Dbytes #337 (5 July 2018)

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


“Under current levels of government funding, the ‘partnership approach’ [for the threatened species conservation] is like government turning up to a bushfire with a garden hose expecting the community and philanthropics to bring the water bombers.”
Jenny Lau, the acting head of conservation at Birdlife Australia in The Guardian

General News

1. A new enquiry into Australia’s faunal extinction crisis
2. How cities can use nature to cope with change
3.
Our Beef Addiction Has Contributed To Shocking New Deforestation Figures
4. Bold nature retention targets are essential for the global environment agenda
5. Antarctic Science Council to be established

EDG Node News

General CEED News: What would you like to see happen to Decision Point?
RMIT Node: A contingent from RMIT present at SCBO
ANU Node: Phil Gibbons discusses smart city planning can preserve old trees and the wildlife that needs them
UWA Node: Leonie Valentine and colleagues investigate why bandicoot digging grows bigger seedlings
UMelb Node news: Reid Tingley and colleagues on integrating transport pressure data and species distribution models to estimate invasion risk for alien stowaways
UQ Node: Stephanie Avery-Gomm and colleagues on linking plastic ingestion research with marine wildlife conservation

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General News

1. A new enquiry into Australia’s faunal extinction crisis

On 27 June 2018, the Senate referred the following matter to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report by 4 December 2018.
An inquiry into Australia’s Faunal extinction crisis including the wider ecological impact of faunal extinction, the adequacy of Commonwealth environment laws, the adequacy of existing monitoring practices, assessment process and compliance mechanisms for enforcing Commonwealth environmental law, and a range of other matters.

The closing date for submissions is 13 August 2018.
https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Faunalextinction

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2. How cities can use nature to cope with change
By Dave Kendal and Joshua Lewis (in Re.think)

Heatwaves across south-east Australia continue to break records. New Orleans is still searching for solutions to its flooding issues following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Researchers look for global lessons in the aftermath of extreme weather events to see how cities can respond to environmental challenges ahead.
https://rethink.earth/how-cities-can-use-nature-to-cope-with-change/

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3. Our Beef Addiction Has Contributed To Shocking New Deforestation Figures
Enough trees to fill 44 football fields were lost from tropical forests every minute of every day during 2017 as the world racked up its second worst year for global tree cover loss, according to new data from the University of Maryland published by the World Resources Institute.

“The main reason why tropical forests are disappearing is not a mystery,” Seymour said. “Vast areas continue to be cleared for soy, beef, palm oil and timber.”

These four commodities are responsible for most of the world’s tropical deforestation but beef plays an outsize role in the worst-affected countries, causing more than twice as much deforestation as the other three commodities combined.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/beef-addiction-contributed-deforestation_us_5b321853e4b0b5e692f13387

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4. Bold nature retention targets are essential for the global environment agenda

Ambitious targets for the retention — not just formal protection — of nature are urgently needed to conserve biodiversity and to maintain crucial ecosystem services for humanity.

Ref: Martine Maron, Jeremy S. Simmonds & James E. M. Watson (2018). Bold nature retention targets are essential for the global environment agenda. Nature Ecology & Evolution
http://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0595-2

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5. Antarctic Science Council to be established

A new Antarctic Science Council will be established to revitalise research on a new platform, as well as boost Hobart’s position as an Antarctic science hub, and as the premier gateway to Antarctica. The Council will provide further strategic direction for the Australian Antarctic Program, oversee science funding priorities and ensure funds directly support Antarctic research, reducing administrative costs and making it easier to plan multi-year projects. The establishment of the Council is the first step in implementing the recommendations of a review into the governance of Australia’s Antarctic Science Program, undertaken by Mr Drew Clarke. The Clarke Review and the Government’s response is available at
http://www.environment.gov.au/antarctic-review

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EDG News

General CEED News: What would you like to see happen to Decision Point?
Funding for Decision Point ends in 2018. What would you like to see happen to Decision Point? Please let us know by filling in our Future Prospects Survey
http://bit.ly/2IlxQtz

And check out our latest issue (Decision Point #105) at http://decision-point.com.au/

RMIT Node: A contingent from RMIT present at SCBO
Many researchers from the RMIT group presented at the Society for Conservation Biology Oceania meeting in Wellington this week. Matthew Selinske spoke on ‘Future-proofing privately protected areas through intergenerational stewardship’,Georgia Garrard on ‘Intergenerational stewardship goes both ways: Do children influence the conservation attitudes of their parents?’, Alex Kusmanoff on ‘What to say and what not to say: When talking conservation, some frames speak louder than others’, and’Jeremy Ringma on ‘Strategic planning of conservation fencing.’
More details and abstracts available here: https://iconscience.org/2018/06/29/icon-scientists-at-society-for-conservation-biology-oceania-conference-2018-in-wellington-nz/

ANU Node: Phil Gibbons discusses smart city planning can preserve old trees and the wildlife that needs them
Australia’s landscapes are dotted with mature eucalypts that were standing well before Captain Cook sailed into Botany Bay. These old trees were once revered as an icon of the unique Australian landscape, but they’re rapidly becoming collateral damage from population growth. Mature eucalypts are routinely removed to make way for new suburbs. This has a considerable impact on our native fauna. Unless society is prepared to recognise the value of our pre-European eucalypts, urban growth will continue to irrevocably change our unique Australian landscape and the wildlife it supports.
https://theconversation.com/smart-city-planning-can-preserve-old-trees-and-the-wildlife-that-needs-them-98632

UWA Node: Leonie Valentine and colleagues investigate why bandicoot digging grows bigger seedlings
In a recent paper in Functional Ecology, Leonie Valentine, Richard Hobbs and collaborators investigated how bandicoot digging changed soil properties that subsequently altered seedling growth. Many digging mammals, including the Australian marsupial quenda (Isoodon fusciventer) forage for food by digging small pits and creating spoil heaps with the discarded soil. This small-scale bioturbation could potentially alter soil nutrients and subsequently influence growth of plants. Soil from the base of 20 recent quenda foraging pits (pit), the associated spoil heaps (spoil) and adjacent undisturbed soil (control) was collected and analysed for nutrients and microbial activity. Soil cores were collected from the same locations and seeds of the native canopy species, tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala), added to the soil under glasshouse conditions. Soil from the spoil heaps had the greatest levels of conductivity and potassium. Both the spoil and undisturbed soil had greater amounts of microbial activity and organic carbon. In contrast, the pits had less nutrients and microbial activity. Seedlings grown in spoil soil were taller, heavier, with thicker stems and grew at a faster rate than seedlings in the pit or control soil. Bioturbation by ecosystem engineers, like quenda, can alter soil nutrients and microbial activity, facilitating seedling growth. It is proposed that this may be caused by enhanced litter decomposition beneath the discarded spoil heaps. As the majority of Australian digging mammals are threatened, with many suffering substantial population and range contractions, the loss of these species will have long-term impacts on ecosystem processes.

Ref: Valentine LE, Ruthrof KX Fisher R, Hardy GEStJ, Hobbs RJ & Fleming PA. (2018) Bioturbation by bandicoots facilitates seedling growth by altering soil properties. Functional Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13179.

https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2435.13179
UMelb Node news: Reid Tingley and colleagues on integrating transport pressure data and species distribution models to estimate invasion risk for alien stowaways
The number of alien species transported as stowaways is steadily increasing and new approaches are urgently needed to tackle this emerging invasion pathway. We introduce a general framework for identifying high‐risk transport pathways and receiving sites for alien species that are unintentionally transported via goods and services. This approach combines the probability of species arrival at transport hubs with the likelihood that the environment in the new region can sustain populations of that species. We illustrate our approach using a case study of the Asian black‐spined toad Duttaphrynus melanostictus in Australia, a species that is of significant biosecurity concern in Australasia, Indonesia, and Madagascar. A correlative model fitted to occurrence data from the native geographic range of D. melanostictus predicted high environmental suitability at locations where the species has established alien populations globally. Applying the model to Australia revealed that transport hubs with the highest numbers of border interceptions and on‐shore detections of D. melanostictus were environmentally similar to locations within the species’ native range. Numbers of D. melanostictus interceptions and detections in Australia increased over time, but were unrelated to indices of air and maritime trade volume. Instead, numbers of interceptions and detections were determined by the country of origin of airplanes (Thailand) and ships (Indonesia). Thus, the common assumption that transport pressure is correlated with invasion risk does not hold in all cases. Our work builds on previous efforts to integrate transport pressure data and species distribution models, by jointly modelling the number of intercepted and detected stowaways, while incorporating imperfect detection and the environmental suitability of receiving hubs. The approach presented here can be applied to any system for which historical biosecurity data are available, and provides an efficient means to allocate quarantine and surveillance efforts to reduce the probability of alien species establishment.
Ref: Tingley, Reid; Garcia-Diaz, Pablo; Arantes, Carla Rani Rocha; Cassey, Phillip (2018). Integrating transport pressure data and species distribution models to estimate invasion risk for alien stowaways. Ecography 635. doi: 10.1111/ecog.02841
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ecog.02841

UQ Node: Stephanie Avery-Gomm and colleagues on linking plastic ingestion research with marine wildlife conservation
The number of studies documenting plastic ingestion in wildlife is accelerating. A disconnect exists between plastic ingestion research and wildlife conservation. Priority research questions involve identifying population-level impacts. A clearer pathway for integrating research into wildlife conservation is needed.
Ref: Stephanie Avery-Gomm, Stephanie B. Borrelle, Jennifer F. Provencher (2018). Linking plastic ingestion research with marine wildlife conservation, Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 637–638, Pages 1492-1495, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.409
And see the CEED web story at http://ceed.edu.au/2018-news-articles/linking-plastic-ingestion-research-with-marine-wildlife-conservation.html

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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 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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