Dbytes #292 (15 June 2017)

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

“public attention rarely remains sharply focused upon any one domestic issue for very long – even if it involves a continuing problem of crucial importance to society. Instead, a systematic “issue-attention cycle” seems strongly to influence public attitudes and behaviour concerning most key domestic problems. Each of these problems suddenly leaps into prominence, remains there for a short time, and then – though still largely unresolved – gradually fades from the center of public attention”

Anthony Downs [see item 5]


General News

1. Identifying best practice cat management in Australia – a public consultation
2. Climate Change in Australia user survey
3. The Conservation Status of Marine Biodiversity of the Pacific Islands of Oceania
4. Perils and positives of science journalism in Australia
5. Up and down with ecology – the ‘issue-attention cycle’

EDG News

RMIT Node: Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum in The City of Melbourne
UWA node: Category mistakes: A barrier to effective environmental management
UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire regimes and environmental gradients shape vertebrate and plant distributions in temperate eucalypt forests
UQ Node:
James Allan wins Elsevier Atlas Award
ANU node:
Reintroduced bandicoots at Booderee National Park doing well

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General News

1. Identifying best practice cat management in Australia – a public consultation

There are an estimated 3.3 million owned cats and at least 2.1 million feral cats in Australia. While most domestic cats are valued as companions and pets, many end up uncared for, and tens of thousands of healthy but unwanted cats and kittens are euthanased every year. At the same time, reducing the impact of feral cats on native animals is crucial to protecting the future of Australian’s biodiversity. Considerable efforts have been made by governments and animal welfare organisations over many decades to reduce the unwanted cat population and better manage domestic cats, yet many of the same problems remain. The purpose of this Discussion Paper is to identify current best practice approaches to domestic cat management to help resolve the key issues of their impact on wildlife, high euthanasia rates, public nuisance, and poor welfare. This process involves building on the knowledge gained from previous strategies, including the effectiveness of existing legislation, reviewing current research in this area, and considering relevant aspects of feral cat management.

Submissions on this draft Discussion Paper are open until 27 July 2017.
https://www.rspca.org.au/facts/science/cat-management-paper

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2. Climate Change in Australia user survey

Climate projections are important tools for planning for the future in a changing climate. Australia’s national climate projections were published in 2015 by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology and are available through a range of products and services, including brochures, reports, web pages, online tools, data, videos, slides, training, webinars and a help desk. Researchers in the (NESP) Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub want to find out how well these products (which have undergone some updates over the past 12 months) are meeting the needs of users, to guide the ongoing development of useful projections and climate change information. To this end, they are collecting feedback from Climate Change in Australia users via an online survey. If you use Climate Change in Australia products and would like to contribute to their ongoing development, please complete the survey by 2 July.
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3. The Conservation Status of Marine Biodiversity of the Pacific Islands of Oceania

The Pacific Islands of Oceania are small islands and atolls occurring over a vast expanse of ocean that are characterized by immense biodiversity and endemism. Home to at least 44,000 species, the Pacific Islands are poorly known, with innumerable species awaiting discovery. This project represents a major expansion of the coverage of the Pacific Islands’ marine biodiversity on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In 2008, only about 200 Pacific Island marine species were assessed; now, extinction risk assessments have been undertaken for over 2,800 species. These include all known species in select plant and invertebrate taxa: seagrasses, mangroves, reef-building corals, cone snails and commercially exploited sea cucumbers. In addition, a number of marine vertebrate clades have been completed, including marine mammals, sea birds, sea turtles, chondrichthyans, and a subset of the bony fishes. However, the current representation of the Pacific Islands’ marine biodiversity is less than half of the region’s known marine vertebrates, and an even smaller fraction of the invertebrates.

Ref: H. Pippard, G.M. Ralph, M.S. Harvey, K.E. Carpenter, J.R. Buchanan, D.W. Greenfield, H.D. Harwell, H.K. Larson, A. Lawrence, C. Linardich, K. Matsuura, H. Motomura, T.A. Munroe, R.F. Myers, B.C. Russell, W.F. Smith-Vaniz, J.-C. Vié, R.R. Thaman, J.T. Williams (2017). The Conservation Status of Marine Biodiversity of the Pacific Islands of Oceania. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. viii + 59 pp.

http://iucn-email.org/2QBL-H2AG-2BMAN6-8QA1G-1/c.aspx

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4. Perils and positives of science journalism in Australia

Scientists, science communicators and science journalists interact to deliver science news to the public. Yet the value of interactions between the groups in delivering high-quality science stories is poorly understood within Australia. A recent study in New Zealand on the perspectives of the three groups on the challenges facing science journalism is replicated here in the context of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. While all three groups perceived the quality of science journalism as generally high, the limitations of non-specialists and public relation materials were causes for concern. The results indicate that science communicators are considered to play a valuable role as facilitators of information flow to journalists and support for scientists. Future studies on the influence and implications of interactions between these three groups are required.

Ref: Merryn McKinnon, Johanna Howes, Andrew Leach, Natasha Prokop (2017). Perils and positives of science journalism in Australia. Public Understanding of Science
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0963662517701589

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5. Up and down with ecology – the ‘issue-attention cycle’
[Recommended by Peter Burnett]

The issue-attention cycle as described by Anthony Downs

1. The pre-problem stage: when most people aren’t yet aware of the issue but experts or interest groups might be.
2. Alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm: when the public suddenly becomes aware of and alarmed about an issue. According to Down’s analysis, in the US this alarm “is invariably accompanied by euphoric enthusiasm about society’s ability to “solve this problem” or “do something effective” within a relatively short period of time”.
3. Realising the cost of significant progress – disillusionment sets in once people realise how much it will cost to solve the problem, not only in terms of money but also through sacrifices by large groups of the population.
4. Gradual decline of intense public interest: “As more and more people realize how difficult, and how costly to themselves, a solution to the problem would be, three reactions set in. Some people just get discouraged. Others feel positively threatened by thinking about the problem, so they suppress such thoughts. Still others become bored by the issue.” Other issues start to get more attention instead.
5. The post-problem stage – the problem gets moved off into a “twilight realm of lesser attention or spasmodic recurrences of interest”. But things are not the same as before – new institutions, policies and programmes are in place, and any issue that has been through the cycle is more likely to get attention again in future at certain points.

Ref: Downs A (1972). Up and down with ecology – the ‘issue-attention cycle’. Public Interest 28

[Editor’s note: Sometimes we feature older items like this classic. You can read a discussion on this paper, with a link downloading the paper itself, at https://politicalclimate.net/2011/05/02/up-and-down-with-climate-change/ ]

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EDG News

RMIT Node: Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum in The City of Melbourne
Members of the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group recently attended The Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum held by The City of Melbourne – a day of discussions about biodiversity research in the urban area of Melbourne. It was a fantastic day to meet practitioners, decision makers and researchers working in Melbourne. Three members of ICS spoke about projects underway in the City that revolve around increasing biodiversity and human well being in Melbourne’s urban area:
Sarah Bekessy presented research led by Luis Mata that aims to quantify biodiversity changes in a network of greening intervention sites.
Holly Kirk presented research on behalf of a number of collaborators entitled Our City’s Little Gems.
Freya Thomas presented on behalf of a range of collaborators and industry partners a new project about Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human wellbeing.
https://icsrg.info/2017/06/14/biodiversity-research-and-monitoring-forum-in-the-city-of-melbourne/

UWA node: Category mistakes: A barrier to effective environmental management
Six of the ten resource management errors outlined in a widely cited article by Lee Failing and Robin Gregory involve inadequate definition of environmental categories and confusion among these categories. However, Failing and Gregory don’t deal directly with these important definitional issues. Yet the problems arising from them are widespread as shown by the misuse of ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’ as goals; and frequent category mistakes within classifications of ecosystem services. To address these issues, Mark Jago, a philosopher from Nottingham University (UK), and Ken Wallace from UWA defined a set of fundamental categories for environmental management. Those wishing to know more about category mistakes and how to avoid them can download a free copy of the paper from https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1V2oj14Z6tTFet until 5 July 2017.
Ref: Ken Wallace and Mark Jago (2017). Category mistakes: A barrier to effective environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management, 199, p13–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.05.029


UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire regimes and environmental gradients shape vertebrate and plant distributions in temperate eucalypt forests
Fire is a global driver of ecosystems and is widely used to manage forests. In a new paper published in Ecosphere, Luke Kelly and colleagues tested six hypotheses relating to fire regimes and environmental gradients in forest ecosystems using data on birds (493 sites), mammals (175 sites), and vascular plants (615 sites) systematically collected in dry eucalypt forests southern Australia. Each of these hypotheses was addressed by fitting species distribution models which differed in the environmental variables used, the spatial extent of the data, or the type of response data. Kelly and colleagues showed that interacting fire regimes and environmental gradients influence the distribution of birds, small mammals and plants; and that multiple components of the fire regime drive biotic distributions. A companion piece published in The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America showcases some of the fascinating species that occur in dry eucalypt forests and the important insights that can be gained by modelling how fire regimes, not just fire events, influence biota in forests.
Refs: Kelly, L.T., Haslem, A., Holland, G.J., Leonard, S., MacHunter, J., Bassett, M., Bennett, A.F., Bruce, Chia, E., Christie, F., Clarke, M.,  Di Stefano, J., Loyn, R., McCarthy, M., Pung, A., Robinson, N., Sitters, H., Swan, M., York, A (2017) Fire regimes and environmental gradients shape vertebrate and plant distributions in temperate eucalypt forests. Ecosphere. 8: e01781

Kelly, L.T., Haslem, A., Holland, G.J., Leonard, S., MacHunter, J., Bassett, M., Bennett, A.F., Bruce, Chia, E., Christie, F., Clarke, M.,  Di Stefano, J., Loyn, R., McCarthy, M., Pung, A., Robinson, N., Sitters, H., Swan, M., York, A (2017) Fire regimes and environmental gradients shape bird, mammal and plant distributions in temperate eucalypt forests. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. DOI:10.1002/bes2.1322


UQ Node: James Allan wins Elsevier Atlas Award
CEED PhD student James Allan was recently awarded the Elsevier Atlas Award, as the lead author on a paper published recently in Elsevier’s Biological Conservation journal. The Atlas is awarded to a single journal article each month, from the thousands of articles recently published in Elsevier’s journals. James’ article, ‘Recent increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites’, revealed that over 100 world heritage sites are being damaged by human activities. The international team behind the paper also included CEED researchers and associates Sean Maxwell, Kendall Jones, James Watson, and Oscar Venter. The award was presented by Elsevier’s publishers Fiona Barron and Diana Jones at The University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus.
http://ceed.edu.au/ceed-news/43-news-2017/440-james-allen-wins-elsevier-atlas-award.html

ANU node: Reintroduced bandicoots at Booderee National Park doing well
ANU researchers in David Lindenmayer’s group have been monitoring southern brown bandicoots that were reintroduced into Booderee National Park by Parks Australia. Last year, 11 bandicoots were released with a further 12 bandicoots in May this year. Last year’s monitoring via radio tracking revealed that bandicoots preferred heath and woodland, and avoided forest. Based on these findings, all the 2017 bandicoots were released into these preferred vegetation types. The team also made another very pleasing discovery in the field this year – the reintroduced bandicoots are successfully breeding. The team captured a juvenile female bandicoot that was born in the Park, which has been reported in the Canberra Times. The reintroductions are supported by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, NSW Forestry Corporation and the NESP TSR Hub.


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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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