Dbytes #279 (9 March 2017)

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

“In the past 5 years (2011–16), environmental policies and management practices in Australia have achieved improvements in the state and trends of parts of the Australian environment. Australia’s built environment, natural and cultural heritage, and marine and Antarctic environments are generally in good condition.”
First para of exec summary of State of the Environment 2016
https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/overview

“The federal government needs to increase funding for conservation and environmental protection by at least 400 per cent if it is to reverse the dramatic decline of Australia’s wildlife, reefs and forests documented in the new national State of the Environment report.”
First para of ACF’s statement on SoE 2016
https://www.acf.org.au/state_of_environment_statement

[See item 1]

General News

1. State of the Environment 2016 released
2. New web-based tool to predict the impact of extreme heat on flying-fox camps.

3. Market-Based Incentives and Private Ownership of Wildlife to Remedy Shortfalls in Government Funding for Conservation
4. The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes
5. the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment 

EDG News

UMelb Node: Cindy Hauser on ‘Sally, Connor & volunteer teams are a triple threat for hawkweeds’
ANU Node: Martin Westgate and David Lindenmayer on the difficulties of systematic reviews
RMIT Node: Alex Kusmanoff has submitted his PhD
UWA Node:
Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems – a new database
UQ node: Nicki Shumway and colleagues say Australia needs a wake-up call over the GBR (in letter to Science)

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General News

1. State of the Environment 2016 released
Thanks to Megan Evans for providing the following links:

Website: https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/overview

WWF release: http://www.wwf.org.au/news/news/2017/state-of-the-environment-report-reveals-australias-53-million-hectare-gap-in-ecosystem-protection
Article in The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/five-yearly-environmental-stocktake-highlights-the-conflict-between-economy-and-nature-73964

Megan points out that there’s a lot of work by CEED and NESP researchers that has been cited in the Land and Biodiversity chapters (Martine Maron and Ayesha Tulloch to name just two).
Megan’s deforestation work is drawn on in the Land chapter (https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/land/topics), and the summarised data from her 2016 paper is available to download from here:
http://data.gov.au/dataset/2016-soe-land-amount-of-deforestation-by-type-and-decade-1972-2014-excludes-act
http://data.gov.au/dataset/2016-soe-land-pct-total-deforestation-decade-by-land-use-2005-06-land-tenure-as-of-1993
And Ayesha contributed information to several themes (Vegetation and Pressures) from a recent paper on the change in patch sizes of ecosystems across Australia. https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/biodiversity/topic/2016/terrestrial-ecosystems-and-communities

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2. New web-based tool to predict the impact of extreme heat on flying-fox camps. Recent heatwaves caused thousands of flying-fox deaths across southern and eastern Australia. With research showing that temperatures higher than 42°C can kill flying-foxes, researchers from Western Sydney University, the University of Melbourne, and the Bureau of Meteorology teamed up to develop the Flying-Fox Heat Stress Forecaster. The new tool forecasts heat stress risks up to 72 hours in advance. It highlights priority “hot sites” where flying-fox camps are at risk and provides hourly temperature profiles for affected camps. The tool is aimed at supporting wildlife carers, land managers and other stakeholders to cope with extreme heat events.

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3. Market-Based Incentives and Private Ownership of Wildlife to Remedy Shortfalls in Government Funding for Conservation
In some parts of the world, proprietorship, price incentives, and devolved responsibility for management, accompanied by effective regulation, have increased wildlife and protected habitats, particularly for iconic and valuable species. Elsewhere, market incentives are constrained by policies and laws, and in some places virtually prohibited. In Australia and New Zealand, micro economic reform has enhanced innovation and improved outcomes in many areas of the economy, but economic liberalism and competition are rarely applied to the management of wildlife. This policy perspective examines if commercial value and markets could attract private sector investment to compensate for Government underspend on biodiversity conservation. It proposes trials in which landholders, community groups, and investors would have a form of wildlife ownership by leasing animals on land outside protected areas. They would be able to acquire threatened species from locally overabundant populations, breed them, innovate, and assist further colonization/range expansion while making a profit from the increase. The role of government would be to regulate, as is appropriate in a mixed economy, rather than be the (sole) owner and manager of wildlife. Wide application of the trials would not answer all biodiversity-loss problems, but it could assist in the restoration of degraded habitat and connectivity

Ref: Wilson GR, Hayward MW and Wilson C (2016). Market-Based Incentives and Private Ownership of Wildlife to Remedy Shortfalls in Government Funding for Conservation. Conservation Letters. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12313/abstract

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4. The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes

Known as the ‘Oscars of Australian science,’ the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes celebrate research, science communication and journalism, leadership, and students. The Emerging Leader in Science award is specifically for an ECR within in 5 years of receiving their PhD, and you may also be eligible for one of the other discipline-specific awards. Nominations close Friday 5 May 2017. Finalists will be announced online on July 28, and winners at a gala dinner on August 30.
https://www.australianmuseum.net.au/eurekaprizes

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5. the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment

The ESA is delighted to partner with the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment in 2017. The Holsworth Endowment invites applications for post-graduate student research support in ecology, wildlife management and natural history studies. The first round of applications opens on 1 March.

Professor Don Driscoll, President of the Ecological Society of Australia, says the fund supports around 200 post-graduate students each year to conduct research in ecology, wildlife management, and natural history studies. ‘Individual grants of up to $22,500 for 3 years are available,’ says Professor Driscoll. ‘Applications are especially invited for postgraduate students doing field work on Australian native plants and animals, studies relating to the management of protected areas and rare or threatened species in Australia, and wildlife management relating to hunting, harvesting, pest control, and the effect of land management on native species.’

http://www.ecolsoc.org.au/endowments
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EDG News

UMelb Node: Cindy Hauser on ‘Sally, Connor & volunteer teams are a triple threat for hawkweeds’
“A year ago I posted about the formidable Hawkweed Eradication Program, which is primarily focused on the Alpine National Park of south-eastern Australia. All summer parks staff, private contractors and volunteers scour likely locations to weed out Hieracium species. Detector dogs Sally and Connor are now very much part of the action, too!
Last week we gathered in Falls Creek to evaluate Sally and Connor’s search skills in the Victorian environment. We sent them – plus a team of the High Plains’ proud volunteer searchers – to some specially selected plots where live hawkweeds were known to be hiding. The three search teams found almost all of those known plants, and additionally spotted several undocumented infestations!”
https://cindyehauser.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/sally-connor-volunteer-teams-are-a-triple-threat-for-hawkweeds/

ANU Node: Martin Westgate and David Lindenmayer on the difficulties of systematic reviews
The need for robust evidence to support conservation actions has driven the adoption of systematic approaches to research synthesis in ecology. However, applying systematic review to complex or open questions remains challenging, and this task is becoming more difficult as the quantity of scientific literature increases. Here, we draw on the science of linguistics for guidance as to why the process of identifying and sorting information during systematic review remains so labor-intensive, and to provide potential solutions. Several linguistic properties of peer-reviewed corpora – including non-random selection of review topics, ‘small world’ properties of semantic networks, and spatiotemporal variation in word meaning – greatly increase the effort needed to complete the systematic review process. Conversely, the resolution of these semantic complexities is a common motivation for so-called ‘narrative’ reviews, but this process is rarely enacted with the rigor applied during linguistic analysis. Therefore, linguistics provides a unifying framework for understanding some key challenges of systematic review. Where semantic complexity generates barriers to synthesis, ecologists should consider drawing on existing methods from linguistics and information management that provide models for mapping and resolving that complexity.
Ref: Westgate, M., and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2017). The difficulties of systematic reviews. Conservation Biology, doi:10.1111/cobi.12890.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12890/abstract?campaign=wolacceptedarticle

RMIT Node: Alex Kusmanoff has submitted his PhD
Alex’s PhD is entitled “Framing the Conservation Conversation: An investigation into framing techniques for communicating biodiversity conservation”. He is now completing a report for Parks Victoria, as well as some additional work with Georgia Garrard and and Sarah Bekessy on conservation messaging.

UWA Node: Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems – a new database
The online storage of data from published papers and the development of open access databases are increasingly becoming the norm in research. Open access online databases in particular, have the potential to answer big, broad questions relating to biodiversity and have likely arisen partly due to increasing loss of biodiversity during the Anthropocene. The value of these databases increases with the geographic and taxonomic spread of datasets included within them. Arguably the largest open access online database relating to biodiversity has just been made available and its value outlined in a recent publication in Ecology and Evolution. The PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) database contains more than 3.2 million records from 666 studies that were sampled at over 26,000 locations from all 14 of the world’s major biomes. These sampled sites span 94 of the world’s countries, including all 17 megadiverse countries, 281 of the 814 terrestrial ecoregions and 32 of Conservation International’s 35 biodiversity hotspots. Taxonomically, over 47,000 species are represented, including 29,737 animals, 15,545 plants, 1,759 fungi, and three protists, which is over 2% of described species.
Dr Michael Craig and Dr Melinda Moir contributed several datasets to PREDICTS with the intent to have widespread geographic and taxonomic coverage within the project. This should enable many big questions relating to biodiversity to be answered and many examples are provided in the paper. The plan is to continually add data to the database so that’s its value will increase over time.
The paper can be found here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.2579/abstract

Hudson et al. (2017) The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) project. Ecology and Evolution 7(1):145-188.

UQ node: Nicki Shumway and colleagues say Australia needs a wake-up call over the GBR (in letter to Science)
“Whether Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will be placed on the World Heritage ‘in danger’ list will likely be decided by July. Australia was given a conditional reprieve from an ‘in danger’ classification in 2015 to implement the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan. Soon after, in 2016, the largest climate-induced bleaching event on record caused at least 22% coral mortality in the Great Barrier Reef, which had already been listed in poor condition for the fifth year in a row and was suffering from ~50% loss of long-term coral cover.
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6328/918.1

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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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