Dbytes #284 (19 April 2017)

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

“If you already consider climate change a pressing issue, you might not think carefully about the way you talk about it – regardless of how you discuss it, you already think of global warming as a problem. But the way we talk about climate change affects the way people think about it.”
Rose Hendricks; The Conversation, Communicating climate change: Focus on the framing, not just the facts
[and see item 4]


General News

1. (Vic) Biodiversity plan 2037
2. Tools and models to support sustainable development decisions in northern Australia
3. The Future of Conservation survey
4. Rapid and significant sea-level rise expected if global warming exceeds 2°C, with global variation
5. The Native Australian Animal Trust

EDG News

UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire and biodiversity
ANU Node: Mason Crane and colleagues on Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider in agricultural landscapes
RMIT node: Ascelin Gordon co-author on study on integrated species distribution models
UWA Node: Maksym Polyakov and colleagues on Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics
UQ Node: Stephanie Avery-Gomm helps produce the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference

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General News

1. Biodiversity plan 2037
Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 is Victoria’s plan to stop the decline of our native plants and animals and improve our natural environment so it is healthy, valued and actively cared for.
The Victorian Government has delivered on its commitment to develop Victoria’s biodiversity plan, Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037. Coupled with reviews of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) and native vegetation clearing regulations, the Plan will ensure that Victoria has a modern and effective approach to protecting and managing Victoria’s biodiversity.
https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-plan?mc_cid=378e6494af&mc_eid=a7fb2bf62c

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2. Tools and models to support sustainable development decisions in northern Australia
There is a lot of interest in developing northern Australia while also caring for its unique natural landscape. However, trying to decide how to develop and protect at the same time can be a challenge. A NESP Northern Hub project is supporting planning and development decisions across the north by comparing and contrasting available modelling and decision tools and helping potential users know what might work best for them. This research identified nine categories of models and assessed the suitability of each one for supporting different types of development decisions in northern Australia. Real-world case studies, many from northern Australia, show how these models have been used in the region. A decision tree was also developed to help practitioners in choosing the most appropriate model for their needs. This decision tree and other resources will be turned into an online tool to help researchers choose the best model for their needs. The wrap-up factsheet is available here, along with the full report and a stand-alone summary.
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3. The Future of Conservation survey

“There have long been debates regarding the future direction of biodiversity conservation, but these have tended to be dominated by a few powerful individuals.

This survey allows you to contribute your views, so that a broader range of voices can be taken into account. It will take just 15 minutes to complete, and at the end you will be presented with a graphical representation of your views and how they compare to others who have taken the survey. We hope that you enjoy the survey and encourage you to share your experience by asking others to take part!”

http://www.futureconservation.org/

[Editor’s note: unlike most surveys in which you never seem to find out what the survey uncovered until months or years later or never, this survey gives you an immediate classification –whether you are leaning more towards ‘new conservation’ vs ‘traditional conservation’ vs ‘market biocentrism’ vs ‘critical social science’ – and a comparison with other survey takers. Not surprisingly (after being ‘influenced’ by the thinking of the Environmental Decisions Group over several years), I ended up in the ‘new conservation camp’. Highly recommended survey.]

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4. Rapid and significant sea-level rise expected if global warming exceeds 2°C, with global variation

The world could experience the highest ever global sea-level rise in the history of human civilisation if global temperature rises exceed 2 °C, predicts a new study. Under current carbon-emission rates, this temperature rise will occur around the middle of this century, with damaging effects on coastal businesses and ecosystems, while also triggering major human migration from low-lying areas. Global sea-level rise will not be uniform, and will differ for different points of the globe.

Source: Jevrejeva, S., Jackson, L.P., Riva, R.E.M., Grinsted, A. and Moore, J.C. (2016). Coastal sea level rise with warming above 2 °C. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(47): 13342–13347. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1605312113.
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5. The Native Australian Animal Trust
The Native Australian Animal Trust established in 2017 will provide a way for people who are passionate about Australia’s wildlife and their environments to connect with and support the University of Melbourne’s research, teaching and engagement activities. The idea for the Trust came about after researchers found 20 new species of freshwater fish in the remote Kimberley region.
While the trust will support a wide range of activities, the first major initiative of the Trust will be to establish the ‘Award for Conservation Research into Northern Australian Animals and their Ecosystems’. The award’s aim is to understand more about the animals of northern Australia so as to better protect them. Small to medium-sized mammals in northern Australia are in rapid decline, and many other fish, animals and birds may suffer the same fate. There is clearly an opportunity to learn from the mistakes made in the south, to create better outcomes for the animals of the north.
http://biosciences.unimelb.edu.au/engage/native-australian-animals-trust#about
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EDG News

UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire and biodiversity
All around the world fire is profoundly influencing people, climate and ecosystems. Many plants and animals need fire for their survival, yet even in fire-prone areas, some species are sensitive to fire. How then, can a fire regime support the conservation of species with different requirements? A new paper by Luke Kelly in Science magazine shows how researchers and fire managers are confronting this challenge in a rapidly changing world.
Ref: Kelly, L.T., Brotons, L. (2017) Using fire to promote biodiversity. Science, 355, 1264-1265. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6331/1264

ANU Node: Mason Crane and colleagues on Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider in agricultural landscapes
Southern Squirrel Glider populations are genetically distinct and generally found in the agricultural landscapes inland of Australia’s Great Dividing Range. These populations are considered to be under greater threat of extinction than northern, coastal populations and face a unique set of environmental conditions and conservation challenges. For these reasons, we suggest that southern populations qualify as a separate evolutionarily significant unit to those from the northern, coastal segment of the range and should be managed separately. We summarize the species’ ecology specific to southern populations and relevant to management. We conduct a basic SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to highlight potential future management directions. From our review of new and existing ecological data and SWOT analysis, we outline ten points of action important for securing the future of southern Squirrel Glider populations.
Ref: Crane, M., Lindenmayer, D.B., and Banks, S.C. (2017). Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) in agricultural landscapes. Ecological Management and Restoration, 18, 15-25. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/emr.12245/full

RMIT node: Ascelin Gordon co-author on study on integrated species distribution models
1. Two main sources of data for species distribution models (SDMs) are site-occupancy (SO) data from planned surveys, and presence-background (PB) data from opportunistic surveys and other sources. SO surveys give high quality data about presences and absences of the species in a particular area. However, due to their high cost, they often cover a smaller area relative to PB data, and are usually not representative of the geographic range of a species. In contrast, PB data is plentiful, covers a larger area, but is less reliable due to the lack of information on species absences, and is usually characterised by biased sampling. Here we present a new approach for species distribution modelling that integrates these two data types.
2. We have used an inhomogeneous Poisson point process as the basis for constructing an integrated SDM that fits both PB and SO data simultaneously. It is the first implementation of an Integrated SO–PB Model which uses repeated survey occupancy data and also incorporates detection probability.
3. The Integrated Model’s performance was evaluated, using simulated data and compared to approaches using PB or SO data alone. It was found to be superior, improving the predictions of species spatial distributions, even when SO data is sparse and collected in a limited area. The Integrated Model was also found effective when environmental covariates were significantly correlated. Our method was demonstrated with real SO and PB data for the Yellow-bellied glider (Petaurus australis) in south-eastern Australia, with the predictive performance of the Integrated Model again found to be superior.
4. PB models are known to produce biased estimates of species occupancy or abundance. The small sample size of SO datasets often results in poor out-of-sample predictions. Integrated models combine data from these two sources, providing superior predictions of species abundance compared to using either data source alone. Unlike conventional SDMs which have restrictive scale-dependence in their predictions, our Integrated Model is based on a point process model and has no such scale-dependency. It may be used for predictions of abundance at any spatial-scale while still maintaining the underlying relationship between abundance and area.
Integrated species distribution models: combining presence-background data and site-occupancy data with imperfect detection.
Refe: Koshkina, V., Wang, Y., Gordon, A., Dorazio, R. M., White, M. and Stone, L. (2017), Integrated species distribution models: combining presence-background data and site-occupancy data with imperfect detection. Methods Ecol Evol, 8: 420–430. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12738
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.12738/abstract

UWA Node:
Maksym Polyakov and colleagues on Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics
Environmental and Resource Economics is one of the premier journals in the field of environmental economics. It was established with an aspiration to focus more on applied and policy relevant research compared to other established journals, and to establish better channels of communication and collaboration between researchers from Europe and other parts of the world. We present a text based exploratory analysis of 1630 articles published in the Journal from 1991 to 2015 that suggests the Journal has been somewhat successful in meeting both these aims. Perhaps more importantly, it shows the Journal continues to progress toward these goals. The European authors are the largest contributors to the Journal, which is in contrast to other prominent journals (such as Journal of Environmental Economics and Management and Ecological Economics). And while most of the collaboration has occurred within this geographic region (e.g., European authors collaborated with other European authors more frequently), this trend appears to be changing as the proportion of articles written by international collaborators is gradually increasing. Topic analysis reveals that almost all of the articles could be grouped under applied and/or policy relevant topics, and almost two-thirds of the articles are empirical in nature, which suggest that the journal has been able to fulfil both of its commitments. We also investigate trends in research foci over the last 25 years and what kind of research gaps can be discerned.
Ref: Polyakov, M., Chalak, M., Iftekhar, M.S. et al. (2017). Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics 1991–2015, Environmental and Resource Economics, 28th March 2017 online, 1-23. doi:10.1007/s10640-017-0147-2

UQ Node: Stephanie Avery-Gomm helps produce the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference
Last week saw the running of the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference (#WSTC3), staged over 3 days. It was a carbon friendly and free science communication event held exclusively on Twitter. Seabird researchers, conservationists and NGOs from all over the world shared their work in 6 tweets. There were over 125 presentations, grouped into 22 themed sessions and scheduled across all time zones. Stephanie Avery-Gomm was on the Organizing Committee and reports that the ‘audience’ of WSTC# was 3.5 million Twitter users (i.e., the number of users who could have seen the conference hashtag). Obviously, not all of those reached were seabird scientists, thus demonstrating the immense value of these conferences for communicating science to a broader audience. Stephanie will be discussing the virtues of virtual conferencing in an up and coming issue of Decision Point.

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. 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@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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