Dbytes #391 (28 August 2019)

Info, news & views for anyone interested in biodiversity conservation and good environmental decision making


“Unfortunately, laws, policies, regulations, incentives and funding initiatives that halt the extinction crisis will remain ineffective and inefficient, despite their potential, until Australian governments, communities, industries and businesses show public leadership in changing the pervasive misperception that environmental values (including threatened species) are an obstruction to progress.”
Prof Richard Kingsford in his submission to the enquiry into Australia’s faunal extinction crisis [And see item 2]


In this issue of Dbytes

1. Six sentences of hope: defining a unifying vision in the face of the climate crisis
2. A session on native grasslands at the faunal extinction crisis enquiry
3. Which threatening processes should be research priorities to save more threatened species?
4. NPV versus BCR – which do you use when evaluating projects?
5. It Matters What Australia Does with Fossil Fuels
6. The Sustainable Development Goals: Game-changer or good-looking rehash?
7. Why farming needs a regional planning approach

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1. Six sentences of hope: defining a unifying vision in the face of the climate crisis
By Richard Flanagan

A sense of futility haunts us all, so I sought to distill in as few words as possible what could be done by us as a people.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/22/six-sentences-of-hope-defining-a-unifying-vision-in-the-face-of-the-climate-crisis

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2. A session on native grasslands at the faunal extinction crisis enquiry

This session was held on 23 August in Canberra and the transcript is now available on Hansard. Here’s one excerpt:
“Research has shown that intensive farming should not exceed a third of the landscape. In many regions this threshold of sustainability has been well exceeded. Beyond that threshold we begin to lose not only species but also critical functions that keep the water clean, keep the soil in its place, stabilise pasture productivity and keep our crops pollinated. Low-input land uses such as grazing on native pastures, if well managed, are quite compatible with many native plants and animals thriving. Low-intensity land uses provide economic value in a range of diverse ways—directly through businesses and indirectly through the many ecosystem services provided. Moreover, the threat to native species is much reduced in this type of land use. So federal environmental legislative provisions need a whole-of-landscape approach which considers limits to intensification and which supports low-input agricultural practices.” Professor Sue McIntyre

Senate Committee enquiry on Ausralia’s faunal extinction crisis enquiry

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3. Which threatening processes should be research priorities to save more threatened species?

New research shows that removing uncertainty about threats could quadruple the gains in species persistence currently achieved by best practice threat management. Prioritising research to understand the effectiveness of managing fire, invasive predators and dieback would maximise species benefits.

From Sam Nicol: we have a new paper out in Nature Communications that uses value of information analysis to quantify the benefits of removing uncertainty about threatening processes from almost 1000 listed species and ecosystems in New South Wales. This was a major piece of work and a great example of cross-agency collaboration with the NSW Saving our Species program so it’s exciting to finally see it in print.

For those of us that are interested in value of information (VOI), our study was also exciting because it showed that the value of information can be significant: many previous studies that consider single species found that the VOI was disappointingly small. Here we showed that when we aggregate value of information across many affected species, the VOI can be really significant.

Ref: Nicol, S., Brazill-Boast, J., Gorrod, E., McSorley, A., Peyrard, N. & Chadès, I. (2019) Quantifying the impact of uncertainty on threat management for biodiversity. Nature Communications, 10, 3570. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-11404-5  

And see the blog at Ecology and Evolution: https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/users/289061-sam-nicol/posts/52010-how-many-more-threatened-species-could-we-save-if-we-learn-about-threat-management

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4. NPV versus BCR – which do you use when evaluating projects?

There are two main criteria used for evaluating projects in Benefit: Cost Analysis (BCA): the Net Present Value (NPV = benefits minus costs) and the Benefit: Cost Ratio (BCR = benefits divided by costs). In what circumstances should you use one of the other or both or neither? It’s a question with quite a complex set of answers.

http://www.pannelldiscussions.net/2019/08/322-npv-vs-bcr-1/

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5. It Matters What Australia Does with Fossil Fuels

AUSTRALIA is one of the largest drivers of climate change globally, a new report has found. The Australia Institute report, “High Carbon from a Land Down Under”, shows Australia is the world’s third largest exporter of coal, oil and gas, coming in just behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. “Australia is a deviant on a global scale. It is a significant contributor to climate change,” said the Climate Council’s Head of Research, Dr Martin Rice. “This report highlights that what Australia does on climate change really matters and, currently, we are not doing our fair share,” he said.

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/it-matters-what-we-do/

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6. The Sustainable Development Goals: Game-changer or good-looking rehash?

Because there is nothing new foundationally in the SDGs, short term political imperatives to grow the economy will continue to trump normative or moral obligations to share available resources with future generations and poor countries, no matter how often those obligations are repeated.

https://sustainabilitybites.home.blog

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7. Why farming needs a regional planning approach

If we are to ensure food security in the face of a climate emergency, we need to plan the management of our regional landscapes the same way we plan city-making, according to agroecologist David Hardwick. For too long regional landscapes – the places where we grow our food and fibre – have been planned on a single farm level.

The Fifth Estate

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About Dbytes

Dbytes is a weekly eNewsletter presenting news and views on biodiversity conservation and environmental decision science. For the past decade Dbytes has been supported by a variety of research networks and primarily the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). From 2019 Dbytes is being produced by David Salt (Ywords).

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.

Anyone is welcome to receive Dbytes. If you would like to received it, send me an email and I’ll add you to the list.

David Salt

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