Dbytes #280 (16 March 2017)

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

“a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence.”
Daniel Oppenheimer (in his classic paper ‘Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity’)

General News

1. Common Assessment Method for Threatened Species
2. Bridging science and traditional knowledge to assess cumulative impacts of stressors on ecosystem health
3. The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science
4. Review of governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
5. Why facts don’t change our minds

EDG News

ANU Node: Chris MacGregor and David Lindenmayer on a ‘bird with whiskers, a ‘flying koala’ and terrible Mr fox (Radio National Off Track)’
RMIT Node: Luis Mata coauthors paper on simple vegetation interventions in urban green spaces
UWA Node:
Michael Craig co-author on study on the consequences of post-mining restoration on the genetics of the Yellow-footed Antechinus
UQ node: Madeleine Stigner, Kiran Dhanjal-Adams and Richard Fuller reflect on beaches, dogs and shorebirds (contested spaces)
UMelb Node: Geoff Heard on 2016 herping in review

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General News

1. Common Assessment Method for Threatened Species
From DoEE: “In 2015 environment ministers agreed to introduce a Common Assessment Method for Threatened Species across Australia. The objective is to ensure consistency, with each species being assessed once and listed in the same threat category by relevant jurisdictions. This is a significant step towards achieving accurate and aligned lists of nationally threatened species. There has been progress with an intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding signed by six jurisdictions, the development of a policy framework, and work to resolve the misalignment of lists across the states, territories and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The initiative reached an important milestone in February. The Common Assessment Method was used for the first time by Western Australia and New South Wales to assess 16 species and these assessments are now available for public comment under the EPBC Act. These species include some of Australia’s unique and beautiful threatened flora and fauna like Caladenia hopperiana (Boddington spider orchid), Eremophila glabra subsp. chlorella (an emu bush) and Lerista lineata (Perth slider).
The Common Assessment Method, which is a target in the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Strategy, will have positive outcomes for both the conservation of species and for efficiency of regulatory processes, and is a great example of effective interjurisdictional collaboration.”

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2. Bridging science and traditional knowledge to assess cumulative impacts of stressors on ecosystem health
From the paper’s first author, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle: “In this paper we present a new ‘two-eyed seeing’ approach for co-producing and blending traditional knowledge (TK) and scientific knowledge (SK) to address key questions about ecosystem health when considerable uncertainty exists. TK is often ‘integrated’ with SK for sustaining natural resources, but may disadvantage Indigenous peoples and cause power imbalances between Indigenous knowledge systems and outside forces when attempting integration. Understanding how to bridge these knowledge systems rather than ‘integrating’ them remains a major gap in the practical application of adaptive and environmental co-management of socio-ecological systems research. We adapted a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) to a case study in the Slave River and Delta region of Canada’s Northwest Territories, to offer a way of bridging (without necessarily integrating) TK with SK to obtain both qualitative and quantitative assessments about system behavior. Using both TK and SK, the model output gave low probabilities that the social-ecological system is healthy. The BBN worked as a political power neutral method and offers a critical social-ecological tool for widening the evidence-base to more holistically understand the system dynamics of multiple environmental stressors in ecosystems. Such an approach can be achieved in other monitoring and research programs worldwide for improved conservation and resource management that transformatively draws from the wider normative framework of adaptive co-management in social-ecological systems.

Ref: Mantyka-Pringle, Chrystal S., Timothy D. Jardine, Lori Bradford, Lalita Bharadwaj, Andrew P. Kythreotis, Jennifer Fresque-Baxter, Erin Kelly et al. “Bridging science and traditional knowledge to assess cumulative impacts of stressors on ecosystem health.” Environment International (2017) DO1: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.02.008

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3. The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science
Each year the Australian Government honours Australia’s best scientists, innovators, and science teachers through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.
Prizes include:
$250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation
$50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (past winners include Kerrie Wilson and Jane Elith)
$50,000 Prize for New Innovators

Nominations close at 5 pm Canberra time, Wednesday 12 April 2017.
It’s simple to nominate in the first (shortlisting) stage, with an online form. If a nomination is shortlisted, further material will be required in the final stage.
For eligibility, selection criteria, nomination guidelines and forms, visit: www.business.gov.au/scienceprizes

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4. review of governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
The Australian Government is conducting a review of governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The Review will help ensure the institutions supporting the health and resilience of the Reef are strong and continue to evolve.

http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/frydenberg/media-releases/mr20170307a.html

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5. Why facts don’t change our minds
New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason. Story in the New Yorker

Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds

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EDG News

ANU Node: Chris MacGregor and David Lindenmayer on a ‘bird with whiskers, a ‘flying koala’ and terrible Mr fox (Radio National Off Track)’

Chris MacGregor and David Lindenmayer feature in the latest episode of Off Track on Radio National which visits Booderee National Park in NSW and discusses the importance of long term monitoring, eastern bristle birds, fox control and unexpected impacts on great gliders.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/offtrack/boooderee-one-segment/8317826


RMIT Node: Luis Mata coauthors paper on simple vegetation interventions in urban green spaces
“We found the probability of occupancy of most species examined was substantially reduced in urban green spaces with sparse understorey vegetation and few native plants. Our findings provide evidence that increasing understorey cover and native plantings in urban green spaces can improve biodiversity outcomes. Redressing the dominance of simplified and exotic vegetation present in urban landscapes with an increase in understorey vegetation volume and percentage of native vegetation will benefit a broad array of biodiversity.”
Ref: Threlfall CG, Mata L, Mackie J, Hahs AK, Stork NE, Williams NSG, Livesley SJ. (Online, 30 January 2017) Increasing biodiversity in urban green spaces through simple vegetation interventions. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12876
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12876/full

UWA Node: Michael Craig co-author on study on
the consequences of post-mining restoration on the genetics of the Yellow-footed Antechinus
A paper recently accepted in Restoration Ecology investigated the consequences of post-mining restoration on the genetics of a small marsupial, the Yellow-footed Antechinus (Antechinus flavipes). By sampling individuals in post-mining restoration and nearby unmined forest, the study found that the restoration did not provide a barrier to gene flow and that individuals in restoration were as genetically diverse as those in unmined forest. Considering the species starts to recolonise post-mining restoration ~4 years post-mining and reaches the abundance found in unmined forest after ~8 years, the result was not surprising but this is the first study to confirm that, in a post-mining restored landscape, population maintenance equates with the maintenance of genetic diversity in a vertebrate. However, the study did identify a lack of genetic diversity from past anthropogenic disturbances which indicates that management should ideally conducted be at a much larger spatial scale then where the restoration is located. This study highlights the importance of understanding the genetic consequences of restoration to ensure that sufficient diversity remains for adaptation of likely rapid future change.
Link to the paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec.12493/epdf.

UQ node: Madeleine Stigner, Kiran Dhanjal-Adams and Richard Fuller reflect on beaches, dogs and shorebirds (contested spaces)
In yesterday’s The Conversation:
“Head to a beach like Bondi on Christmas Day and you’ll share that space with more than 40,000 people. But we aren’t just jostling with each other for coveted beach space. Scuttling, waddling, hopping or flying away from beachgoers all around Australia are crabs, shorebirds, baby turtles, crocodiles, fairy penguins and even dingoes.
Beaches are home to an incredible array of animals, and sharing this busy space with people is critical to their survival. But, if we find it hard to share our beaches with each other, how can we possibly find space for nature on our beaches?”
https://theconversation.com/contested-spaces-saving-nature-when-our-beaches-have-gone-to-the-dogs-72078

UMelb Node: Geoff Heard on 2016 herping in review
Between 2013 and 2015, I was lucky enough to embark on an ecological odyssey to the UK. With backing from a Victorian Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, I set off for the University of York and spent a happy two years learning at the knee of Prof. Chris Thomas. Through daily chats with Chris, and the other great folk that called York’s J2 lab home, I gathered a sense of the incredible biodiversity data sets that UK ecologists have at their disposal. The British populace, I soon realised, are just as fanatical about collecting biodiversity data as they are about train spotting, building model aeroplanes and tracking down obscure antiques. From immense observational data sets, to comprehensive, statistically-rigorous monitoring programs, the Brits produce masses of species occurrence and abundance data every year. I was hugely impressed; not just with the British fervor for good, solid data, but the end products too – great ecological science and perhaps an unrivaled capacity to monitor the country’s biodiversity.
Returning to Australia, I had a new found sense of the importance of maintaining records of the species I see in my travels. Specifically, time-stamped occurrence data, the sorts of which are vital to producing species distribution maps and models, and which, in the long-term, can provide insights into population declines, range shifts or even invasions. I’ve been diligently keeping these records ever since, with annual uploads to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas and the Atlas of Living Australia…”

https://gwheardresearch.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/2016-herping/

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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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