Dbytes #294 (5 July 2017)

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

“They talk about the facts, they talk about the science … the evidence, the ‘p values’, the correlations. And the public don’t listen to that.”
Edy MacDonald on invasive pest control [see item 3]


General News

1. 2017–18 watering priorities to build on best conditions in 25 years
2. Agri-environmental schemes: how to enhance the agriculture–environment relationship
3. Scientists fight to make invasive pest control palatable to the public
4. Release of Report on the Review of the National Landcare Program
5. Join the ‘Recent Ecological Change in Australia’ Survey


EDG News

UWA Node: Richard Hobbs on the right to be a citizen and a scientist
UMelb Node: Geoff Heard’s new paper: Can habitat management mitigate disease impacts on threatened amphibians?
UQ Node:
Carla Archibald and Rachel Friedman create new podcast named Conservation Crossroads.
ANU Node:
Stephanie Pulsford and colleagues on remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences for reptiles in agricultural landscapes
RMIT Node:
Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum

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General News

1. 2017–18 watering priorities to build on best conditions in 25 years

Capitalising on the wettest conditions for years to support native fish, waterbirds, native vegetation and river flows in the Basin are a key focus for watering priorities in 2017–18. The annual watering priorities help guide environmental water holders and managers on where to focus environmental watering from a whole-of-Basin perspective. MDBA Executive Director Environmental Management, Carl Binning said this year was the best opportunity seen in 25 years to help our rivers and wetlands thrive.
https://www.mdba.gov.au/media/mr/2017-18-watering-priorities-build-best-conditions-25-years

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2. Agri-environmental schemes: how to enhance the agriculture–environment relationship
(A Thematic issue from the EU’s Science for Environment Policy)
Environmental protection and human food security co-exist in a critical balance, one that is often difficult to get right. The pressures of population rise, farming intensification, and loss of habitats and species mean that protections afforded under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are pivotal to the conservation of agri-ecology. In the EU, agri-environment schemes (AES) encourage farmers to undertake environmentally friendly practices and are thus vital to the objective of sustainable agriculture. This Thematic Issue looks at some of the impacts that AES have had on European farm ecosystems, biodiversity and farmers. Intensification was one aspect of the modernisation of agriculture, but it had the unfortunate side-effect of increasing pressure on the environment. That is why the reforms of the CAP since 1992 have aimed to progressively reduce the pressure of agriculture on the environment.

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/AES_impacts_on_agricultural_environment_57si_en.pdf

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3. Scientists fight to make invasive pest control palatable to the public

Social scientist Edy MacDonald wants researchers to get more emotional about invasive pest control. She believes one of the biggest hurdles facing scientists in this area is their own inability to explain their research to the public — and more specifically, their failure to acknowledge that when you’re talking about killing animals, people get upset.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-13/should-invasive-pest-control-be-acceptable-to-the-public/8613070

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4. Release of Report on the Review of the National Landcare Program

The Report on the Review of the National Landcare Program. The review considered the effectiveness of the program in delivering environment and agriculture outcomes, as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of delivery arrangements. The review process generated a lot of stakeholder interest and participation, including input from over 900 individuals and organisations through its stakeholder survey. The National Landcare Advisory Committee’s foreword to the review notes that government investment in landcare over the last 30 years has created a profound legacy. That legacy is the foundation of farming and natural resource management in Australia. The landcare movement has involved hundreds of thousands of people working across the country on thousands of projects to improve the environment. The review found that the program had achieved significant benefits for agricultural productivity, environmental conservation and community engagement, with flow on economic and social benefits.

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5. Join the ‘Recent Ecological Change in Australia’ Survey

The Department of the Environment and Energy is collaborating with CSIRO on projects that will improve the knowledge-base and long-term research infrastructure to support biodiversity conservation and natural resource management (NRM). One of these projects is collecting stories and anecdotes that will help to build a national picture of the kinds of ecological changes that have been occurring across the country over the past 10-20 years, or more. We are looking for people with strong links to Australian environments (e.g. farmers, natural resource managers, ecologists, naturalists) to share their perceptions of recent ecological change in an area they know well, and how this might link with climate or other change. To participate, you would need to be able to select a natural area (e.g. your local region or farm, a Nature Reserve, urban bushland) that you have been familiar with for at least the last 10 years. We are interested both in areas where change has been observed and where change has not been observed. The survey will take about 30-40 minutes – click here to undertake the survey. For further information contact Suzanne.Prober@csiro.au.
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EDG News

UWA Node: Richard Hobbs on the right to be a citizen and a scientist
In a recent contribution from Richard Hobbs as the Southern Correspondent for the British Ecological Society Bulletin, Richard discusses the importance of retaining the right to be a citizen and a scientist. As ecologists we can aim to guide and inform policy makers, but that is not sufficient to effect change. During protests against the Roe 8 road development in Perth, several university professors engaged in various forms of environmental activism including peaceful protests and giving ecological evidence at Senate hearings. More details about the Roe 8 campaign can be found at our Facebook page, including – a picture of a very young (beardless) Richard Hobbs
https://www.facebook.com/ERIEresearchgroup/posts/1608169515883918


UMelb Node: Geoff Heard’s new paper: Can habitat management mitigate disease impacts on threatened amphibians?
How does one tackle a rapacious pathogen? If it were an infectious agent of humans, we would have much in our armoury. We could isolate the stricken, and slow the pathogens spread. We could search for the vector and extinguish it. We could take antibodies from the immune and treat the susceptible with their serum. Or we could disseminate doses of powerful antibiotics or vaccines, and lead the pathogen down the path to functional extinction.
But what if the pathogen targets wildlife? In that case, our armoury is much diminished. So much so that the outcome of wildlife-pathogen interactions in nature are almost always determined by natural mechanisms; by the death of the susceptible and, failing complete extinction, either the survival and proliferation of the immune, or persistence of relic populations in disease refugia, away from reservoir hosts or in regions outside the pathogens environmental hitting zone.
In our latest paper, just out in Conservation Letters, we assess the degree to which knowledge of environmental refugia can be used to mitigate the impacts of perhaps the worst wildlife pathogen of modern times – the amphibian chytrid fungus. Chytrid emerged as a major pathogen of amphibians late last century, for reasons unknown. It spread across the globe, facilitated by us, and decimated frogs and toads as it went. The toll is difficult to quantify (and continues to mount), but at least 200 species are now thought to have either succumbed completely to chytridiomycosis, or suffered significant population declines.
https://gwheardresearch.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/new-paper-can-habitat-management-mitigate-disease-impacts-on-threatened-amphibians/


UQ Node: Carla Archibald and Rachel Friedman create new podcast named Conservation Crossroads.
From Carla and Rachel: Conservation science is at crossroads, species are declining at rapid rates and ecosystems are being thrown out of balance! During this podcast hosts, Carla Archibald and Rachel Friedman will be exploring and sharing the most up-to-date thinking in conservation science and environmental problem-solving. Keep up to date, or tell us what you want to hear, by tweeting at us
Here is a link to the podcast trailer: http://bit.ly/2svoFTd
This is the first episode: http://bit.ly/2sNpho2. We recorded this episode when Professor Niels Strange was visiting CEED and we chat to Niels about how to value nature!

ANU Node: Stephanie Pulsford and colleagues on remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences for reptiles in agricultural landscapes
Managing agricultural landscapes for biodiversity conservation is increasingly difficult as land use is modified or intensified for production. Finding ways to mitigate the negative effects of agriculture on biodiversity is therefore critical. We asked the question: How do remnant patches, paddock types and grazing regimes influence reptile assemblages in a grazing landscape? At 12 sites, we surveyed reptiles and environmental covariates in remnant woodland patches and in four paddock types: (i) grazed pasture, (ii) linear plantings, (iii) coarse woody debris (CWD) added to grazed pasture and (iv) fences between grazed pasture. Each site was either continuously or rotationally grazed. Remnant vegetation and other vegetation attributes such as tree cover and leaf litter greatly influenced reptiles. We recorded higher reptile abundance and species richness in areas with more tree cover and leaf litter. For rare species (captured in ≤4 sites <70 captures), there were 5·7 more animals and 2·6 more species in sites with 50% woody cover within 3 km compared to 5% woody cover. The abundance and richness of rare species, and one common species differed between paddock types and were higher in linear plantings and fence transects compared to CWD and pasture transects.
Synthesis and applications: Grazed paddocks, particularly those with key features such as fences and plantings can provide habitat for reptiles. This suggests that discrete differentiation between patch and matrix does not apply for reptiles in these systems. Management to promote reptile conservation in agricultural landscapes should involve protecting existing remnant vegetation, regardless of amount; and promote key habitat features of trees, leaf litter and shrubs. Establishing plantings and fences is important as they support high numbers of less common reptiles and may facilitate reptiles to move through and use greater amounts of the landscape.
Ref: Pulsford, S. A., Driscoll, D. A., Barton, P. S. and Lindenmayer, D. B., 2017. Remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes, Journal of Applied Ecology: available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12923.

And see the blog on this paper at: https://jappliedecologyblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/for-the-love-of-trees/?platform=hootsuite


RMIT Node: Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum
The City of Melbourne held a Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum last week. The aim of this forum was to connect environmental managers and practitioners at the City of Melbourne with relevant scientists. The CAUL Hub was well represented at this event, with researchers who presented including Sarah Bekessy, Dave Kendal, Claire Farrell, Nick Williams, Steve Livesley and Kirsten Parris. Topics presented included urban forests, green infrastructure and urban biodiversity, drawing on the Urban Greening and Shared Urban Habitat research projects of the Hub. An important theme across a number of presentations was the interrelationship between benefits for biodiversity with benefits for humans, with good ecological outcomes often producing good social outcomes as well. Some highlights from the discussions are on RMIT’s Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group’s Conservation Science Blog.

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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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