Dbytes #274 (2 February 2017)

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

“It is important that as a society we view risk and uncertainty as neutral: neither good nor bad. Risk is as much about opportunity as it is about avoiding bad things; uncertainty is as much a signpost towards new discovery and understanding as it is about simply not knowing.”
Andrew Holmes, President, Australian Academy of Science [see item 1]

General News

1. Living in a risky world: the 2016 Theo Murphy Think Tank

2. Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus

3. NSW planning framework for Travelling Stock Reserves

4. QUICKScan: a quick, participatory method for exploring environmental policy problems

5. Some tips to improve your scientific writing skills

EDG News

UMelb Node: Gerry Ryan and colleagues on tourism impacts on dolphins in Asia
ANU Node: Ben Scheele and colleagues on after the epidemic: amphibians afflicted by chytridiomycosis
RMIT Node: Alex Kusmanoff and colleagues on getting smarter about city lights is good for us and nature too
UWA Node: The Leeuwin Group calls all parties to support an Environment Court in Western Australia
UQ node:
Salit Kark co-author on study on the global distribution and drivers of alien bird species richness

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General News

1. Living in a risky world: the 2016 Theo Murphy Think Tank Risk and uncertainty pervade every aspect of our lives. The desire to avoid risk and reduce uncertainty is found in all human societies, but it seems that people aren’t great at estimating and responding to risk and uncertainty. So how can we assess, understand and address risk when it applies to us as an individual, a whole ecosystem, the population of a country or indeed the whole world? How do we grapple with complex interactions that affect risk but about which we are very uncertain? In July 2016 around 60 early- and mid-career researchers came together at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra to explore the issues of risk and uncertainty in the context of themes: -International security -Risk and resource allocation for the environment -Antimicrobial resistance in a connected world -Uncertainty, ignorance and partial knowledge Now the recommendations of that think tank are available https://www.science.org.au/files/userfiles/events/documents/think-tank-risk-recommendations.pdf or read The Conversation editorial on what was found at https://theconversation.com/listen-up-a-plan-to-help-scientists-get-their-research-heard-by-decision-makers-71627 [Note: several CEED researchers took part and Hugh Possingham, CEED’s Director at the time of the workshop, facilitated proceedings.]

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2. Draft Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus You are invited to comment on this draft recovery plan in accordance with the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The public comment period closes 24 April 2017. http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery-plans/comment/draft-recovery-plan-grey-headed-flying-fox

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3. NSW planning framework for Travelling Stock Reserves The final NSW Travelling Stock Reserves State Planning Framework 2016-21 document has now been approved by the Local Land Services Board of Chairs for public release and is available on the Local Land Services website.

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4. QUICKScan: a quick, participatory method for exploring environmental policy problems Policymakers often have to make decisions under great complexity, uncertainty and time pressure. A new study presents a support tool for the first stage of policymaking: identifying and exploring alternatives to solve problems. The software tool, called QUICKScan, increases the speed of this process and combines the input of many stakeholders in participatory workshops. It has been applied 70 times in 20 different countries, for a wide range of environmental policy issues. Source: Verweij, P., Janssen, S., Braat, L., van Eupen, M., Pérez Soba, M., Winograd, M., de Winter, W. & Cormont, A. (2016). QUICKScan as a quick and participatory methodology for problem identification and scoping in policy processes. Environmental Science & Policy, 66: 47-61. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2016.07.010.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1462901116304385

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5. Some tips to improve your scientific writing skills Ten simple rules for structuring papers. Good scientific writing is essential to career development and to the progress of science. A well-structured manuscript allows readers and reviewers to get excited about the subject matter, to understand and verify the paper’s contributions, and to integrate them into a broader context. However, many scientists struggle with producing high-quality manuscripts and are typically given little training in paper writing. Focusing on how readers consume information, we present a set of 10 simple rules to help you get across the main idea of your paper. These rules are designed to make your paper more influential and the process of writing more efficient and pleasurable. http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/11/28/088278

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EDG News

UMelb Node: Gerry Ryan and colleagues on tourism impacts on dolphins in Asia Dolphin- and whale-watching tourism is a booming industry worldwide, and it’s growing apace in developing parts of Asia. Many tourists flock to see spinner dolphins in Bali or Bohol; blue whales off Sri Lanka; Chinese white dolphins in Hong Kong; or Irrawaddy dolphins in great rivers like the Mekong and Ayeyarwaddy (as the Irrawaddy is now known). This interest in seeing wildlife is a boon: it provides jobs for local people driving boats, selling souvenirs, or staffing restaurants and hotels. It also gives a growing Asian middle class the chance to get close to wildlife that many people are increasingly separated from in day-to-day life. By providing jobs and building compassion for the species it targets, dolphin-watching tourism can thus provide an incentive to protect threatened species such as critically endangered river dolphins. But it has a cost. Boat traffic can stress dolphins. What can seem like insignificant short-term stresses are known to have long-term costs on whole populations if they are repeated over a long time. https://theconversation.com/tourism-puts-dolphins-at-risk-in-southeast-asia-heres-what-to-look-for-on-your-next-holiday-70646

ANU Node: Ben Scheele and colleagues on after the epidemic: amphibians afflicted by chytridiomycosis The impacts of pathogen emergence in naïve hosts can be catastrophic, and pathogen spread now ranks as a major threat to biodiversity. However, pathogen impacts can persist for decades after epidemics and produce variable host outcomes. Chytridiomycosis in amphibians (caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Bd) is an exemplar, with impacts ranging from rapid population crashes and extinctions, to population declines and subsequent recoveries. Here, we investigate long-term impacts associated with chytridiomycosis in Australia. We conducted a continent-wide assessment of the disease, reviewing data collected since the arrival of Bd in about 1978, to assess and characterize mechanisms driving past, present and future impacts. We found chytridiomycosis to be implicated in the extinction or decline of 43 of Australia’s 238 amphibian species. Population trajectories of declined species are highly variable; six species are experiencing ongoing declines, eight species are apparently stable and 11 species are recovering. Our results highlight that while some species are expanding, Bd continues to threaten species long after its emergence. Australian case-studies and synthesis of the global chytridiomycosis literature suggests that amphibian reservoir hosts are associated with continued declines in endemically infected populations, while population stability is promoted by environmental conditions that restrict Bd impact, and maintenance of high recruitment capacity that can offset mortality. Host genetic adaptation or decreased pathogen virulence may facilitate species recovery, but neither has been empirically demonstrated. Understanding processes that influence Bd-host dynamics and population persistence is crucial for assessing species extinction risk and identifying strategies to conserve disease-threatened species. Ref: Ben C. Scheele, Lee F. Skerratt, Laura F. Grogan, David A. Hunter, Nick Clemann, Michael McFadden, David Newell, Conrad J. Hoskin, Graeme R. Gillespie, Geoffrey W. Heard, Laura Brannelly, Alexandra A. Roberts, Lee Berger, After the epidemic: Ongoing declines, stabilizations and recoveries in amphibians afflicted by chytridiomycosis, Biological Conservation, Volume 206, February 2017, Pages 37-46, ISSN 0006-3207, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.010

RMIT Node: Alex Kusmanoff and colleagues on getting smarter about city lights is good for us and nature too “Ideas to enhance the liveability and sustainability of our cities have attracted a lot of interest recently. Examples include establishing or enhancing “urban forests”, or “bringing back nature” into cities to support animals and ecosystems displaced by human activity. While these projects focus on creating space for nature and enhancing biodiversity within cities, they rarely consider the impact on nature of the artificial lighting used across the urban landscape. Public lighting is often thought to be essential for improving safety and preventing crime. Most commercial and public structures are lit up at night, although often for purely aesthetic reasons. A network of street lighting links these “islands of illumination”. The effects of this can, in some large cities, result in “sky glow” that interferes with star visibility at distances of more than 300 kilometres…” https://theconversation.com/getting-smarter-about-city-lights-is-good-for-us-and-nature-too-69556

UWA Node: The Leeuwin Group calls all parties to support an Environment Court in Western Australia The Leeuwin Group of Concerned Scientists, including CEED researcher Richard Hobbs, has released a statement expressing concern regarding the consequences of recent government and legal decisions regarding development activities. Emeritus Professor John Bailey, the convenor of the group, said, “Recent Court findings and Government decisions have demonstrated that WA needs to join the rest of the country and establish an Environment Court urgently”. The Supreme Court and the Federal Court have both made decisions concerning the Roe 8 road extension, that have demonstrated that there is no opportunity to hold Western Australian Governments to account for their environmental actions. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Authority is not required to follow its own guidelines and policies. Professor Bailey said, “These guidelines and policies affect a wide range of critical environmental issues from flora and fauna, to water and air quality, and human health. We have also seen the Federal Court raise questions concerning the standards that can be required of Government in meeting offset conditions.” This could make the whole concept of an environmental offset meaningless. It was previously thought that binding environmental conditions were exactly that – legally binding, but that is now clearly no longer the case. The approval of the Yeelirrie uranium mine against the advice of the Environmental Protection Authority is the most recent example of scientific advice being ignored. http://theleeuwingroup.org.au/_data/papers/The%20Leeuwin%20Group%20Media%20Statement%20Env%20Court%2019%20January%202017.pdf

UQ node: Salit Kark co-author on study on the global distribution and drivers of alien bird species richness The spread of introduced bird species around the world has mirrored the rise of global power and wealth, according to a new study that has mapped the movement of alien bird species. The international collaborative study found that Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the USA, the Caribbean the UK, and Persian Gulf States were notable global hotspots for alien bird species. UQ School of Biological Sciences researcher, and ARC Future Fellow Associate Professor Salit Kark said the collaborative international study, published in PLOS Biology, suggested more alien birds had historically been introduced to areas where incomes were higher. “Owning a bird was a symbol of status and cultural connection during colonial times, and often introduced caged birds have escaped or been released into the wild,” she said. “The rate of alien bird species introductions increased sharply in the mid-19th century as Europeans exported birds to new territories and regions, including Australia and New Zealand. More than half of all known alien bird introductions occurred after 1950 and were most likely driven by the popularity of owning birds such as parrots, finches and others. These historical factors are the main reason why the global map shows most alien bird species today are found in the mid-latitudes, where former British and other colonies and countries with high gross domestic product (GDP) are located.” Ref: The Global Distribution and Drivers of Alien Bird Species Richness

Dyer EE, Cassey P, Redding DW, Collen B, Franks V, et al. (2017) The Global Distribution and Drivers of Alien Bird Species Richness. PLOS Biology 15(1): e2000942. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2000942 http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2000942

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

 

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