Dbytes #277 (22 February 2017)

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

“I am now looking beyond government, to challenge the business, industry and philanthropic sectors to join us in the battle to prevent further extinctions.”
Josh Frydenberg, Minister for the Environment and Energy in the Foreword of the new Threatened Species Prospectus [see item 1].

General News

1. Business set to partner Federal Government in protecting our threatened species
2. Threatened species Macquarie perch has its own crowdfunding campaign
3. Navigating the Space between Research and Implementation in Conservation
4. Brazil’s forgotten state: oil and agribusiness threaten Amapá forests – in pictures
5. 
Audit report: Monitoring Compliance with Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 Conditions of Approval: Follow-on audit

EDG News

UWA Node: Fiona Gibson and colleagues on use of decision support tools in environmental policy
UQ node: Rebecca Runting leads review confirming climate change is threatening many ecosystem services
UMelb Node: Mick McCarthy on ‘when does research help environmental management?’
ANU Node: Mason Crane and colleagues on wildfire impacts on scattered trees
RMIT Node: Luis Mata and colleagues on conserving insects in urban green spaces

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General News

1. Business set to partner Federal Government in protecting our threatened species

“Business and philanthropists are invited to partner with the Federal Government in an innovative approach to saving our threatened species with the launch of a new prospectus. The Prospectus is an invitation to business, industry and the philanthropic sector, both big and small, to join us in protecting species such as the platypus, bilby, cassowary and numbat. The Prospectus includes more than 50 community-based projects that are ready to be put into action. The project proposals are backed by the science and the passionate local communities who are already on the ground across Australia working hard to save our species. The prospectus builds on the Government’s links to Australian businesses through the Threatened Species Strategy.”
Press release: http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/frydenberg/media-releases/mr20170220.html
Prospectus

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2. Threatened species Macquarie perch has its own crowdfunding campaign
In a first for Victoria, a government authority will ask individuals in the community to pay for works to protect the environment.

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GBCMA), is crowdfunding on the website Pozible for funding to help save the threatened fish species, Macquarie perch.

It wants to raise $15,000 for works to increase populations of the Macquarie perch in seven creeks and rivers in Victoria’s north east.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-16/threatened-species-macquarie-perch-pozible-crowdfunding/8275904?WT.mc_id=newsmail&WT.tsrc=Newsmail
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3. Navigating the Space between Research and Implementation in Conservation
[Recommended by Rachel Morgain]

Recent scholarship in conservation biology has pointed to the existence of a “research-implementation” gap and has proposed various solutions for overcoming it. Some of these solutions, such as evidence-based conservation, are based on the assumption that the gap exists primarily because of a communication problem in getting reliable and needed technical information to decision makers. First, we identify conceptual weaknesses with this framing, supporting our arguments with decades of research in other fields of study. We then reconceptualize the gap as a series of crucial, productive spaces in which shared interests, value conflicts, and complex relations between scientists and publics can interact. Whereas synonyms for “gap” include words such as “chasm,” “rift,” or “breach,” the word “space” is connected with words such as “arena,” “capacity,” and “place” and points to who and what already exists in a specific context. Finally, we offer ways forward for applying this new understanding in practice.

Ref: Toomey, A. H., Knight, A. T. and Barlow, J. (2016), Navigating the Space between Research and Implementation in Conservation. CONSERVATION LETTERS. doi:10.1111/conl.12315
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12315/full

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4. Brazil’s forgotten state: oil and agribusiness threaten Amapá forests – in pictures

Pristine Amazon rainforest and conservation areas are being rapidly opened up to dams, gold mining and soya plantations in Brazil’s least developed state
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2017/feb/16/brazils-forgotten-state-oil-agribusiness-threaten-amapa-forests-in-pictures?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Tweet

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5. Audit report: Monitoring Compliance with Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 Conditions of Approval: Follow-on audit

The objective of the audit was to assess the extent to which the Department of the Environment and Energy has implemented the recommendations from ANAO Report No. 43 2013–14 and strengthened its framework for the delivery of its regulatory activities

It concluded that Environment has made progress in addressing the five recommendations made in ANAO Report No. 43 2013–14, Managing Compliance with Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 Conditions of Approval. To date, limited progress has been made in relation to the implementation of broader initiatives to strengthen the department’s regulatory performance.

https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/monitoring-compliance-epbc-act-follow

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EDG News

UWA Node: Fiona Gibson and colleagues on use of decision support tools in environmental policy
Fiona Gibson and Abbie Rogers from UWA’s Centre for Environmental Economics & Policy, along with a team of CEED researchers, investigated the use of decision support tools in developing conservation policies. They used structured interviews to collect information on case studies from Australia and New Zealand to identify the factors that led to the use (or non-use) of decision support tools. Key factors influencing the uptake of a decision support tool in conservation policy included the alignment of the tool with the objectives and context of a policy, and its ability to be useful even in the presence of missing data. Two other factors that had been suggested in past literature were not perceived by interviewees to be as important as the above two: the presence of a champion for the decision support tool within the management agency, and the time required to apply the tool. The interviews also revealed a number of additional factors that influenced use or non-use of decision support tools that were not extracted from existing literature: ambiguity about policy objectives, the autonomy of the agency, and the employee time costs of applying the decision support tool.
Reference: Gibson, FL, Rogers, AA, Smith, ADM, Roberts, A, Possingham, H, McCarthy, M and Pannell, DJ. 2017 Factors influencing the use of decision support tools in the development and design of conservation policy. Environmental Science & Policy, 70: 1-8.


UQ node: Rebecca Runting leads review confirming climate change is threatening many ecosystem services
“Climate change is having mixed — but mostly negative — impacts on ecosystem services, suggest data analysed by a new study. The research, which brings together the findings of over 100 other studies, found that 59% of reported impacts of climate change on ecosystem services are negative, while just 13% are positive. However, the method of research was shown to strongly influence whether impacts are reported as positive or negative, with expert opinion studies far more negative than other types of study.”
Source: Runting, R.K., Bryan, B.A., Dee, L.E., Maseyk, F.J.F., Mandle, L., Hamel, P., Wilson, K.A., Yetka, K., Possingham, H.P. & Rhodes, J.R. (2016). Incorporating climate change into ecosystem service assessments and decisions: a review. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13457.
Runting et al was recently featured by the ‘Science for Environment Policy’ project of the European Commission
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/review_confirms_climate_change_threatening_many_ecosystem_services_482na4_en.pdf

UMelb Node: Mick McCarthy on ‘when does research help environmental management?’
Think of the case where a manager needs to decide which action to take to stop a species declining, or to eradicate a pest, or to increase sustainable harvest levels. It is rare in environmental management to know, with certainty, which action to take. In response to such uncertainty, a scientist might recommend that the manager should trial different management actions, and use the results of that trial to decide on the best course of action. Such trials can certainly improve subsequent management. But research costs money – money that might have been better put toward management. Further, even trialling two options means that, almost inevitably, one of the trialled actions will be inferior to the other. So opportunity costs are likely to exist in almost any trial, even if the research itself were cheap. The trade-off between learning and doing lies at the heart of adaptive management. My recent paper led by Alana Moore addresses this trade-off, using the simplest formulation of the problem that we could muster. In that case we only considered resolving a choice between two management options. Our hope was to gain greater insight into the question of the circumstances in which research assists environmental management.
https://mickresearch.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/when-does-research-help-environmental-management/

ANU Node: Mason Crane and colleagues on wildfire impacts on scattered trees.
Scattered trees are considered ‘keystone structures’ in many agricultural landscapes worldwide because of the disproportionate effect they have on ecosystem function and biodiversity. Populations of these trees are in decline in many regions. Understanding the processes driving these declines is crucial for better management. Here, we examine the impact of wildfire on populations of this keystone resource. We examined 62 observation plots affected by wildfire and matched with 62 control observation plots where fire was absent. Counts of scattered trees were conducted pre-fire in 2005 and repeated post-fire in 2011. Changes in populations were compared between the control and fire-affected observation plots. Our results show wildfire had a significant local impact, with an average decline of 19.9% in scattered tree populations on burned plots. In contrast, scattered trees increased on average by 5.3% in the control observation plots. The impact of wildfire was amplified (as revealed by greater percentage tree losses) by larger wildfires. Wildfire effects on scattered tree populations are of concern, given a background of other (usually) chronic stressors (often associated with agriculture) and that the frequency and intensity of wildfire are predicted to increase in many landscapes
Ref: Crane, M., Lindenmayer, D.B., Cunningham, R.B., and Stein, J.A.R. (2016). The effect of wildfire on scattered trees, ‘keystone structures’, in agricultural landscapes. Austral Ecology, doi:10.1111/aec.12414.


RMIT Node: Luis Mata and colleagues on conserving insects in urban green spaces
Insects are key components of urban ecological networks and are greatly impacted by anthropogenic activities. Yet, few studies have examined how insect functional groups respond to changes to urban vegetation associated with different management actions. We investigated the response of herbivorous and predatory heteropteran bugs to differences in vegetation structure and diversity in golf courses, gardens and parks. We assessed how the species richness of these groups varied amongst green space types, and the effect of vegetation volume and plant diversity on trophic- and species-specific occupancy. We found that golf courses sustain higher species richness of herbivores and predators than

parks and gardens. At the trophic- and species-specific levels, herbivores and predators show strong positive responses to vegetation volume. The effect of plant diversity, however, is distinctly species specific, with species showing both positive and negative responses. Our findings further suggest that high occupancy of bugs is obtained in green spaces with specific combinations of vegetation structure and diversity. The challenge for managers is to boost green space conservation value through actions promoting synergistic combinations of vegetation structure and diversity. Tackling this conservation challenge could provide enormous benefits for other elements of urban ecological networks and people that live in cities.
Ref: Mata L, Threlfall CG, Williams NSG, Hahs AK, Malipatil M, Stork NE, Livesley SJ. (2017) Conserving herbivorous and predatory insects in urban green spaces. Scientific Reports 7: 40970. doi: 10.1038/srep40970

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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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