Dbytes #505 (8 December 2021)

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

“The scale of burning we’re now seeing astounds us – almost as much as the lack of interest they generate.”
Fisher and Burrows [see item 1.2]


In this issue of Dbytes

1.1. Australia’s Black Summer of fire was not normal – and we can prove it
1.2. We are professional fire watchers, and we’re astounded by the scale of fires in remote Australia right now
2. Could anything be ‘New’ About Capitalism and the Environment?
3. Upping the ante? The effects of “emergency” and “crisis” framing in climate change news
4. One in six Australian birds are now threatened, landmark action plan finds
5. Designing and managing biodiverse streetscapes: key lessons from the City of Melbourne
6. Sensing, feeling, thinking: Relating to nature with the body, heart and mind
7. Conflict and climate change are big barriers for Africa’s Great Green Wall

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1.1. Australia’s Black Summer of fire was not normal – and we can prove it

Were these fires unprecedented? You might remember sceptics questioning the idea that the Black Summer fires really were worse than conflagrations like the 1939 Black Friday fires in Victoria. We can now confidently say that these fires were far from normal. Our new analysis of Australian forest fire trends just published in Nature Communications confirms for the first time the Black Summer fires are part of a clear trend of worsening fire weather and ever-larger forest areas burned by fires.

Australia’s Black Summer of fire was not normal – and we can prove it (theconversation.com)

And also see
1.2. We are professional fire watchers, and we’re astounded by the scale of fires in remote Australia right now
We are professional fire watchers, and we’re astounded by the scale of fires in remote Australia right now (theconversation.com)

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2. Could anything be ‘New’ About Capitalism and the Environment?

‘Environmental debt’ is a useful concept, conveying clearly that we have borrowed someone else’s share of nature (the ‘someone else’ being future generations) and must pay it back. But the term hasn’t been used much in our political discourse, perhaps because it is potentially so powerful and, to my mind, policy-specific.

https://sustainabilitybites.home.blog/

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3. Upping the ante? The effects of “emergency” and “crisis” framing in climate change news

News organizations increasingly use the terms “climate emergency” and “climate crisis” to convey the urgency of climate change; yet, little is known about how this terminology affects news audiences. This study experimentally examined how using “climate emergency,” “climate crisis,” or “climate change” in Twitter-based news stories influences public engagement with climate change and news perceptions, as well as whether the effects depend on the focus of the news (i.e., on climate impacts, actions, or both impacts and actions) and on participants’ political ideology. Results showed no effect of terminology on climate change engagement; however, “climate emergency” reduced perceived news credibility and newsworthiness compared to “climate change.” Both climate engagement and news perceptions were more consistently affected by the focus of the stories: news about climate impacts increased fear, decreased efficacy beliefs and hope, and reduced news credibility compared to news about climate actions. No interactions with political ideology were found.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-021-03219-5

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4. One in six Australian birds are now threatened, landmark action plan finds

Once-in-a-decade study finds 216 out of 1,299 species are in danger – up from 195 in 2011

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/dec/01/one-in-six-australian-birds-are-now-threatened-landmark-action-plan-finds

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5. Designing and managing biodiverse streetscapes: key lessons from the City of Melbourne

This paper describes how the City of Melbourne collaborated with researchers from the University of Melbourne to develop and test a suite of understorey plant species to increase streetscape biodiversity. To do so, we selected species using criteria from a horticultural planting guide which guided the design and creation of four streetscape plantings within the municipality. Here, we document the process and discuss lessons learnt from this project to assist other cities to design, construct and maintain streetscapes with successful, cost-effective plantings that improve urban biodiversity and aesthetic value. Key to the long-term success of these biodiverse plantings was thorough soil preparation and weed management before planting, and the implementation of a clear, ecologically sensitive management plan. To support this plan, suitably qualified and experienced landscape maintenance staff were essential, particularly those with horticultural knowledge and experience with indigenous and native plant species. Our project highlights the often conflicting needs of local authorities and ecological researchers and the necessary trade-offs needed to meet realistic goals and achieve successful project outcomes for creating more biodiverse urban landscapes.

Designing and managing biodiverse streetscapes: key lessons from the City of Melbourne (springer.com)

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6. Sensing, feeling, thinking: Relating to nature with the body, heart and mind

The cultural ecosystem services (CES) construct has evolved to accommodate multiple worldviews, knowledge systems and conceptualizations of nature and values, including relational and mental health values. Cultural ecosystem services research and practice has mostly focused on cognitive ways of constructing and expressing intangible values of, and relationships with, nature. But our non-material relationships with nature are not exclusively cognitive: sensory and affective processes are fundamental to how we build, enact and experience these relationships. Building on the core ideas of relational values, embodied experiences and connectedness with nature, we present a simple framework to explore the sensory, affective and cognitive dimensions of human–nature interactions, as well as the settings and activities that frame them.

We demonstrate its use in a case study in the Peruvian Andes, where we applied an inductive, exploratory approach to elicit personal imageries and imaginings related to nature, place and recreation. The narratives shared were rich with symbolism and personal sensory experiences, emotions and memories, which the interviewees linked with general assertions about people, place and nature. We discuss the usefulness of such a perspective for CES research, and for human well-being, environmental justice and landscape management.

https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pan3.10286

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7. Conflict and climate change are big barriers for Africa’s Great Green Wall

Fourteen years since the launch of Africa’s Great Green Wall project, only 4% of the 100 million hectares (247 million acres) of land targeted for restoration in the Sahel region has actually been restored. Billions of dollars in new funding announced this year have raised hopes that the initiative to combat desertification will gain momentum, but experts and the reality on the ground point to money being far from the only hurdle. Funding restoration activities will cost $44 billion, with every dollar invested generating $1.20 in returns, a recent study in Nature Sustainability calculates.

But experts have echoed concerns captured in the research that conflict and climate change are complicating efforts on the ground, with nearly half of the area identified as viable for restoration falling within the orbit of conflict zones.

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/11/conflict-and-climate-change-are-big-barriers-for-africas-great-green-wall/

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About Dbytes

Dbytes is a weekly eNewsletter presenting news and views on biodiversity conservation and environmental decision science. ‘D’ stands for ‘Decision’ and refers to all the ingredients that go into good, fair and just decision-making in relation to the environment.

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). Dbytes is supported by the Global Water Forum.

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.

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David Salt
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