Dbytes #308 (26 October 2017)

“But if the TSC 2.0 [ie, next Threatened Species Commissioner] is to be a truly informed and independent voice for Australia’s threatened species, the role must sit within a statutory authority, at arm’s length from government. This is the case in New Zealand, where an independent environment commission has operated since 1986. It’s time for Australia to follow suit.”
Ritchie et al, Australia’s species need an independent champion
https://theconversation.com/australias-species-need-an-independent-champion-83580
[and see items 1, 2 and UMelb node news]

General News

1. Decentralising the Protection Of Australian Threatened Species
2. Senate interim report recommends watering down the EPBC Act
3. New interventions are needed to save coral reefs
4. Is it too cheap to visit the ‘priceless’ Great Barrier Reef?
5. The precautionary principle: its role in law and policy

EDG News

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer on more sightings of an endangered species don’t always mean it’s recovering
UWA Node: Trade-offs in triple-bottom-line outcomes when recovering fisheries
UMelb news: Brendan Wintle and Sarah Bekessy on: Let’s get this straight, habitat loss is the number-one threat to Australia’s species
UQ News:
Jonathan Rhodes on Assessing the effectiveness of regulation to protect threatened forests
RMIT Node: Matthew Selinske and Mat Hardy speak at the 2017 National Private Land Conservation Conference

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General News

1. Decentralising the Protection Of Australian Threatened Species
[an IPA policy paper]

“Environmental law in Australia has not only been expanding but also becoming more centralised. The delays that stem from this red tape create uncertainty, stymie investment, and hold back Australian prosperity. This paper emphasises one aspect of environmental law—the listing and protection of threatened species—and analyses potential reform directions.”

“…our main recommendation is to embrace environmental federalism and return the responsibility for listing endangered species to the states. This would enable jurisdictional competition between protection regimes, which in the long run helps to discover the optimum trade-off between growth and environmental protection.”

http://ipa.org.au/publications-ipa/research-papers/decentralising-protection-australian-threatened-species-2

[And see item 2]

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2. Senate interim report recommends watering down the EPBC Act

The Senate Select Committee on Red Tape has released its interim report on the effect of red tape on environmental assessment and approvals, recommending a suite of changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act and other legislation that would remove or reduce significant powers of the Federal Government to intervene on environmental issues.

https://www.environmentreport.com.au/single-post/2017/10/25/Senate-interim-report-recommends-watering-down-the-EPBC-Act

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3. New interventions are needed to save coral reefs

Scientists anticipate that conventional management approaches will be insufficient to protect coral reefs, even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C. Emerging technologies are needed to stem the decline of these natural assets.

Ref: Anthony K et al (2017). New interventions are needed to save coral reefs. Nature Ecology and Evolution. http://rdcu.be/v4j4

And see The Conversation editorial on this story by Ken Anthony and colleagues.
https://theconversation.com/the-great-barrier-reef-can-repair-itself-with-a-little-help-from-science-85182

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4. Is it too cheap to visit the ‘priceless’ Great Barrier Reef?
[The Conversation editorial on accounting for the GBR, by Michael Vardon, ANU]

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s finest natural wonders. It’s also extraordinarily cheap to visit – perhaps too cheap. While a visit to the reef can be part of an expensive holiday, the daily fee to enter the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park itself is a measly A$6.50. In contrast, earlier this year I was lucky enough to visit Rwanda’s mountain gorillas and paid a US$750 fee, and the charge has since been doubled to US$1,500. To me, seeing the reef was better than visiting the gorillas. Personally, I would be happy to pay more to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Does this mean we’re undervaluing our most important natural wonder? And if we do ask visitors to pay a higher price, would it actually help the reef or simply harm tourism numbers?
https://theconversation.com/is-it-too-cheap-to-visit-the-priceless-great-barrier-reef-83717

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5. The precautionary principle: its role in law and policy
A Future Brief from the Science for Environment Policy unit of the European Commission

One of the greatest challenges facing today’s environmental policymakers is how to deal with complex risks, such as those associated with climate change. These risks are difficult to deal with because they are not precisely calculable in advance. Where there is scientific uncertainty about the full extent of possible harms but ‘doing nothing’ is also risky, decision-makers may use the precautionary principle. This Future Brief explores the role of the precautionary principle in EU law and policy, and examines key points of discussion drawn from the evidence.

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/precautionary_principle_decision_making_under_uncertainty_FB18_en.pdf

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EDG News

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer on more sightings of an endangered species don’t always mean it’s recovering
If more sightings of an endangered species are recorded, does that mean its numbers are increasing? Australia’s native forest logging industry is arguing yes. On the basis of an increase in sightings of Leadbeater’s possums, advocates for Victorian native forest logging industry has proposed to downgrade the possum’s conservation status from critically endangered (thus facilitating ongoing logging in and around potential habitat in Victoria’s Central Highlands). But while this sounds reasonable, increased sightings aren’t always a reliable measure of endangered species’ viability. Often, an increase in sightings can be attributed to two things: either more people are trying to spot the animal in question; or new work that has used different parameters to previous studies.”
https://theconversation.com/more-sightings-of-an-endangered-species-dont-always-mean-its-recovering-85381

UWA Node: Trade-offs in triple-bottom-line outcomes when recovering fisheries
Almost all environmental management comes at an economic cost that may not be borne equitably by all stakeholders. Here, we investigate how heterogeneity in catch and profits among fishers influences the trade-off among the triple-bottom-line objectives of recovering a fish population, maximizing its economic value and distributing restrictions equitably across fishers. As a case-study, we examine management reform of an ecologically and economically important coral reef fishery operating within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Using a simulation model, we find that total profitability of the fishing industry is 40% lower if recovery plans are equitable when compared to the most economically efficient plan. However, efficient recovery plans were typically highly inequitable because they required some fishers to cease fishing. Equity was defined according to different norms, and the efficiency loss was greatest when catch losses were shared equally across fishers rather than in proportion to their historical catch. We then varied key social, economic and biological parameters to identify cases when equity and efficient recovery would trade-off most strongly. Recovery plans could be both efficient and equitable when heterogeneity in fisher’s catches and individual catch efficiencies was lower. If fishers were homogenous then equitable plans could have maximal economic efficiency. These results emphasize the importance of considering heterogeneity in individual fishers when designing recovery plans. Recovery plans that are inequitable may often fail to gain stakeholder support, so in fisheries with high heterogeneity we should temper our expectations for marked increases in profits.
Ref: Brown , C. J., Althor, G., Halpern, B. S, Iftekhar, M. S., Klein, C. J., Linke, S., Pryde, E. C., Schilizzi, S., Watson, J. E. M., Twohey, R., Possingham, H. P., (2017). Trade-offs in triple-bottom-line outcomes when recovering fisheries. Fish and Fisheries. 2017; 00:110. https://doi.org/10.1111/faf.12240

UMelb news: Brendan Wintle and Sarah Bekessy on: Let’s get this straight, habitat loss is the number-one threat to Australia’s species
“Earlier this month, Australia’s outgoing Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews told ABC radio that land clearing is not the biggest threat to Australia’s wildlife. His claim caused a stir among Australia’s biodiversity scientists and conservation professionals, who have plenty of evidence to the contrary. The ecologist Jared Diamond has described an “evil quartet” of threatening processes that drive species to extinction: habitat destruction; overhunting (or overexploitation); the presence of introduced species; and chains of linked ecological changes, including co-extinctions…”
http://theconversation.com/lets-get-this-straight-habitat-loss-is-the-number-one-threat-to-australias-species-85674

UQ News: Jonathan Rhodes on Assessing the effectiveness of regulation to protect threatened forests
From Jonathan: “Our new paper is on land clearing in Australia. In it we analyse the effectiveness of regulation in Queensland for protecting threatened forests from clearing. We show two things:
(1)        Threatened forests continue to be cleared almost 3 times faster than non-threatened forests, despite land clearing regulation having been in place for over 15 years,
(2)        There is no evidence that deforestation rates of threatened forests have declined any faster than for non-threatened forests since the introduction of land clearing regulation.
The particular lack of protection for threatened appears to result from the ineffectiveness of the regulation to protect threatened forests more than non-threatened forests, combined with ongoing higher deforestation pressures on threatened forests.”
Ref: Jonathan R. Rhodes, Lorenzo Cattarino, Leonie Seabrook, Martine Maron, Assessing the effectiveness of regulation to protect threatened forests, In Biological Conservation, Volume 216, 2017, Pages 33-42, ISSN 0006-3207, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.09.020


RMIT Node: Matthew Selinske and Mat Hardy speak at the 2017 National Private Land Conservation Conference
The 2017 National Private Land Conservation Conference was held in Hobart this year (hosted by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy). Well over 200 delegates (landowners, NGOs, policy people, researchers) heard a wide range of talks on different approaches to valuing nature and private land conservation. RMITers Matthew Selinske and Mat Hardy gave presentations on their latest research on the importance of non-financial incentives for long-term stewardship of private lands (Matthew) and factors influences the selection of properties by conservation revolving funds. [Both these research projects feature in the current issue of Decision Point. Also speaking at the conference was Brendan Wintle from UMelb and David Salt from ANU.]
Conference website: NPLCC; Program

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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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