Dbytes #325 (29 March 2018)

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

“As 2018 gets underway, we’ve already seen the country hit with a series of extreme weather events, including tropical cyclones, severe heatwaves, intense rainfall and bushfires.”
Dr Martin Rice, Head of Research, Climate Council CEO
https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/tasman-summer-scorcher-at-land-and-sea
[and see item 1]

General News

1. State of Climate in 2017 – Extreme weather and high impacts
2. A framework for governance of public green spaces in cities
3. Melbourne trees are getting mapped for a city-wide urban forest strategy
4. Australia’s birds are not being protected by environmental laws, report says
5. Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition

EDG News

UMelb Node: Will Morris and colleagues on the value of information for woodland management
UQ Node:
Megan Barnes and colleagues on: prevent perverse outcomes from global protected area policy
RMIT node:
Sarah Bekessey in ABC story on: population, corruption must be addressed to halt biodiversity loss
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer on: native forest protections are deeply flawed, yet may be in place for another 20 years
UWA Node: Richard Hobbs writes about how writing about our science should be fun but…

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General News

1. State of Climate in 2017 – Extreme weather and high impacts

The very active North Atlantic hurricane season, major monsoon floods in the Indian subcontinent, and continuing severe drought in parts of east Africa contributed to 2017 being the most expensive year on record for severe weather and climate events. The high impact of extreme weather on economic development, food security, health and migration was highlighted in the WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2017. Compiled by the World Meteorological Organization with input from national meteorological services and United Nations partners, the report provides detailed information to support the international agenda on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change.

https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/state-of-climate-2017-%E2%80%93-extreme-weather-and-high-impacts
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2. A framework for governance of public green spaces in cities
Public authorities that seek to transfer the cost of managing green spaces to the private sector face apprehension about the extent of community input in managing of public green spaces in cities. In practice, the governance arrangements for managing public green spaces are neither a purely private or public sector responsibility. They are part of complex and contested governance schemas that involve multiple stakeholder groups with varying interests and responsibilities. This paper proposes a simple framework to support different modes of governance appropriate for the management of public green spaces in cities. The framework classifies stakeholders’ desires for engagement based on ecosystem service characteristics defined on a spectrum of excludability and rivalry. The framework is applied to case studies in Australia and Canada. Finally, we discuss the new insights for governance arrangements for public green space management in cities

Ref: A framework for governance of public green spaces in cities
Andrew MacKenzie, Leonie J. Pearson & Craig J. Pearson
Pages: 1-14 | DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2018.1444153
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01426397.2018.1444153

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3. Melbourne trees are getting mapped for a city-wide urban forest strategy
The Nature Conservancy and Resilient Melbourne have teamed up to map the vegetation of the entire Melbourne metropolitan area in an Australian-first they say will help the city’s fight to stay on top of the liveability charts. Using new digital mapping technology, the team has just finished mapping the coverage of greenery in Werribee in Melbourne’s west, including vegetation height. The mapping is an essential element in creating a new city-wide Metropolitan Urban Forest Strategy, to be released later this year.
http://www.natureaustralia.org.au/2018/02/mapping-out-a-leafier-cooler-melbourne/
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4. Australia’s birds are not being protected by environmental laws, report says

Some of Australia’s favourite birds are threatened with extinction and Australia’s environmental laws are failing to protect them, a new report by BirdLife Australia has found.
The report identified in the existing laws a slew of loopholes, exemptions, omissions and discretionary powers open to politicisation, each of which have been exploited to allow the decline of birds including the Carnaby’s black cockatoo, the swift parrot and the southern black-throated finch.
“The Turnbull government must urgently reform our national environment laws and ensure they are properly upheld,” said Jenny Lau, BirdLife Australia’s acting head of conservation.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/22/australias-birds-are-not-being-protected-by-environmental-laws-report-says
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5. Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition
[Recommended by Peter Ryan]

“Over the last 50 years, we argue that incentives for academic scientists have become increasingly perverse in terms of competition for research funding, development of quantitative metrics to measure performance, and a changing business model for higher education itself. Furthermore, decreased discretionary funding at the federal and state level is creating a hypercompetitive environment between government agencies (e.g., EPA, NIH, CDC), for scientists in these agencies, and for academics seeking funding from all sources—the combination of perverse incentives and decreased funding increases pressures that can lead to unethical behavior. If a critical mass of scientists become untrustworthy, a tipping point is possible in which the scientific enterprise itself becomes inherently corrupt and public trust is lost, risking a new dark age with devastating consequences to humanity. Academia and federal agencies should better support science as a public good, and incentivize altruistic and ethical outcomes, while de-emphasizing output.
Ref: ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING SCIENCE, Volume 34, Number 1, 2017, DOI: 10.1089/ees.2016.0223
https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/ees.2016.0223

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EDG News

UMelb Node: Will Morris and colleagues on the value of information for woodland management
Value of information analyses reveal the expected benefit of reducing uncertainty. Most ecological value of information analyses have focused on population models rarely addressing more complex community models. We performed a value of information analysis for a complex state–transition model of Box‐Ironbark Forest management. Managing the system optimally with the original information would, on average, increase the amount of forest in a desirable state from 19% to 35%, Whereas, resolving all uncertainty would, on average, increase the final percentage to 42%. However, only resolving the uncertainty for a single parameter was still worth almost two‐thirds the value of resolving all uncertainty. We found the information value to depend on the number of management options, increasing as the management flexibility increased. Importantly, the most cost‐effective learning strategies did not include a focus on either the most desired forest types or the least understood management option. This implies that managers cannot just rely on intuition to tell them where the most information value will lie, as critical uncertainties in a complex system are sometimes cryptic.
Ref: Morris WK, MC Runge & PA Vesk (2017). The value of information for woodland management: updating a state–transition model. Ecosphere
https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecs2.1998

UQ Node: Megan Barnes and colleagues on Prevent perverse outcomes from global protected area policy
Aichi Target 11 has galvanized expansion of the global protected area network, but there is little evidence that this brings real biodiversity gains. We argue that area-based prioritization risks unintended perverse consequences and that the focus of protected area target development should shift from quantity to quality
Ref: Barnes MD, L Glew, C Wyborn & ID Craigie (2018). Prevent perverse outcomes from global protected area policy. Nature Ecology and Evolution

RMIT node: Sarah Bekessey in ABC story on: population, corruption must be addressed to halt biodiversity loss
“I completely agree that a conservation crisis is driven by people,” said Professor Bekessy. “Industry is allowed to literally kill threatened species and eliminate their habitat and it’s all OK because we can offset it somehow. That’s a really bad policy direction in my opinion that leads to us undervaluing the uniqueness of biodiversity,” she said…
http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-03-27/corruption-population-impact-biodiversity-loss/9586556

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer on: native forest protections are deeply flawed, yet may be in place for another 20 years
State governments are poised to renew some of the 20-year-old Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) without reviewing any evidence gathered in the last two decades. The agreements were first signed between the federal government and the states in the late 1990s in an attempt to balance the needs of the native forest logging industry with conservation and forest biodiversity. It’s time to renew the agreements for another 20 years. Some, such as Tasmania’s, have just been renewed and others are about to be rolled over without substantial reassessment. Yet much of the data on which the RFAs are based are hopelessly out of date…
https://theconversation.com/native-forest-protections-are-deeply-flawed-yet-may-be-in-place-for-another-20-years-93004

UWA Node: Richard Hobbs writes about how writing about our science should be fun but…
Richard Hobbs talks about writing, specifically how writing about our science should be fun. But between plague proportions of feral commas in reports and the creeping tyranny of word counts in papers where did the fun go? More importantly, how do we get it back?
https://www.facebook.com/ERIEresearchgroup/posts/1932405390126994


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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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