Dbytes #354 (1 November 2018)

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

“We need to urgently rethink how we use and value nature – culturally, economically and on our political agendas. We need to think of nature as beautiful and inspirational, but also as indispensable. We, and the planet, need a new global deal for nature and people now.”
Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International on the release of the ‘The Living Planet Report 2018 [see item 1]

General News

1. The Living Planet Report 2018 shows that wildlife populations have declined by over half in less than 50 years
2. A difference of degrees: the looming climate catastrophe
3. Here’s how we can balance conservation and development
4. The Minerals Council issued ‘Sustainability in Action: Australian Mining and the Sustainable Development Goals’
5. Trails on trial: which human uses are OK for protected areas?

EDG Node News

UQ Node:
Luke Shoo on a ‘cost-effective roadmap’ for investment in land restoration
ANU Node news: David Lindenmayer and Michelle Young on we must look past short-term drought solutions and improve the land itself
RMIT Node: Mat Hardy presents on “From participation to permanence: exploring the progression of conservation landholder behaviours”
UMelb Node: Michael McCarthy named Australia’s field leader in Biodiversity & Conservation Biology
UWA Node: Michael Craig on managing patches of restoration is a long-term effort if we are to reach targets

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General News

1. The Living Planet Report 2018 shows that wildlife populations have declined by over half in less than 50 years

Plummeting numbers of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish around the world are an urgent sign that nature needs life support. Our Living Planet Report 2018 shows population sizes of wildlife decreased by 60% globally between 1970 and 2014.

 

For the last 20 years, scientists from ZSL, WWF and other organisations, have been monitoring changes in the populations of thousands of animal species around the world. Sadly, they’ve concluded that the variety of life on Earth and wildlife populations is disappearing fast.

https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/living-planet-report-2018

with ABC News providing a good summary of the report

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2. A difference of degrees: the looming climate catastrophe

The release earlier this month of a major UN-sponsored scientific report on the significant impacts expected from 1.5°C of global warming—the aspirational limit countries adopted in the Paris climate agreement—generated widespread media interest. Much of the commentary has rightly focused on the rapidly closing window of opportunity to achieve the aspiration and the huge scale of the societal changes required. But the recent coverage has largely overlooked an equally important aspect of the study. Based on the most recent scientific evidence, researchers have now determined that extremely harmful climate impacts will strike at much lower temperature thresholds than previously projected. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C, which was produced at the request of countries adopting the Paris agreement, is an authoritative and cautious document. It’s the culmination of the efforts of 133 contributing authors who analysed more than 6,000 scientific studies and incorporated comments from over 40,000 expert and government reviews. The report highlights the enormous challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°. Annual emissions of CO2 will need to be halved by 2030 relative to 2016 levels and renewable energy will need to supply 70–85% of global electricity demand (with coal’s contribution essentially ceasing) by 2050. It notes that systemic changes on this scale would be historically unprecedented and require ‘deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investments in those options’.

https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/a-difference-of-degrees-the-looming-climate-catastrophe/

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3. Here’s how we can balance conservation and development

The question of whether we can advance both conservation and human development is the driving force behind a new study by 13 institutions, including The Nature Conservancy and the University of Minnesota. From the outset, we stepped back and reexamined the concept of sustainability from the bottom-line up, so to speak.

https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-insights/perspectives/the-science-of-sustainability/?vu=r.v_twopaths
and
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/can-we-balance-conservation-and-development-science-says-yes

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4. The Minerals Council issued ‘Sustainability in Action: Australian Mining and the Sustainable Development Goals’

Sustainability in Action: Australian Mining and the Sustainable Development Goals, produced in partnership with Cardno, outlines the work of seven MCA member companies and the Minerals Tertiary Education Council to deliver improved environmental, economic and social outcomes for Australians.

http://www.minerals.org.au/news/australia’s-world-class-minerals-industry-shows-global-leadership-sustainability

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5. Trails on trial: which human uses are OK for protected areas?

Roads are one thing, but what about a simple bike trail or walking track? They let in people too. But they are harmless, right? Not always. A 2010 Canadian study found that mountain biking causes a range of environmental impacts, including tyres chewing up the soil, causing compaction and erosion. This is a significant problem for fragile alpine vegetation in mountainous areas where many bikers like to explore…

http://theconversation.com/trails-on-trial-which-human-uses-are-ok-for-protected-areas-105742

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EDG News

UQ Node: Luke Shoo on a ‘cost-effective roadmap’ for investment in land restoration

Since European settlement, more than a quarter of Australia’s native forest and woodlands have been cleared and scientists say vegetation restoration is urgently needed to avoid further loss of species and ecosystem services. To help ensure that tax-payer money is spent cost-effectively, efficiently, and transparently in restoration projects, scientists from The University of Queensland and the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions have developed a decision support tool that delivers a ‘cost-effective roadmap’ for investment in land restoration. Project leader Dr Luke Shoo said the approach considers much more than just planting trees. “This is a comprehensive approach that considers outcomes far beyond the usual planning timelines that also considers the ‘what if’ scenarios,” Dr Shoo said. “We look at potential trade-offs in project outcomes, alternative management strategies, and account for changing cost of restoration projects over time.”
http://ceed.edu.au/2018-news-articles/getting-more-green-smart-allocation-of-restoration-funds.html

ANU Node news: David Lindenmayer and Michelle Young on we must look past short-term drought solutions and improve the land itself
With drought ravaging Australia’s eastern states, much attention has been given to the need to provide short-term solutions through drought relief. But long-term resilience is a vital issue, particularly as climate change adds further pressure to farmers and farmland. Our research has found that helping farmers improve the rivers, dams, native vegetation and trees on their land increases productivity, the resilience of the land to drought, and through this the health and well-being of farmers.
https://theconversation.com/we-must-look-past-short-term-drought-solutions-and-improve-the-land-itself-105485

RMIT Node: Mat Hardy presents on “From participation to permanence: exploring the progression of conservation landholder behaviours”
Mat Hardy presented on “From participation to permanence: exploring the progression of conservation landholder behaviours” at PLC18 last week (24-26 October), the Australian Land Conservation Alliance’s annual private land conservation conference.
“A variety of policy mechanisms exist encouraging landholders to manage their land in ways that are beneficial to biodiversity. Amongst these, permanent protection agreements (e.g. covenants) offer increased likelihood that conservation interventions will persist into the future, though these permanent agreements are often limited to landholders already engaged in conservation. Less restrictive forms of agreements, such as voluntary non-binding agreements and fixed-term conservation agreements, are thought to help engage landholders who may be reluctant to enter into permanent agreements, and might act as an ‘entry point’ for landholders into private land conservation. And over time, these agreements could act as ‘stepping stones’ towards permanent protection. However, how participation in these agreements encourages landholders to ‘progress’ to long-term protection agreements has not been formally tested. Surveying landholders in Victoria participating in either a voluntary property registration program or a fixed-term incentive program, we explored their engagement in conservation and their willingness and ability to progress towards permanent agreements. We found that most respondents were engaged in conservation, and many showed signs of willingness and ability to progress to a permanent agreement. Whilst some landholders intended to progress to a permanent agreement in the future, generally the intentions of participants were mixed, and many were uncertain. Survey responses indicated a lack of awareness of, and limited engagement from conservation agencies about, progressing to permanent agreements. Increasing landholder knowledge about permanent agreements, and clarifying the pathways by which landholders can progress, may improve the uptake of permanent protection agreements.”
http://www.cvent.com/events/2018-national-private-land-conservation-conference/custom-39-22ef83d66f734fa7b503c1dc03e12cd8.aspx

UMelb Node: Michael McCarthy named Australia’s field leader in Biodiversity & Conservation Biology
Michael McCarthy was recently named Australia’s field leader in Biodiversity & Conservation Biology by The Australian, based on an analysis of published papers by The League of Scholars
https://specialreports.theaustralian.com.au/1163512/life-sciences-earth-sciences

UWA Node: Michael Craig on managing patches of restoration is a long-term effort if we are to reach targets
Restoration is becoming increasingly important in the fight to arrest the loss of biodiversity, yet restoration often involves establishing vegetation with little concern for the management of that vegetation long-term or how that management influences other components of the ecosystem, such as animals. Recent research has indicated that managing patches of restoration long-term is likely to be required if they are to reach to the range of target endpoints and that we need to re-think how we approach the long-term management of restoration patches. A recently published study on reptile communities in post-mining restoration in the northern jarrah forest compared the effects of thinning and burning the restoration 7 years post-treatment with previously published sampling at 2 years post-treatment. While sampling two years post-treatment found thinning and burning increased both the number of reptiles and reptile species richness and facilitated the recolonization of the skink Morethia obscura, sampling at 7 years post-treatment found no difference in the numbers of reptiles, reptile species richness or the numbers of Morethia obscura between thinned and burned and unthinned restoration. In the five years between sampling, vegetation cover between 0 to 1 and 1 to 2 m and canopy cover had all increased in thinned and burned restoration while remaining unchanged in unthinned restoration. It was postulated that increases in vegetation cover had reduced basking spots for reptiles and, hence, had the reduced the quality of habitat for reptiles and Morethia obscura in particular. The relatively rapid changes in vegetation cover act as a type of dynamic filter, in that they fluctuate in intensity, which can filter certain reptiles from the species pool available to recolonize restoration. This finding has two important implications for the management of restoration patches. The first is that it cannot be assumed that once a species has recolonized restoration that it will persist there. Dynamic filters can appear that render suitable habitat unsuitable for particular species or at least reduce the habitat quality. The second is that restoration patches may require on-going long-term management, if they are to reach their desired range of endpoints. In the case of the northern jarrah forest, further thinning combined with understorey removal may be required to maintain habitat suitability for reptiles until trees reach sufficient size that they start suppressing understorey growth. While this is potentially costly, it may be possible to reduce management costs by considering plant species mixes at initial establishment that will develop a structure that better mimics that in the reference ecosystem. Regardless, this research suggests that simply establishing vegetation and then leaving it to develop without any further intervention is unlikely to results in successful outcomes. Long-term monitoring, with management interventions if required, are likely to be necessary for successful restoration and future restoration efforts need to acknowledge this in the planning stage as well as find practices that are effective in minimizing long-term management costs.
More info: michael.craig@uwa.edu.au



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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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