Dbytes #317 (25 January 2018)

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

“Some ecologists worry that scientists have been measuring ecosystem changes over the course of their careers instead of across history. Because researchers then compare changes to already lowered baselines, they may underestimate the real magnitude of decline over generations.”
Roberta Kwok, Nature 549: 419-421(2017). Historical data: hidden in the past

General News

1. Australia’s biodiversity strategy a global embarrassment, green groups say
2. Australian soils play major role in carbon sequestration
3. Could biodiversity destruction lead to a global tipping point?
4. Coral expert slams $60 million Great Barrier Reef package as useless
5. Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions?


EDG News

RMIT Node: Holly Kirk begins her Endeavour Post-doctoral Fellowship
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer co-author on ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests
UWA Node: Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences
UMelb Node: Cassia Read and colleagues on surrogates of soil texture from airborne gamma-ray detection
UQ Node:
Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on the extent and predictability of the biodiversity–carbon correlation

-~<>~-

General News

1. Australia’s biodiversity strategy a global embarrassment, green groups say
[recommended by Nadeem Samnaky]

Extinction prevention plan branded ‘deeply inadequate’ after environment department publishes paper without targets.

It’s a “wafer-thin plan … which reads like a year-10 school assignment,” observes James Tresize from the ACF.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/21/australias-biodiversity-strategy-a-global-embarrassment-green-groups-say
-~<>~-

2. Australian soils play major role in carbon sequestration

Australia is one of ten countries that account for 60% of the the 680 billion tonnes of carbon stored in the top 30 cm of soil around the world, and action should be taken to protect these natural carbon-rich soils to avoid emissions to the atmosphere, according to a major project launched late last year by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

Australia’s significance as a terrestrial carbon sink was highlighted in the FAO’s first ever Global Soil Organic Carbon Map which drew together data from the carbon maps of 110 participating countries, showing that the top 30 cm of soil contains around 680 billion tonnes of carbon – almost double the amount present in the atmosphere. The Map identifies natural areas with high carbon storage, as well as regions where there is the possibility for further sequestration.

More information about the Global Soil Organic Carbon Map is available here.

https://www.environmentreport.com.au/single-post/2018/01/10/Australian-soils-play-major-role-in-carbon-sequestration
-~<>~-

3. Could biodiversity destruction lead to a global tipping point?

We are destroying the world’s biodiversity. Yet debate has erupted over just what this means for the planet – and us.

In 2009, a group of researchers identified nine global boundaries for the planet that if passed could theoretically push the Earth into an uninhabitable state for our species. These global boundaries include climate change, freshwater use, ocean acidification and, yes, biodiversity loss (among others). The group has since updated the terminology surrounding biodiversity, now calling it “biosphere integrity,” but that hasn’t spared it from critique.

A paper last year in Trends in Ecology & Evolution scathingly attacked the idea of any global biodiversity boundary.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2018/jan/16/biodiversity-extinction-tipping-point-planetary-boundary?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Tweet
-~<>~-

4. Coral expert slams $60 million Great Barrier Reef package as useless

Coral expert, Dr Charlie Veron, has warned the Government’s new $60 million package for the Great Barrier Reef will make no difference to the future of the Reef, as the main threat is warming oceans due to climate change.
The package, to be delivered over the next 18 months, includes:
•$10.4 million to allow the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to increase the number of vessels targeting the crown of thorns starfish from three to eight.
•$36.6 million to reduce pollution from water entering the Reef.
•$4.9 million to put more field officers on the water, improving compliance, and providing early warning of further bleaching and delivering more reef and island management interventions.
•$6 million for the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the CSIRO to scope and design a research and development program for coral reef restoration.
Speaking on ABC Radio National, Dr Veron said the package, other than expenditure on pure research, would have no effect on the future of the reef.

https://www.environmentreport.com.au/single-post/2018/01/22/Coral-expert-slams-60-million-Great-Barrier-Reef-package-as-useless

-~<>~-

5. Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions?

Mongabay feature by Shreya Dasgupta

Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence. However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say. For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree.

https://news.mongabay.com/2017/11/experience-or-evidence-how-do-big-conservation-ngos-make-decisions/

-~<>~-

EDG News

RMIT Node: Holly Kirk begins her Endeavour Post-doctoral Fellowship
Holly Kirk has started her Endeavour Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Interdisciplinary Conservation group at RMIT. Holly is using her 6 months of funding to investigate bird dispersal within urban habitats. She hopes to do this by combining predictive modelling and traditional ornithological surveys within the City of Melbourne. Endeavour scholarships and fellowships are funded by the Australian government to promote research both within Australia and overseas.https://internationaleducation.gov.au/endeavour%20program/scholarships-and-fellowships/about/pages/default.aspx

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer co-author on ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests
Restoration may not reach complete success, but biodiversity and vegetation structure were 34–56% and 19–56% higher in natural regeneration than in active restoration systems, respectively, but only after controlling for these four key biotic and abiotic factors. These findings suggest that lower cost approaches to restoring biodiversity and vegetation structure in tropical forests can actually be more effective than active restoration. Our study challenges the widely held notion that natural regrowth forests offer low conservation value and that restoration strategies should preferentially favor active restoration. This mistaken notion may have arisen due to the lack of controlled biotic and abiotic factors and the short time frame for monitoring forest restoration. Our study does not claim that natural regeneration is always the most cost-effective restoration approach. When conditions are unsuitable for natural regeneration or when particular tree species are needed, active tree planting is recommended. Moreover, biodiversity responses were based primarily on species abundance and richness, which recover far more quickly than species composition. One of the major international and national policy priorities for the upcoming years is to align the identified patterns of biophysical and ecological conditions where each or both restoration approaches are more successful, cost-effective and compatible with socio-economic incentives for enabling scaling up tropical forest restoration. Clearly, both approaches are urgently needed to achieve ambitious global forest restoration targets.
Ref: Renato Crouzeilles, Mariana Ferrerira, Robin Chazdon, David Lindenmayer et al (2017). Ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests. Sci. Adv. 2017;3: e1701345
http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/11/e1701345

UWA Node: Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is seeking to prepare for losses arising from climate change. This is an emerging issue that challenges climate science and policy to engage more deeply with values, places, and people’s experiences. First, insight is provided into the UNFCCC framing of loss and damage and current approaches to valuation. Then, growing literature is drawn on the value‐ and place‐based approaches to adaptation, including limits to adaptation, which examines loss as nuanced and sensitive to the nature of people’s lives. Complementary perspectives from human geography, psychology, philosophy, economics, and ecology underscore the importance of understanding what matters to people and what they may likely consider to constitute loss. A significant body of knowledge illustrates that loss is often given meaning through lived, embodied, and place‐based experiences, and so is more felt than tangible. Further insights are provided into a recent scholarship that addresses how people make trade‐offs between different value priorities. This emerging literature offers an opening in the academic debate to further advance a relational framing of loss in which trade‐offs between lived values are seen as dynamic elements in a prospective loss space.
Ref: Tschakert Petra, Barnett Jon, Ellis Neville, Lawrence Carmen, Tuana Nancy, New Mark, Elrick‐Barr Carmen, Pandit Ram, Pannell David. Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences. WIREs Clim Change 2017, 8: null. DOI: 10.1002/wcc.476

UMelb Node: Cassia Read and colleagues on surrogates of soil texture from airborne gamma-ray detection
Ecologists and applied scientists dream of accurate spatial data representing environmental variables to help explain and predict patterns and processes with quantitative models. Think models of species distributions, or landscape models of the distribution of any ecological phenomena really! Among environmental variables, those related to the physical and chemical properties of soil – e.g., texture, nutrient availability, and influence on water availability – are arguably the most important for understanding plant ecology and vegetation dynamics. However, hard data on the distribution of those properties across natural landscapes is rarely collected, and therefore they are not available to be included in vegetation models. So what can we do? In our recent paper led by Cassia Read, we tested the prospect of predicting soil properties from satellite observations for a 40 000 km2 study area in the Wimmera and Mallee landscapes of north western Victoria. We built and tested the models by combining 30 years of soil physical data accumulated by the State Govt with satellite-sensed observations of gamma radiation emission from the soil surface (AKA radiometric data).
The results for the study landscape were quite promising. Satellite-sensed radiometric potassium (K) and thorium (Th) were strongly related to the clay and sand content in the soils. In turn, with only satellite radiometric data and a handful of easily obtained environmental variables (terrain, rainfall, temperature), the models had good predictive performance, including to an independent dataset.
The downside is that whereas the model worked well in the Mallee and Wimmera with its uncomplicated terrain, relatively uniform bedrock and soil origin, it will be much tougher where there is outcropping rock, dissected terrain and soils of diverse origins. Effective modelling of soil physical properties over more heterogeneous landscapes awaits hierarchical models fed on covariates that accurately reflect the parent material of soils.
Ref: Read CF, Duncan DH, Ho CYC, White M, Vesk PA. Useful surrogates of soil texture for plant ecologists from airborne gamma-ray detection. Ecology and Evolution 2018; 00:1–10. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3417

UQ Node: Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on the extent and predictability of the biodiversity–carbon correlation
Protecting biomass carbon stocks to mitigate climate change has direct implications for biodiversity conservation. Yet, evidence that a positive association exists between carbon density and species richness is contrasting. Here, we test how this association varies (1) across spatial extents and (2) as a function of how strongly carbon and species richness depend on environmental variables. We found the correlation weakens when moving from larger extents, e.g. realms, to narrower extents, e.g. ecoregions. For ecoregions, a positive correlation emerges when both species richness and carbon density vary as functions of the same environmental variables (climate, soil, elevation). In 20% of tropical ecoregions, there are opportunities to pursue carbon conservation with direct biodiversity co-benefits, while other ecoregions require careful planning for both species and carbon to avoid potentially perverse outcomes. The broad assumption of a linear relationship between carbon and biodiversity can lead to undesired outcomes.
Ref: Di Marco, M., Watson, J. E. M., Currie, D. J., Possingham, H. P. and Venter, O. (2018), The extent and predictability of the biodiversity–carbon correlation. Ecol Lett. doi:10.1111/ele.12903
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12903/full


-~<>~-

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/

 

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