Dbytes #310 (9 November 2017)

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

“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago, the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now.”
World Meteorological Organization, Greenhouse Gas Bulletin
https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/greenhouse-gas-concentrations-surge-new-record

General News

1. Something fishy: Socio-economic impacts of marine reserves in Australia
2. Cats, foxes pose bigger risk to native wildlife than climate change in the outback
3. Global database on biodiversity offset policies launched (IUCN)
4.
Investing in nature vital to solving climate change
5. An easy intervention with big results

EDG News

UMelb Node: Brenda Wintle gives keynote address at 66th Science Talent Search Exhibition and Presentation Day
UQ Node:
Casey Fung is CEED’s new Senior Communications Officer
RMIT Node:
Mat Hardy presents on protecting biodiversity on private land using revolving funds
ANU Node:
Heather Keith and colleagues on ecosystem accounts define explicit and spatial trade-offs for managing natural resources
UWA Node:
changes in soil carbon following the establishment of environmental plantings

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General News

1. Something fishy: Socio-economic impacts of marine reserves in Australia

Federal government plans to remove 40 million hectares of protected areas from across the nation’s network of marine parks – an area twice the size of Victoria – to facilitate an expansion of fishing activity have been justified with reference to socio-economic impacts. Yet government figures show socio-economic impacts of protected areas would be small. Minimal consideration has been given to benefits marine parks create for fish stocks and fishing.
A report The Australia Institute
http://www.tai.org.au/sites/defualt/files/P373%20Something%20fishy%20SUBMISSION%20FINAL.pdf

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2. ‘Cats, foxes pose bigger risk to native wildlife than climate change in the outback’

A new study has found feral animals like cats and foxes in the Simpson Desert pose a bigger risk to native wildlife than climate change. Using up to 22 years’ worth of surveys, the research from the University of Sydney found feral animals pose a greater risk to natives as changing rainfall and wildfire patterns alter the ecosystem. Dr Aaron Greenville, lead author of the study, said climate change and the pressure of pest species on native rodents are intertwined.

“What could happen is that climate change could already exaggerate the existing threats there,” Dr Greenville said. “For example if wildfire starts to become more common, predators can take advantage of that more open habitat that’s created after a fire goes through. Then our native wildlife, particularly rodents, might come under more predation pressures from introduced cats and foxes.”

ABC Rural Story by Melanie Groves

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3. Global database on biodiversity offset policies launched (IUCN)

Preliminary analysis shows progress in biodiversity-rich mining countries
IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and The Biodiversity Consultancy (TBC) launched the first-ever global biodiversity offset policy database at the Annual General Meeting of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) last month in Geneva.

https://www.iucn.org/news/business-and-biodiversity/201711/global-database-biodiversity-offset-policies-launched-preliminary-analysis-shows-progress-biodiversity-rich-mining-countries

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4. Investing in nature vital to solving climate change

An international study has found that natural solutions to mitigate climate change, such as reforestation, could have the same effect globally as taking 1.5 billion cars off the road. CSIRO collaborated with The Nature Conservancy and 14 other institutions on the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which forms the most comprehensive assessment to date of how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by and stored in forests, farmland, grasslands and wetlands. The top three land management solutions identified – reforestation, avoiding further forest losses and improved forestry practices – could cost-effectively remove seven billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere annually.

http://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2017/Investing-in-nature-vital-to-solving-climate-change

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5. An easy intervention with big results

“About 15 years ago, we collected a few sandwich bags of Shiny Everlasting seeds from Sandon forest and spread them in the fenced front yard of our place at Strangways. We knew they belonged as there were a few specimens in the bush that were a favourite food of the Black Wallabies. Protected from browsing, the Everlastings thrived in our yard and spread into the bush, where they are now so abundant, the wallabies leave them alone and we have some impressive stands…”

https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/an-easy-intervention-with-big-results/

[Editor’s note: I’ve always been a fan of the Natural Newstead blog run by Geoff Park. But this post by Patrick Kavanagh is worth pointing out to readers – for its simple message, passion for nature and spectacular photography.]

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EDG News

UMelb Node: Brenda Wintle gives keynote address at 66th Science Talent Search Exhibition and Presentation Day
On 23rd of October, Brendan Wintle gave a keynote address and presented medals to prizewinners at the 66th Science Talent Search Exhibition and Presentation Day (Scicence Teachers’ Association of Victoria). “What amazing projects and imaginations”, said Wintle, “and they know their animals! These primary school kids correctly identified every single image of threatened species AND their calls (>20). They outperformed University of Melbourne undergrads by a country mile. If you get a chance to present to primary school kids, don’t pass it up, it’s probably the best thing you’ll do that year and the most effective way to conserve species and save the planet (assuming you’re not boring as bat ____)”.

UQ Node: Casey Fung is CEED’s new Senior Communications Officer
Casey Fung has started in a new communications role with CEED, so if you have a paper close to release, or other research, events, or interesting, fun stories you’d like to promote, please get in touch on +61 7 3365 2454, c.fung@uq.edu.au or just drop by office 525 anytime at CEED’s UQ Node.
He is also looking to increase multimedia output and is on the hunt for anything which would make a good video, infographics, or other type of engaging digital content. He’s also looking to get in touch with anyone at CEED who happens to be a keen nature photographer, or produces their own media content.
About Casey: He grew up in the bush just outside of Byron Bay and has always been fascinated by the natural world. His background is in journalism, working as a news reporter for Channel Ten and the ABC. He has also worked in communications for UQ, where he is also a course coordinator and lecturer for a first-year digital media course. Casey has a Bachelor of Journalism from QUT and a Master of Communication (Science Communication) from UQ.

RMIT Node: Mat Hardy presents on protecting biodiversity on private land using revolving funds
Mat is presenting at the Symposium for Contemporary Conservation Practice in Howick, South Africa.
Mat’s abstract: Privately protected areas (PPAs) have grown dramatically in Australia over the past two decades. One mechanism contributing to the creation of PPAs has been revolving funds, which are used by conservation organisations to acquire private land with conservation value and then on-sell it to new, conservation-minded owners. In the process a permanent conservation covenant is added to the property title, which is a binding agreement, designed to protect biodiversity. The proceeds from re-selling the property are then used to acquire additional land, continuing the acquire/protect/resale cycle. With a high level of security, to date only a small number of covenants have been removed from title. Five major revolving fund programs are currently operating in Australia. Recent research has shown over 150 PPAs have been created through these programs, covering more than 145,000 hectares. Central to the effectiveness of revolving funds is the selection of appropriate properties, which is a multi-dimensional and complex decision that includes trade-offs between financial, social and ecological factors. Properties need to hold conservation value, but also need to hold characteristics that facilitate property on-sale, such as amenity and aesthetic values. Amongst the main factors determining the suitability of a property for purchase, the managers of these revolving fund programs identified the level of threat that the ecological values of the property are under, the costs involved in the property’s protection, and the presence of alternative approaches to protect the property, as the most influential. The ability of revolving funds to recover some, if not all of their costs suggest they may be particularly useful for protecting private land in high threat, high land value areas. Whilst a challenging approach to implement, and unlikely to be suitable for protecting all types of private land, revolving funds are already contributing to conservation efforts and the creation of PPAs in Australia, and are worth considering as part of the private land conservation policy mix.
http://www.conservationsymposium.com/

ANU Node: Heather Keith and colleagues on ecosystem accounts define explicit and spatial trade-offs for managing natural resources
Decisions about natural resource management are frequently complex and vexed, often leading to public policy compromises. Discord between environmental and economic metrics creates problems in assessing trade-offs between different current or potential resource uses. Ecosystem accounts, which quantify ecosystems and their benefits for human well-being consistent with national economic accounts, provide exciting opportunities to contribute significantly to the policy process. We advanced the application of ecosystem accounts in a regional case study by explicitly and spatially linking impacts of human and natural activities on ecosystem assets and services to their associated industries. This demonstrated contributions of ecosystems beyond the traditional national accounts. Our results revealed that native forests would provide greater benefits from their ecosystem services of carbon sequestration, water yield, habitat provisioning and recreational amenity if harvesting for timber production ceased, thus allowing forests to continue growing to older ages.
Ref: Keith, H., Vardon, M., Stein, J.A., Stein, J.S. and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2017). Ecosystem accounts define explicit and spatial trade-offs for managing natural resources. Nature Ecology and Evolution, doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0309-1.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0309-1?WT.mc_id=COM_NEcoEvo_1709_Keith

UWA Node: changes in soil carbon following the establishment of environmental plantings
Environmental plantings provide a means to restore biodiversity and sequester carbon. These plantings, of differing design and composition, are becoming more prevalent across the Australian landscape. Although change in biomass carbon following reforestation in such plantings is relatively well understood, less is known about associated changes in soil organic carbon (SOC). The following paper www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969717326153 led by Dr Keryn Paul (CSIRO) with contributions from Dr Michael Perring and Tim Morald (ERIE CEED Adjuncts), provides modelled and empirically verified estimates of changes in SOC following the establishment of environmental plantings. Using empirical data gathered from a nationwide Filling the Research Gap project to constrain model estimates and maximise the efficiency of SOC prediction, the authors confirmed: a) reforestation on agricultural land highly depleted in SOC (i.e. previously under cropping) had the highest capacity to sequester SOC, particularly where rainfall was relatively high (>600mm/yr) and b) decreased planting width, increased stand density and increasing proportions of eucalypts, enhanced rates of SOC sequestration.


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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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