Dbytes #297 (27 July 2017)

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

“We seem to have forgotten the dire state of the environment that drove the [Murray-Darling Basin water] reforms. Forests of river red gums, black box eucalypts and coolibah trees dead, denied the water flows they relied on by irrigation. Waterbird numbers have plummeted, half the native fish species are now threatened, blue-green algal blooms are increasing, and the Lower Lakes was once taken over by sulfuric acid and salinity.”
Richard Kingsford in The Environment Report

General News

1. Marine Park draft management plans released: now open for comment

2. Comments open on draft recovery plans for central rock-rat, Macquarie perch and Swan Coastal Plain ecological community

3. Graphics for conservation

4. The interdisciplinary mix you need for evidence-informed policymaking

5. Australian Indigenous Water Policy and the impacts of the ever-changing political cycle

EDG News

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on countering resistance to protected area extension
RMIT Node:
Mat Hardy and colleagues on factors influencing property selection for conservation revolving funds
UWA Node: Isolation predicts compositional change after discrete disturbances in a global meta-study
UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on wildfires are raging in the Mediterranean. What can we learn?
UQ Node: Truly Santika and colleagues on Bornean orangutans in decline despite conservation efforts

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General News

1. Marine Park draft management plans released: now open for comment

The Director of National Parks Sally Barnes has released five draft plans to manage 44 Australian Marine Parks over the next 10 years. You can have your say on how Australian Marine Parks will be managed into the future. The draft plans can be found here. The draft management plans are open for comment until 20 September 2017. More information about Australia’s marine parks – which now cover more than 3.3 million square kilometres of ocean – can be found in the Director of National Parks’ media release and Minister’s media release. The Federal Government has committed $56.1 million over four years to fund the management of Australian Marine Parks.

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2. Comments open on draft recovery plans for central rock-rat, Macquarie perch and Swan Coastal Plain ecological community

A draft recovery plan for the central rock-rat – one of 20 priority mammals in the Threatened Species Strategy – is now out for comment. Have your say by 8 September 2017. Recovery plans for the Clay pans of the Swan Coastal Plain ecological community and the Macquarie perch are also open for comment, by 1 September 2017. Recovery plans set out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, listed threatened species or threatened ecological communities. The aim of a recovery plan is to maximise the long term survival in the wild of a threatened species or ecological community.
http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery-plans/comment

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3. Graphics for conservation
The use of maps and other figures to present data, findings and related information—to help tell a story—is an integral part of writing for conservation and related sciences. A well designed illustration presents information in a way that text cannot. Many authors struggle, however, to prepare publication quality graphics that do justice to their research and conservation work. Graphics for Conservation provides guidance on designing maps and data plots, advice on the wise use of graphics formats, and screencast demonstrations to help with drafting beautiful figures.

http://scalar.usc.edu/works/graphics-for-conservation/introduction?path=index

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4. The interdisciplinary mix you need for evidence-informed policymaking

An article in The Mandarin (and associated research paper) argues that breaking down the walls between different academic disciplines could enhance our understanding of why research evidence does − or doesn’t − make it into policy.
http://www.themandarin.com.au/80801-interdisciplinary-mix-need-evidence-informed-policymaking/


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5. Australian Indigenous Water Policy and the impacts of the ever-changing political cycle
[Editor’s note: another dimension on water-use trade-offs]
First Peoples are leading the conversation about Indigenous water rights policy in Australia. This paper reviews contemporary Aboriginal water policy and initiatives. We examine the ever-changing cycles of government action and inaction, and First Peoples’ responses. Three case studies: Strategic Indigenous Reserves in the Northern Territory, the First Peoples’ Water Engagement Council and the Fitzroy River Declaration illustrate: (1) First People’s expressions of the right to self-determination in relation to water; (2) First Peoples’ contributions to integrated water resource management principles and water governance in Australia; and (3) that State/Commonwealth Aboriginal water initiatives are often discontinued when elected government changes, and rarely given strength through legislation. We finish the review with policy recommendations that underline the need to ‘break the cycle’ of inconsistent government initiatives.
Ref: Katherine Selena Taylor, Bradley J. Moggridge & Anne Poelina (2017). Australian Indigenous Water Policy and the impacts of the ever-changing political cycle. Australasian Journal of Water Resources.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13241583.2017.1348887

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EDG News

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on countering resistance to protected area extension
The establishment of protected areas is a critical strategy for conserving biodiversity. Key policy directives like the Aichi targets seek to expand protected areas to 17% of the earth’s land surface, with calls by some conservation biologists for much more. However, in places such as the USA, Germany and Australia, attempts to increase protected areas are meeting strong resistance from communities, industry groups, and governments. Here we provide case studies of such resistance and suggest four ways to tackle this problem: (1) Broaden the case for protected areas beyond just nature conservation, to include the economic, human health, and other benefits, and translate these into a persuasive business case for protected areas. (2) Better communicate the conservation values of protected areas. This should include highlighting how many species, communities, and ecosystems have been conserved by protected areas and also the counterfactual – what would have been lost without protected area establishment. (3) Consider zoning of activities to ensure the maintenance of effective management. And, (4) Remind citizens to think about conservation when they vote, including holding politicians accountable for their environmental promises. Without tackling resistance to expanding the protected estate, it will be impossible to reach conservation targets and this will undermine attempts to stem the global extinction crisis.
Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Thorn, S., and Noss, R. (2017). Countering resistance to protected area extension. Conservation Biology, doi:10.1111/cobi.12990. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12990/pdf

RMIT Node: Mat Hardy and colleagues on factors influencing property selection for conservation revolving funds
Finding sustainable ways to increase the amount of private land protected for biodiversity is a challenge for many conservation organizations. In a number of countries, organizations use ‘revolving fund’ programs, whereby land is purchased, and then on-sold to conservation-minded owners with a condition to enter into a conservation covenant or easement. The proceeds from sale are then used to purchase, protect and on-sell additional properties, incrementally increasing the amount of protected private land. As the effectiveness of this approach relies upon selecting the right properties, we sought to explore the factors currently considered by practitioners and how these are integrated into decision-making. We conducted exploratory, semi-structured interviews with managers from each of the five major revolving funds in Australia. Responses suggest that whilst conservation factors are important, financial and social factors are also highly influential, with a major determinant being whether the property can be on-sold within a reasonable timeframe, and at a price that replenishes the fund. To facilitate the on-sale process, often selected properties include the potential for the construction of a dwelling. Practitioners are faced with clear trade-offs between conservation, financial, amenity and other factors in selecting properties; and three main potential risks: difficulty recovering the costs of acquisition, protection, and resale; difficulty on-selling the property; and difficulty meeting conservation goals. Our findings suggest that the complexity of these decisions may be limiting revolving fund effectiveness. We draw from participant responses to identify potential strategies to mitigate the risks identified, and suggest that managers could benefit from a shared learning and adaptive approach to property selection given the commonalities between programs. Understanding how practitioners are dealing with complex decisions in the implementation of revolving funds helps to identify future research to improve the performance of this conservation tool.
Ref: Hardy, M. J., Fitzsimons, J. A., Bekessy, S. A. and Gordon, A. (2017), Factors influencing property selection for conservation revolving funds. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12991
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12991/full

UWA Node:
Isolation predicts compositional change after discrete disturbances in a global meta-study
How ecological communities respond to change, both anthropogenic and natural, was the topic of discussion at a CEED workshop held on Rottnest Island, just off the coast from Perth, WA. The resulting paper compiled data sets from 14 projects across four continents, comprising of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that experienced disturbances ranging from a mass coral bleaching event on the Scott Reef system in the Timor Sea through to gopher digging in the Serpentine grasslands of California. Nancy Shackelford and Rachel Standish and colleagues used changes in community composition and species richness to measure the differences between communities before and after disturbance. They explored how community recovery is influenced by factors like species diversity, isolation from surrounding land/seascapes, and disturbance intensity. Can you guess which one was the strongest relationship? Find out more at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecog.02383/full


UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on wildfires are raging in the
Mediterranean. What can we learn?
“In Italy, firefighters across the country are battling hundreds of wildfires, the flames fanned by a combination of heat and drought. This is just the latest in a succession of fires in the Mediterranean. In June, forest fires in Portugal killed 64 people in Pedrógão Grande, in the Leira district, and immediately afterwards Spanish forests went up in flames, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,500 people from homes and campsites. Fires are expected in the summer, but they don’t usually have such severe consequences. These incidents highlight the need to rethink how landscapes can be managed to protect people and sustain ecosystems when the region’s climate and population are rapidly changing…”
https://theconversation.com/wildfires-are-raging-in-the-mediterranean-what-can-we-learn-81121

UQ Node: Truly Santika and colleagues on Bornean orangutans in decline despite conservation efforts
A first population trend analysis of Critically Endangered Bornean orangutans reveals that despite decades of conservation work, the species is declining rapidly – at a rate of 25 per cent over the past 10 years. CEED researcher Dr Truly Santika, an Indonesian statistician, led the study. The research team also included CEED Director Professor Kerrie Wilson, and associate Dr Jessie Wells. The analyses show that declines are particularly pronounced in West and Central Kalimantan, but even in relatively well protected areas, such as the Malaysian State of Sabah, the rate of decline is still 21.3 per cent. Every year some USD$30-40 million is invested by governmental and non-governmental organisations to halt the decline of wild populations. The study shows that these funds are not effectively spent. Dr Santika said for many threatened species, the rate and drivers of population decline were difficult to assess accurately. “Our study used advanced modelling techniques that allowed the combination of different survey methods, including helicopter surveys, traditional ground surveys, and interviews with local communities,” she said. Professor Kerrie Wilson said: “This new approach facilitated the break-through and for the first time, enable researchers to determine the population trends of the species over time.” She said the study, conducted by a group of some 50 Indonesian, Malaysian, and international researchers, was a wake-up call for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments who had committed to saving the species. Ultimately, viable populations of large roaming animals such as the orangutan require a solid network of protected forests that are properly managed, and sustainable practices outside of these protected areas.
http://ceed.edu.au/ceed-news/43-news-2017/447-bornean-orangutans-in-decline-despite-conservation-efforts.html


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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