Dbytes #205 (28 July 2015)

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

“One of the more controversial directions of the feral cat plan is a 2020 target to cull 2 million cats across Australia. Scientists at the summit privately reacted with discomfort. There is no evidence-based rationale for such a target and it may prove to be counter-productive, just in the same way that the blanket 5% burn target for Victoria’s bushland misdirected effort and attention away from risk-reduction where it was most needed.”
Andrew Cox, Invasive Species Council http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5a02d0c5ba045796a288f0506&id=254e8362d8&e=9d60099ef5

General News

1. CEED/NERP researchers in Nature on Offsets

2. Invitation to comment on Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy

3. Feral cat threat abatement plan updated

4. What is the point of saving endangered species.

5. Case study – fishery closures and orange roughy

EDG News
Jodi Price presents at the international veg science symposium
Hugh Possingham is finalist in Eureka Awards
The Voice discusses the partnership between CEED and Melbourne Uni
Canberra: Alessio Mortelliti and colleagues on marsupial response to large scale pine plantation conversion


General News

1. CEED/NERP researchers in Nature on Offsets “We recommend that while it is often appropriate for offsets to create and manage new protected areas, these outcomes should be accounted for separately from progress towards existing commitments such as the Aichi targets, in order to avoid offsets simply replacing government funding for protected areas. We argue that future international agreements should require separate accounting of conservation gains that were possible only because of equivalent losses, and benefits from the new protected areas funded by offsets should always be reported alongside the losses that triggered their protection.”

Ref: Maron, M., Gordon, A., Mackey, B. G., Possingham, H. P. and Watson, J. E. M. 2015. Stop misuse of biodiversity offsets. Nature 523, 401–403; doi:10.1038/523401a http://www.nature.com/news/conservation-stop-misuse-of-biodiversity-offsets-1.18010

And a good commentary on this paper can be found on the ABC Science website” Biodiversity offsets may allow governments to double dip

By Anna Salleh “Conservation conundrum Compensation paid by developers who damage biodiversity may do more harm than good if it is misused by governments, say researchers.

The team, writing in today’s issue of the journal Nature, argue that there is nothing to stop such ‘biodiversity offset’ funding from being used to carry out conservation work governments have already agreed to pay for. They are calling on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to “provide clear rules on the use of offsetting so that existing international agreements on the protection of biodiversity are not compromised.” “Protected areas established through offsets actually need to be flagged and counted separately to other protected areas,” says co-author, Dr Ascelin Gordon, a conservation scientist at RMIT University. “At the moment there is no mechanism to actually keep them separate, so potentially this leaves the situation open to double dipping…”


Editor’s note: The August issue of Decision Point (#91) will carry a range of stories on offsets from Martine, Ascelin, Megan Evans, James Trezise, Georgia Garrard, Sarah Bekessy and Brendan Wintle. Should be out next week.


2. Invitation to comment on Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy

The first five years of Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030 is under review. The review will examine and report on the operation and implementation of the Strategy since its launch in 2010; its alignment with international agreements; and opportunities to improve and streamline the Strategy. Submissions close on Friday 11 September 2015. http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/conservation/strategy


3. Feral cat threat abatement plan updated

The Environmental Biosecurity Section in the Department of the Environment’s Biodiversity Conservation Division recently supported the Minister’s review of the 2008 threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats, as required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Threat abatement plan provisions under the Act are summarised here. The Minister for the Environment released the Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats (2015) at the Threatened Species Summit. This is a critical policy document that identifies management and other actions required to ensure the long-term survival of native species by reducing the impact of feral cats. It also provides a national framework for prioritising investment and effort by jurisdictions, researchers, land managers and other stakeholders. There was also early progress on one of the Plan’s actions at the Meeting of Environment Ministers which preceded the Summit. All states and territories have agreed to review their arrangements for feral cat control and, where necessary, to remove unnecessary barriers to effective and humane control of feral cats. http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/threat-abatement-plan-feral-cats


4. What is the point of saving endangered species. BBC web story [recommended by Salit Kark] “Whether it’s tigers, pandas, California condors or coral reefs, much of the world’s wildlife is under threat. It’s initially upsetting, and eventually just numbing.

Is it worth worrying about it all? Sure, it will be sad if there aren’t any more cute pandas on the planet, but it’s not like we depend on them. Besides, surely it’s more important to take care of humans – who, let’s face it, have their own problems to worry about – than to spend millions of dollars preserving animals. What, in short, is the point of conservation?” http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150715-why-save-an-endangered-species


5. Case study – fishery closures and orange roughy

“Fishery closures can help protect species from becoming overfished as well as enabling species to recover from overfishing. A good example of how fishery closures have helped rebuild some stocks of orange roughy to a point where they once again can be sustainably commercially fished. Orange roughy became popular when stocks were first found by trawlers in overseas fisheries during the late 1970s and the fish’s popularity exploded. Fishing for orange roughy in Australia began in the mid 1980s.

http://www.afma.gov.au/case-study-fishery-closures-orange-roughy/ -~<>~-


EDG News

Perth: Jodi Price presents at the international veg science symposium Jodi Price presented a paper at the 58th International symposium of the International Association of Vegetation Science, held in Brno, Czech Republic. Jodi’s talk titled ‘Functional trait responses to small-scale environmental variability in temperate grasslands on five continents’ was presented in a session on plant traits. Jodi and colleagues found that co-occurring species were more similar in functional traits than expected, which contrasts with the model expected if plant competition is more intense among functionally similar species. However, there were few general patterns among the study regions, suggesting that functional assembly of temperate grasslands may be driven by regional and site factors.

Brisbane: Hugh Possingham is finalist in Eureka Awards Hugh Possingham is a finalist (one of three) for Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers. https://www.facebook.com/arcceed?ref=hl

Melbourne: The Voice discusses the partnership between CEED and Melbourne Uni The Voice is the University of Melbournes monthly newspaper “BioScience students from the University of Melbourne are learning from internationally renowned conservation researchers as they work alongside them, as part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). CEED is the world’s leading research centre for solving environmental management problems. It’s a partnership between Australian and international universities and other research institutes – including the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia. Associate Professor Brendan Wintle plays a key role in the Centre through his conservation ecology research, his work teaching undergraduate Applied Ecology at the University of Melbourne and his role as a research theme leader with CEED. “As well as delivering research and funding benefits for the University, CEED is helping us create the next generation of professionals who will be making difficult environmental policy decisions,” says Dr Wintle…” http://voice.unimelb.edu.au/volume-11/number-7/partnership-reaps-reward

Canberra: Alessio Mortelliti and colleagues on marsupial response to large scale pine plantation conversion “We quantified changes in forest-dependent mammal populations when the habitat in which they live remains intact but the surrounding matrix is converted from open grazed land to closed pine plantation forest. This situation is increasingly common as plantations are often established on formerly cultivated or grazed land.We found that none of the five target species in our study (two macropods, two possums and a glider) responded negatively to pine plantation establishment. For three species (the sugar glider Petaurus breviceps, the red necked wallaby Macropus rufogriseus and the swamp wallaby Wallabia bicolor) the response to plantation establishment was positive (i.e., increase in colonisation/patch use in sites surrounded by pine plantations) whereas the two possums (the common ringtail possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus and the common brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula) were positively affected by the amount of native tree cover surrounding sites, rather than pine plantation establishment. We foresee two strong implications of our work for the conservation of mammal species in agricultural areas subject to multiple land-use changes: 1) Our results suggest that converting agricultural land to pine plantations will not affect our target mammalian species negatively; rather, it may facilitate colonisation of remnant patches of native vegetation by some species. 2) Our findings underscore the critical importance of preserving remnant native vegetation within plantations, as it may decrease the risk of local extinction for some species or facilitate the colonisation of new sites for others. Thus, retention of patches of remnant native vegetation should be part of the design of future plantations. Ref: Mortelliti, A., Crane, M, Okada, S., and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2015). Marsupial response to matrix conversion: Results of a large–scale long–term ‘natural experiment’ in Australia. Biological Conservation, 191, 60–66.



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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