Dbytes #314 (7 December 2017)

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

[Australia’s] “Threatened Species Strategy mentions land clearing zero times and habitat loss just twice. Feral cats, on the other hand, are mentioned 78 times, with the plan overwhelmingly focused on culling this one invasive species. Other major introduced pests – foxes, rabbits, feral pigs and goats – are mentioned 10 times between them.”
Ritchie et al, The Conversation 

General News

1. Taking stock: progress in natural capital accounting
2. Review of Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin
3. World-first continental acoustic observatory will listen to the sounds of Australia
4. Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?
5. Data gathered by the public on UK butterfly populations could be useful for conservation

EDG News

UWA Node: Sayed Iftekhar receives a DECRA award
UMelb Node:
Modellers vs Experimentalists – why can’t we all just get along?
UQ Node: Jennifer McGowan and colleagues on marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the context of spatial prioritization
RMIT Node:
Emily Gregg presents at the ESA conference on what are the barriers to community buy-in of threatened species conservation in Australia?
ANU Node: Darren Le Roux and colleagues on the value of scattered trees for wildlife

-~<>~-

General News

1. Taking stock: progress in natural capital accounting

The growing human population and a shift to more resource-intensive habits and behaviours are increasing the demands on global ecosystems. Natural capital is a way to describe Earth’s natural assets, including soil, air, water and living things, existing as complex ecosystems, which provide a range of services to humans. Depleting and degrading these reserves may irreversibly reduce the availability of benefits to future generations. This In-Depth Report [from the European Commission] presents an overview of ideas, debates and progress so far in natural capital accounting, in particular in accounting for ecosystems and their services.

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/natural_capital_accounting_taking_stock_IR16_en.pdf

-~<>~-

2. Review of Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin
[A report by the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists]
It has been thirteen years since the historic National Water Initiative was signed, and five years since the Australian Parliament agreed to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Since then, nearly $8 billion of taxpayers’ money has been spent largely to address the chronic over-allocation of water in the river systems of the Murray-Darling Basin. This report is the first independent and comprehensive review of the Basin Plan. Its purpose is to evaluate progress towards the social, environmental and economic objectives of the reforms, with the view to setting out steps necessary to deliver the Basin Plan in full by 2026. This report also looks further into the future and sets out a suite of long-term reforms that are necessary if the nation is to achieve its ultimate goal of restoring the health of river systems in the Murray-Darling Basin. Overall, the review finds there has been significant progress since 2004, but this progress has slowed to a trickle since the Basin Plan was adopted in 2012. Without major changes in implementation, it is almost certain that the Basin Plan will fail.

http://wentworthgroup.org/2017/11/review-of-water-reform-in-the-murray-darling-basin/2017/

-~<>~-

3. World-first continental acoustic observatory will listen to the sounds of Australia

By David Watson (CSU)

The significance of sound in ecosystems is what prompted my colleagues and me to develop a world-first acoustic observatory, made up of 400 permanent sensors embedded across the entire continent. Three test sites, in inland woodlands, wetlands in Northern Australia, and subtropical forest remnants, have illustrated how we can use sound to track the movement of invasive species, the impact of climate change, and the health of remote ecosytems. Now, with the support of five universities and a grant from the Australian Research Council, we are working to install acoustic sensors in ecosystems across Australia. By mid-2018 the full array will be in place. And once we begin recording, every minute will be made available to everybody online.

https://theconversation.com/world-first-continental-acoustic-observatory-will-listen-to-the-sounds-of-australia-88306

-~<>~-

4. Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?

In 2014, many of the world’s major palm oil, pulp and paper companies made a joint commitment to stop clearing natural forests by 2020. As the deadline draws near, how are these ‘No deforestation’ commitments progressing?

An Eco-business feature

-~<>~-

5. Data gathered by the public on UK butterfly populations could be useful for conservation

Researchers have compared the findings of a citizen-science project and a long-running butterfly monitoring scheme in the UK to gain insights into the reliability of data gathering by the public. They found that — contrary to the scepticism with which such projects are sometimes viewed — much of the citizen-recorded data agreed with the findings of more formal monitoring, particularly for species often found in gardens. This indicates that mass-participation sampling not only provides a valuable tool for public engagement, but, in this case, could also provide valid data to inform butterfly conservation.
Ref: Dennis, E.B., Morgan, B.J.T., Brereton, T.M., Roy, D.B., & Fox, R. (2017). Using citizen science butterfly counts to predict species population trends. Conservation Biology. Doi:10.1111/cobi.12956
-~<>~-

EDG News

UWA Node: Sayed Iftekhar receives a DECRA award
CEED member, Dr Sayed Iftekhar, has been awarded a 3-year Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from the ARC to study ‘using improved markets to reduce over-extraction of groundwater’. This is a highly competitive scheme with only 16% of the applications approved for funding in 2018. This economics project aims to investigate the key aspects needed for a successful groundwater market, including extraction limits, innovative trading systems and reasonable transaction costs. The outcomes of the project can contribute to environmental benefits that minimise short-term financial losses to irrigators. The project also expects to enhance the capacity of water agencies to implement cap and trade systems that can reduce over-extraction.

UMelb Node: Modellers vs Experimentalists – why can’t we all just get along?
Are modellers trying to steal your data? Field ecologists not bothering to read your equations? If so, you’re not alone, because the authors in Heuschele et al 2017 share your concern. They reckon that ecological research is being limited by a lack of communication and collaboration between modellers and experimentalists.
QAECO is made up of a diverse bunch of researchers, who use many different approaches to skin a cat. So this week in reading group, I (Matt Rees) bought this paper in to see what everyone thought. Turns out, quite a bit.
The authors of this paper conducted an online survey of ecologists, a bibliometric analysis of highly cited papers, and examined the background of highly cited ecologists. In doing so, they identified two key aspects that seem to be preventing collaboration between modellers and experimentalists: journal articles being written in “cryptic” ways that make it difficult for their counterparts to decipher, as well as a lack of data being exchanged. They showed that the recipe for being a highly cited paper/author, was to model, or use a combination of experimental and modelling approaches (but not just experimental).
https://qaeco.com/2017/11/14/modellers-v-s-experimentalists-why-cant-we-all-just-get-along/

UQ Node: Jennifer McGowan and colleagues on marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the context of spatial prioritization
Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are sites identified as globally important for bird species conservation. Marine IBAs are one of the few comprehensive multi-species datasets available for the marine environment, and their use in conservation planning will likely increase as countries race to protect 10% of their territorial waters by 2020. We tested 15 planning scenarios for Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone to guide best practice on integrating marine IBAs into spatial conservation prioritization. We found prioritizations based solely on habitat protection failed to protect IBAs, and prioritizations based solely on IBAs similarly failed to meet basic levels of habitat representation. Further, treating all marine IBAs as irreplaceable sites produced the most inefficient plans in terms of ecological representativeness and protection equality. Our analyses suggest that marine spatial planners who wish to use IBAs treat them like any other conservation feature by assigning them a specific protection target.
Ref: McGowan J, RJ Smith R, M Di Marco, RH Clarke & HP Possingham (2017). An evaluation of marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the context of spatial prioritization. Conservation Letters.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12399/full

RMIT Node: Emily Gregg presents at the ESA conference on what are the barriers to community buy-in of threatened species conservation in Australia?
“Saving animals is important for both the world and us, and we need normal people to understand this and play their part for everything to work out. But first we need to understand what exactly is stopping people from doing things to help save animals. I looked at possible problems and suggest that they fit into three types: how people look at the world, being far away from the problem, and whether there is a clear thing to do. I believe that using the right words and ideas in our writing can help with all three types of problems. Understanding what is stopping people from helping is important for our work and should help us make better calls about how to write and speak to people about saving animals.”
https://icsrg.info/2017/11/24/iconscience-at-ecotas-2017/

ANU Node: Darren Le Roux and colleagues on the value of scattered trees for wildlife
“The biodiversity value of scattered trees in modified landscapes is often overlooked in planning and conservation decisions. We conducted a multitaxa study to determine how wildlife abundance, species richness and community composition at individual trees are affected by (1) the landscape context in which trees are located; and (2) the size of trees. Location: Canberra, south-eastern Australia.
Landscape context affected all taxa surveyed. Trunk arthropod communities differed between trees in urban built-up areas and reserves. Bat activity and richness were significantly reduced at trees in urban built-up areas suggesting that echo-locating bats may be disturbed by high levels of urbanization. Bird abundance and richness were highest at trees located in modified landscapes, highlighting the value of scattered trees for birds. Bird communities also differed between non-urban and urban trees. Tree size had a significant effect on birds but did not affect trunk arthropods and bats. Large trees supported higher bird abundance, richness and more unique species compared to medium and small trees.
Conclusions: Scattered trees support a diversity of wildlife. However, landscape context and tree size affected wildlife in contrasting ways. Land management strategies are needed to collectively account for responses exhibited by multiple taxa at varying spatial scales. We recommend that the retention and perpetuation of scattered trees in modified landscapes should be prioritized, hereby providing crucial habitat benefits to a multitude of taxa.
Ref: Le Roux, D.S., Ikin, K., Lindenmayer, D.B., Manning, A.D., and Gibbons, P. (2017). The value of scattered trees for wildlife: Contrasting effects of landscape context and tree size. Diversity and Distributions, doi:10.1111/ddi.12658.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ddi.12658/abstract

-~<>~-

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/

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s