Dbytes #348 (20 September 2018)

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

“The world of biodiversity research is like an extended family that has split into feuding factions. Scientists from less-prosperous southern countries have squared off against colleagues from the wealthier north, and researchers from more empirical disciplines are arguing with those from humanities and the social sciences.”
Ehsan Masood, Nature


General News

1. ‘Rubber-stamping extinction’: WA forests in trouble but it’s nobody’s fault
2. A
global audit of biodiversity monitoring
3. Leaked Queensland report shows state has no overall strategy to save native species
4. Threatened species habitat the size of Tasmania destroyed since environment law (EPBC Act) enacted
5. Shark ecotourism can change attitudes about sharks

EDG Node News

UQ Node: Claire Mason and colleagues on telemetry reveals existing marine protected areas are worse than random for protecting the foraging habitat of threatened shy albatross
RMIT Node: Alex Kusmanoff on the functions of framing
ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on empirical relationships between tree fall and landscape-level amounts of logging and fire
UMelb Node: Lucie Bland on Assessing risks to marine ecosystems with the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems

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General News

1. ‘Rubber-stamping extinction’: WA forests in trouble but it’s nobody’s fault

The state’s review of its native forest logging practices says critical knowledge gaps and faulty tracking of threatened species has made it impossible to complete its task properly.

https://www.watoday.com.au/national/western-australia/rubber-stamping-extinction-wa-forests-in-trouble-but-it-s-nobody-s-fault-20180918-p504kn.html

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2. A global audit of biodiversity monitoring

From Caroline Moussy:
“I would like to invite you to help with an exciting new project. As part of the IUCN SSC Species Monitoring Specialist Group’s work to improve species monitoring for conservation (Stephenson 2018; Oryx 52: 412-413), and parallel efforts to improve the monitoring of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), I am conducting a global audit of biodiversity monitoring to identify gaps in data, coverage and capacity in long-term species monitoring. This project is funded by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) Collaborative Fund, and involves partners and collaborators from around the world. Thank you very much in advance. I look forward to receiving your contribution by 30 September 2018.”

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/speciesmonitoring

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3. Leaked Queensland report shows state has no overall strategy to save native species

Exclusive: Conservation staff say 955 species face extinction across the state

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/11/leaked-queensland-report-attacks-lack-of-strategy-to-save-native-species?CMP=share_btn_tw
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4. Threatened species habitat the size of Tasmania destroyed since environment law enacted

A new report finds almost all nationally threatened species habitat destruction has occurred without any federal approval or any attempt to seek approval. Since Australia’s national environment protection law took effect 17 years ago, around seven million hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed by bulldozing and logging. That’s the shocking conclusion of new analysis by University of Queensland researchers, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), WWF-Australia and the Wilderness Society.

The total area of threatened species habitat that has been destroyed since Australia has had a law that is supposed to protect biodiversity is larger than the entire state of Tasmania. The report, Fast-tracking extinction, finds since the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) took effect in 2000, there have been dramatic habitat loss for the koala, red goshawk, greater glider and yakka skink, pushing these species towards extinction.

https://www.acf.org.au/threatened_species_habitat_environment_law

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5. Shark ecotourism can change attitudes about sharks

Shark ecotourism can change people’s attitudes about sharks and make them more likely to support conservation projects – even after allowing for the fact that ecotourists are more likely to be environmentally minded in the first place.
https://theconversation.com/shark-tourism-can-change-your-mind-about-these-much-maligned-predators-102766

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EDG News

UQ Node: Claire Mason and colleagues on telemetry reveals existing marine protected areas are worse than random for protecting the foraging habitat of threatened shy albatross
Aim: to assess the efficacy of marine reserves in Australia for shy albatross, using long‐term tracking data. We integrated a tracking dataset consisting of 111 individuals collected over 23 years and generated Brownian bridge kernel density estimations to identify important habitat. We quantified the overlap between the foraging distribution of early incubating adults and post‐fledgling juveniles with management boundaries and marine reserves. We compared the extent of coverage of albatross foraging areas by Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) relative to a randomly designed network of the same size to determine whether the spatial protection measures are likely to be effective.
Main conclusions: Important foraging habitat of shy albatross from Albatross Island is mostly within Commonwealth‐managed waters. The current MPA network, the only spatial protection measure for shy albatross, provides less coverage for this species than a randomly placed network. An increase in the representation of productive shelf waters in MPA networks would benefit the conservation of shy albatross through reducing fisheries interactions and protecting habitat in these regions.
Ref: Mason C, R Alderman, J McGowan, HP Possingham, AJ Hobday, M Sumner & J Shaw (2018). Telemetry reveals existing marine protected areas are worse than random for protecting the foraging habitat of threatened shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta). Divers Distrib. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ddi.12830

RMIT Node: Alex Kusmanoff on the functions of framing
“To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation for the item described.”
https://keeptothepath.com/2018/09/12/the-functions-of-framing/
ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on empirical relationships between tree fall and landscape-level amounts of logging and fire
Large old trees are critically important keystone structures in forest ecosystems globally. Populations of these trees are also in rapid decline in many forest ecosystems, making it important to quantify the factors that influence their dynamics at different spatial scales. Large old trees often occur in forest landscapes also subject to fire and logging. However, the effects on the risk of collapse of large old trees of the amount of logging and fire in the surrounding landscape are not well understood. Using an 18-year study in the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria, we quantify relationships between the probability of collapse of large old hollow-bearing trees at a site and the amount of logging and the amount of fire in the surrounding landscape. We found the probability of collapse increased with an increasing amount of logged forest in the surrounding landscape. It also increased with a greater amount of burned area in the surrounding landscape, particularly for trees in highly advanced stages of decay. The most likely explanation for elevated tree fall with an increasing amount of logged or burned areas in the surrounding landscape is change in wind movement patterns associated with cutblocks or burned areas. Previous studies show that large old hollow-bearing trees are already at high risk of collapse in our study area. New analyses presented here indicate that additional logging operations in the surrounding landscape will further elevate that risk. Current logging prescriptions require the protection of large old hollow-bearing trees on cutblocks. We suggest that efforts to reduce the probability of collapse of large old hollow-bearing trees on unlogged sites will demand careful landscape planning to limit the amount of timber harvesting in the surrounding landscape.
Lindenmayer, D.B., Blanchard, W., Blair, D., McBurney, L., Stein, J. and Banks, S.C. (2018). Empirical relationships between tree fall and landscape-level amounts of logging and fire. PLOS One, 13(2), e0193132.
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0193132

UMelb Node: Lucie Bland on Assessing risks to marine ecosystems with the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems
The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems has made some great strides over the last few years, with over 1,500 ecosystems assessed in 90 countries. However, the application of the protocol to offshore marine ecosystems has been lacking. To date, only 10% of ecosystems listed on the global Red List belong to the marine realm, and these are mostly coral reefs and coastal ecosystems. Yet current evidence shows that offshore marine ecosystems are at considerable risk from regime shifts, mostly due to fishing and environmental change. It can be difficult to assess risks to marine ecosystems because unlike most terrestrial ecosystems, we cannot simply map their distributions and call it a risk assessment (oh no! a car park has replaced my favourite forest!). We need to look at the functioning of the ecosystem – the different species that inhabit it and how they relate to each other in the food web…
https://lucieblandresearch.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/assessing-risks-to-marine-ecosystems-with-the-iucn-red-list-of-ecosystems/

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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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