Dbytes #528 (9 June 2022)

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


“The ink was hardly dry on the Glasgow [climate] pact when the world began to change in ways potentially disastrous for hopes of tackling the climate crisis. Energy and food price rises mean that governments face a cost of living and energy security crisis, with some threatening to respond by returning to fossil fuels, including coal.”
Fiona Harvey [see item 1]

In this issue of Dbytes

1. Thirty years of climate summits: where have they got us?
2. Our new environment super-department sounds great in theory. But one department for two ministers is risky
3. One of Australia’s tiniest mammals is heading for extinction – but you can help
4. The aesthetic value of reef fishes is globally mismatched to their conservation priorities
5. Global protected areas seem insufficient to safeguard half of the world’s mammals from human-induced extinction
6. Assessing the extinction risk of all species of freshwater fishes globally
7. The Humanitarian Sector Needs Clear Job Profiles for Climate Science Translators Now More than Ever

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1. Thirty years of climate summits: where have they got us?

It has been 30 years since the Rio summit, when a global system was set up that would bring countries together on a regular basis to try to solve the climate crisis. Here are the highlights and lowlights since then.

Thirty years of climate summits: where have they got us? | Climate crisis | The Guardian

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2. Our new environment super-department sounds great in theory. But one department for two ministers is risky

Having one super-department supporting two ministers – Tanya Plibersek in environment and water, and Chris Bowen for climate change and energy – is likely to stretch the public service too far.

https://sustainabilitybites.home.blog/2022/06/14/our-new-environment-super-department-sounds-great-in-theory-but-one-department-for-two-ministers-is-risky/

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3. One of Australia’s tiniest mammals is heading for extinction – but you can help

They weigh around 15 grams, the same as a 50 cent coin. They devour vast quantities of insects. And they’re in real trouble. Our new research has found the critically endangered southern bent-wing bat is continuing to decline. Its populations are centred on just three “maternity” caves in southeast South Australia and southwest Victoria, where the bats give birth and raise their young.

https://theconversation.com/one-of-australias-tiniest-mammals-is-heading-for-extinction-but-you-can-help-183233

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4. The aesthetic value of reef fishes is globally mismatched to their conservation priorities

Reef fishes are closely connected to many human populations, yet their contributions to society are mostly considered through their economic and ecological values. Cultural and intrinsic values of reef fishes to the public can be critical drivers of conservation investment and success, but remain challenging to quantify. Aesthetic value represents one of the most immediate and direct means by which human societies engage with biodiversity, and can be evaluated from species to ecosystems. Here, we provide the aesthetic value of 2,417 ray-finned reef fish species by combining intensive evaluation of photographs of fishes by humans with predicted values from machine learning. We identified important biases in species’ aesthetic value relating to evolutionary history, ecological traits, and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat status. The most beautiful fishes are tightly packed into small parts of both the phylogenetic tree and the ecological trait space. In contrast, the less attractive fishes are the most ecologically and evolutionary distinct species and those recognized as threatened. Our study highlights likely important mismatches between potential public support for conservation and the species most in need of this support. It also provides a pathway for scaling-up our understanding of what are both an important nonmaterial facet of biodiversity and a key component of nature’s contribution to people, which could help better anticipate consequences of species loss and assist in developing appropriate communication strategies.

The aesthetic value of reef fishes is globally mismatched to their conservation priorities | PLOS Biology

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5. Global protected areas seem insufficient to safeguard half of the world’s mammals from human-induced extinction

Protected areas are vital for conserving global biodiversity, but we lack information on the extent to which the current global protected area network is able to prevent local extinctions. Here we investigate this by assessing the potential size of individual populations of nearly 4,000 terrestrial mammals within protected areas. We find that many existing protected areas are too small or too poorly connected to provide robust and resilient protection for almost all mammal species that are threatened with extinction and for over 1,000 species that are not currently threatened. These results highlight that global biodiversity targets must reflect ecological realities by incorporating spatial structure and estimates of population viability, rather than relying simply on the total area of land protected.

Global protected areas seem insufficient to safeguard half of the world’s mammals from human-induced extinction | PNAS

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6. Assessing the extinction risk of all species of freshwater fishes globally

Catherine Sayer is the Freshwater Programme Officer in the IUCN Biodiversity Assessment and Knowledge Team, based at The David Attenborough Building in Cambridge, UK. She is currently working to get the extinction risk of all species of freshwater fishes globally assessed for the IUCN Red List, which will fill in knowledge gaps on which regions have the highest numbers and proportions of threatened freshwater fishes, giving a greater understanding of where conservation programmes are likely to have most impact. SHOAL caught up with her to learn more about the IUCN Red List assessment process and get some advice on how researchers and taxonomists can conduct Red List assessments themselves.

https://shoalconservation.org/assessing-extinction-risk-of-freshwater-fishes-globally-interview-with-catherine-sayer/

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7. The Humanitarian Sector Needs Clear Job Profiles for Climate Science Translators Now More than Ever

A new generation of climate science translators (CSTs) is currently evolving, both as independent professionals and affiliated with humanitarian agencies. While people in this role represent an opportunity to foster communication and collaboration between climate science, humanitarian decision-support, policy, and decision-making, there are neither clear job profiles nor established criteria for success. Based on an analysis of job opportunities published on one of the largest humanitarian and development aid job portals, we show that the demand for CSTs has been increasing since 2011. Subsequently, we present a characterization of core skills for the next generation of CSTs aiming to establish a space for not only current CSTs to thrive, but also a path for future translators to follow, with milestones and opportunities for recognition.

https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/bams/103/4/BAMS-D-20-0263.1.xml

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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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