Dbytes #345 (30 August 2018)

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

“You are just putting the environment last, which is what got us into this mess in the first instance.”
David Papps, former Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder on the proposal to “borrow” environmental water so farmers can use it to grow crops to feed livestock during the drought. ABC News


General News

1. Australia’s science leaders reissue their call for stronger action on climate change
2. Help to shape policy with your science
3. A new dimension to marine restoration
4. Drink coaster designs for climate conversations
5. Five common writing mistakes new scientists make

EDG Node News

ANU Node: Luke O’Loughlin and colleagues on surrogates underpin ecological understanding and practise
UWA Node: Mike Perring and colleagues on understanding context dependency in the response of forest understorey plant communities to nitrogen deposition
UMelb Node: Interdisciplinary Conservation Network (ICN) Workshop 2018
UQ Node: Payal Bal and colleagues on quantifying the value of monitoring species in multi‐species, multi‐threat systems
RMIT Node:
Matthew Selinske on what regular folks think of pro-environmental behaviors

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General News

1. Australia’s science leaders reissue their call for stronger action on climate change

The Australian Academy of Science has reissued their call for the Australian Government to use the best available science to guide action on climate change. The longer Australia delays decisive action towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions the more challenging that action will become.

https://www.science.org.au/news-and-events/news-and-media-releases/australias-science-leaders-reissue-their-call

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2. Help to shape policy with your science

Megan Evans was just featured in a Nature editorial on ‘Help to shape policy with your science’
“Megan Evans got a crash course in science policy in 2011. As a research assistant at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, she joined a project helping the Australian government to develop a tool to compensate for the environmental effects of commercial land development and other activities. If a protected species might be harmed, for example, the ‘biodiversity offset’ tool would help the government to determine how much extra habitat to set aside. Evans loved the project’s applied nature. Many early-career researchers are drawn to the intersection of science and policy, says Evans, now an honorary research fellow at the Centre for Policy Futures at the University of Queensland. But it can be hard to know where to start, she says. And there can be career penalties for junior scientists. Policy-based work can be time-consuming and hard to fund, and helping to shape a law or management plan might not look as good on a tenure application as do high-profile publications. All scientists must also cope with the political realities of helping to translate scientific evidence — replete with uncertainties — into clear-cut laws and regulations. Because of this, many say, science can underpin good policy, but rarely defines it.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06038-4

And also see: Early career researchers: So you want to make a difference?
There’s a new breed of scientist in town, wanting to make a positive impact in the world. They just have one question—how!?
https://particle.scitech.org.au/people/early-career-researchers-so-you-want-to-make-a-difference/

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3. A new dimension to marine restoration

Australian group Reef Design Labs submerged a 3D-printed artificial coral reef earlier this month in the Maldives, with the hope that this advanced engineering method will help coral regeneration efforts.

Eco-business

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4. Drink coaster designs for climate conversations

Researchers at ANU considered graphs and pie charts to display climate data, before some lateral thinking threw up the idea of drink coasters. The coasters visualise 12 months of climate data against long-term averages for Australian capital cities. Each coaster shows two rings representing climate data: the inside ring compares daily temperatures to that location’s long-term average, while the outer ring shows the same visualisation for monthly temperatures.

See https://gravitron.com.au/climatecoaster/ for the coasters and
https://science.anu.edu.au/research/research-stories/starting-conversation-about-climate-change for background on how they came about

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5. Five common writing mistakes new scientists make

“I thought I’d share five common bad habits that undermine otherwise good writing.”
https://contemplativemammoth.com/2018/08/21/five-common-writing-mistakes-new-scientists-make/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

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EDG News

ANU Node: Luke O’Loughlin and colleagues on surrogates underpin ecological understanding and practise
Here, we consider how fundamental tenets from surrogate research, particularly those that deal with intrinsic uncertainty and risk, are underappreciated in broader ecological research. Our assertion is that explicit recognition of the use of surrogates will benefit all ecological research through improved evaluation of the accuracy, consistency, and certainty of the inferences drawn from measures, regardless of the context.
Ref: O’Loughlin, L.S., Lindenmayer, D.B., Smith, M.D., Willig, M.R., Knapp, A.K., Cuddington, K., Hastings, A., Foster, C.N., Sato, C.F., Westgate, M.J. and Barton P.S. (2018). Surrogates underpin ecological understanding and practise. BioScience, doi:10.1093/biosci/biy080.
https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biy080/5055576

UWA Node: Mike Perring and colleagues on understanding context dependency in the response of forest understorey plant communities to nitrogen deposition
Understorey communities can dominate forest plant diversity and strongly affect forest ecosystem structure and function. Understoreys often respond sensitively but inconsistently to drivers of ecological change, including nitrogen (N) deposition. Nitrogen deposition effects, reflected in the concept of critical loads, vary greatly not only among species and guilds, but also among forest types. Here, we characterize such context dependency as driven by differences in the amounts and forms of deposited N, cumulative deposition, the filtering of N by overstoreys, and available plant species pools. Nitrogen effects on understorey trajectories can also vary due to differences in surrounding landscape conditions; ambient browsing pressure; soils and geology; other environmental factors controlling plant growth; and, historical and current disturbance/management regimes. The number of these factors and their potentially complex interactions complicate our efforts to make simple predictions about how N deposition affects forest understoreys. We review the literature to examine evidence for context dependency in N deposition effects on forest understoreys. We also use data from 1814 European temperate forest plots to test the ability of multi-level models to characterize context-dependent understorey responses across sites that differ in levels of N deposition, community composition, local conditions and management history. This analysis demonstrated that historical management, and plot location on light and pH-fertility gradients, significantly affect how understorey communities respond to N deposition. We conclude that species’ and communities’ responses to N deposition, and thus the determination of critical loads, vary greatly depending on environmental contexts. This complicates our efforts to predict how N deposition will affect forest understoreys and thus how best to conserve and restore understorey biodiversity. To reduce uncertainty and incorporate context dependency in critical load setting, we should assemble data on underlying environmental conditions, conduct globally distributed field experiments, and analyse a wider range of habitat types.
Ref: Michael P. Perring, Martin Diekmann, Gabriele Midolo, David Schellenberger Costa, Markus Bernhardt-Römermann, Johanna C.J. Otto, Frank S. Gilliam, Per-Ola Hedwall, Annika Nordin, Thomas Dirnböck, Samuel M. Simkin, František Máliš, Haben Blondeel, Jörg Brunet, Markéta Chudomelová, Tomasz Durak, Pieter De Frenne, Radim Hédl, Martin Kopecký, Dries Landuyt, Daijiang Li, Peter Manning, Petr Petřík, Kamila Reczyńska, Wolfgang Schmidt, Tibor Standovár, Krzysztof Świerkosz, Ondřej Vild, Donald M. Waller, Kris Verheyen (2018). Understanding context dependency in the response of forest understorey plant communities to nitrogen deposition. Environmental Pollution, ISSN 0269-7491,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.07.089

UMelb Node: Interdisciplinary Conservation Network (ICN) Workshop 2018
“The Interdisciplinary Conservation Network (ICN) is a collaboration between research groups to hold workshops for PhD students and early career researchers (ECRs). This year, the Deakin Conservation Science Lab joined Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS) and Sterling Conservation Science as an ICN organising partner.  Lab members Kate Watermeyer and Jess Rowland participated on the organising committee, Emily Nicholson as a mentor and Simone Stevenson as a participant…”
https://conservationscience.org.au/2018/08/15/the-conservation-science-lab-visits-oxford-interdisciplinary-conservation-network-icn-workshop-2018/

UQ Node: Payal Bal and colleagues on quantifying the value of monitoring species in multi‐species, multi‐threat systems
Making effective management decisions is challenging in multi‐species, multi‐threat systems because of uncertainty about the effects of different threats on different species. To inform management decisions, we often monitor species to detect spatial or temporal trends that can help us learn about threatening processes. However, which species to monitor and how to monitor to inform the management of threats can be difficult to determine. Value of information (VOI) analysis is an approach for quantifying the value of monitoring to inform management decisions. We developed a novel method that applies VOI analysis to quantify the benefits of different species monitoring strategies in multi‐threat, multi‐species systems. We applied the approach to compare the effectiveness of surveillance monitoring (monitoring species without experimentation) to targeted monitoring (monitoring species with experimentation to learn about a specific threat), and how prior information drives the benefits of these two different strategies and the species to monitor. We also illustrate the approach by applying it to two contrasting case studies for monitoring and managing declining mammals in Western Australia. Our approach shows that surveillance monitoring generally provides far lower benefits than targeted monitoring for managing threats in multi‐species, multi‐threat systems under economic constraints. Our approach also informs the choice of species to monitor and which threats to manage experimentally to most improve threat management outcomes. We show that the key parameters driving these choices include: the budget available for management, prior understanding of which threats cause declines in which species, the relative cost of managing these threats, and the background probability of decline. Our new VOI approach allows the evaluation of monitoring decisions in multi‐species, multi‐threat systems in the face of uncertainty, while explicitly accounting for the improvement in management outcomes. We recommend that managers need to explicitly consider a range of decision parameters when selecting which species to monitor to inform management. Our framework provides an objective way to do this.
Ref: Payal Bal, Ayesha I. T. Tulloch, Iadine Chadès, Josie Carwardine, Eve McDonald‐Madden, Jonathan R. Rhodes (2018). Quantifying the value of monitoring species in multi‐species, multi‐threat systems. Methods in Ecology and Evolution.
https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.13037

RMIT Node: Matthew Selinske on what regular folks think of pro-environmental behaviors
Laypeople may perceive and characterize pro-environmental behaviors differently than experts; as such, assumptions should not be made about the dimensions underpinning targeted behaviors. A lot of research within the environmental and conservation sciences is devoted to understanding and encouraging proenvironmental behaviors. What we know less about is how individuals perceive proenvironmental behaviors, which is important for designing behavioral interventions.
https://keeptothepath.com/2018/08/23/what-regular-folks-think-of-proenvironmental-behaviors/

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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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