Dbytes #316 (18 January 2018)

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

“The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) declared 2018 as the third International Year of the Reef to help bring the informed opinions of global scientific leaders to policy-makers worldwide, demonstrating that inaction and business-as-usual is no longer possible.”
The Reef World Foundation [and see items 1 and 2]

General News

1. Aust governments offer $2million for innovative solution to save the Great Barrier Reef
2. Climate change closing the gap between coral bleaching events
Draft national Strategy for Nature 2018-2030 for review
4. Science Policy Fellowship Program
5. Australia’s 2017 climate in review

EDG News

UQ Node: UQ Node: Duan Biggs and colleagues in Science on values and taboo trade-offs in elephant conservation debates
RMIT Node: Luis Mata bringing nature into cities in Government News
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer and colleagues on Inter-den tree movements by Leadbeater’s Possum
UWA Node:
Keren Raiter and colleagues on the impacts of linear infrastructure on landscape hydrology
UMelb Node:
Heini Kujala on which species drive my conservation priorities?


General News

1. Aust governments offer $2million for innovative solution to save the Great Barrier Reef

From press release: In a fitting start to the 2018 International Year of the Reef, a $2 million innovation challenge is seeking novel solutions to boost coral abundance on the Great Barrier Reef and restore reefs. Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, Acting Queensland Minister for Innovation Shannon Fentiman and Queensland Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch today launched the jointly funded challenge which is being run through the Advance Queensland Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) initiative.
“This is an open invitation to our greatest scientific minds, industry and business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions which will protect corals and encourage the recovery of damaged reefs,” Minister Frydenberg said.


2. Climate change closing the gap between coral bleaching events

An international team of researchers led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies has measured the escalating rate of coral bleaching at locations throughout the tropics over the past four decades, demonstrating a dramatic shortening of the gap between bleaching events. The research paper, “Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene” was published in the journal, Science.
“The time between bleaching events at each location has diminished five-fold in the past 3-4 decades, from once every 25-30 years in the early 1980s to an average of just once every six years since 2010,” says lead author Prof Terry Hughes.


3. Draft national Strategy for Nature 2018-2030 for review

The draft Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030 (Australia’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Inventory) has now been released for consultation.
The draft Strategy:
-aims to coordinate efforts at a national scale across all sectors to sustainably manage biological resources and ensure their long term resilience, health and viability.
-proposes action under three goals: Connect all Australian’s with nature; Care for nature in all its diversity; and Build and share knowledge.
-acts as Australia’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
The draft strategy will open for public comment until 16 March 2018.



4. Science Policy Fellowship Program

The Australian Science Policy Fellowship Pilot Program gives scientists the opportunity to work in a Commonwealth Government department for one year. It strengthens the diversity of expertise in the Australian Public Service workforce by providing a pathway for scientists to become skilled policy practitioners. The program is targeted at early- and mid-career researchers with up to 15 years post-PhD.

The program offers a range of benefits to participants:
•Policy officers receive on-the-job training in and exposure to policymaking. They will not be appointed as subject matter specialists, but rather will be expected to participate in the activities of existing teams in their host department.
•Successful candidates will have access to professional development and mentoring provided by their host department, and possibly external training opportunities in public policy.

Applications close: 04 Feb 2018 11:55 PM


5. Australia’s 2017 climate in review

The Bureau of Meteorology has released its Annual Climate Statement, showing 2017 continued the trend of warmer than average temperatures across Australia, and the country received slightly above-average rainfall. The Annual Climate Statement is the official Bureau summary of the previous year, including temperature, rainfall and significant weather. The Bureau’s Head of Climate Monitoring, Dr Karl Braganza, said with a national mean temperature 0.95 °C warmer than the 1961–1990 average, 2017 was Australia’s third-warmest year on record.
“Despite the lack of an El Niño—which is normally associated with our hottest years—2017 was still characterised by very warm temperatures. Both day and night-time temperatures were warmer than average; particularly maximum temperatures, which were the second-warmest on record. Seven of Australia’s ten warmest years have occurred since 2005 and Australia has experienced just one cooler than average year—2011—in the past decade,” he said.



EDG News

UQ Node: UQ Node: Duan Biggs and colleagues in Science on values and taboo trade-offs in elephant conservation debates
From Duan: We propose in the paper that the deadlock on ivory could potentially be overcome through a structured process which incorporates both values, differing perceptions of trade-offs, and scientific evidence. The taboo-trade off (when one trades off a secular value like money with a sacred value like elephants are sacred and therefore selling ivory is wrong) that we argue is a hitherto un-addressed issue in the ivory debate also characterises debates on the trade of other iconic species like rhino and turtles. In addition, these taboo trade-offs probably characterise many contentious conservation debates (e.g. trophy hunting, invasive mammal control, genetic modifications for conservation etc). I think the debates in Australia people eating more kangaroo and less beef also has a taboo trade-off element in it. Understanding how to better navigate these taboo trade-offs in conservation is a research area that I am focussing on at the moment, and anyone has additional examples of where these occur or thoughts on how to tackle them please do get in touch.
Ref: Duan Biggs, Matthew H. Holden, Alex Braczkowski, Carly N. Cook,E. J. Milner-Gulland et al (2017). Breaking the deadlock on ivory. Science 358: 1378-1381

RMIT Node: Luis Mata bringing nature into cities in Government News
New research shows that besides using the right species for the local environment, their social acceptability, economic use and Indigenous significance need to be carefully considered.
“There are many benefits of bringing nature back into urban areas,” says Dr Luis Mata from RMIT’s Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group. “Nature in all its forms provides a remarkable range of benefits in cities.
“There is great enthusiasm to bring trees, shrubs, grasses, insects, spiders, birds and mammals back into urban areas. Nature-based solutions such as green roofs and pop-up parks are happening across the world.”
Dr Mata said benefits include improving people’s physical and psychological health, protection from future climate change, and conservation of threatened species.
“Nature-based solutions re-enchant people with nature, which helps them appreciate and conserve nature outside cities as well. Also, nature in cities connects people with the local Indigenous culture and history.”
Dr Mata also says that landscape designers, architects, health practitioners and others should incorporate all aspects of nature in deciding how to bring it back. “Broader planning is required before development. We’re in need of biodiversity-sensitive urban design, where developers specifically aim to deliver on-site biodiversity benefits.”
Dr Mata and his colleagues have developed a new decision-making tool that includes the ecological feasibility of each species, its conservation value, economic use, cultural significance in the context of Indigenous culture, and social acceptability…

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on Inter-den tree movements by Leadbeater’s Possum
Many species of arboreal marsupials move regularly between den sites in hollow-bearing trees. We show, based on short-term radio-tracking data, that the Critically Endangered Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) can move 100 m (and sometimes up to 600 m) between den sites in hollow-bearing trees. These movement data have significant implications for the design of buffers of unlogged forest to protect colonies of Leadbeater’s Possum as well as for crude estimates of the species’ population size.
Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., McBurney, L., Blair, D. and Banks, S. (2017). Inter-den tree movements by Leadbeater’s Possum. Australian Zoologist, https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2017.028.

UWA Node: Keren Raiter and colleagues on the impacts of linear infrastructure on landscape hydrology
The extent of roads and other forms of linear infrastructure is burgeoning worldwide, however there has been little quantification of how linear infrastructure affects the movement of water across landscapes. In our paper, we present the first (to our knowledge) study to characterise and quantify the broad-scale impacts of linear infrastructure networks on surface and near-surface hydrology of a semi-arid region, Western Australia’s Great Western Woodlands. With linear infrastructure named ‘one of the most pressing rangeland management concerns in arid and semi-arid lands globally’ (Duniway and Herrick 2013, in Rangeland Ecology and Management), we found that hydrological impacts of linear infrastructure are pervasive, but that there is considerable scope for addressing impacts. Hydrological impacts included erosion and pooling, as well as flow impedance, concentration and channelling, diversion, and new channel initiation at drainage crossings. Strategies for managing and mitigating these impacts include: hydrologically considerate infrastructure design; improving consideration of hydrological impacts in environmental impact evaluations, land-use or conservation plans, and mitigation strategies; developing risk maps to inform landscape-scale planning of linear infrastructure in relatively undisturbed landscapes; and further research to better understand the ecological ramifications of the impacts we report, and identify cost-effective solutions. Our approach and methodology provide information and insights that are useful for cumulative and strategic impact assessment and decision-making as well as landscape planning and conservation policy, and can be applied to a range of other landscapes worldwide.
Ref: Raiter, K.G., Prober, S.M., Possingham, H.P., Westcott, F., Hobbs, R.J., 2018. Linear infrastructure impacts on landscape hydrology. Journal of Environmental Management. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.10.036

UMelb Node: Heini Kujala on which species drive my conservation priorities?
“In conservation planning, we often need to divide resources between multiple species. As conservation budgets virtually never meet the needs of adequate conservation, it’s important that every dollar is spent efficiently. Since many conservation actions have a spatial component, that is, they include the question of where the money should be spent, the question of how to divide resources quickly becomes about how to divide them between locations. If all target species are found in the same location, this question is easily solved. But species practically never have identical distributions, and under fixed budgets targeting one location and the species present there comes with the obvious trade-off of having less money left for other species occurring elsewhere in the landscape. Spatial solutions therefore need to be balanced between different locations. A set of location that together deliver the greatest benefit to all species are typically considered as priority for conservation actions.
I recently led a study with Dr Ascelin Gordon (RMIT) and Prof Atte Moilanen (Uni Helsinki) that looked at how the distribution patterns of target species dictate the way priority patterns emerge in multi-species conservation problems. We asked the following question: if we have a fixed budget (e.g. we can only protect a fixed area of land) and we want to maximize the outcome for species included in the plan, how much does the addition of one species change the plan? We then compared the observed change to the spatial characteristics of the species.


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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