a major reason for this ‘silo’ thinking. However, ecosystems are the ecological home in which crop and livestock systems thrive and produce food for humans, and in turn agricultural practices, food production, distribution and consumption impose several unquantified externalities on ecosystems and human health and well-being. A ‘TEEB for Agriculture & Food’ (TEEBAgFood) study, led by the UNEP TEEB Office (TEEB=The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity), will seek to bring together economists, business leaders, agriculturalists and experts in biodiversity and ecosystems to provide a comprehensive economic evaluation of the ‘eco-agri-food systems’ complex, and demonstrate that the economic environment in which farmers operate is distorted by significant externalities, both negative and positive, and a lack of awareness of dependency on natural capital. A “double-whammy” of economic invisibility of impacts from both ecosystems and agricultural/food systems is a root cause of increased fragility and lower resilience to shocks in both ecological and human systems http://www.teebweb.org/agriculture-and-food/


4. Native grasses make new products – RIRDC report

This project assessed the feasibility of commercially exploiting new products derived from Australian perennial grasses. Although used selectively for targeted purposes such as land restoration, landscaping and lawns, today these grass seeds remain unexploited as commercially cultivated crops for food grains, animal fodder, fish food, nutritional additives, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.



5. Common European birds have declined more rapidly than rarer species The number of birds in Europe has fallen by more than 420 million between 1980 and 2009, new research has found. The study, which examined 144 bird species across 25 countries, found that 90% of the lost numbers were accounted for by common species, such as house sparrows (Passer domesticus). The decline was steepest in the first half of the study (1980–1994), followed by a period of greater stability in the second (1995-2009). More needs to be done to conserve common, as well as rare species, the researchers say. Biodiversity is declining across the globe. Conservation efforts have mainly focused on the rarest species, which face the greatest threat of extinction. Far less attention has been given to declines in more common species. However, given the high number of individuals, common species can have a large effect on the structure and characteristics of ecosystems. Source: Inger, R., Gregory, R., Duffy, J. P., et al. (2014). Common European birds are declining rapidly while less abundant species’ numbers are rising. Ecology Letters, DOI:10.1111/ele.12387


EDG News

Canberra: Philip Barton and colleagues on using movement science in policy Abstract: Substantial advances have been made in our understanding of the movement of species, including processes such as dispersal and migration. This knowledge has the potential to improve decisions about biodiversity policy and management, but it can be difficult for decision makers to readily access and integrate the growing body of movement science. This is, in part, due to a lack of synthesis of information that is sufficiently contextualized for a policy audience. Here, we identify key species movement concepts, including mechanisms, types, and moderators of movement, and review their relevance to (1) national biodiversity policies and strategies, (2) reserve planning and management, (3) threatened species protection and recovery, (4) impact and risk assessments, and (5) the prioritization of restoration actions. Based on the review, and considering recent developments in movement ecology, we provide a new framework that draws links between aspects of movement knowledge that are likely the most relevant to each biodiversity policy category. Our framework also shows that there is substantial opportunity for collaboration between researchers and government decision makers in the use of movement science to promote positive biodiversity outcomes.

Ref: Barton PS, Lentini P, Alacs E, Bau S, Buckley Y, Burns E, Driscoll D, Guja L, Kujala H, Lahoz, Montfort J, Mortelliti A, Nathan R, Rowe R, Smith A (2015). A guide for using movement science to inform biodiversity policy. Environmental Management. DOI 10.1007/s00267-015-0570-5.

Perth: Mike Craig collects data on Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo nesting sites Mike Craig has been busy collecting data in the Wungong catchment in the northern jarrah forest, assessing trees used by Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos for nesting, and their immediate surrounds, and then same-sized group of hollow-bearing trees that show no signs of use by Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos. Preliminary analyses show few tree and site differences between used and unused trees and those that were identified were different to those identified in the Myara area further south suggesting little consistent selection of nest trees based on tree or site characteristics. This suggests landscape position may be important and these analyses will be conducted shortly to help identify methods by which mining and logging activities can minimise their impact on Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo populations.

Brisbane: Liz Law and colleagues on measurement and management of landscape carbon Abstract: Carbon stocks and emissions are quantified using many different measures and metrics, and these differ in their surrogacy, measurement, and incentive value. To evaluate potential policy impacts of using different carbon measures, we modeled and mapped carbon in above-ground and below-ground stocks, as well as fluxes related to sequestration, oxidation and combustion in the Ex Mega Rice Project Area in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. We identify significant financial and carbon emission mitigation consequences of proxy choice in relation to the achievement of national emissions reduction targets. We find that measures of above-ground biomass carbon stock have both high measurement and incentive value, but low surrogacy for potential emissions or the potential for emissions reductions. The inclusion of below-ground carbon increased stocks and flows by an order of magnitude, highlighting the importance of protecting and managing soil carbon and peat. Carbon loss and potential emissions reduction is highest in the areas of deep peat, which supports the use of deep peat as a legislative metric. Divergence in patterns across sub-regions and through time further emphasizes the importance of proxy choice and highlights the need to carefully consider the objectives of the application to which the measure of carbon will be applied. Ref: Elizabeth A. Law, Brett A. Bryan, Nooshin Torabi, Sarah A. Bekessy, Clive A. McAlpine, Kerrie A. Wilson, Measurement matters in managing landscape carbon, Ecosystem Services, Volume 13, June 2015, Pages 6-15, ISSN 2212-0416, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.07.007.

Melbourne: Geoff Heard on growling grass frogs, disease, refugia and connectivity

“Today, Ecology Letters published our latest paper on the spatial epidemiology of chytridiomycosis in remnant Growler populations. The paper – a culmination of 14 years of work – shows that the impact of chytridiomycosis on Growler populations is mediated by wetland microclimate and water chemistry, being considerably lower in warm and saline wetlands. We knew from previous work (on this system and others) that the prevalence and intensity of chytrid infections declines with increasing temperature and salinity (because chytrid is sensitive to both), but our new study is the first to demonstrate that these relationships have important implications for the persistence of frogs threatened by chytrid. Using 11 years of monitoring data, we’ve shown that populations of Growlers in warmer, saltier wetlands have a higher chance of persistence through time because the prevalence of infections is low. Moreover, we’ve shown that some metapopulations of Growlers are unlikely to survive without these warmer, saltier wetlands; that is, without their refuges from disease.” https://gwheardresearch.wordpress.com/


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/ EDG: http://www.edg.org.au/

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



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