Dbytes #352 (18 October 2018)

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

“Improving the health of our environment and addressing our extinction crisis are inextricably linked to the health of our democracy. In recent years we’ve seen attempts to restrict community groups’ access to the courts, draconian anti-protest laws introduced in the states and attacks on environmental charities and our ability to undertake advocacy. We see public institutions that operate in secret, that flout FOI laws and that do deals with vested interests that seek to profit from the destruction of nature. In an era of deep polarisation and growing political instability, strengthening democratic institutions and norms, as well as finding common ground for our greater good, is crucial.”
James Trezise (ACF) at the Senate Committee on Australia’s faunal extinction crisis

General News

1. Using conservation science to advance corporate biodiversity accountability
2. Parks Australia launches science newsletter
3. Second Review of the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement
4. More farmers acknowledge reality of climate change
5. Senate inquiry into the impact of feral deer, pigs and goats in Australia

EDG Node News

RMIT Node:
Lindall Kidd, Emily Gregg et al in the Journal for Nature Conservation “Tweeting for their lives: Visibility of threatened species on twitter”
UWA Node: Stakeholders get together to think about the future of the Fitzroy River catchment, Kimberley
UQ Node: Carla Archibald on who’s ready for climate change? You can Google that…
ANU Node news: David Lindenmayer and colleagues release book on restoring farm woodlands for wildlife
UMelb Nodes: Freya Thomas on a field ecologist’s adventures in the virtual world: using simulations to design data collection for complex models

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General News

1. Using conservation science to advance corporate biodiversity accountability

Businesses are beginning to make commitments to account for and mitigate their influence on biodiversity, and report this in sustainability reports. The top 100 of the 2016 Fortune 500 Global companies’ (the Fortune 100) sustainability reports were assessed to gauge the current state of corporate biodiversity accountability. Many companies acknowledged biodiversity, but corporate biodiversity accountability is in its infancy. Almost half (49) of the Fortune 100 mentioned biodiversity in reports, and 31 made clear biodiversity commitments, of which only 5 could be considered specific, measureable and time‐bound. A variety of biodiversity‐related activities were disclosed (e.g., managing impacts, restoring biodiversity, and investing in biodiversity), but only 9 companies provided quantitative indicators to verify the magnitude of their activities (e.g., area of habitat restored). No companies reported quantitative biodiversity outcomes, making it difficult to determine whether business actions were of sufficient magnitude to address impacts, and are achieving positive outcomes for nature. Conservation science can help advance approaches to corporate biodiversity accountability through developing science‐based biodiversity commitments, meaningful indicators, and more targeted activities to address business impacts. With the “biodiversity policy super‐year” of 2020 rapidly approaching, now is the time for conservation scientists to engage with and support businesses to play a critical role in setting the new agenda for a sustainable future for the planet, with biodiversity at its heart.

Ref: Using conservation science to advance corporate biodiversity accountability
Prue F. E. Addison, Joseph W. Bull & E.J. Milner‐Gulland
Conservation Biology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cobi.13190

And here is a blog & link to Prue’s paper on corporate biodiversity accountability: https://prueaddison.com/2018/09/26/advancing-corporate-biodiversity-accountability/

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2. Parks Australia launches science newsletter

Parks Australia has published the first issue of its quarterly newsletter that will highlight the scientific research being undertaken in Commonwealth reserves. Each newsletter will include a feature project plus research snippets from around the parks. In the first issue you can read about the experiment to determine the most cost effective way to control buffel grass in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
First issue: https://mailchi.mp/parksaustralia.gov.au/parks-australia-science-news-issue-1-october-2018
Subscribe: https://parksaustralia.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=6ea9a3670ff3d4010dd5d92ae&id=4d86bf3b6d

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3. Second Review of the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement

The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the last unaltered unregulated water systems in the world. On 7 September 2018 the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum agreed to release a review into the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement, the second review since the Agreement was first signed in 2000. The Second Review of the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement (the Review) takes a comprehensive look at how well the Agreement is serving the Lake Eyre Basin and its communities. The Review looked at the operation of the Agreement and the extent to which objectives identified in the Agreement have been achieved. The Review also considered possible changes to improve the effectiveness of the Agreement; to reflect new knowledge, emerging issues and institutional frameworks. The Review was undertaken by an independent consultant in consultation with the Australian, Queensland, South Australian and Northern Territory governments and with input from stakeholders including the Lake Eyre Basin Community Advisory Committee and Scientific Advisory Panel and those who live and work in the Basin. From 23 March 2018 to 2 May 2018 the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, in cooperation with the Lake Eyre Basin jurisdictions, conducted public consultation on the Second Review of the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement. A total of 53 submissions were received during the consultation process. These submissions were considered by the independent consultant in developing the final Review report. The Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum are now considering the Review’s recommendations.

http://www.lakeeyrebasin.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/second-review-lake-eyre-basin-agreement.pdf

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4. More farmers acknowledge reality of climate change

“Back in 2008, only one-third of farmers accepted the science of climate change. Our 2010-11 survey of 946 irrigators in the southern Murray-Darling Basin (published in 2013) found similar results: 32% accepted that climate change posed a risk to their region; half disagreed; and 18% did not know.
These numbers have consistently trailed behind the wider public, a clear majority of whom have consistently accepted the science. More Australians in 2018 accepted the reality of climate change than at almost any time, with 76% accepting climate change is occurring, 11% not believing in it and 13% being unsure.
Yet there are signs we may be on the brink of a wholesale shift in farmers’ attitudes towards climate change. For example, we have seen the creation of Young Carbon Farmers, Farmers for Climate Action, the first ever rally on climate change by farmers in Canberra, and national adverts by farmers on the need for climate action. Since 2016 the National Farmers Federation has strengthened its calls for action to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Our latest preliminary research results have also revealed evidence of this change. We surveyed 1,000 irrigators in 2015-16 in the southern Murray-Darling Basin, and found attitudes have shifted significantly since the 2010 survey.
Now, 43% of farmers accept climate change poses a risk to their region, compared with just 32% five years earlier. Those not accepting correspondingly fell to 36%, while the percentage who did not know slightly increased to 21%.”

http://theconversation.com/farmers-climate-denial-begins-to-wane-as-reality-bites-103906

Editor’s note: And, once again, the Kiwi’s are ahead of us in this area, see
‘Jaw dropping’: New Zealand offers lessons in tackling climate change
https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/jaw-dropping-new-zealand-offers-lessons-in-tackling-climate-change-20181012-p509di.html

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5. Senate inquiry into the impact of feral deer, pigs and goats in Australia

Apart from being mammals, what do deer, pigs and goats have in common? All invasive animals introduced in the early days of European colonisiation and harmful to both the natural environment and farming businesses. All difficult to control, with both technical and social barriers. They are also all the focus of a new Senate inquiry. ‘The impact of feral deer, goats and pigs’ has been referred to the Environment and Communications References Committee for report by February 2019. Please make a submission if you have any experience or evidence of the problems caused by these species or views on how current approaches can be improved.

https://invasives.org.au/blog/senate-inquiry-into-the-impact-of-feral-deer-pigs-and-goats-in-australia/

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EDG News

RMIT Node: Lindall Kidd, Emily Gregg et al in the Journal for Nature Conservation “Tweeting for their lives: Visibility of threatened species on twitter”
Unpopular and uncharismatic species receive less conservation support, potentially impacting their long-term survival. This study assesses the attention directed towards Australian threatened species on the online social network Twitter, an increasingly common way for scientists and the general public to communicate about conservation. We find a difference in how often Twitter users mention (i.e. “tweet”) threatened species across different taxa and find that many threatened species are not mentioned at all. As expected, mammals and birds receive the most tweets, with invertebrates and frogs receiving less attention. Threatened species with recovery plans are more likely to be tweeted about than those without. Alarmingly, the majority of threatened species receive little interest on Twitter, indicating the public profile of these species is low. We identify five traits shared by popular threatened species on Twitter and suggest understanding these commonalities can inform conservation education and marketing campaigns aiming to raise the profile of less popular threatened species. Early view: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1617138118301183

UWA Node: Stakeholders get together to think about the future of the Fitzroy River catchment, Kimberley, Western Australia
A planning workshop was held in the Kimberley (in July), where CEED member David Pannell was one of 40 people from 26 organisations across all main stakeholder groups, including NESP-Northern Australia researchers, the federal Department of the Environment and Energy, WA agencies, local governments, mining, agriculture and tourism organisations, environmental NGOs, Rangelands NRM, Kimberley Land Council, and Prescribed Bodies Corporate representing the interests of Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Nyikina-Mangala, Yi-Martuwarra and Yungngora peoples. During the workshop, the team discussed the meaning of development, driving forces of land use change, and the diverse development initiatives proposed for the catchment.  An important goal of the initial workshop was to create shared understandings of what is happening in the region that could shape the future development of the catchment.
http://conservationplanning.org/2018/09/stakeholders-get-together-to-think-about-the-future-of-the-fitzroy-river-catchment-kimberley-western-australia/

UQ Node: Carla Archibald on who’s ready for climate change? You can Google that…
What do you do if you have a question? You probably ‘Google it’. Now a team of researchers at The University of Queensland is using the big data produced from Google search histories to gauge how ready countries are for the impacts of climate change. PhD candidate Carla Archibald, from the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, said the researchers used the information to assess general awareness of climate change. “There are more than 3.6 billion searches on Google every day,” she said. “Of course, people are Googling ‘climate change’, so we looked at how often the topic is searched to determine the level of climate change awareness…”
http://ceed.edu.au/2018-news-articles/who-s-ready-for-climate-change-you-can-google-that.html

ANU Node news: David Lindenmayer and colleagues release book on restoring farm woodlands for wildlife
Best practice approaches to restoration based on 19 years of long-term research. Millions of hectares of temperate woodland and billions of trees have been cleared from Australia’s agricultural landscapes. This has allowed land to be developed for cropping and grazing livestock but has also had significant environmental impacts, including erosion, salinity and loss of native plant and animal species.
https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/7844?jid=ENS181016&xhtml=e776dfbc-f7a4-46cb-b0cd-cf5b8518ef3e

UMelb Nodes: Freya Thomas on a field ecologist’s adventures in the virtual world: using simulations to design data collection for complex models
“The third paper from my PhD is soon to be published! It is very satisfying to see this particular chapter in (early view) print! At an early stage of my PhD, Peter Vesk and I spent a few confusing hours attempting to conduct a ‘power analysis’ for our multi-species trait-based non-linear hierarchical growth model, but to no avail. Turns out, it just isn’t quite that easy. This led to some pretty extreme note taking during my many months of fieldwork in Murray Sunset National Park – where I made sure to collect information relating to the process behind collecting height-growth of multiple species in this semi-arid landscape…”
https://fmthomasresearch.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/a-field-ecologists-adventures-in-the-virtual-world-using-simulations-to-design-data-collection-for-complex-models/

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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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