Dbytes #323 (15 March 2018)

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

“Australia has national environment laws – the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). Yet given the staggering rates of land clearing taking place, resulting in the extinction and endangerment of plants and animals in Australia, these laws are clearly not working.”
Samantha Hepburn, The Conversation, Why aren’t Australia’s environment laws preventing widespread land clearing?

General News

1. Murray-Darling Basin Plan: Five-year assessment
2.
As more companies go ‘deforestation-free,’ what does it mean for heavily forested nations?
3.
The Academy of Science issued a Commonwealth Academies of Science Consensus Statement on Climate Change.
4. Transport hub gets green light provided rare plant gets protection
5. Discover & Relive #CitSciOz18 Magic

EDG News

ANU Node: Stephanie Pulsford and colleagues on reptiles and frogs use most land cover types as habitat in a fine-grained agricultural landscape
UWA Node: The importance of the past to help predict the future
UMelb Node: Anja Skroblin one of the coordinating authors on the The Fitzroy River Science Statement
UQ Node:
Mathew Holden weighs up the odds of a shark attack
RMIT Node: The RMIT lab are at a writing retreat in Lorne

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General News

1. Murray-Darling Basin Plan: Five-year assessment

This Productivity Commission paper was released on 13 March 2018 to assist participants in preparing a submission to the inquiry to assess the effectiveness of the implementation of the Basin Plan and water resource plans (seeking a balance between environmental and economic uses of the Basin’s waters. An issues paper outlines a range of issues on which the Commission seeks information and feedback. Initial submissions are due Thursday 19 April 2018.

http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/basin-plan/issues

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2. As more companies go ‘deforestation-free,’ what does it mean for heavily forested nations?
Forested nations like Gabon are just starting to develop commodities like palm oil. But as more companies commit to eliminate deforestation from supply chains, will Gabon be left behind?
Ecobusiness editorial

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3. The Academy of Science issued a Commonwealth Academies of Science Consensus Statement on Climate Change.

The world’s climate is changing, and the impacts are already being observed. Changing agricultural conditions, ocean warming and acidification, rising sea levels, and increased frequency and intensity of many extreme weather events are impacting infrastructure, environmental assets and human health.

https://www.science.org.au/supporting-science/science-policy/position-statements/cwealth-acad-science-consensus-statement-climate-change

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4. Transport hub gets green light provided rare plant gets protection
Plans to convert a defence site into a freight hub in Sydney’s south-west can proceed, provided developers implement strict conditions to protect a rare flowering plant, the Land and Environment Court has decided. The discovery of 370 individual Hibbertia fumana plants – a species last documented in 1823 and long thought extinct – threatened to stall development of the $1 billion-plus Moorebank Intermodal Terminal Facility.
https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/transport-hub-green-light-rare-plant-protection-20180306-p4z34f.html
[Editor’s note: This was the very topic parodied in the comedy hit Utopia on ABC TV. It could have been a documentary. https://iview.abc.net.au/programs/utopia/CO1211V002S00 ]

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5. Discover & Relive #CitSciOz18 Magic
[From Jessie Oliver]
“An epic adventure through the wild world of citizen science kicked off on Adelaide’s City West campus of the University of South Australia on 7 February 2018 with the start of Australia’s second national citizen science conference. The conference brought together citizen science practitioners, participants, thought leaders and decision-makers, with the aim of showcasing best practice in citizen science and sharing project outcomes from across Australia and around the world.”
https://citizenscience.org.au/2018/03/07/discover-relive-citscioz18-magic/

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EDG News

ANU Node: Stephanie Pulsford and colleagues on reptiles and frogs use most land cover types as habitat in a fine-grained agricultural landscape
Agricultural landscapes comprise much of the earth’s terrestrial surface. However, knowledge about how animals use and move through these landscapes is limited, especially for small and cryptic taxa, such as reptiles and amphibians. We aimed to understand the influence of land use on reptile and frog movement in a fine-grained grazing landscape. We surveyed reptiles and frogs using pitfall and funnel traps in transects located in five land use types: 1) woodland remnants, 2) grazed pastures, 3) coarse woody debris added to grazed pastures, 4) fences in grazed pastures and 5) linear plantings within grazed pastures. We found that the different land cover types influenced the types and distances moved by different species and groups of species. Reptiles moved both within, and out of, grazed paddocks more than they did in woodland remnants. In contrast, frogs exhibited varying movement behaviours. The smooth toadlet (Uperoleia laevigata) moved more often and longer distances within remnants than within paddocks. The spotted marsh frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) moved out of grazed pastures more than out of pastures with coarse woody debris added or fences and were never recaptured in plantings. We found that most recaptured reptiles and frogs (76.3%) did not move between trapping arrays, which added to evidence that they perceived most of the land cover types as habitat. We suggest that even simple fences may provide conduits for movement in the agricultural landscape for frogs. Otherwise, most reptile and frog species used all land cover types as habitat, though of varying quality. Reptiles appeared to perceive the woodland remnants as the highest quality habitat. This landscape is fine-grained which may facilitate movement and persistence due to high heterogeneity in vegetation cover over short distances. Therefore, intensification and increasing the size of human land use may have negative impacts on these taxa.
Ref: Pulsford, S. A., Barton, P. S., Driscoll, D. A., Kay, G. M. and Lindenmayer, D. B. (2018), Reptiles and frogs use most land cover types as habitat in a fine-grained agricultural landscape. Austral Ecology. doi:10.1111/aec.12587
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/aec.12587/full

UWA Node: The importance of the past to help predict the future
Biodiversity change is ubiquitous. Understanding the determinants of change will help formulate management actions for an uncertain future. In this recent paper, published in Global Change Biology, and led by UWA ERIE-adjunct lecturer Mike Perring (also Ghent University), the authors revealed the crucial role of land management legacies in determining biodiversity response to current environmental change. Using nearly 2000 resurvey plot pairs spread across large environmental gradients in temperate European forests, the authors showed how changes in understorey plant community properties (species richness, functional traits), between surveys generally conducted 30-40 years apart, depended upon how forests were managed over two centuries ago. For instance, less intensive management in 1800 (so-called ‘high forest’) led to increases in species richness and plant height in response to increased rates of N deposition. More intensive management in 1800 (i.e. coppicing) led to decreases in species richness and plant height to the same driver. Surprisingly, current forest management (or lack thereof) scarcely influenced community change, while simple effects of environmental changes were also rare. These changes in community properties over time and space can be understood in terms of the resource and condition dynamics engendered by previous management. These findings can reconcile contradictory literature on community change, and suggest that anticipating future responses to environmental change requires an appreciation of the legacies of past disturbance.       

UMelb Node: Anja Skroblin one of the coordinating authors on the The Fitzroy River Science Statement
“The Fitzroy River Science Statement is in support of the Western Australian Government’s election commitment to create a new National Park and a Catchment Management Plan to protect the Fitzroy River. It provides scientific guidance on the values, threats and necessary protection for the river and catchment. The authors also recognise the Fitzroy River Declaration by Traditional Owners that raises concerns about the cumulative impacts of current and proposed development and outlines a vision for the future of the river. It is hoped that this statement will also be of value to Traditional Owners in the process of furthering the aspirations expressed in the Declaration.
http://www.fitzroystatement.org/

UQ Node: Mathew Holden weighs up the odds of a shark attack
“In a comment on my previous post about shark attacks, I said that perhaps we should walk to the beach to lower our risk of death due to traffic fatalities. I’m glad Kevin Lawrence, correctly pointed out that in order to make that claim, I’d have to look at pedestrian fatality statistics. Well, good thing I did. It turns out walking is way more dangerous than driving (per mile, but not per minute)…
…In many cases, 65 meters is longer than the distance between the beach and our parked cars! The walk from your car to the beach might be more dangerous than dying from a shark attack.”
See his blog: https://mathemagicalconservation.wordpress.com/
Or see the full colour CEED story at
https://spark.adobe.com/page/3XpmxPuA8CcXW/

RMIT Node: The RMIT lab are at a writing retreat in Lorne
The RMIT lab (or most of us anyway) is down at Lorne this week on a writing retreat. In between intense research and writing sessions, the lab will be making the most of the views out to sea from the balcony and maybe even a quick swim. Stay tuned for a paper or three!

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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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