Dbytes #282 (30 March 2017)

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

“Supporting this mine would fly in the face of advice from experts who have collectively devoted over 1,200 years studying climate change, marine ecosystems and coral reefs”
Will Steffen and Lesley Hughes in a letter from the Climate Council to Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Board on the development of the Carmichael Coal Mine Rail Link. [And see item 3]

General News

1. MPA effectiveness relates three times more to staffing & resources than biological, geological or ecological factors.
2. Blogging for nature
3.
Why speak?
4. Submissions invited on the Review of Australia’s Climate Change Policies

5. Communicating climate extremes

EDG News

UWA Node: Predicting soil organic carbon in reforested lands
UQ news: What motivates ecological restoration
UMelb Node: Online graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling
ANU Node: Ben Scheele and colleagues on Niche Contractions in Declining Species
RMIT node: Florence Damiens and colleagues on: Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy (a response to Kareiva and Fuller, 2016)

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General News

1. MPA effectiveness relates three times more to staffing & resources than biological, geological or ecological factors.

Nature paper: Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally

Abstract: Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being used globally to conserve marine resources. However, whether many MPAs are being effectively and equitably managed, and how MPA management influences substantive outcomes remain unknown. We developed a global database of management and fish population data (433 and 218 MPAs, respectively) to assess: MPA management processes; the effects of MPAs on fish populations; and relationships between management processes and ecological effects. Here we report that many MPAs failed to meet thresholds for effective and equitable management processes, with widespread shortfalls in staff and financial resources. Although 71% of MPAs positively influenced fish populations, these conservation impacts were highly variable. Staff and budget capacity were the strongest predictors of conservation impact: MPAs with adequate staff capacity had ecological effects 2.9 times greater than MPAs with inadequate capacity. Thus, continued global expansion of MPAs without adequate investment in human and financial capacity is likely to lead to sub-optimal conservation outcomes
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature21708.html

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2. Blogging for nature
[Editor’s note: Geoff Park, long-term friend to the Environmental Decisions Group, runs Natural Newstead, a photo-based bird-blog documenting the bird life (and other natural history) around his place of residence in Newstead, central Victoria. If you haven’t seen it, check it out at https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/ Geoff has just written a story about the rise and rise of his blog in the Victorian Landcare Magazine. It’s a highly recommended read for anyone wanting their own natural-history blogging to change the world.]

“Two days before Christmas in 2008 I sat down and wrote my first blog post. It was called ‘A Walk in the Rise and Shine’: “Have just enjoyed a nice walk in the Rise and Shine Nature Conservation Reserve with one of our three boys, Joe. There was lots of bird activity with Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters, a family of White-browed Babblers, Dusky Woodswallows and a pair of Jacky Winters feeding a young fledgling. We also found active nests of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters with at least one nest hung in the low foliage of a Long-leaf Box.

Little did I realise at the time that the blog, Natural Newstead, would become a minor personal obsession that is regarded with affection by readers from our local patch and around the world. With more than 2000 posts and nearly half a million page hits, Natural Newstead is now one of the top 100 birding web sites in the world…”

https://www.landcarevic.org.au/magazine-issues/summer-2017/blogging-for-nature/

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3. Why speak?
By Emma Johnston
“In an information free-for-all why should scientists bother to add their voice? In this commentary piece I argue there is an increasingly important role for scientists amongst the growing ranks of public intellectuals and the many who style themselves as such. First, we must become the sifters and sorters. We need to be willing to use our research and analytical skills to identify what is valuable amongst all the noise, and, if necessary, to volubly reject what is not. And, second, we need to create and defend the space everyone needs for deep thought and consideration. We need to influence ongoing debates by seeking to push them towards evidence-based arguments and areas of scientific consensus. To sift out the deliberately distracting stories and to counter fake news.”
Ref: Johnston, E. L. (2017). ‘Why speak?’. JCOM 16 (01), C02

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4. Submissions invited on the Review of Australia’s Climate Change Policies

The Department of the Environment and Energy has released a discussion paper on the review of Australia’s climate change policies. The discussion paper invites input from business and the community. It is open for public consultation until 5 May 2017. The discussion paper follows the Government’s commitment to review its climate change policies when it set Australia’s target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/review-climate-change-policies/discussion-paper-2017

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5. Communicating climate extremes

There is still widespread confusion about the linkages between human-induced climate change and extreme weather. In an article published in the World Meteorological Organization Bulletin, several simple guidelines for clear communication were proposed regarding extremes, including:
-lead with what we know, and save the caveats for later
-use metaphors to explain risk and probabilities
-avoid loaded language like ‘blame’
-use accessible language
-try to avoid language that creates a sense of hopelessness.

Ref: (Un)Natural Disasters: Communicating Linkages Between Extreme Events and Climate Change. (2016)
https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/bulletin/unnatural-disasters-communicating-linkages-between-extreme-events-and-climate
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EDG News

UWA Node: Predicting soil organic carbon in reforested lands
In a recent study of mixed species environmental plantings on agricultural land, Dr Mike Perring and his colleagues investigated the organic carbon content of soil collected at 117 paired sites from a range of climate types including Mediterranean, temperate and tropical regions across Australia. Soil samples were used to calibrate a soil carbon accounting model in a bid to better predict sequestration rates of atmospheric carbon in these kind of plantings.
Ref: Dinesh B. Madhavan, Jeff A. Baldock, Zoe J. Read, Simon C. Murphy, Shaun C. Cunningham, Michael P. Perring, Tim Herrmann, Tom Lewis, Timothy R. Cavagnaro, Jacqueline R. England, Keryn I. Paul, Christopher J. Weston, Thomas G. Baker, Rapid prediction of particulate, humus and resistant fractions of soil organic carbon in reforested lands using infrared spectroscopy, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 193, 15 May 2017, Pages 290-299, ISSN 0301-4797, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.02.013

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479717301172

UQ news: What motivates ecological restoration
“Ecological restoration projects are motivated by diverse environmental and social reasons. Motivations likely vary between stakeholders or regions, and influence the approach taken to plan, implement, and monitor restoration projects. We surveyed 307 people involved in the restoration of native vegetation across Australia to identify their underlying motivations. We also elicited information on planning, implementation, and monitoring of restoration projects. We found that biodiversity enhancement is the main motivation for undertaking restoration, with biodiversity offsetting, water quality improvements, and social reasons as important secondary motivations. Motivations varied significantly by stakeholder type and region. Restoration projects primarily motivated by ecosystem service provision (e.g. water quality improvements and social reasons) sought less pristine ecological outcomes than projects motivated by biodiversity enhancement or offsetting. Rigorous monitoring designs (e.g. quantitative, repeatable surveys, and use of performance indicators) were rarely used in restoration projects, except for projects motivated by scientific research. Better alignment of different restoration motivations with the planning and monitoring of restoration projects should deliver greater benefits through setting appropriate objectives and evaluating outcomes against these objectives. These improvements will increase the capacity of the restoration practice to meet international biodiversity commitments and communicate restoration outcomes to stakeholders.”
Ref: Hagger V, Dwyer J and Wilson K (2017). What motivates ecological restoration? Restoration Ecology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec.12503/full

UMelb Node: Online graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling
“Are you interested in modelling? Are you a graduate student, and your project involves studying species distributions? Or maybe you are a research professional or a manager wanting to expand your quantitative skills? Species distribution modelling is one of the most highly cited areas of ecological research. And it is not just about research; species distribution models are also very useful for supporting a wide range of environmental decisions. So why not learn more about them? We are pleased to announce that at the University of Melbourne we are running a graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling, delivered entirely online. The subject runs this year from 24 July to 22 October, and it is offered to externals (with a cost) through the university’s Community Access Program (CAP). Through this program, you may choose to study in either assessed or non-assessed mode. The subject covers species distribution modelling from two different angles, ecophysiological models and correlative models (GLMs, Maxent, BRTs…), and consists of video lectures and guided computer practicals in R. The content emphasises an understanding of the problem, the data, and the model, and provides practical skills in fitting the models. The subject team includes Mike Kearney and Jane Elith, two internationally recognised experts in the field! Tempted? Get in touch if you are; we will be happy to answer your queries.
https://qaeco.com/2017/03/23/wanting-to-learn-species-distribution-modelling-consider-enrolling-in-our-online-subject/

ANU Node: Ben Scheele and colleagues on Niche Contractions in Declining Species
“A fundamental aim of conservation biology is to understand how species respond to threatening processes, with much research effort focused on identifying threats and quantifying spatial and temporal patterns of species decline. Here, we argue that threats often reduce the realized niche breadth of declining species because environmental, biotic, and evolutionary processes reduce or amplify threats, or because a species’ capacity to tolerate threats varies across niche space. Our ‘niche reduction hypothesis’ provides anew lens for understanding why species decline in some locations and not others. This perspective can improve management of declining species by identifying where to focus resources and which interventions are most likely to be effective in a given environment.”
Ref: Scheele B, Claire N.Foster, Sam C.Banks, and David B.Lindenmayer (2017).
Niche Contractions in Declining Species: Mechanisms and Consequences. TREE
http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(17)30049-6

RMIT node: Florence Damiens and colleagues on: Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy (a response to Kareiva and Fuller,2016)
“Kareiva and Fuller (2016) consider the future prospects for biodiversity conservation in the face of the profound disruptions of the Anthropocene. They argue that more flexible and entrepreneurial approaches to conservation are needed. While some of the approaches they promote may work in particular situations, we believe their proposal risks unintended and detrimental social and ecological consequences by presenting them as global solutions to complex political, economic, social and ethical problems that are context-dependent. Here we argue that the authors inadequately considers the following core issues of biodiversity conservation, namely: (1) the structural causes of biodiversity depletion and the responsibilities of key actors; (2) the questions around what should be conserved, the processes by which biodiversity is valued, and who has the legitimate authority to value it; (3) the fact that new tools, technologies and innovative approaches are unsuitable as guiding principles to solve complex, context-dependent social-ecological problems; (4) the challenges of choosing relevant interventions, given experts’ limited ability to ‘manage for change and evolution’; and (5) the risks associated with promoting a utilitarian approach and a neoliberal governance model for conservation at the global scale.”
Ref: Damiens, F. L. P., Mumaw, L., Backstrom, A., Bekessy, S. A., Coffey, B., Faulkner, R., Garrard, G. E., Hardy, M. J., Kusmanoff, A. M., Mata, L., Rickards, L., Selinske, M. J., Torabi, N. and Gordon, A. (2017), Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy. Glob Policy. doi:10.1111/1758-5899.12415
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1758-5899.12415/abstract


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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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