Dbytes #293 (29 June 2017)

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

“Scientists like myself have a responsibility to provide politicians with advice on what a certain volume of water will and won’t do. The sort of volumes of water that are [currently] available won’t deliver the conservation of some of those key environmental assets they said the plan was about.”
Jamie Pittock, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists in ABC Report
on their review of Murray-Darling Basin Plan [and see item 1]


General News

1. Five actions necessary to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan ‘in full and on time’
2. Murray-Darling Basin Plan: Irrigators urge halt to water recovery
3. The economic, social and icon value of the Great Barrier Reef
4. ABS releases Qld land accounts
5. Survey on needs for evidence in conservation and development

EDG News

RMIT Node: Sarah Bekessy and Matthew Selinske author a chapter “Social-Ecological Analyses for Better Water Resources Decisions”
UWA Node: Motivations and barriers for Western Australian broad-acre farmers to adopt carbon farming
UMelb Node: Natalie Briscoe, Pia Lentini and colleagues on the importance of nest box colour
UQ Node: April Reside and colleagues on the ecological consequences of land clearing and policy reform in Queensland
ANU node:
Nelida Villasenor and colleagues on the relative importance of aquatic and terrestrial variables for frogs in an urbanizing landscape

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General News

1. Five actions necessary to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan ‘in full and on time’

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was a bipartisan commitment by the Australian Parliament in 2012 to restore a healthy working Murray-Darling Basin. Five years in, the Wentworth Group has reviewed progress of the Basin Plan. This report is a summary of the key findings of our review with five actions necessary to deliver the Basin Plan in full and on time.

http://wentworthgroup.org/2017/06/fiveactionstodelivermdbplan/2017/

[And see item 2 for the a study pointing in a different direction; and RMIT Node news for a new book on water policy]

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2. Murray-Darling Basin Plan: Irrigators urge halt to water recovery

Irrigator groups in New South Wales’ Murray Valley are again calling for politicians to rethink environmental water recovery plans, saying their communities and agricultural productivity will continue to suffer if higher targets are pursued. The groups commissioned environmental and agricultural consultancy RMCG to investigate the socio-economic impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on Murray communities. It found that 28 per cent of the Murray Valley’s general security water entitlement is no longer being used for agriculture but is now held by governments for environmental purposes. Those entitlements would represent an additional $120 million worth of production on Murray farms in an average year, RMCG found.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-06-14/murray-irrigators-commission-economic-report-on-basin-impacts/8618228?WT.mc_id=newsmail&WT.tsrc=Newsmail

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3. The economic, social and icon value of the Great Barrier Reef
A report by Deloitte Economics

As the planet’s largest living structure and one of the world’s most complex and diverse natural ecosystems, the Great Barrier Reef is justifiably considered both priceless and irreplaceable. But what is it worth?
https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/great-barrier-reef.html

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4. ABS releases Qld land accounts
The ABS has released the publication Land Account: Queensland, Experimental Estimates, 2011 – 2016 (cat. no. 4609.0.55.003). This release marks the first occasion that the ABS has released information showing changes in land value, land use and land cover for the entire state of Queensland.

The publication includes:
-land use and value changes for Queensland between 2011 and 2016;
-land cover changes between 2010-2011 and 2014-2015 for Queensland and its 15 Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMRs);
-summary data on land use, land cover and land parcel counts for Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) regions within Queensland; and
-a Feature Article which accounts for land changes within the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region.

[And see UQ Node news on the ecological consequences of land clearing and policy reform in Queensland]

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5. Survey on needs for evidence in conservation and development
A message from Samantha Cheng Maggie Holland, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA:

“I wanted to reach out and ask if you would participate in a project we are conduct on the needs for evidence on conservation/human well-being linkages. Thank you to those who have already participated! If you have time and are interested, we would also very much appreciate if you could send this out to your colleagues (please let me know if you do!). As members of the conservation and development community, we are seeking your views on what areas between conservation and human well-being merit more research and attention. There has been a lot of attention paid to the need for more evidence to support win-win outcomes for nature and people as well as on the growing divide between research and policy. In this survey, we (the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) working group on Evidence-Based Conservation) aim to identify specific connections between nature conservation actions and human well-being outcomes that practitioners and researchers in this area think require more information. This survey will take 10-15 minutes.”
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9NCXTHJ

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EDG News

RMIT Node: Sarah Bekessy and Matthew Selinske author a chapter “Social-Ecological Analyses for Better Water Resources Decisions”
The chapter appears in the new book: Decision Making in Water Resources Policy and Management: An Australian Perspective. Many countries are experiencing major water scarcity problems which will likely intensify with the continued impacts of climate change. In response to this challenge, there is increased worldwide focus on the development of more sustainable and integrated water resource policies. The Australian experience over the past three decades has led to major improvements in the decision-making processes in water resources policy and management, particularly in response to drought and climate change, providing a great model on which other nations can use and adapt. This information is essential to early to mid-career practitioners engaged in policy, planning and operational roles in all fields of water resource policy and management, and catchment management.
-Summarizes key results from three decades of changes in Australian water resource policy
-Illustrates how Australian knowledge is being used in other countries and how this might be expanded
-Provides international practitioners with real examples of where and how the Australian knowledge is assisting in other situations
https://www.elsevier.com/books/decision-making-in-water-resources-policy-and-management/hart/978-0-12-810523-8

UWA Node: Motivations and barriers for Western Australian broad-acre farmers to adopt carbon farming
Carbon farming policies aim to contribute to climate change mitigation, but their success strongly depends on whether landholders actually adopt desired practices or participate in offered programs. The Australian Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative and Emissions Reduction Fund policies were designed to incentivise the adoption of carbon farming practices. Although these policies have been active since December 2011, farmer engagement has been limited, and net emissions reductions low as a result. We surveyed broad-acre farmers in the Western Australian wheatbelt to explore their drivers and barriers to adopting carbon farming practices and participating in carbon farming policy programs. Drivers of adoption included knowledge and perception of co-benefits (for yield, productivity, and the environment), knowing another adopter, and believing that changes to farm management are an appropriate method to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Barriers to adoption included lack of information, uncertainty and costs. The key barrier to participation was policy and political uncertainty. The determinants of adoption and participation that we identify in our study offer important insights into how to best ensure the success of Australia’s land sector-based climate change policies.

Marit Kragt (2017). Motivations and barriers for Western Australian broad-acre farmers to adopt carbon farming. Environmental Science and Policy, 73 p 115 – 123. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2017.04.009.


UMelb Node: Natalie Briscoe, Pia Lentini and colleagues on the importance of nest box colour
Nest boxes are increasingly being used in offsetting and community conservation programs, but should we be thinking more carefully about what colour we paint them? This study explored the effects of colour (white, light green and dark green) on the internal temperatures of nest boxes designed for sugar gliders, brushtail possums and bats. It was found that this simple consideration can have a big influence: on a 31.3°C day, the internal temperature of a dark green west-facing bat box reaches 53.0°C, compared with 34.7°C in a light green south-facing box. On hot summer days rates of heat loss required for possums in dark green boxes were also up to 35% higher. The thermal properties of replacement hollows can significantly impact the daily energy and water requirements of target species, and in turn reproduction and survival.
Ref: Griffiths, S.R., Rowland, J.A., Briscoe, N.J., Lentini, P.E., Handasyde, K.A., Lumsden, L.F. and Robert, K.A., 2017. Surface reflectance drives nest box temperature profiles and thermal suitability for target wildlife. PloS ONE 12, p.e0176951. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176951


UQ Node: April Reside and colleagues on the ecological consequences of land clearing and policy reform in Queensland
This short review paper highlights the range of impacts of Queensland’s current rate of land clearing – from regional and global climate, threatened species, the Great Barrier Reef, etc; and made recommendations for better policy.

Ref: Reside, A.E., Beher, J., Cosgrove, A.J., Evans, M.C., Seabrook, L., Silcock, J.L., Wenger, A.S., Maron, M., 2017. Ecological consequences of land clearing and policy reform in Queensland. Pacific Conservation Biology, Online early. http://www.publish.csiro.au/PC/PC17001

And here is a bunch of press this paper (passed on by Megan Evans)
http://www.publish.csiro.au/PC/PC17001
ABC News online http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-19/land-clearing-rates-qld-need-to-be-lowered-new-study/8628524
ABC News TV https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/other/researchers-have-found-land-clearing-in-some-parts-of-queensland-is-on-par-with-brazil-and-impacting-on-already-threatened-plant-and-animal-species/vp-BBCRBCU
ABC Radio http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2016/s4687994.htm

The Conversation https://theconversation.com/land-clearing-on-the-rise-as-legal-thinning-proves-far-from-clear-cut-79419
The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jun/20/unregulated-vegetation-thinning-adds-up-to-land-clearing-on-a-huge-scale?CMP=share_btn_tw

ANU node: Nelida Villasenor and colleagues on the relative importance of aquatic and terrestrial variables for frogs in an urbanizing landscape
Common frog species were associated with the quality of local aquatic habitat. Infrequently encountered frogs steeply declined as road length within 1 km increased. A few common frogs can be conserved by providing suitable aquatic environments. Aquatic habitat within forest reserves may help conserve urban-sensitive amphibians. Management of habitat and land use planning are needed for amphibian conservation.

Ref: Villasenor NR, DA Driscoll, P Gibbons, AJK Calhoun, DB Lindenmayer (2017) The relative importance of aquatic and terrestrial variables for frogs in an urbanizing landscape: Key insights for sustainable urban development. LANDSCAPE AND URBAN PLANNING 157:26-35.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169204616301128

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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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