Dbytes #206 (4 August 2015)

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

“Hard constraints are the midwife to good design.”
Maciej Cegłowski http://idlewords.com/talks/web_design_first_100_years.htm


General News

1. Management Strategy Evaluation for the Great Barrier Reef inshore

2. We can measure research engagement, says ATSE

3. Combining science, art and storytelling

4. Connections key to conservation bang for buck

5. Loving emails show there’s more to trees than ecosystem services

EDG News

Brisbane: Tara Martin and colleagues on buffel grass and climate change
Melbourne:
Qaecologists presenting at the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology
Canberra:
David Lindenmayer and colleagues on tree plantations as novel socio-ecological systems
Perth:
Sorada Tapsuwan and Maksym Polyakov demonstrate how to improve estimation of the value of environmental assets when data availability is limited

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General News

1. Management Strategy Evaluation for the Great Barrier Reef inshore

A NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub report discussing the comparison of two techniques for the management of Great Barrier Reef inshore areas has revealed that external social and political factors play a huge part in determining the effectiveness of consultation techniques. Researchers working under Project 9.2 of the Tropical Ecosystems Hub examined stakeholder and community attitudes in two coastal areas – the Bowen-Burdekin region and the Mackay region. Despite the announcement of plans to expand the Abbot Point coal terminal in the Bowen-Burdekin region, which caused nationwide controversy and disruption to the management evaluation research methodology, the project was able to reach conclusions that will be very useful for Reef managers. Researchers used a one-to-one stakeholder interview process in the Bowen-Burdekin to develop management objectives, and used a workshop-based approach in Mackay. Both techniques gave rise to decision support processes that can be used to inform future policy and management directions. http://www.nerptropical.edu.au/publication/project-92-final-report-design-and-implementation-management-strategy-evaluation-great

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2. We can measure research engagement, says ATSE

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) is spearheading a campaign to change the way Australia values research. There is growing acknowledgement in government and industry that the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) model – currently the only accepted measure of research ‘quality’ – cannot adequately encourage research commercialisation or other translation into community benefit. This is against a background where Australian universities, publicly funded research institutes and industry are far less engaged in research collaboration than their counterparts in other countries, which is concerning, given that such collaborations are the engine room behind the advanced manufacturing industries of the future. To drive policy thinking towards a better-balanced approach, ATSE has produced a major report, Research Engagement for Australia (REA), which proposes to reward research engagement, under the REA banner, alongside research excellence (ERA). The key principle is to use the amount of revenue from industry and other research end-users as a measure of research engagement.

http://www.atse.org.au/content/publications/media-releases/2015/we-can-measure-research-engagement.aspx

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3. Combining science, art and storytelling

Kate Cranney, from the University of Melbourne, has combined science, art and storytelling in her series, ‘Drawn to Science’. Drawn to Science features a profile of a postgraduate scientist, alongside an original artwork of their study subject. To read of bats, birds and tropical trees, pick up a copy of the Farrago magazine or visit www.katecranney.com/drawn-to-science

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4. Connections key to conservation bang for buck By Anna Salleh (ABC Science) “A new tool could help environmental agencies work out the most cost-effective way to protect species. The model optimises the quality and quantity of habitat corridors that connect different sub-populations of a species to maximise resilience in the face of environmental threats, say the researchers. “Economist Professor Quentin Grafton of the Australian National University and ecologist Dr Rich Little of the CSIRO publish their research today in the Royal Society journal Open Science. “The model shows there’s a trade off between the quality and quantity of connections,” says Grafton…” http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2015/07/08/4269151.htm

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5. Loving emails show there’s more to trees than ecosystem services

Conversation editorial by Dave Kendal, Anna Wilson and Lilian Pearce “Around the world, many cities have been undertaking massive urban tree expansion and renewal programs. Million Tree initiatives have begun in many cities including Los Angeles, New York and Shanghai. These aim primarily to plant more trees, but also manage the resilience of the forest by increasing species diversity, and encourage community participation in choosing locations and kinds of tree, and stewardship by adopting and caring for trees. The City of Melbourne’s urban forest program is also using cutting-edge research to increase tree canopy cover, manage diversity in the forest, and reduce heat in summer. Yet it is perhaps through new ways of valuing trees, and through community engagement programs such as emailing a tree, that the City of Melbourne is being most innovative. https://theconversation.com/loving-emails-show-theres-more-to-trees-than-ecosystem-services-37983

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EDG News

Brisbane: Tara Martin and colleagues on buffel grass and climate change “We demonstrate the benefits of Bayesian Networks (BNs) for projecting distributions of invasive species under various climate futures, when empirical data are lacking. Using the introduced pasture species, buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) in Australia as an example, we employ a framework by which expert knowledge and available empirical data are used to build a BN. The framework models the susceptibility and suitability of the Australian continent to buffel grass colonization using three invasion requirements; the introduction of plant propagules to a site, the establishment of new plants at a site, and the persistence of established, reproducing populations. Our results highlight the potential for buffel grass management to become increasingly important in the southern part of the continent, whereas in the north conditions are projected to become less suitable. With respect to biodiversity impacts, our modelling suggests that the risk of buffel grass invasion within Australia’s National Reserve System is likely to increase with climate change as a result of the high number of reserves located in the central and southern portion of the continent. In situations where data are limited, we find BNs to be a flexible and inexpensive tool for incorporating existing process-understanding alongside bioclimatic and edaphic variables for projecting future distributions of species invasions.” Ref: Martin, T.G., Murphy, H., Liedloff, A., Thomas, C., Chades, I., Cook, G., Fensham, R., McIvor, J., van Klinken, R., 2015. Buffel grass and climate change: a framework for projecting invasive species distributions when data are scarce. Biological Invasions doi:10.1007/s10530-015-0945-9.

Melbourne: Qaecologists presenting at the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology “Another winter, another migration of Qaecologists and friends to warmer climates. This year most of us chose Montpellier for their overwintering grounds. From the 2nd – 6th of August, we and about 2000 other attendees will gather for the 27th International Conference for Conservation, which jointly meets with the 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB-ECCB). Here are some details on the talks and posters that QAEco and CEBRA members are presenting:…” http://qaeco.com/2015/07/29/qaecologists-presenting-at-the-27th-international-congress-for-conservation-biology-in-montpellier-france/

Canberra: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on tree plantations as novel socio-ecological systems “Novel ecosystems occur when new combinations of species appear within a particular biome. They typically result from direct human activity, environmental change, or the impacts of introduced species. In this paper we argue that considering commercial tree plantations as novel ecosystems has the potential to help policy makers, resource managers and conservation biologists better deal with the challenges and opportunities associated with managing plantations for multiple purposes at both the stand and landscape scales. We outline five inter-related issues associated with managing tree plantations, which are arguably the largest form of terrestrial novel ecosystem worldwide. This is to ensure these areas contribute significantly to critical ecosystem services, including biodiversity conservation, in addition to their wood production role. We suggest that viewing tree plantations as novel socio-ecological systems may free managers from a narrow stand-based perspective and having to compare with natural forest standards, to help promote the development of management principles that better integrate plantations into the larger landscape so that their benefits are maximized and their potential negative ecological effects are minimized. Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Messier, C., Paquette, A., and Hobbs, R.J. (2015). Managing tree plantations as novel socio-ecological systems: Australian and North American perspectives. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, doi:10.1139/cjfr-2015-0072.

Perth: Sorada Tapsuwan and Maksym Polyakov demonstrate how to improve estimation of the value of environmental assets when data availability is limited Sorada Tapsuwan and Maksym Polyakov analyse the biases associated with conventional techniques to estimating value of environmental assets. Applying traditional metrics and assuming homogeneity of multiple environmental assets often leads to researchers overvaluing some assets and undervaluing others. The authors propose to differentiate the environmental asset by modelling them as individual sites, rather than assuming that all sites of the same asset are homogeneous. A hedonic property price (HPP) model is used as an example of the importance of correctly specifying environmental assets that can result in different policy recommendations. Ref: Tapsuwan, S and M. Polyakov. 2015. Correctly Specifying Environmental Assets in Spatial Hedonic Pricing Models. Society & Natural Resources. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2015.1024808

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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/

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

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

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