Dbytes #281 (23 March 2017)

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

“This is the most depressing paper I have ever been involved in!”
Maria Beger on the latest science on climate change and coral bleaching [see item 1]


General News

1. Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals – Nature

2. Government needs to front up billions, not millions, to save Australia’s threatened species

3. Issues paper: Action on the land: reducing emissions, conserving natural capital and improving farm profitability

4. Reframing the Food–Biodiversity Challenge

5. Measuring well being – happiness is on the wane in the US, UN global report finds

EDG News

RMIT Node: Luis Mata in panel discussion on: Has the lawn outlived its purpose?
UWA Node: Keren Raiter in campaign to formally recognise the Great Western Woodlands
UQ node: James Allen and colleagues on increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites
UMelb Node: Cindy Hauser on estimating detectability to address alien plant incursions
ANU Node: Booderee National Park shows what Sydney looked like before development

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General News

1. Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals – Nature

[Maria Beger’s message to CEED researchers:]

“As the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching again right now, the 16 March issue of Nature features an article about the 2016 severe bleaching. The research is led by Terry Hughes of James Cook University and the Australian Research Council’s Coral Reef Center of Excellence, and involved contributions from 45 co-authors including me.
What are the take-homes?

  • 2015-2016 saw record temperatures that triggered massive coral bleaching across the tropics.
  • The Great Barrier Reef has had three major bleaching episodes, in 1998, 2002 and 2016, with the latest being the most severe and with catastrophic levels of bleaching occurring in the northern part.
  • The amount of bleaching on individual reefs in 2016 was tightly linked to heat exposure.
  • Better water quality or reduced fishing pressure did not significantly reduce the severity of bleaching.
  • Past exposure to bleaching in 1998 and 2002 did not lessen the severity of the bleaching in 2016.

This is the most depressing paper I have ever been involved in! The paper can be accessed here: http://www.nature.com/articles/nature21707.epdf?author_access_token=4so7-Gu6CqUuB42UK6hKVtRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0NYcseJcueSDf5mFE1OHwy-cGaJ3e9TQ3xjkYQu2fRCG7IHQ9-sk_kPZwCW64dSYiRzZU5_nnJ112tNo5iNyXSn
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2. Government needs to front up billions, not millions, to save Australia’s threatened species
[An editorial in The Conversation by Don Driscoll, Bek Christensen and Euan Ritchie on the new Threatened Species Prospectus:
https://theconversation.com/government-needs-to-front-up-billions-not-millions-to-save-australias-threatened-species-74250]

Here’s an excerpt: “Over the past three years the federal government has invested A$210 million in threatened species. This annual investment of A$70 million each year is minuscule compared with the government’s revenue (0.017% of A$416.9 billion). It includes projects under the National Landcare Program, Green Army (much of which didn’t help threatened species) and the 20 Million Trees program.

The A$14 million that the prospectus hopes to raise is a near-negligible proportion of annual revenue (0.003%). Globally, the amount of money needed to prevent extinctions and recover threatened species is at least ten times more than what is being spent.

In Australia, A$40 million each year would prevent the loss of 45 mammals, birds and reptiles from the Kimberley region. The inescapable truth is that Australia’s conservation spend needs to be in the billions, not the current and grossly inadequate tens of millions, to reverse the disastrous state of the environment.

Can we afford it? The 2016 Defence White Paper outlines an expansion of Australia’s defence expenditure from A$32.4 billion in 2016-17 to A$58.7 billion by 2025, even though the appropriate level of investment is extremely uncertain. We are more certain that our biodiversity will continue to decline with current funding levels. Every State of the Environment report shows ongoing biodiversity loss at relatively stable, low-level funding.

And what will happen if industry won’t open its wallets? Will the government close the funding gap, or shrug its shoulders, hoping the delay between committing a species to extinction and the actual event will be long enough to avoid accountability?

In the past few years we’ve seen the extinction of the Christmas Island forest skink, the Christmas Island pipistrelle, and the Bramble Cay melomys with no public inquiry. Academics have been left to probe the causes, and there is no clear line of government responsibility or mechanism to provide enough funding to help prevent more extinctions.”

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3. Issues paper: Action on the land: reducing emissions, conserving natural capital and improving farm profitability

The Climate Change Authority has released an issues paper for consultation called Action on the land: reducing emissions, conserving natural capital and improving farm profitability.
The issues paper considers the following areas:
•the agriculture sector, its challenges and opportunities including improving productivity, climate change impacts and natural resource management (NRM)
•existing agricultural-related policies and programs
•measurement and reporting needed to design or evaluate programs aimed at coordinating NRM and emissions reduction initiatives
•options to involve the private sector in creating new markets for NRM outcomes and environmental services
•options for integrating emissions reductions, broader NRM outcomes and farm profitability through research and development.
Submissions can be made until 20 April 2017.
http://climatechangeauthority.gov.au/publications/action-land-reducing-emissions-conserving-natural-capital-and-improving-farm

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4. Reframing the Food–Biodiversity Challenge

Given the serious limitations of production-oriented frameworks, we offer here a new conceptual framework for how to analyze the nexus of food security and biodiversity conservation. We introduce four archetypes of social-ecological system states corresponding to win–win (e.g., agroecology), win–lose (e.g., intensive agriculture), lose–win (e.g., fortress conservation), and lose–lose (e.g., degraded landscapes) outcomes for food security and biodiversity conservation. Each archetype is shaped by characteristic external drivers, exhibits characteristic internal social-ecological features, and has characteristic feedbacks that maintain it. This framework shifts the emphasis from focusing on production only to considering social-ecological dynamics, and enables comparison among landscapes. Moreover, examining drivers and feedbacks facilitates the analysis of possible transitions between system states (e.g., from a lose–lose outcome to a more preferred outcome).

Ref: Joern Fischer, David J. Abson, Arvid Bergsten, Neil French Collier, Ine Dorresteijn, Jan Hanspach, Kristoffer Hylander, Jannik Schultner, Feyera Senbeta, Reframing the Food–Biodiversity Challenge, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Available online 9 March 2017, ISSN 0169-5347, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2017.02.009 .
And read Joern Fischer’s blog at https://ideas4sustainability.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/new-paper-a-fresh-perspective-on-food-and-biodiversity/

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5. Measuring well being – happiness is on the wane in the US, UN global report finds
[Guardian story recommended by Nick Abel]

Happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump’s policies forecast to deepen the country’s social crisis. The US has slipped to 14th place in the World Happiness Report 2017, produced by the United Nations. Norway knocked Denmark off the top spot as the world’s happiest country, with Iceland and Switzerland rounding out the top four. The next tier of countries are regular leaders in international happiness surveys: Finland is in fifth place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

The world’s “unhappiest” countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.

The UN report, which is based on Gallup polls of self-reported wellbeing as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom, this year has a special focus on the “story of reduced happiness” in the US. Although the US is ranked in 14th place in the UN report, released on Monday, other studies highlighted by the authors show how rapidly the country has slid down international rankings on wellbeing.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/norway-ousts-denmark-as-worlds-happiest-country-un-report?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=218173&subid=8186478&CMP=GT_US_collection

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EDG News

RMIT Node: Luis Mata in panel discussion on: Has the lawn outlived its purpose?

Radio National’s a Blueprint for living: The much maligned lawn can play an important role in our culture – including commemorating those killed in war – but what are the pros and cons in terms of the environment? A radio discussion between Prof Tim Entwistle and RMIT’s Luis Mata and Prof Paul Gough.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/blueprintforliving/lawns/8342076

UWA Node: Keren Raiter in campaign to formally recognise the Great Western Woodlands
The Great Western Woodlands (GWW) is the largest intact woodland left on Earth. It is vast, beautiful and unprotected. The Wilderness Society, with the help from local artists including Dr Keren Raiter have started a campaign for formal recognition of this special place. Recently at the GWW campaign launch, Keren presented her research about the enigmatic impacts of mining and linear infrastructure development in the GWW, including a poem she wrote about her experience doing field work in the GWW and the reflections on the magnificent Helena Aurora Range.
https://sustainingecology.com/2017/02/23/wildos-video/

UQ node: James Allen and colleagues on increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites
“We analysed changes in human pressure and forest loss across the entire global network of Natural World Heritage Sites over the last two decades. We found that human pressure is increasing and forest loss is occurring in the majority of sites worldwide, with a handful being highly damaged. The greatest increases in human pressure occurred in Asian sites, and the largest areas of forest were lost in the Americas. These findings are particularly concerning since Natural World Heritage Sites are the most outstanding and unique natural areas in the world. Any human damage or modification undermines their value.”
Ref: Allan, J.R. Venter, O. Maxwell, S. Bertzky, B. Jones, K. Shi, Y. and Watson J. 2017. Recent increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites. Biological Conservation.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320716310138

UMelb Node: Cindy Hauser on estimating detectability to address alien plant incursions
“I’ve contributed a small section to the recently published Detecting and Responding to Alien Plant Incursions. This volume addresses the full continuum of management from pre-border efforts through early detection to selecting management options and overarching governance. It’s a synthesis of the literature that will be of value to researchers. More importantly, it’s framed as guidance to the land managers and policy makers who are responsible for addressing these threats.

The break-out box that Joslin Moore and I were invited to write regards detectability, and how we can go about estimating it experimentally. This process calls on statistics and experimental design, tempered with biosecurity concerns and our desire to accurately simulate real survey conditions. Throughout, we’ve used examples from our hawkweed detection experiments to demonstrate how we’ve made these trade-offs ourselves. We were also able to include a couple of lovely photographs taken by Roger Cousens during our field work…”

https://cindyehauser.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/estimating-detectability-to-address-alien-plant-incursions/

ANU Node: Booderee National Park shows what Sydney looked like before development
David Lindenmayer and Chris MacGregor in ABC story on the importance of Booderee National Park:
“In many respects, this place is Sydney without all the development,” says Professor David Lindenmayer from the Australian National University.
“It [has] extraordinary cliffs, amazing heath vegetation, forest, an unbelievably exquisite bay, beautiful marine environments — except without the development.”
Professor Lindenmayer says Booderee looks the same as Sydney Cove’s natural heritage “before they added five million people to it”.
Just as in Sydney Cove, Professor Lindenmayer also stresses the extreme natural variance contained within the park…
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-17/booderee-national-park-how-sydney-would-look-without-development/8331360


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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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