Dbytes #442 (9 September 2020)

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


“This study calculates that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere must be reduced from the present concentration of nearly 410 ppm to approximately 350 ppm to bring the Earth back towards energy balance.”
The World Meteorological Organization on ‘Where does the heat go?’


In this issue of Dbytes

1. COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism
2. Assessment of river flows in the Murray-Darling Basin: Observed versus expected flows under the Basin Plan 2012-2019
3. Offsetting your emissions: Greenwashing or a win for the environment?
4. Extreme summer impacts ice shelves and glaciers
5. New research reveals these 20 Australian reptiles are set to disappear by 2040
6. Call for citizen scientists to help complete Australia’s longest daily weather record
7. Rewilding innovations – PhD opportunity + ongoing top-up

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1. COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism

The UN has produced a valuable and informative policy brief on the consequences of the downturn in tourism because of COVID-19, and the need to do tourism differently after the pandemic ends. Part of the discussion is on the impacts to the environment and on biodiversity conservation. Tourism has funded much conservation work while at the same time exacting a high price on the environment.

A 2015 United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) survey determined that 14 African countries generate an estimated US$142 million in protected-area entrance fees. The shutdown of tourism activities has meant months of no income for many protected areas and the communities living around them, many highly dependent on tourism for survival and with no access to social safety nets. The loss of tourism income further endangers protected and other conserved areas for biodiversity, where most wildlife tourism takes place. Without alternative opportunities, communities may turn to the over-exploitation of natural resources, either for their own consumption or to generate income.

https://www.un.org/en/coronavirus/it-imperative-we-rebuild-tourism-sector

And for a commentary on this report, see
Last chance to see: The contradictions of ‘sustainable’ tourism in a post pandemic world. Tourism can bring out the best in us and yet it frequently comes with a price that few of us want to acknowledge. https://sustainabilitybites.home.blog

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2. Assessment of river flows in the Murray-Darling Basin: Observed versus expected flows under the Basin Plan 2012-2019

The Commonwealth Government has spent $6.7 billion recovering water under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to increase river flows and improve the health of the Basin’s ecosystems. This report provides a valley-by-valley assessment of whether the 2,100 GL of water recovered so far has resulted in expected river flows at key sites given the climatic conditions including drought periods. Since 2012, 20% of the water expected each year under the Basin Plan did not flow past these sites (320 GL/y on average). While some sites received the expected flows, most sites including those upstream of Ramsar wetlands of international importance did not. Basin Governments need to investigate and fix shortfalls in river flows so the Basin Plan provides the expected water for ecosystems, communities and industries that rely on healthy flowing rivers.

https://wentworthgroup.org/2020/09/mdb-flows-2020/2020/

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3. Offsetting your emissions: Greenwashing or a win for the environment?

Offsets are designed to neutralise carbon dioxide emissions and are certified by third parties. They can buy us time to transition to clean energy but cannot reverse the burning of fossil fuels. Just 1 per cent of Australians offset their flights.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-09-01/carbon-offsets-greenwashing-emissions-environment/12593606

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4. Extreme summer impacts ice shelves and glaciers

Summer 2020 had a major impact on ice shelves and glaciers in the Northern hemisphere. WMO’s Global Cryosphere Watch network has prepared a report of the main events, based on contributions from different partners.

A number of new temperature records were set in 2020. On 20 June, the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk located above the Arctic circle at 67.55°N experienced 38 °C (100.4°F) for the first time, as confirmed by the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring. Maximum temperatures in June exceeded 30 °C for 10 days prior to that. Further north, on the Svalbard archipelago, at 78°N, a new temperature measurement shattered a 41-year-old record, with 21.7 °C (71°F) measured in the town of Longyearbyen on 25 July. Even further north, at Eureka station in Nunavut, the Canadian National Weather Service reported 21.9 °C (71.4 °F) on 11 August. The heatwave across the Arctic was accompanied by record-breaking wildfires in Russia, close-to record low sea ice extent, and the collapse of one of the last fully intact Canadian ice shelves.

https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/extreme-summer-impacts-ice-shelves-and-glaciers

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5. New research reveals these 20 Australian reptiles are set to disappear by 2040

Action came too late for the Christmas Island forest skink, despite early warnings of significant declines. It was lost from the wild before it was officially listed as “threatened”, and the few individuals brought into captivity died soon after. Australia is home to about 10% of all known reptile species — the largest number of any country in the world. But many of our reptiles are at risk of the same fate as the Christmas Island forest skink: extinction. In new research published today, we identified the 20 terrestrial snakes and lizards (collectively known as “squamates”) at greatest risk of extinction in the next two decades, assuming no changes to current conservation management.

https://theconversation.com/new-research-reveals-these-20-australian-reptiles-are-set-to-disappear-by-2040-145385?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=bylinetwitterbutton

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6. Call for citizen scientists to help complete Australia’s longest daily weather record

Today Climate History Australia launched a new citizen science project to create the longest daily weather record for Australia.

https://climatehistory.com.au/2020/09/08/citizen-scientists-complete-australias-longest-daily-weather-record/

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7. Rewilding innovations – PhD opportunity + ongoing top-up

The Hidden Vale Project are pleased to announce two exciting PhD project opportunities, supported by annual top-up scholarships of $7,000 for 3 years, plus operating funds. Join a collaborative project undertaking cutting-edge research into the restoration of faunal communities, habitat and ecosystem processes in Eastern Australia. PhD projects will be part of the broader long-term Hidden Vale Project, based at the Hidden Vale Wildlife Centre, where researchers have access to 9,000 ha of research-focussed nature refuge and grazing land, enviable resources (https://hiddenvalewildlife.uq.edu.au/research/hidden-vale-researchsupport-program) and where students are nurtured to be future leaders in the field.

Two new full-time PhD opportunities are now available with enrolment at either The University of Queensland or The Australian National University.

Interested individuals are invited to submit an expression of interest stating their interests and ideas in this area of research, transcript(s) and their CV, by 18 September 2020 for UQ applicants and 2 October 2020 for ANU applicants.
https://hiddenvalewildlife.uq.edu.au/files/5214/PhD%20%2B%20topup%20-%20Rewilding%20innovations%20projects.pdf

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About Dbytes

Dbytes is a weekly eNewsletter presenting news and views on biodiversity conservation and environmental decision science. From 2007-2018 Dbytes was 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 receive it, send me an email and I’ll add you to the list.

David


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