Dbytes #286 (4 May 2017)

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

“The decision by Westpac to rule out lending to new coal basin developments is a textbook case of cynical virtue signalling.”
Minerals Council of Australia


General News

1. Survey on the management of overabundant koalas
2. Comments invited on the Draft Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi
3. Feeling helpless about the Great Barrier Reef? Here’s one way you can help
4. Paradoxes of probability and other statistical strangeness
5. Hugh Possingham inducted into the (US) National Academy of Science

EDG News

RMIT node: Matthew Selinske and colleagues on motivations for

long-term private land conservation
UQ Node:
Maria Martinez-Harms and colleagues on scenarios for land use and ecosystem services under global change
UMelb Node: Josephine Walker and colleagues on networks of association between large mammal herbivores and their gut parasites in Botswana
ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on ‘please do not disturb ecosystems further’

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General News

1. Survey on the management of overabundant koalas

A message from Margreet Drijfhout, a PhD student from La Trobe University:
“You are invited to participate in our research project on perceptions about the management of overabundant koalas by filling out our questionnaire. You have been selected to participate through your professional and/or personal involvement in nature conservation. Participation is completely voluntary and anonymous. The questionnaire should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete.
The questionnaire can be found here: Take the Survey

Or copy and paste this link into your internet browser: https://latrobe.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0cELLjNZyOd1F1r?Q_CHL=email

Through this research, we aim to quantify to what extent people are aware of issues with overabundant koalas, how acceptable different strategies are for managing overabundant koalas and how this relates to people’s values and beliefs in life.

I would like to point out that not all management strategies mentioned in the questionnaire are currently allowed or used by wildlife managers. Whether strategies should or should not be used is not the focus of this research. Instead, we aim to understand why people respond to different management actions. This research project is funded by La Trobe University, the University of Melbourne, and the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment.”

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2. Comments invited on the Draft Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi

Phytophthora cinnamomi is a species of water mould which can cause the plant disease commonly referred to as ‘dieback’ in susceptible native plants and forestry species. This pathogen has been recognised under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 as a serious threat to many native plant species and ecosystems. Phytophthora dieback affects more than a million hectares of native vegetation in Australia and continues to spread. It can significantly change the structure and composition of native plant communities, leading to loss or degradation of habitat for dependent plants and animals. The draft Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi (2017) provides a national strategy to abate the threat and guide investment and effort by the Australian Government, state and territory governments, research organisations and non-government organisations. The Draft threat abatement plan is open for public comment until 24 July 2017.
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3. Feeling helpless about the Great Barrier Reef? Here’s one way you can help

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when confronted with reports of the second mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef in as many years. But there is a way to help scientists monitor the reef’s condition. CoralWatch is a citizen science program started at The University of Queensland 15 years ago, with two main aims: to monitor the environment on a vast scale, and to help people get informed about marine science. These goals come together with coral health monitoring. Divers, snorkelers or people walking around reef areas during low tides can send us crucial information about coral bleaching, helping us to build detailed pictures of the health of different reefs. Participants can use a colour chart, backed up through the CoralWatch app or website, to measure accurately the colour and type of coral they see. The chart covers 75% of known corals, and can be used with no prior training.
https://theconversation.com/feeling-helpless-about-the-great-barrier-reef-heres-one-way-you-can-help-76014?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitterbutton

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4. Paradoxes of probability and other statistical strangeness
[Recommended by Michael Vardon]

Statistics is a useful tool for understanding the patterns in the world around us. But our intuition often lets us down when it comes to interpreting those patterns. In this [The Conversation] series we look at some of the common mistakes we make and how to avoid them when thinking about statistics, probability and risk.

You don’t have to wait long to see a headline proclaiming that some food or behaviour is associated with either an increased or a decreased health risk, or often both. How can it be that seemingly rigorous scientific studies can produce opposite conclusions? Nowadays, researchers can access a wealth of software packages that can readily analyse data and output the results of complex statistical tests. While these are powerful resources, they also open the door to people without a full statistical understanding to misunderstand some of the subtleties within a dataset and to draw wildly incorrect conclusions. Here are a few common statistical fallacies and paradoxes and how they can lead to results that are counterintuitive and, in many cases, simply wrong…
https://theconversation.com/paradoxes-of-probability-and-other-statistical-strangeness-74440

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5. Hugh Possingham Inducted Into National Academy of Science

The Chief Scientist of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Dr. Hugh Possingham, has been inducted as a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Possingham was recognized for his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. He, and others elected this past year, were introduced to their colleagues in the Academy and signed the “Registry of Membership” at a ceremony on April 29, 2017.

“Membership in the National Academy of Sciences is a tremendous honor,” said Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “We’re delighted to see Hugh recognized for his outstanding achievements, which are transforming the way we approach today’s complex environmental challenges.”

https://www.nature.org/newsfeatures/pressreleases/hugh-possingham-inducted-into-national-academy-of-science.xml

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EDG News

RMIT node: Matthew Selinske and colleagues on motivations for long-term private land conservation
A variety of policy instruments are used to promote the conservation of biodiversity on private land. These instruments are often employed in unison to encourage land stewardship beneficial for biodiversity across a broad range of program types, but questions remain about which instruments are the appropriate tools when seeking long-term change to land-management practice. Drawing on three case studies, two in Australia and one in South Africa, spanning various program types—a biodiverse carbon planting scheme, a covenanting program, and a voluntary stewardship program—we investigate the importance of financial incentives and other mechanisms from the landholder’s perspective. From participant interviews we find that landholders have preconceived notions of stewardship ethics. Motivations to enroll into a private land conservation program are not necessarily what drives ongoing participation, and continued delivery of multiple mechanisms will likely ensure long-term landholder engagement. Financial incentives are beneficial in lowering uptake costs to landholders but building landholder capacity, management assistance, linking participants to a network of conservation landholders, and recognition of conservation efforts may be more successful in fostering long-term biodiversity stewardship. Furthermore, we argue that diverse, multiple instrument approaches are needed to provide the flexibility required for dynamic, adaptive policy responses. We raise a number of key considerations for conservation organizations regarding the appropriate mix of financial and nonfinancial components of their programs to address long-term conservation objectives.
Ref: Selinske, M. J., B. Cooke, N. Torabi, M. J. Hardy, A. T. Knight and S. A.
Bekessy. 2017. Locating financial incentives among diverse motivations for
long-term private land conservation. Ecology and Society 22 (2):7. [online] URL:
https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol22/iss2/art7/

UQ Node: Maria Martinez-Harms and colleagues on scenarios for land use and ecosystem services under global change
We present ecosystem service scenarios for rapidly transforming and threatened landscapes in Central Chile. Local experts from Central Chile identified climate change, urbanization, and fire regimes as key drivers of change and we developed scenarios illustrating the cumulative impacts of these drivers on carbon storage, wine production and scenic beauty for the year 2050. Our results show substantial reductions in ecosystem services by mid-century, revealing the need for stronger planning regulations to manage land-use change in Central Chile.
Ref: Martinez-Harms, M.J. B. Bryan, E. Figueroa, P. Pliscoff, R. Runting, and K. Wilson. 2017. Scenarios for land-use and ecosystem services under global change. Ecosystem Services 25:56-68. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.03.021

UMelb Node: Josephine Walker and colleagues on networks of association between large mammal herbivores and their gut parasites in Botswana
For many parasites, the full set of hosts that are susceptible to infection is not known, and this could lead to a bias in estimates of transmission. We used counts of individual adult parasites from historical parasitology studies in southern Africa to map a bipartite network of the nematode parasites of herbivore hosts that occur in Botswana. Bipartite networks are used in community ecology to represent interactions across trophic levels. We used a Bayesian hierarchical model to predict the full set of host–parasite interactions from existing data on parasitic gastrointestinal nematodes of wild and domestic ungulates given assumptions about the distribution of parasite counts within hosts, while accounting for the relative uncertainty of less sampled species. We used network metrics to assess the difference between the observed and predicted networks, and to explore the connections between hosts via their shared parasites using a host–host unipartite network projected from the bipartite network. The model predicts a large number of missing links and identifies red hartebeest, giraffe and steenbok as the hosts that have the most uncertainty in parasite diversity. Further, the unipartite network reveals clusters of herbivores that have a high degree of parasite sharing, and these clusters correspond closely with phylogenetic distance rather than with the wild/domestic boundary. These results provide a basis for predicting the risk of cross-species transmission of nematode parasites in areas where livestock and wildlife share grazing land.
Ref: Josephine Walker, Michaela Plein, Eric R. Morgan and Peter A. Vesk (2017). Uncertain links in host – parasite networks: lessons for parasite transmission in a multi-host system. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 372
http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/372/1719/20160095

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on ‘please do not disturb ecosystems further’
Clearing up after natural disturbances may not always be beneficial for the environment. We argue that a radical change is needed in the way ecosystems are managed; one that acknowledges the important role of disturbance dynamics.

Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Thorn, S., and Banks, S. (2017). Please do not disturb ecosystems further. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1, Art. 31.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-016-0031

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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. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

 

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