Dbytes #461 (3 February 2021)

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


“the Climate Change Authority [in 2014] recommended 2030 targets of at least 45% reduction on 2005 levels if Australia were to do its fair share of limiting global warming to well below 2°C. The current government’s target of 26-28% does not have its basis in any CCA or other science-based recommendation. It is a target that is not consistent with limiting global warming to well below 2°C.”
Climate Targets Panel, January 2021
ClimateTargetsPanelReport.pdf (unimelb.edu.au)


In this issue of Dbytes

1. A major report excoriated Australia’s environment laws. Sussan Ley’s response is confused and risky
2. Psychosocial drivers of land management behaviour: How threats, norms, and context influence deforestation intentions
3. Conservation Resource Allocation, Small Population Resiliency, and the Fallacy of Conservation Triage
4. Do academic book reviews deserve more credit?
5. Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays
6. Half a century of global decline of wetlands
7. University research funding: a quick guide

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1. A major report excoriated Australia’s environment laws. Sussan Ley’s response is confused and risky

You could hardly imagine a worse report on the state of Australia’s environment, and the law’s capacity to protect it, than that released yesterday. The review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act, by former competition watchdog chair Professor Graeme Samuel, did not mince words. Without urgent changes, most of Australia’s threatened plants, animals and ecosystems will become extinct.

Federal environment minister Sussan Ley released the report yesterday after sitting on it for three months. And she showed little sign of being spurred into action by Samuel’s scathing assessment. Her response was confusing and contradictory. And the Morrison government seems hellbent on pushing through its preferred reforms without safeguards that Samuel says are crucial.

A major report excoriated Australia’s environment laws. Sussan Ley’s response is confused and risky (theconversation.com)

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2. Psychosocial drivers of land management behaviour: How threats, norms, and context influence deforestation intentions

Understanding how private landholders make deforestation decisions is of paramount importance for conservation. Behavioural frameworks from the social sciences have a lot to offer researchers and practitioners, yet these insights remain underutilised in describing what drives landholders’ deforestation intentions under important political, social, and management contexts. Using survey data of private landholders in Queensland, Australia, we compare the ability of two popular behavioural models to predict future deforestation intentions, and propose a more integrated behavioural model of deforestation intentions. We found that the integrated model outperformed other models, revealing the importance of threat perceptions, attitudes, and social norms for predicting landholders’ deforestation intentions. Social capital, policy uncertainty, and years of experience are important contextual moderators of these psychological factors. We conclude with recommendations for promoting behaviour change in this deforestation hotspot and highlight how others can adopt similar approaches to illuminate more proximate drivers of environmental behaviours in other contexts.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13280-020-01491-w

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3. Conservation Resource Allocation, Small Population Resiliency, and the Fallacy of Conservation Triage

Some conservation prioritization methods assume that conservation needs overwhelm current resources and not all species can be conserved; therefore, a “conservation triage” scheme (that is, when the system is overwhelmed, species should be divided into three groups based on likelihood of survival, and efforts should be focused on those species in the group with the best survival prospects and reduced or denied to those in the group with no survival prospects and to those in the group not needing special efforts for their conservation) is necessary to guide resource allocation. We argue that this decision‐making strategy is not appropriate because resources are not as limited as often assumed, and it is not evident that there are species that cannot be recovered. Small population size alone, as an example, does not doom a species to extinction, with examples from plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Although resources dedicated to conserving all threatened species are insufficient at present, the world’s economic resources are vast, and greater resources could be dedicated towards species conservation. The political framework for species conservation has improved, with initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other international agreements, funding mechanisms such as The Global Environment Facility, and the rise of many non‐governmental organizations with nimble, rapid response small grants programs. For a prioritization system to allow no extinctions, zero extinctions must be an explicit goal of the system. Extinction is not inevitable, and should not be acceptable. A goal of no human‐induced extinctions is imperative given the irreversibility of species loss.

https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cobi.13696?campaign=wolacceptedarticle

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4. Do academic book reviews deserve more credit?

I’m currently collating my research outputs for a grant application, and I got to thinking about academic book reviews. I’m on the transition end of early career researchhood (where number of publications are counted and judged by funding bodies), and five of my ‘scholarly journal publications’ are book reviews – they appear in all the database publication lists, but you can’t technically count them as legitimate publications, because they aren’t peer reviewed.

Do academic book reviews deserve more credit? – Ecology is not a dirty word

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5. Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays

Overfishing is the primary cause of marine defaunation, yet declines in and increasing extinction risks of individual species are difficult to measure, particularly for the largest predators found in the high seas1,2,3. Here we calculate two well-established indicators to track progress towards Aichi Biodiversity Targets and Sustainable Development Goals4,5: the Living Planet Index (a measure of changes in abundance aggregated from 57 abundance time-series datasets for 18 oceanic shark and ray species) and the Red List Index (a measure of change in extinction risk calculated for all 31 oceanic species of sharks and rays). We find that, since 1970, the global abundance of oceanic sharks and rays has declined by 71% owing to an 18-fold increase in relative fishing pressure. This depletion has increased the global extinction risk to the point at which three-quarters of the species comprising this functionally important assemblage are threatened with extinction. Strict prohibitions and precautionary science-based catch limits are urgently needed to avert population collapse6,7, avoid the disruption of ecological functions and promote species recovery.

Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays | Nature

And see https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/27/sharks-rays-global-population-crashed-study

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6. Half a century of global decline of wetlands

World Wetlands Day & the Ramsar Convention – the good, the bad & the ugly
2nd of Feb should be a day of celebration for wetlands. However, 50 years on from its adoption, the Ramsar Convention, should also be a ‘call to arms’. Do more to protect them.
https://globalwaterforum.org/

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7. University research funding: a quick guide

This quick guide from the Parliamentary Library explains how Australian universities resource research activities. Based on key Australian Government data, it sets out the major sources and distribution of university research funding.

It shows, for example, that medical and health sciences get 30.6% of the available funding (in 2018) but environmental sciences gets only 3.5%; and the Go8 get two thirds of all available funding (while the other 35 unis battle for the remaining third).

University research funding: a quick guide – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au)

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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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