Dbytes #453 (25 November 2020)

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


“The window of opportunity presented by the COVID crisis for transformational change will be short,” Brian Walker et al, 2020 [see item 5]


In this issue of Dbytes

1. We found a huge flaw in Australia’s environment laws. Wetlands and woodlands will pay the price
2. Record horse sightings
3. Where There’s Smoke, There are Conspiracy Theorists
4. The hidden biodiversity risks of increasing flexibility in biodiversity offset trades
5. Navigating the chaos of an unfolding global cycle
6. Landmark research finds the platypus should be listed as a threatened species
7. Humans are changing fire patterns, and it’s threatening 4,403 species with extinction

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1. We found a huge flaw in Australia’s environment laws. Wetlands and woodlands will pay the price

From ethereal kelp forests off the south east Australian coast to grassy woodlands and their stunning wildflowers, many ecological communities are under threat in Australia. But national environment legislation — the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act — has so far been ineffective at protecting them. In our recent paper, we identify a major flaw in the current approach to listing threatened ecological communities for protection under the EPBC Act: the requirement to meet unrealistic condition thresholds. In other words, where areas of a community do not meet these specific minimum thresholds, they’re considered too degraded to warrant conservation and aren’t protected under the EPBC Act.

https://theconversation.com/we-found-a-huge-flaw-in-australias-environment-laws-wetlands-and-woodlands-will-pay-the-price-150083

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2. Record horse sightings

“You can help Reclaim Kosci this summer

In preparation for the call in early 2021 for submissions on the draft management plan for feral horses in Kosciuszko, we’d like your help in recording sightings of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park and adjacent areas. We would like to determine the current extent of the feral horse population in the national park and surrounds. We are particularly interested in sightings that indicate expansion of the horses into new areas. The previous (2016) draft plan for management of feral horses in Kosciuszko contained a map of the main horse-present areas. Based on that, we have drawn up a map (.gpx, .kml) of the areas with previously no or few feral horses. They include the Main Range from Mt Kosciuszko north to Mt Selwyn, the Grey Mare/Dargal area, all the Snowy River Valley upstream of Lake Jindabyne and some areas of the lower Snowy.”

https://reclaimkosci.org.au/record-horse-sightings/

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3. Where There’s Smoke, There are Conspiracy Theorists

“So, we have serious and extremely damaging fires, and conspiracy theories about the causes of the fires, which implicitly or explicitly deny the role of climate change as a contributing factor. Moreover, these conspiracy theories are widespread and even find some degree of support at the level of government. This should sound all too familiar to Australian ears. Earlier this year, during our own catastrophic bushfire season, we saw an almost identical narrative unfold. The names and places have changed, but the plot is the same. In particular, recall that Liberal MP Craig Kelly registered his own deep scepticism about the connection between climate change and the 2019–2020 bushfires.”

M. Colyvan, H. Tierney, T. Smartt, 2020. ‘Where There’s Smoke, There are Conspiracy Theorists’, in ABC Religion and Ethics, Tuesday 3 November 2020.

https://www.abc.net.au/religion/where-there-is-smoke-there-are-conspiracy-theorists/12845552

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4. The hidden biodiversity risks of increasing flexibility in biodiversity offset trades

As a market-like mechanism, biodiversity offsetting is perceived to function poorly. In some systems, there is a trend towards more flexible offset trading rules. Increasing ecological flexibility may undermine biodiversity impact avoidance. Geographical flexibility may undermine offset additionality. Improving public awareness and regulatory certainty can improve market function.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320720309198?dgcid=coauthor

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5. Navigating the chaos of an unfolding global cycle

There are many calls to use the COVID 19 crisis as an opportunity for transforming to a future trajectory that is more equitable and environmentally sustainable. What is lacking is a cohesive framework for bringing these calls together. We propose that such transitions could be informed by lessons from three decades of scholarship on abrupt and surprising change in systems of humans and nature. Over time, many social-ecological systems exhibit cycles of change consisting of sequential patterns of growth, development, crisis, and reorganization. A critical phase in the cycle is the brief period after crisis when novelty and innovation can change the future trajectory. Without being prepared for this window of opportunity, deep, systemic change may be unachievable.

https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol25/iss4/art23/

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6. Landmark research finds the platypus should be listed as a threatened species

The parts of Australia where platypuses are found has shrunk by at least 22% or about 200,000 km² – an area almost three times the size of Tasmania – in the past 30 years, new research led by UNSW Sydney reveals.

Landmark research finds the platypus should be listed as a threatened species – Australian Conservation Foundation (acf.org.au)

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7. Humans are changing fire patterns, and it’s threatening 4,403 species with extinction

Last summer, many Australians were shocked to see fires sweep through the wet tropical rainforests of Queensland, where large and severe fires are almost unheard of. This is just one example of how human activities are changing fire patterns around the world, with huge consequences for wildlife. In a major new paper published in Science, we reveal how changes in fire activity threaten more than 4,400 species across the globe with extinction. This includes 19% of birds, 16% of mammals, 17% of dragonflies and 19% of legumes that are classified as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.

Humans are changing fire patterns, and it’s threatening 4,403 species with extinction (theconversation.com)

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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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