Dbytes #356 (15 November 2018)

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

“Softer aims might be politically realistic, but they are physically unrealistic. Only shifts commensurate with the scale of our existential crises have any prospect of averting them. Hopeless realism, tinkering at the edges of the problem, got us into this mess. It will not get us out.”
George Monbiot on The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us
[recommended by Stephen Milne]

General News

1. Brumbies in the NSW snowy mountains
2. Current drought exacerbated by climate change
3. Cape York graziers say cattle stations bought for conservation are now going up in smoke
4. Australia’s leadership in the Montreal Protocol
5. Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia

EDG Node News

RMIT Node:
Matthew Selinske on Digging deeper for conservation donations
UMelb Node:
José Lahoz-Monfort on we need more data for spatial conservation prioritisation… but which data matter most?
UWA Node: Keren Raiter and colleagues: vehicle tracks are predator highways in intact landscapes
UQ Node: Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on changes in human footprint drive changes in species extinction risk
ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on the road to oblivion – quantifying pathways in the decline of large old trees

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General News

1. Brumbies in the NSW snowy mountains

The Australian Academy of Science hosted a conference to examine the latest science on the impacts of feral horses
https://www.science.org.au/news-and-events/news-and-media-releases/academy-hosts-conference-examine-latest-science-impacts
This site has lots of good links to the science on this topic and a link to the open letter sent by the Academy to the NSW State Government

And in the news:
ABC News: Snowy Mountains Brumby protections should be dropped, scientists say
SMH: Brumbies could wipe out critically endangered fish, scientist warns
The Guardian: Footage of brumbies starving to death sparks call for immediate cull – video

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2. Current drought exacerbated by climate change

A NEW REPORT by the Climate Council has found the severe drought gripping much of Australia has been exacerbated by climate change.

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/new-report-current-drought-exacerbated-by-climate-change/

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3. Cape York graziers say cattle stations bought for conservation are now going up in smoke

Graziers say massive fires burning in Cape York Peninsula have exposed devastating consequences from a Queensland Government policy to buy up cattle stations for conservation.

ABC News

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4. Australia’s leadership in the Montreal Protocol

Editor’s note: There was a time when Australia was leader in international environmental protection. Here’s a short story from the Australian Parliamentary Library on our work combatting stratospheric ozone depletion.

Australia was one of the countries that helped negotiate the Montreal Protocol and was one of the first to sign in 1988, ratifying the Protocol by passing it through Parliament less than a year later. Upon ratification, the then Minister for the Environment and the Arts, Senator Graham Richardson announced that: This is the first time there has been a commitment by countries around the world to control emissions of harmful chemicals before serious environmental damage becomes apparent.

Australia has supported this international initiative and has taken an active part in the negotiations leading up to this historic agreement. The Ozone Protection Bill 1989 was passed through Federal Parliament, which introduced legislation that controlled not only the use of CFCs and related gases, but their production, import and export. Minister Richardson announced that this legislation was:
One of the world’s most stringent pieces of legislation controlling and reducing the manufacture and use of CFCs and halons… Under this legislation, by 1995 Australia will have reduced its consumption of ozone depleting substances by 50%. We will achieve the target of the Montreal Protocol in half the time required by the Protocol…

https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/FlagPost/2018/November/Montreal_Protocol

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5. Guidelines for the Translocation of Threatened Plants in Australia
Eds L.E. Commander, D.J. Coates, L. Broadhurst, C.A. Offord, R.O. Makinson and M. Matthes.

Translocation is the deliberate transfer of plants or regenerative plant material from an ex situ collection or natural population to a new location, usually in the wild. It includes reintroduction, introduction, reinforcement, assisted migration and assisted colonisation. The Guidelines provide step-by-step information on how to do best-practice translocations, which will ultimately improve translocation success and contribute to preventing plant extinctions. With input from over 30 experts across the country, 23 new case studies, all new colour photographs illustrating translocation techniques and updated references, it will be essential reading for all those involved in translocation projects. In particular, practitioners, volunteers, scientists and policy makers will find the content both comprehensive and easy to read. The Guidelines will also be useful for those conserving threatened plants and restoring plant communities.

http://www.anpc.asn.au/translocation

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EDG News

RMIT Node: Matthew Selinske on Digging deeper for conservation donations
Donations to environmental organizations increased in amount when participants believed a behavior to be socially expected and observable. Social norms are important motivators of conservation behaviors—as demonstrated by a lot of research within conservation science and environmental psychology (e.g. Chen et al. 2008; Goldstein et al. 2008; Jones et. al. 2008). What is sometimes neglected is how the strength of social norms may change depending on context and the type of social norm.
https://keeptothepath.com/2018/10/24/digging-deeper-for-conservation-donations/

UMelb Node: José J. Lahoz-Monfort on we need more data for spatial conservation prioritisation… but which data matter most?
Spatially-explicit conservation decisions rely on having information on where biodiversity assets are (e.g. threatened species), but also the location of threats and habitat condition (e.g. degraded vs pristine habitats). Another important consideration is the cost of acting at different locations in a landscape: the costs of reserving a piece of land for conservation can vary by orders of magnitude depending on where that land is!
https://joselahozresearch.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/we-need-more-data-for-spatial-conservation-prioritisation-but-which-data-matter-most-tambien-en-espanol/

UWA Node: Keren Raiter and colleagues: vehicle tracks are predator highways in intact landscapes
Roads and other linear infrastructure are proliferating globally but their impacts on predator activity are not well known. Aided by a crew of intrepid volunteers, I spent over a year and walked over 560 km, surveying the activity of three mammalian predators — dingoes, cats, and foxes — around unsealed vehicle tracks in the largest remaining temperate woodland on earth: the Great Western Woodlands. My colleagues and I assessed the activity of these predators on- and for up to 3 km off-roads, and found that vehicle tracks, including even simple wheel-ruts through vegetation, effectively constitute highways of predator activity. Evidence of dingo, cat and fox presence on roads was between 12 and 261 times more frequent than in surrounding off-road areas, although patterns varied considerably between species, vegetation type, and survey method. We also found an indication of off-road peaks in predator activity, between 1.5 and 2.5 km away from roads. With predators having major influences on their prey as well as how ecosystems function in a wider sense, these findings indicate that even apparently minor disturbances can lead to major ecological changes. Furthermore, these trends are likely to apply to many other ecosystems around the world, with global ramifications. At the same time, having this knowledge can also help us to understand how to manage and mitigate these impacts better.
Ref: Raiter, K. G., Hobbs, R. J., Possingham, H. P., Valentine, L. E., & Prober, S. M. (2018). Vehicle tracks are predator highways in intact landscapes. Biological Conservation, 228, 281-290. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2018.10.011.
Free access till 29th December: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1Y1Mk1R~eAsRA

UQ Node: Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on changes in human footprint drive changes in species extinction risk
Predicting how species respond to human pressure is essential to anticipate their decline and identify appropriate conservation strategies. Both human pressure and extinction risk change over time, but their inter-relationship is rarely considered in extinction risk modelling. Here we measure the relationship between the change in terrestrial human footprint (HFP)—representing cumulative human pressure on the environment—and the change in extinction risk of the world’s terrestrial mammals. We find the values of HFP across space, and its change over time, are significantly correlated to trends in species extinction risk, with higher predictive importance than environmental or life-history variables. The anthropogenic conversion of areas with low pressure values (HFP < 3 out of 50) is the most significant predictor of change in extinction risk, but there are biogeographical variations. Our framework, calibrated on past extinction risk trends, can be used to predict the impact of increasing human pressure on biodiversity.
Ref: Moreno Di Marco, Oscar Venter, Hugh P. Possingham & James E. M. Watson (2018). Changes in human footprint drive changes in species extinction risk. Nature Communications volume 9, Article number: 4621
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07049-5

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on the road to oblivion – quantifying pathways in the decline of large old trees
Large old trees are critical structures in Mountain Ash forest. We quantified pathways of decay and collapse in populations of large old trees. Large tree decline was affected by time, stand age and site and landscape level fire. Tree decline was slowest and trees were less decayed in old growth forest. Protection of large trees and old growth stands is critical in wood production forest.
Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Blanchard, W., Blair, D., and McBurney, L. (2018). The road to oblivion – quantifying pathways in the decline of large old trees. Forest Ecology and Management, 430, 259-264.

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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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