Dbytes #520 (21 April 2022)

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


“The EPBC Act gives the minister power to approve coal projects, even if they’ll have adverse effects. It doesn’t, in a general sense, protect the environment from these effects. It doesn’t protect the public from consequent harm, even if deadly. And it doesn’t, actually, tackle climate change at all.”
Laura Schuijers, Australia’s environment law doesn’t protect the environment – an alarming message from the recent duty-quashing climate case.


In this issue of Dbytes

1. Language barriers in global bird conservation
2. Living within limits
3. Last Chance Quiz – the Australian Government’s (non) response to queries on the environment.
4. BCA criticisms 5: “money isn’t everything”
5. UNESCO’s assessment of the Great Barrier Reef: is the Reef ‘in danger’?
6. From activism to “not-quite-government”: the role of government and non-government actors in the expansion of the Australian protected area estate since 1990
7. Biodiversity impacts and conservation implications of urban land expansion projected to 2050

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1. Language barriers in global bird conservation

Multiple languages being spoken within a species’ distribution can impede communication among conservation stakeholders, the compilation of scientific information, and the development of effective conservation actions. Here, we investigate the number of official languages spoken within the distributions of 10,863 bird species to identify which species might be particularly affected by consequences of language barriers. We show that 1587 species have 10 languages or more spoken within their distributions. Threatened and migratory species have significantly more languages spoken within their distributions, when controlling for range size. Particularly high numbers of species with many languages within their distribution are found in Eastern Europe, Russia and central and western Asia. Global conservation efforts would benefit from implementing guidelines to overcome language barriers, especially in regions with high species and language diversity.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0267151

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2. Living within limits

The new report, Living within limits: Adapting the planetary boundaries to understand Australia’s contribution to planetary health, is based on the landmark ‘planetary boundaries’ framework, adapting it to the Australian context and examining what these boundaries mean for the nation’s land use sector.

‘Living within limits’ report investigates the environmental boundaries in which Australia can prosper – Climateworks Centre

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3. Last Chance Quiz – the Australian Government’s (non) response to queries on the environment.

The Government tinkers with the environment while inflating and conflating its efforts so as to deliberately mislead the people. The final Senate Estimates before the official election period (‘last chance quiz’) poked a few holes in the Government’s carefully contrived environment Budget narrative, but this doesn’t mean we are any wiser about what’s going on.

https://bit.ly/SusBites

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4. BCA criticisms 5: “money isn’t everything”

“I’ve heard people express opposition to the use of Benefit: Cost Analysis because they say that it is too focused on money and neglects important non-financial benefits. While that’s true for some individual BCAs, others do a good job of capturing the intangible or non-financial benefits that a project can generate. I guess it’s understandable that non-economists might think that BCA is solely about monetary benefits and costs, but it isn’t. It’s about values and preferences of all types and, if done well, includes allowance for complex factors like how people behave and how to accommodate risk and uncertainty. For some types of projects (e.g., those related to environment, recreation, or health), non-financial benefits (also called non-market values or shadow prices) are the main benefits, so doing a BCA without including them would probably be a waste of time.”

369. BCA criticisms 5: “money isn’t everything” – Pannell Discussions

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5. UNESCO’s assessment of the Great Barrier Reef: is the Reef ‘in danger’?

This is the question that the 21 member countries of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee (the Committee) will examine at its 45th Session, currently due to be held from 19–30 June 2022 in Kazan, Russia. The Committee’s determination of whether the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) should be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger will be based on an updated ‘State Party’ report from the Australian Government and a State of Conservation report to be prepared by two scientific officials (p. 58) who visited the GBR last month.

UNESCO monitoring of Great Barrier Reef – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au)

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6. From activism to “not-quite-government”: the role of government and non-government actors in the expansion of the Australian protected area estate since 1990

What can we learn from the prodigious expansion of the non-government protected areas that now comprise 12% of terrestrial Australia? An increasingly professional, formal, and diverse non-government sector has developed since 1990, comprising private individuals, non-government organizations, and First Nations and having close ties to governments. We investigate the drivers, dynamics, and diversity of this sector through thematic analysis of 24 key informant interviews and associated gray literature. Changing environmental movements, science-led conservation, partial recognition of First Nations land rights, international agreements, and neoliberal reforms combined to formalize the sector during the 1990s. A bipartisan policy framework for incorporating non-government lands in the national conservation estate, diverse partnerships, transnational networks, and innovation in public and private funding helped grow the sector. The confluence of interests that has transformed the politics and practice of nature conservation in Australia is likely to inform those engaged with similar changes elsewhere.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09640568.2022.2040452

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7. Biodiversity impacts and conservation implications of urban land expansion projected to 2050

Understanding the impacts of urbanization and the associated urban land expansion on species is vital for informed urban planning that minimizes biodiversity loss. Predicting habitat that will be lost to urban land expansion for over 30,000 species under three different future scenarios, we find that up to 855 species are directly threatened due to unmitigated urbanization. Our projections pinpoint rapidly urbanizing regions of sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Mesoamerica, and Southeast Asia where, without careful planning, urbanization is expected to cause particularly large biodiversity loss. Our findings highlight the urgent need for an increased focus on urban land in global conservation strategies and identify high-priority areas for this engagement.

https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2117297119

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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.

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David Salt
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