Dbytes #306 (5 October 2017)

“If public servants could just ‘talk like normal people’ more often, the administrative side of government might start to gain more respect in the eyes of the public.”
Gordon de Brouwer, outgoing Secretary for the Dept of the Environment and Energy in his parting address.

General News

1. Twenty years of ecosystem services: How far have we come?
2. Funding for new invasive species research centre
3. For whom the bell tolls: cats kill more than a million Australian birds every day
4. Australian miners back ethical supply of minerals as illegal mining in Africa impacts gorilla habitat
5.
Graduate Student’s Guide to Necessary Skills for Nonacademic Conservation Careers

EDG News

UQ Node: Megan Evans and colleagues on embrace complexity to improve conservation decision making
ANU Node: Luke O’Loughlin and colleagues on: Review of historic stock routes may put rare stretches of native plants and animals at risk
UWA Node: Marit Kragt and colleagues on motivations and barriers for WA broad-acre farmers to adopt carbon farming
Umelb Node: Lucie Bland and colleagues on using multiple lines of evidence to assess the risk of ecosystem collapse

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General News

1. Twenty years of ecosystem services: How far have we come?

It has been 20 years since two seminal publications about ecosystem services came out: an edited book by Gretchen Daily and an article in Nature by a group of ecologists and economists on the value of the world’s ecosystem services. Both of these have been very highly cited and kicked off an explosion of research, policy, and applications of the idea, including the establishment of this journal. This article traces the history leading up to these publications and the subsequent debates, research, institutions, policies, on-the-ground actions, and controversies they triggered. It also explores what we have learned during this period about the key issues: from definitions to classification to valuation, from integrated modelling to public participation and communication, and the evolution of institutions and governance innovation. Finally, it provides recommendations for the future. In particular, it points to the weakness of the mainstream economic approaches to valuation, growth, and development. It concludes that the substantial contributions of ecosystem services to the sustainable wellbeing of humans and the rest of nature should be at the core of the fundamental change needed in economic theory and practice if we are to achieve a societal transformation to a sustainable and desirable future.

Ref: Costanza et al (2017). Twenty years of ecosystem services: How far have we come and how far do we still need to go? Ecosystem Services
http://www.robertcostanza.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017_J_Costanza-et-al.-20yrs.-EcoServices.pdf
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2. Funding for new invasive species research centre

Funding of $20 million has been provided through phase two of the National Landcare Program for a new Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, that will follow on from the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre. The CRC has been funded for ten years under the Cooperative Research Centres program. The research of the new centre will fall into two broad groups:
•Prevention, incursions response and eradication
•Integrated landscape management to protect assets from established pests.

https://www.environmentreport.com.au/single-post/2017/10/03/Funding-for-new-invasive-species-research-centre

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3. For whom the bell tolls: cats kill more than a million Australian birds every day
Woinarski et al in The Conversation

Cats kill more than a million birds every day across Australia, according to our new estimate – the first robust attempt to quantify the problem on a nationwide scale. By combining data on the cat population, hunting rates and spatial distribution, we calculate that they kill 377 million birds a year. Rates are highest in Australia’s dry interior, suggesting that feral cats pose a serious and largely unseen threat to native bird species.

https://theconversation.com/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-cats-kill-more-than-a-million-australian-birds-every-day-85084

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4. Australian miners back ethical supply of minerals as illegal mining in Africa impacts gorilla habitat

Gorilla habitat under threat from mining: Extracting ‘conflict minerals’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda means loss of endangered mountain and other gorillas and destruction of their habitats. The global thirst for the minerals needed for new technologies has unearthed the unethical practices of miners in some African countries. The demand for batteries for smart phones, tablets, laptop computers and battery storage is fuelling a tech-metals boom. Exploration and mining of lithium, vanadium, graphite, cobalt, silver, tantalum, rare earths and the hybrid metal called coltan is only set to in increase. Coltan is short for a combined columbite-tantalite ore that, when refined, produces becomes metallic tantalum which is used in capacitors. However there is growing concern that it is also fuelling the unethical practices by miners in some African countries.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-09-11/door-opens-for-aussie-miners-to-replace-conflict-minerals/8874774?WT.mc_id=newsmail&WT.tsrc=Newsmail

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5. Graduate Student’s Guide to Necessary Skills for Nonacademic Conservation Careers
[Recommended by Mick McCarthy]

Graduate education programs in conservation science generally focus on disciplinary training and discipline-specific research skills. However, nonacademic conservation professionals often require an additional suite of skills. This discrepancy between academic training and professional needs can make it difficult for graduate students to identify the skills and experiences that will best prepare them for the conservation job market. We analyzed job advertisements for conservation-science positions and interviewed conservation professionals with experience hiring early-career conservation scientists to determine what skills employers of conservation professionals seek; whether the relative importance of skills varies by job sector (government, nonprofit, and private); and how graduate students interested in careers in conservation science might signal competency in key skills to potential employers. In job advertisements, disciplinary, interpersonal, and project-management skills were in the top 5 skills mentioned across all job sectors. Employers’ needs for additional skills, like program leadership, conflict resolution and negotiation, and technical and information technology skills, varied across sectors. Our interview results demonstrated that some skills are best signaled to employers via experiences obtained outside thesis or dissertation work. Our findings suggest that graduate students who wish to be competitive in the conservation job market can benefit by gaining skills identified as important to the job sector in which they hope to work and should not necessarily expect to be competent in these skills simply by completing their chosen degree path.
Ref: BLICKLEY, J. L., DEINER, K., GARBACH, K., LACHER, I., MEEK, M. H., PORENSKY, L. M., WILKERSON, M. L., WINFORD, E. M. and SCHWARTZ, M. W. (2013), Graduate Student’s Guide to Necessary Skills for Nonacademic Conservation Careers. Conservation Biology, 27: 24–34. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01956.x
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01956.x/abstract

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EDG News

UQ Node: Megan Evans and colleagues on embrace complexity to improve conservation decision making
From Megan: You may be interested in this piece I just published with colleagues in Nature Ecology & Evolution, which you can read for free with this link: http://rdcu.be/wnPv
Here we respond to a recent piece by Bill Sutherland and Claire Wordley (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038%2Fs41559-017-0244-1), which suggested that “evidence complacency” is leading to poor conservation outcomes. We argue that viewing poor conservation outcomes as simply the result of a deficit of evidence is counterproductive, and overlooks the complex social, political and institutional processes which lead to decisions being made. We suggest that in addition to ensuring decision makers have access to relevant evidence, we need to understand and embrace these complexities if we hope to improve on-ground conservation outcomes.
And there’s a blog on the Luc Hoffman Institute website too:

http://luchoffmanninstitute.org/2017/10/evidence-based-conservation-is-more-complex-than-you-might-think/

ANU Node: Luke O’Loughlin and colleagues on: Review of historic stock routes may put rare stretches of native plants and animals at risk
Since the 19th century, Australian drovers have moved their livestock along networks of stock routes. Often following traditional Indigenous pathways, these corridors and stepping-stones of remnant vegetation cross the heavily cleared wheat and sheep belt in central New South Wales. The publicly owned Travelling Stock Reserve network of New South Wales is now under government review, which could see the ownership of much of this crown land move into private hands. But in a study published today in the Australian Journal of Botany we suggest that privatising stock routes may endanger vital woodlands and put vulnerable species at risk.
https://theconversation.com/review-of-historic-stock-routes-may-put-rare-stretches-of-native-plants-and-animals-at-risk-84049

UWA Node: Marit Kragt and colleagues on motivations and barriers for WA broad-acre farmers to adopt carbon farming
Farmers in Western Australia were surveyed about climate change mitigation practices. Few farmers were participating in formal carbon farming policy schemes. Perceptions of co-benefits were important drivers of adoption. A lack of information and policy uncertainties were the main barriers. Demonstrating environmental, socio-economic and financial benefits could help increase engagement.
Ref: Marit E. Kragt, Nikki P. Dumbrell, Louise Blackmore (2017). Motivations and barriers for Western Australian broad-acre farmers to adopt carbon farming, In Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 73, 2017, Pages 115-123, ISSN 1462-9011

https://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S1462901116307894

Umelb Node: Lucie Bland and colleagues on using multiple lines of evidence to assess the risk of ecosystem collapse
Effective ecosystem risk assessment relies on a conceptual understanding of ecosystem dynamics and the synthesis of multiple lines of evidence. Risk assessment protocols and ecosystem models integrate limited observational data with threat scenarios, making them valuable tools for monitoring ecosystem status and diagnosing key mechanisms of decline to be addressed by management. We applied the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems criteria to quantify the risk of collapse of the Meso-American Reef, a unique ecosystem containing the second longest barrier reef in the world. We collated a wide array of empirical data (field and remotely sensed), and used a stochastic ecosystem model to backcast past ecosystem dynamics, as well as forecast future ecosystem dynamics under 11 scenarios of threat. The ecosystem is at high risk from mass bleaching in the coming decades, with compounding effects of ocean acidification, hurricanes, pollution and fishing. The overall status of the ecosystem is Critically Endangered (plausibly Vulnerable to Critically Endangered), with notable differences among Red List criteria and data types in detecting the most severe symptoms of risk. Our case study provides a template for assessing risks to coral reefs and for further application of ecosystem models in risk assessment.
Ref: Lucie M. Bland, Tracey J. Regan, Minh Ngoc Dinh, Renata Ferrari, David A. Keith, Rebecca Lester, David Mouillot, Nicholas J. Murray, Hoang Anh Nguyen, Emily Nicholson (2017)
http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/284/1863/20170660

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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