Dbytes #313 (30 November 2017)

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

“What is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never seen a wren?”
From a Guardian story by Robert McFarlane on ‘have children lost touch with nature?

General News

1. ABS Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16
2. Australia’s Great Southern Reef [is being transformed by climate change]
3. Tree disease threatens Australian forests
4. National Heritage Places map
5. Flora of Australia now available online

EDG News

Trinity College Dublin Node: Plant population persistence in poor climates
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer co-author on Science paper on Monarch butterflies
UWA Node: Richard Hobbs and colleagues on shall I stay or shall I go?
UMelb Node:
Tracy Rout and colleagues on monitoring, imperfect detection, and risk optimization of a Tasmanian devil insurance population
UQ node: Claire Runge and colleagues on quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure
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General News

1. ABS Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries are important industries in their own right as they are critical to our capacity to feed, clothe and house growing national and global human populations. They also have a particular significance for the natural environment through the management of natural capital, for example: land management practices; impacts on carbon stocks and emissions; and impacts on the availability of key natural resources (including levels of fish stocks and extent of native forests). Increasingly, for agriculture, forestry and fishing activities, long-term business sustainability is understood to be underpinned by its environmental sustainability.

In seeking to inform progress against these goals, the ABS is cognisant of the multi-disciplinary nature of issues facing Australian agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Ideally, policy makers from across all relevant disciplines should be able to speak to the same information, thus allowing the data to support dialogue between economists, scientists, agronomists, water managers, farmers, social scientists, and business owners among others. The capacity to deliver information to support decision making across a range of policy areas is a key motivation behind the ABS decision to explore the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (SEEA AFF) as a framework.

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4632.0.55.001?OpenDocument#

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2. Australia’s Great Southern Reef [is being transformed by climate change]

Feature story in The Monthly

 

“The south-east of Australia is warming more than two times faster than the global average,” Vergés says. “That’s resulting in the rapid southward movement of many tropical and warm-water species.”

This process has had its most devastating outcomes in Tasmania, where the giant kelp forests that encircled the island and filled its bays were once so dense they featured on shipping maps. In recent years, the East Australian Current has extended its reach, sweeping warm water down from the tropics. This has raised water temperatures around Tasmania by as much as 2.5 degrees Celsius, and allowed a host of species previously confined to mainland waters to migrate south.

The most significant of these is the long-spined sea urchin. A familiar sight along the eastern Australian coast, this marine animal is ruinously voracious, stripping areas of seaweed and other marine plants. Largely as a result of urchin grazing, 95% of the kelp forests around Tasmania are now gone. Together with overfishing, this has had a devastating effect on populations of both abalone and lobster.”

https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2017/november/1509454800/james-bradley/great-southern-reef

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3. Tree disease threatens Australian forests

A disease that has devastated eucalypt plantations in Brazil has reached Australia, where strains of myrtle rust could threaten gums, tea-trees, bottlebrushes, paperbarks and more, at great environmental and economic cost. By Tim Low.

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/environment/2017/11/25/tree-disease-threatens-australian-forests/15115284005547

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4. National Heritage Places map

The new National Heritage Places map documents the places of outstanding heritage importance to Australia. Together these places tell Australia’s story from its earliest fossil records to the long history of Indigenous settlement of this continent, and events that have made Australia what it is today. The front of the map shows the locations of National Heritage listed places, and the back has a summary of their Indigenous, natural and cultural values.

http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/ahc/publications/national-heritage-places-map

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5. Flora of Australia now available online

Flora of Australia is available on a new digital platform that makes Australia’s plant taxonomic information more accessible and user-friendly. It has information on the names, characteristics, distribution and habitat of Australian plants—14,000 profiles are already available online, with more on the way. While the main audience is botanists, Flora of Australia will also be useful for conservation and land managers, government/policy makers, researchers and members of the community with an interest in Australian plants. The new digital Flora of Australia was a joint project of the Australian Biological Resources Study, the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria and the Atlas of Living Australia. A huge thank you to taxonomists in Australia and New Zealand for a monumental collaborative effort.

https://profiles.ala.org.au/opus/foa

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EDG News

Trinity College Dublin Node: plant population persistence in poor climates
[From Yvonne Buckley]: Anna Csergö & Yvonne Buckley together with co-authors Rob Salguero-Gómez and Antoine Guisan have produced a video about plant population persistence in poor climates based on their climate & demography paper in Ecology Letters http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12794/abstract earlier this year (Less favourable climates constrain demographic strategies in plants). Beautiful nature images from Transylvania accompany the science.

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer co-author on Science paper on Monarch butterflies
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) conduct one of the most spectacular migrations in the animal kingdom. Across generations, populations move between their 3,375,000 km2 breeding range in the United States and Canada and the much smaller patch of forest in central Mexico where they spend the winter. This migration is an iconic natural phenomenon that has scientific, educational, cultural, and socioeconomic value. The Oyamel fir forests in Michoacán, Mexico, which are essential for sheltering the overwintering migrant population, were declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2008 to protect them. The overwintering forests are under threat from storms and human disturbance. In March 2016, a severe wind storm hit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The loss of canopy cover due to the storm reduced thermal protection, and a subsequent episode of freezing weather reduced butterfly populations by 31 to 38%. Bans on logging were lifted for a postdisturbance salvage logging operation from April to December 2016, both outside and inside the Reserve, including the theoretically protected core zone. The operation officially targeted removal of windblown trees to reduce fuel accumulation, and it was extended in 2017. Official data about extracted timber volumes are currently lacking, but the salvage logging removed many thousands of trees. Salvage logging impairs the key ecological roles of biological legacies (such as large old trees and fallen timber) in facilitating ecosystem recovery after natural disturbances. Removal of damaged trees can reduce biodiversity, soil fertility, and other ecosystem services, diminish key deadwood resources, alter landscape heterogeneity, and impair other benefits generated by natural disturbances…
Ref: Mexico’s logging threatens butterflies. Alexandro B. Leverkus, Pablo F. Jaramillo-López, Lincoln P. Brower, David B. Lindenmayer and Ernest H. Williams. Science 24 Nov 2017: Vol. 358, Issue 6366, pp. 1008. DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3826
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6366/1008.1


UWA Node: Richard Hobbs and colleagues on shall I stay or shall I go?
In a recent paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution by Richard Hobbs, Leonie Valentine and others, the authors discuss how increased attention to species movement in response to environmental change highlights the need to consider changes in species distributions and altered biological assemblages. Such changes are well known from paleoecological studies, but have accelerated with ongoing pervasive human influence. In addition to species that move, some species will stay put, leading to an array of novel interactions. Species show a variety of responses that can allow movement or persistence. Conservation and restoration actions have traditionally focused on maintaining or returning species in particular places, but increasingly also include interventions that facilitate movement. Approaches are required that incorporate the fluidity of biotic assemblages into the goals set and interventions deployed.
Ref: Hobbs, R. J., L. E. Valentine, R. J. Standish, and S.T. Jackson. 2017. Movers and Stayers: Novel Assemblages in Changing Environments. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2017.11.001


UMelb Node: Tracy Rout and colleagues on monitoring, imperfect detection, and risk optimization of a Tasmanian devil insurance population
From Tracy: I’d like to share a new paper by me, Chris Baker (UQ), Brendan Wintle (Uni Melb), and Stewart Huxtable from the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. I think it’s a great example of scientists and practitioners working together to ensure on-ground decisions are informed by up-to-date modelling and decision analyses. We modelled the removal of a diseased devil population from Forestier peninsula, and analysed the costs and benefits of declaring the area disease-free prior to the reintroduction and establishment of a healthy insurance population. We developed a model that can be run from an Excel spreadsheet, so the management team could use it to plan monitoring intensity while in the field.
Ref: Rout TM, Baker CM, Huxtable S and Wintle BA (2017). Monitoring, imperfect detection, and risk optimization of a Tasmanian devil insurance population, Conservation Biology.

UQ node: Claire Runge and colleagues on quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure
The proliferation of linear infrastructure such as roads and railways is a major global driver of cumulative biodiversity loss. One strategy for reducing habitat loss associated with development is to encourage linear infrastructure providers and users to share infrastructure networks. We quantified the reductions in biodiversity impact and capital costs under linear infrastructure sharing of a range of potential mine to port transportation links for 47 mine locations operated by 28 separate companies in the Upper Spencer Gulf Region of South Australia. We mapped transport links based on least-cost pathways for different levels of linear-infrastructure sharing and used expert-elicited impacts of linear infrastructure to estimate the consequences for biodiversity. Capital costs were calculated based on estimates of construction costs, compensation payments, and transaction costs. We evaluated proposed mine-port links by comparing biodiversity impacts and capital costs across 3 scenarios: an independent scenario, where no infrastructure is shared; a restricted-access scenario, where the largest mining companies share infrastructure but exclude smaller mining companies from sharing; and a shared scenario where all mining companies share linear infrastructure. Fully shared development of linear infrastructure reduced overall biodiversity impacts by 76% and reduced capital costs by 64% compared with the independent scenario. However, there was considerable variation among companies. Our restricted-access scenario showed only modest biodiversity benefits relative to the independent scenario, indicating that reductions are likely to be limited if the dominant mining companies restrict access to infrastructure, which often occurs without policies that promote sharing of infrastructure. Our research helps illuminate the circumstances under which infrastructure sharing can minimize the biodiversity impacts of development.
Ref: Runge, C. A., Tulloch, A. I. T., Gordon, A. and Rhodes, J. R. (2017), Quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.12952
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12952/full


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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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