Dbytes #319 (15 February 2018)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“Much of humanity acts as a passive victim of the institutions it created in the past. We’ve locked ourselves into certain trajectories – starting with our mindsets, which are too uncomfortable to question, and our institutions, which are rigid and complex, and it’s hard to know where to even start to fundamentally change anything.”
Joern Fischer
https://ideas4sustainability.wordpress.com/2018/01/17/what-do-we-value/

General News

1. 12 Emerging Global Trends That Bring Hope for 2018 [from the TNC]
2. Climate firing line: Australia’s natural attractions at risk
3. Planting the seeds of citizen science
4. Echidna citizen science
5. ‘Absolute scandal’: how does restoring a ship help endangered species?

EDG News

UWA Node: To Bait or Not to Bait: A Discrete Choice Experiment on Public Preferences for Native Wildlife and Conservation Management in Western Australia
UMelb Node: Mick McCarthy on the Batman By-Election 2018
UQ Node:
Chris OBryan on predators and humans
RMIT Node: Anna Backstrom and colleagues on Grappling with the social dimensions of novel ecosystems
ANU Node: Damian Michael and colleagues on revegetation, restoration and reptiles in rural landscapes: Insights from long-term monitoring programmes

-~<>~-

General News

1. 12 Emerging Global Trends That Bring Hope for 2018 [from the TNC]

Without minimizing the task ahead, we want to point to some trends that are unlocking investment for nature and offering hope for a sustainable future.

https://global.nature.org/content/2018-emerging-trends?intc=glob_sol.hp.single_promo

-~<>~-

2. Climate firing line: Australia’s natural attractions at risk

AUSTRALIA’S MOST POPULAR tourist destinations are in the firing line, with intensifying climate change posing a significant threat to the nation’s iconic natural wonders, according to the latest report released by the Climate Council today.

The Climate Council’s ‘Icons at Risk: Climate Change Threatening Australian Tourism’ report shows Australia’s top five natural tourist attractions could be hit by extreme heatwaves, increasing temperatures, rising sea-levels, coastal flooding and catastrophic coral bleaching.

http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/climate-firing-line-australia-s-natural-attractions-at-risk

-~<>~-

3. Planting the seeds of citizen science
[Speech by the Chief Science, Dr Alan Finkel to the 2018 Australian Citizen Science Conference in Adelaide on 7 February 2018]

“Let me start with an impossible to answer question. Who invented citizen science?
The birdwatchers say that it began with the Audubon Society and the great Christmas Bird Count, in 1900. The weather-watchers say that it began with Thomas Jefferson – yes, US President Thomas Jefferson…”

http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2018/02/speech-planting-the-seeds-of-citizen-science/

-~<>~-

4. Echidna citizen science
Echidnas are notoriously shy and difficult to see in the wild and even though they are one of our iconic Australian animals, we know very little about them. The team behind Echidna CSI want to change that. Professor Frank Grützner’s research group at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide aims to identify echidna populations on mainland Australia and determine if, and why, they are under threat before taking steps to help their conservation. Up to now, a study on mainland echidna populations was considered unfeasible due to the time and resources required to gather any meaningful field data over such a large area. Especially because echidnas are so cryptic – if you go out specifically to look for one, you’re guaranteed not to see any. This is where the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) can help. Using the ALA’s BioCollect as the back-end database and data management interface, University of Adelaide PhD student Alan Stenhouse developed a mobile app – Echidna CSI – for the Grützner research team. Using BioCollect saved the project team time and costs, and allows data to flow seamlessly into the ALA where it is stored, analysed and re-used. BioCollect helps the team to recruit members of the public (citizen scientists) to record echidna sightings and mail echidna scat samples to the research team, by making the project publically discoverable via the Australian citizen science project finder. This means large amounts of data can be collected across a huge area.
https://blog.csiro.au/tracking-elusive-echidna-populations/?utm_source=Snapshot-January-2018&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=Snapshot

-~<>~-

5. ‘Absolute scandal’: how does restoring a ship help endangered species?
The Guardian: The government is providing $255m to projects it says will benefit threatened animals and plants – yet there is little chance the species actually occur at many of the sites
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/14/incongruous-species-funding-in-the-most-unlikely-places?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Tweet

-~<>~-

EDG News

UWA Node: To Bait or Not to Bait: A Discrete Choice Experiment on Public Preferences for Native Wildlife and Conservation Management in Western Australia

This paper examines citizen’s preferences for invasive feral predator (fox and feral cat) management to protect native species at a fragmented conservation site surrounded by farmland in southwest WA—Dryandra Woodland. Foxes and feral cats are a serious threat to biodiversity around the world including Australia. We used the discrete choice experiment technique to quantify the preferences of the general public of WA for various fox and feral cat management strategies and also their utility for the threatened species (Numbats and Woylies) being protected at the site. We find that citizens prefer using a multi-strategy approach, especially one that includes trapping and community engagement, over the strategy of 1080 baiting currently being implement at Dryandra Woodland to manage fox and feral cat populations. Citizens also strongly favour increased Numbat and Woylie populations at the site with willingness to pay (WTP) being $21.76 for 100 Numbats and $7.95 for 1000 Woylies, on average. We also tested whether including images of the threatened species in the survey influences WTP for their conservation and found that it did not. We discuss how species’ charisma and familiarity with a species instead influences people’s WTP. Our project is being carried out in collaboration with the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and will provide vital and much needed information on socio-economically optimal conservation decision-making. The article can be freely accessed using the following link till 25th March 2018: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800917311825
Ref: SUBROY, V., ROGERS, A. A. & KRAGT, M. E. 2018. To Bait or Not to Bait: A Discrete Choice Experiment on Public Preferences for Native Wildlife and Conservation Management in Western Australia. Ecological Economics, 147, 114-122.

UMelb Node: Mick McCarthy on the Batman By-Election 2018
“It’s on in Batman. And the result might well depend on what happens north of the Hipster-proof Fence, a term coined (by my wife) to help describe the voting patterns that flipped in the vicinity of Bell St. With David Feeney resigning from Federal Parliament due to unresolved issues regarding his citizenship, a by-election for the federal seat of Batman will be held. Batman was an interesting race in 2016, with the ALP narrowly beating the Greens. But with the Greens winning a recent state by-election in Northcote, which covers the southern half of the Batman electorate (south of the Hipster-proof Fence), the 2018 by-election promises to be even more interesting. One feature of the 2016 federal election was the north-south gradient in votes, both in terms of the 2 candidate-preferred vote, and the swing from the 2013 election. In both cases, the ALP did much better north of the Hipster-proof Fence. Indeed, the ALP had swings toward it in some of the northern-most booths. If the ALP had suffered the same swings north of Bell St as they did further south, the Greens would have won comfortably in 2016…”
https://mickresearch.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/batman-by-election-2018/

UQ Node: Chris OBryan on predators and humans
Predators and scavengers are frequently persecuted for their negative effects on property, livestock and human life. Research has shown that these species play important regulatory roles in intact ecosystems including regulating herbivore and mesopredator populations that in turn affect floral, soil and hydrological systems. Yet predators and scavengers receive surprisingly little recognition for their benefits to humans in the landscapes they share. We review these benefits, highlighting the most recent studies that have documented their positive effects across a range of environments. Indeed, the benefits of predators and scavengers can be far reaching, affecting human health and well-being through disease mitigation, agricultural production and waste-disposal services. As many predators and scavengers are in a state of rapid decline, we argue that researchers must work in concert with the media, managers and policymakers to highlight benefits of these species and the need to ensure their long-term conservation. Furthermore, instead of assessing the costs of predators and scavengers only in economic terms, it is critical to recognize their beneficial contributions to human health and well-being. Given the ever-expanding human footprint, it is essential that we construct conservation solutions that allow a wide variety of species to persist in shared landscapes. Identifying, evaluating and communicating the benefits provided by species that are often considered problem animals is an important step for establishing tolerance in these shared spaces.
Ref: Christopher J. O’Bryan, Alexander R. Braczkowski, Hawthorne L. Beyer, Neil H. Carter, James E. M. Watson & Eve McDonald-Madden (2018). The contribution of predators and scavengers to human well-being. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2, pages 229–236. https://tinyurl.com/y9h3onxr
Video interview about the paper is here:https://vimeo.com/251588350/4d1e9ac23b

RMIT Node: Anna Backstrom and colleagues on
Grappling with the social dimensions of novel ecosystems
The novel ecosystem concept describes modified natural systems that have crossed irreversible socioecological thresholds due to human-induced environmental change. Critics of this concept fear it will nullify efforts to conserve biodiversity, and consider it unnecessary because ecological restoration provides management options for modified ecosystems; in contrast, proponents contend that it broadens the possibilities for conservation (eg by valuing degraded ecosystems). Because all approaches to conservation, including those that involve novel ecosystems, are values-based, decisions pertaining to the management of modified ecosystems are embedded in a social context. To help inform the management of novel ecosystems, we propose a values-based decision process, one that accounts for site-specific variation.
Ref: Backstrom, Garrard, Hobbs and Bekessy (2018). Grappling with the social dimensions of novel ecosystems. Front Ecol Environ 2018;
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.1769/full

ANU Node: Damian Michael and colleagues on revegetation, restoration and reptiles in rural landscapes: Insights from long-term monitoring programmes
Over the past decade, there has been a concerted effort to better understand the distribution and abundance of reptiles in agricultural landscapes and to specifically evaluate their response to revegetation (tree and shrub plantings) and habitat restoration in the wheat-sheep belt of south-eastern Australia. This article reviews the response of reptiles to revegetation and woodland management and provides ten insights and lessons that can be applied to help improve reptile conservation in temperate eucalypt woodlands and fragmented agricultural landscapes in Australia. The review focuses primarily on revegetation programmes conducted by Landcare and Greening Australia, and management interventions funded by Local Land Services in NSW and Catchment Management Authorities in Victoria.
Ref: Michael, D. R., Crane, M., Florance, D. and Lindenmayer, D. B. (2018), Revegetation, restoration and reptiles in rural landscapes: Insights from long-term monitoring programmes in the temperate eucalypt woodlands of south-eastern Australia. Ecol Manag Restor, 19: 32–38. doi:10.1111/emr.12294
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/emr.12294/abstract?campaign=woletoc

-~<>~-

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. 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. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

Advertisements

Dbytes #318 (8 February 2018)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“So it is counterproductive for people like Col McKenzie, the head of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, to shoot the messenger, as he did recently when he urged the federal government to stop funding Professor Terry Hughes [Director, ARC CoE Reef Studies] and his colleagues at James Cook University because their reports on [coral] bleaching were “harming the tourism industry”.
Crispin Hull, Canberra Times

General News

1. The Global Risks Report 2018
2. Murray-Darling basin plan fails environment and wastes money – experts
3. What went wrong in communicating the Tassie tiger genome paper
4. The moral value of wilderness
5. A carbon credit product that also preserves biodiversity

EDG News

ANU Node: Claire Foster and colleagues on the effects of fire regimes on plant species richness and composition
UWA Node: David Pannell on the economics of nitrogen in agriculture
UMelb Node:             Qaeco’s favourite papers of 2017
UQ Node:
Call for session proposals at the SER Australasia Conference 2018 – Striving for Restoration Excellence
RMIT Node:
A whole bunch of RMITers are presenting at VicBioCon this week

-~<>~-

General News

1. The Global Risks Report 2018

Each year the Global Risks Report works with experts and decision-makers across the world to identify and analyze the most pressing risks that we face. As the pace of change accelerates, and as risk interconnections deepen, this year’s report highlights the growing strain we are placing on many of the global systems we rely on.

This year’s report covers more risks than ever, but focuses in particular on four key areas: environmental degradation, cybersecurity breaches, economic strains and geopolitical tensions. And in a new series called “Future Shocks” the report cautions against complacency and highlights the need to prepare for sudden and dramatic disruptions.

https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2018

-~<>~-

2. Murray-Darling basin plan fails environment and wastes money – experts
Scientists and economists condemn squandering of $4bn on projects that have failed to improve the river’s health
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/05/murray-darling-basin-plan-fails-environment-and-wastes-money-experts?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Tweet

-~<>~-

3. What went wrong in communicating the Tassie tiger genome paper
Jenna Crowe-Riddell

My earliest memory of confronting extinction was in primary school – growing up in Australia in the 1990s, a kid’s education show ‘Behind the News’ covered a story on cloning the Tasmanian tiger. Prominent in my mind is an image of a shrivelled pup floating in a jar with clinical writing scrawled across a label tied to its paw. We were told that DNA could be extracted from this specimen and used to re-animate the species. Over 20 years later, and despite official efforts to clone the tiger being scrapped in 2005, it seems we are still captivated by the idea of de-extinction. The publishing of the thylacine genome received a lot of media attention (rated in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric) and along with it came a revival of the cloning story. However, if you take a look at the abstract in the thylacine genome paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, it does not mention the prospective cloning as an application of sequencing the genome. In fact, a lot of the information in the media coverage is conspicuously absent from the original publication. In addition to claims of the thylacine genome sequencing bringing us ‘one-step closer to cloning the tiger’, there have been more pernicious claims that the species’ was already ‘on the way out’ long before the colonial invasion of Australia.
http://www.jennacroweriddell.com/jblog/thylacine-scicomm
-~<>~-

4. The moral value of wilderness

Let us imagine that humanity has almost died out and only a few people remain. Out of resentment or despair, the survivors cater to their destructive urges by destroying as much of the natural world as they can. They poison rivers and lakes, drop napalm on forests, set off a few nuclear warheads. They are at ease with their conscience because no one will ever be in the position to use or appreciate the nature they are destroying. They are harming no one. But surely what they are doing is wrong. The Australian environmental philosopher Richard Sylvan used this story to try to persuade us that nature has a value that is independent of our needs and desires, even our existence.
https://theconversation.com/the-moral-value-of-wilderness-90090

-~<>~-

5. A carbon credit product that also preserves biodiversity

The Australian branch of global sustainability consultancy South Pole on Monday launched a new product that allows companies to offset their carbon emissions and support the protection of Australian biodiversity at the same time.

The product, called EcoAustralia, combines internationally verified carbon credits with “biodiversity credits” that have been endorsed by the Australian government. Each biodiversity credit represents 1.5 square metres of land under protection.

Eco-Business

-~<>~-

EDG News

ANU Node: Claire Foster and colleagues on the effects of fire regimes on plant species richness and composition
Do the effects of fire regimes on plant species richness and composition differ among floristically similar vegetation types? We completed floristic surveys of 87 sites in Sydney Coastal dry sclerophyll vegetation, where fire history records have been maintained for over 55 years. We tested for associations between different aspects of the recent fire history and plant species richness and composition, and whether these relationships were consistent among structurally defined forest, woodland and heath vegetation types. The relationship between fire regime variables and plant species richness and composition differed among vegetation types, despite the three vegetation types having similar species pools. Fire frequency was positively related to species richness in woodland, negatively related to species richness in heath, and unrelated to species richness in forest. These different relationships were explained by differences in the associations between fire history and species traits among vegetation types. The negative relationship between fire frequency and species richness in heath vegetation was underpinned by reduced occurrence of resprouting species at high fire frequency sites (more than four fires in 55 years). However, in forest and woodland vegetation, resprouting species were not negatively associated with fire frequency. We hypothesize that differing relationships among vegetation types were underpinned by differences in fire behaviour, and/or biotic and abiotic conditions, leading to differences in plant species mortality and post-fire recovery among vegetation types. Our findings suggest that even when there is a high proportion of shared species between vegetation types, fires can have very different effects on vegetation communities, depending on the structural vegetation type. Both research and management of fire regimes may therefore benefit from considering vegetation types as separate management units.
Ref: Foster, C. N., Barton, P. S., MacGregor, C. I., Catford, J. A., Blanchard, W. and Lindenmayer, D. B. (2017), Effects of fire regime on plant species richness and composition differ among forest, woodland and heath vegetation. Appl Veg Sci. doi:10.1111/avsc.12345
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/avsc.12345/full

UWA Node: David Pannell on the economics of nitrogen in agriculture
The global challenge of feeding seven billion people would be more difficult without nitrogen fertilizer, but it causes pollution of rivers, lakes and coastal waters around the world, and it contributes to emissions of greenhouse gases. It increases the profitability of individual farmers, but it is over-applied in many cases, wasting money and needlessly worsening environmental problems. These are, in large part, economic issues. In a recent paper I attempted to summarise the large and diverse research literatures on the economics of nitrogen in agriculture. Some of the key points are discussed in David Pannell’s recent blog: http://www.pannelldiscussions.net/2018/02/312-economics-of-n/

UMelb Node:  Qaeco’s favourite papers of 2017
We asked our lab members to nominate a paper published in 2017 that they had enjoyed. Recommendations ranged from the skill-based (scientific writing, reproducible coding, camera-trapping) to global reviews (plant traits, climate change, size-based models) and some great case studies (questionable psychologists, waterbirds at Lake Eyre, Finnish foxes). We hope you find them as interesting as we did! (Kate & Bron, hosts of QAECO Reading Group)
https://qaeco.com/2018/01/31/favpaper2017/

UQ Node: Call for session proposals at the SER Australasia Conference 2018 – Striving for Restoration Excellence
[From Valerie Hagger, CEED member and Student and Early Career Representative of SERA]
The Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA) is pleased to announce the 2018 conference ‘Striving for Restoration Excellence’ to be held at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia 25-28 September 2018 (see https://www.sera2018.org/).
SERA is a collaborative effort. If you are a scientist, practitioner, manager, policy maker, planner or someone who cares about our bush, seas and waterways you do not want to miss this conference! If you are interested in restoration planning and management or want to ensure restoration really makes a difference then this is the conference not to be missed. The proposed themes for SERA 2018 are focused around four pillars:
-Principles & Practice – doing it right in restoration
-Biomes – rainforests, woodlands, grasslands, seagrasses and beyond
-Impact – making a change
-Specialist Disciplines – seed technologies, provenance, marine restoration and more.
Session Proposals are now open – sessions are 90-minutes with a 15-minute introduction, followed by five 15-minute presentations that form a cohesive theme. Session proposals can be submitted to: https://www.sera2018.org/session–proposal

RMIT Node: A whole bunch of RMITers are presenting at VicBioCon this week
Here’s who are presenting:
Matthew Selinske | RMIT University | @M_Selinske | The nature of nature behaviours
Emily Gregg | RMIT University | @SciEms | The devil’s in the detail: exploring species common names and their influence on species’ marketability and conservation status
Lindall Kidd | RMIT University | Tweeting for their lives: people’s preferences for threatened species on Twitter
Dr Alex Kusmanoff | RMIT University | @AlexKusmanoff | What to say, what not to say: When talking conservation, some frames speak louder than others
Florence Damiens | RMIT University | What has been happening with offsetting? Understanding the evolution of biodiversity offset policies in France and Australia (Victoria)
Dr Holly Kirk | RMIT University | @HollyKirk | Our City’s Little Gems: Butterfly Ecology in the City of Melbourne
Dr Freya Thomas | RMIT University | @freyamthomas | Green space is good for us
Katherine Berthon | RMIT University | Greening Up: Making Room for Wildlife in Cities
https://www.vicbiocon.com/


-~<>~-

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. 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. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

 

Dbytes #317 (25 January 2018)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“Some ecologists worry that scientists have been measuring ecosystem changes over the course of their careers instead of across history. Because researchers then compare changes to already lowered baselines, they may underestimate the real magnitude of decline over generations.”
Roberta Kwok, Nature 549: 419-421(2017). Historical data: hidden in the past

General News

1. Australia’s biodiversity strategy a global embarrassment, green groups say
2. Australian soils play major role in carbon sequestration
3. Could biodiversity destruction lead to a global tipping point?
4. Coral expert slams $60 million Great Barrier Reef package as useless
5. Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions?


EDG News

RMIT Node: Holly Kirk begins her Endeavour Post-doctoral Fellowship
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer co-author on ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests
UWA Node: Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences
UMelb Node: Cassia Read and colleagues on surrogates of soil texture from airborne gamma-ray detection
UQ Node:
Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on the extent and predictability of the biodiversity–carbon correlation

-~<>~-

General News

1. Australia’s biodiversity strategy a global embarrassment, green groups say
[recommended by Nadeem Samnaky]

Extinction prevention plan branded ‘deeply inadequate’ after environment department publishes paper without targets.

It’s a “wafer-thin plan … which reads like a year-10 school assignment,” observes James Tresize from the ACF.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/21/australias-biodiversity-strategy-a-global-embarrassment-green-groups-say
-~<>~-

2. Australian soils play major role in carbon sequestration

Australia is one of ten countries that account for 60% of the the 680 billion tonnes of carbon stored in the top 30 cm of soil around the world, and action should be taken to protect these natural carbon-rich soils to avoid emissions to the atmosphere, according to a major project launched late last year by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

Australia’s significance as a terrestrial carbon sink was highlighted in the FAO’s first ever Global Soil Organic Carbon Map which drew together data from the carbon maps of 110 participating countries, showing that the top 30 cm of soil contains around 680 billion tonnes of carbon – almost double the amount present in the atmosphere. The Map identifies natural areas with high carbon storage, as well as regions where there is the possibility for further sequestration.

More information about the Global Soil Organic Carbon Map is available here.

https://www.environmentreport.com.au/single-post/2018/01/10/Australian-soils-play-major-role-in-carbon-sequestration
-~<>~-

3. Could biodiversity destruction lead to a global tipping point?

We are destroying the world’s biodiversity. Yet debate has erupted over just what this means for the planet – and us.

In 2009, a group of researchers identified nine global boundaries for the planet that if passed could theoretically push the Earth into an uninhabitable state for our species. These global boundaries include climate change, freshwater use, ocean acidification and, yes, biodiversity loss (among others). The group has since updated the terminology surrounding biodiversity, now calling it “biosphere integrity,” but that hasn’t spared it from critique.

A paper last year in Trends in Ecology & Evolution scathingly attacked the idea of any global biodiversity boundary.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2018/jan/16/biodiversity-extinction-tipping-point-planetary-boundary?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Tweet
-~<>~-

4. Coral expert slams $60 million Great Barrier Reef package as useless

Coral expert, Dr Charlie Veron, has warned the Government’s new $60 million package for the Great Barrier Reef will make no difference to the future of the Reef, as the main threat is warming oceans due to climate change.
The package, to be delivered over the next 18 months, includes:
•$10.4 million to allow the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to increase the number of vessels targeting the crown of thorns starfish from three to eight.
•$36.6 million to reduce pollution from water entering the Reef.
•$4.9 million to put more field officers on the water, improving compliance, and providing early warning of further bleaching and delivering more reef and island management interventions.
•$6 million for the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the CSIRO to scope and design a research and development program for coral reef restoration.
Speaking on ABC Radio National, Dr Veron said the package, other than expenditure on pure research, would have no effect on the future of the reef.

https://www.environmentreport.com.au/single-post/2018/01/22/Coral-expert-slams-60-million-Great-Barrier-Reef-package-as-useless

-~<>~-

5. Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions?

Mongabay feature by Shreya Dasgupta

Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence. However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say. For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree.

https://news.mongabay.com/2017/11/experience-or-evidence-how-do-big-conservation-ngos-make-decisions/

-~<>~-

EDG News

RMIT Node: Holly Kirk begins her Endeavour Post-doctoral Fellowship
Holly Kirk has started her Endeavour Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Interdisciplinary Conservation group at RMIT. Holly is using her 6 months of funding to investigate bird dispersal within urban habitats. She hopes to do this by combining predictive modelling and traditional ornithological surveys within the City of Melbourne. Endeavour scholarships and fellowships are funded by the Australian government to promote research both within Australia and overseas.https://internationaleducation.gov.au/endeavour%20program/scholarships-and-fellowships/about/pages/default.aspx

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer co-author on ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests
Restoration may not reach complete success, but biodiversity and vegetation structure were 34–56% and 19–56% higher in natural regeneration than in active restoration systems, respectively, but only after controlling for these four key biotic and abiotic factors. These findings suggest that lower cost approaches to restoring biodiversity and vegetation structure in tropical forests can actually be more effective than active restoration. Our study challenges the widely held notion that natural regrowth forests offer low conservation value and that restoration strategies should preferentially favor active restoration. This mistaken notion may have arisen due to the lack of controlled biotic and abiotic factors and the short time frame for monitoring forest restoration. Our study does not claim that natural regeneration is always the most cost-effective restoration approach. When conditions are unsuitable for natural regeneration or when particular tree species are needed, active tree planting is recommended. Moreover, biodiversity responses were based primarily on species abundance and richness, which recover far more quickly than species composition. One of the major international and national policy priorities for the upcoming years is to align the identified patterns of biophysical and ecological conditions where each or both restoration approaches are more successful, cost-effective and compatible with socio-economic incentives for enabling scaling up tropical forest restoration. Clearly, both approaches are urgently needed to achieve ambitious global forest restoration targets.
Ref: Renato Crouzeilles, Mariana Ferrerira, Robin Chazdon, David Lindenmayer et al (2017). Ecological restoration success is higher for natural regeneration than for active restoration in tropical forests. Sci. Adv. 2017;3: e1701345
http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/11/e1701345

UWA Node: Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is seeking to prepare for losses arising from climate change. This is an emerging issue that challenges climate science and policy to engage more deeply with values, places, and people’s experiences. First, insight is provided into the UNFCCC framing of loss and damage and current approaches to valuation. Then, growing literature is drawn on the value‐ and place‐based approaches to adaptation, including limits to adaptation, which examines loss as nuanced and sensitive to the nature of people’s lives. Complementary perspectives from human geography, psychology, philosophy, economics, and ecology underscore the importance of understanding what matters to people and what they may likely consider to constitute loss. A significant body of knowledge illustrates that loss is often given meaning through lived, embodied, and place‐based experiences, and so is more felt than tangible. Further insights are provided into a recent scholarship that addresses how people make trade‐offs between different value priorities. This emerging literature offers an opening in the academic debate to further advance a relational framing of loss in which trade‐offs between lived values are seen as dynamic elements in a prospective loss space.
Ref: Tschakert Petra, Barnett Jon, Ellis Neville, Lawrence Carmen, Tuana Nancy, New Mark, Elrick‐Barr Carmen, Pandit Ram, Pannell David. Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences. WIREs Clim Change 2017, 8: null. DOI: 10.1002/wcc.476

UMelb Node: Cassia Read and colleagues on surrogates of soil texture from airborne gamma-ray detection
Ecologists and applied scientists dream of accurate spatial data representing environmental variables to help explain and predict patterns and processes with quantitative models. Think models of species distributions, or landscape models of the distribution of any ecological phenomena really! Among environmental variables, those related to the physical and chemical properties of soil – e.g., texture, nutrient availability, and influence on water availability – are arguably the most important for understanding plant ecology and vegetation dynamics. However, hard data on the distribution of those properties across natural landscapes is rarely collected, and therefore they are not available to be included in vegetation models. So what can we do? In our recent paper led by Cassia Read, we tested the prospect of predicting soil properties from satellite observations for a 40 000 km2 study area in the Wimmera and Mallee landscapes of north western Victoria. We built and tested the models by combining 30 years of soil physical data accumulated by the State Govt with satellite-sensed observations of gamma radiation emission from the soil surface (AKA radiometric data).
The results for the study landscape were quite promising. Satellite-sensed radiometric potassium (K) and thorium (Th) were strongly related to the clay and sand content in the soils. In turn, with only satellite radiometric data and a handful of easily obtained environmental variables (terrain, rainfall, temperature), the models had good predictive performance, including to an independent dataset.
The downside is that whereas the model worked well in the Mallee and Wimmera with its uncomplicated terrain, relatively uniform bedrock and soil origin, it will be much tougher where there is outcropping rock, dissected terrain and soils of diverse origins. Effective modelling of soil physical properties over more heterogeneous landscapes awaits hierarchical models fed on covariates that accurately reflect the parent material of soils.
Ref: Read CF, Duncan DH, Ho CYC, White M, Vesk PA. Useful surrogates of soil texture for plant ecologists from airborne gamma-ray detection. Ecology and Evolution 2018; 00:1–10. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3417

UQ Node: Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on the extent and predictability of the biodiversity–carbon correlation
Protecting biomass carbon stocks to mitigate climate change has direct implications for biodiversity conservation. Yet, evidence that a positive association exists between carbon density and species richness is contrasting. Here, we test how this association varies (1) across spatial extents and (2) as a function of how strongly carbon and species richness depend on environmental variables. We found the correlation weakens when moving from larger extents, e.g. realms, to narrower extents, e.g. ecoregions. For ecoregions, a positive correlation emerges when both species richness and carbon density vary as functions of the same environmental variables (climate, soil, elevation). In 20% of tropical ecoregions, there are opportunities to pursue carbon conservation with direct biodiversity co-benefits, while other ecoregions require careful planning for both species and carbon to avoid potentially perverse outcomes. The broad assumption of a linear relationship between carbon and biodiversity can lead to undesired outcomes.
Ref: Di Marco, M., Watson, J. E. M., Currie, D. J., Possingham, H. P. and Venter, O. (2018), The extent and predictability of the biodiversity–carbon correlation. Ecol Lett. doi:10.1111/ele.12903
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12903/full


-~<>~-

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. 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. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

 

Dbytes #316 (18 January 2018)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) declared 2018 as the third International Year of the Reef to help bring the informed opinions of global scientific leaders to policy-makers worldwide, demonstrating that inaction and business-as-usual is no longer possible.”
The Reef World Foundation [and see items 1 and 2]

General News

1. Aust governments offer $2million for innovative solution to save the Great Barrier Reef
2. Climate change closing the gap between coral bleaching events
3.
Draft national Strategy for Nature 2018-2030 for review
4. Science Policy Fellowship Program
5. Australia’s 2017 climate in review

EDG News

UQ Node: UQ Node: Duan Biggs and colleagues in Science on values and taboo trade-offs in elephant conservation debates
RMIT Node: Luis Mata bringing nature into cities in Government News
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer and colleagues on Inter-den tree movements by Leadbeater’s Possum
UWA Node:
Keren Raiter and colleagues on the impacts of linear infrastructure on landscape hydrology
UMelb Node:
Heini Kujala on which species drive my conservation priorities?

-~<>~-

General News

1. Aust governments offer $2million for innovative solution to save the Great Barrier Reef

From press release: In a fitting start to the 2018 International Year of the Reef, a $2 million innovation challenge is seeking novel solutions to boost coral abundance on the Great Barrier Reef and restore reefs. Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, Acting Queensland Minister for Innovation Shannon Fentiman and Queensland Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch today launched the jointly funded challenge which is being run through the Advance Queensland Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) initiative.
“This is an open invitation to our greatest scientific minds, industry and business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions which will protect corals and encourage the recovery of damaged reefs,” Minister Frydenberg said.
http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/frydenberg/media-releases/mr20180116.html

-~<>~-

2. Climate change closing the gap between coral bleaching events

An international team of researchers led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies has measured the escalating rate of coral bleaching at locations throughout the tropics over the past four decades, demonstrating a dramatic shortening of the gap between bleaching events. The research paper, “Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene” was published in the journal, Science.
“The time between bleaching events at each location has diminished five-fold in the past 3-4 decades, from once every 25-30 years in the early 1980s to an average of just once every six years since 2010,” says lead author Prof Terry Hughes.
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6371/80

-~<>~-

3. Draft national Strategy for Nature 2018-2030 for review

The draft Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030 (Australia’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Inventory) has now been released for consultation.
The draft Strategy:
-aims to coordinate efforts at a national scale across all sectors to sustainably manage biological resources and ensure their long term resilience, health and viability.
-proposes action under three goals: Connect all Australian’s with nature; Care for nature in all its diversity; and Build and share knowledge.
-acts as Australia’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
The draft strategy will open for public comment until 16 March 2018.

http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/conservation/strategy/draft-revision

-~<>~-

4. Science Policy Fellowship Program

The Australian Science Policy Fellowship Pilot Program gives scientists the opportunity to work in a Commonwealth Government department for one year. It strengthens the diversity of expertise in the Australian Public Service workforce by providing a pathway for scientists to become skilled policy practitioners. The program is targeted at early- and mid-career researchers with up to 15 years post-PhD.

The program offers a range of benefits to participants:
•Policy officers receive on-the-job training in and exposure to policymaking. They will not be appointed as subject matter specialists, but rather will be expected to participate in the activities of existing teams in their host department.
•Successful candidates will have access to professional development and mentoring provided by their host department, and possibly external training opportunities in public policy.

Applications close: 04 Feb 2018 11:55 PM
http://careers.industry.gov.au/cw/en/job/497991/science-policy-fellowship-program%20by%2004%20Feb%202018

-~<>~-

5. Australia’s 2017 climate in review

The Bureau of Meteorology has released its Annual Climate Statement, showing 2017 continued the trend of warmer than average temperatures across Australia, and the country received slightly above-average rainfall. The Annual Climate Statement is the official Bureau summary of the previous year, including temperature, rainfall and significant weather. The Bureau’s Head of Climate Monitoring, Dr Karl Braganza, said with a national mean temperature 0.95 °C warmer than the 1961–1990 average, 2017 was Australia’s third-warmest year on record.
“Despite the lack of an El Niño—which is normally associated with our hottest years—2017 was still characterised by very warm temperatures. Both day and night-time temperatures were warmer than average; particularly maximum temperatures, which were the second-warmest on record. Seven of Australia’s ten warmest years have occurred since 2005 and Australia has experienced just one cooler than average year—2011—in the past decade,” he said.

http://media.bom.gov.au/releases/412/australia-all-over-2017s-climate-in-review/

-~<>~-

EDG News

UQ Node: UQ Node: Duan Biggs and colleagues in Science on values and taboo trade-offs in elephant conservation debates
From Duan: We propose in the paper that the deadlock on ivory could potentially be overcome through a structured process which incorporates both values, differing perceptions of trade-offs, and scientific evidence. The taboo-trade off (when one trades off a secular value like money with a sacred value like elephants are sacred and therefore selling ivory is wrong) that we argue is a hitherto un-addressed issue in the ivory debate also characterises debates on the trade of other iconic species like rhino and turtles. In addition, these taboo trade-offs probably characterise many contentious conservation debates (e.g. trophy hunting, invasive mammal control, genetic modifications for conservation etc). I think the debates in Australia people eating more kangaroo and less beef also has a taboo trade-off element in it. Understanding how to better navigate these taboo trade-offs in conservation is a research area that I am focussing on at the moment, and anyone has additional examples of where these occur or thoughts on how to tackle them please do get in touch.
Ref: Duan Biggs, Matthew H. Holden, Alex Braczkowski, Carly N. Cook,E. J. Milner-Gulland et al (2017). Breaking the deadlock on ivory. Science 358: 1378-1381
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6369/1378

RMIT Node: Luis Mata bringing nature into cities in Government News
New research shows that besides using the right species for the local environment, their social acceptability, economic use and Indigenous significance need to be carefully considered.
“There are many benefits of bringing nature back into urban areas,” says Dr Luis Mata from RMIT’s Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group. “Nature in all its forms provides a remarkable range of benefits in cities.
“There is great enthusiasm to bring trees, shrubs, grasses, insects, spiders, birds and mammals back into urban areas. Nature-based solutions such as green roofs and pop-up parks are happening across the world.”
Dr Mata said benefits include improving people’s physical and psychological health, protection from future climate change, and conservation of threatened species.
“Nature-based solutions re-enchant people with nature, which helps them appreciate and conserve nature outside cities as well. Also, nature in cities connects people with the local Indigenous culture and history.”
Dr Mata also says that landscape designers, architects, health practitioners and others should incorporate all aspects of nature in deciding how to bring it back. “Broader planning is required before development. We’re in need of biodiversity-sensitive urban design, where developers specifically aim to deliver on-site biodiversity benefits.”
Dr Mata and his colleagues have developed a new decision-making tool that includes the ecological feasibility of each species, its conservation value, economic use, cultural significance in the context of Indigenous culture, and social acceptability…
https://www.governmentnews.com.au/2017/12/bring-nature-back-cities-planners-told/

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on Inter-den tree movements by Leadbeater’s Possum
Many species of arboreal marsupials move regularly between den sites in hollow-bearing trees. We show, based on short-term radio-tracking data, that the Critically Endangered Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) can move 100 m (and sometimes up to 600 m) between den sites in hollow-bearing trees. These movement data have significant implications for the design of buffers of unlogged forest to protect colonies of Leadbeater’s Possum as well as for crude estimates of the species’ population size.
Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., McBurney, L., Blair, D. and Banks, S. (2017). Inter-den tree movements by Leadbeater’s Possum. Australian Zoologist, https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2017.028.

UWA Node: Keren Raiter and colleagues on the impacts of linear infrastructure on landscape hydrology
The extent of roads and other forms of linear infrastructure is burgeoning worldwide, however there has been little quantification of how linear infrastructure affects the movement of water across landscapes. In our paper, we present the first (to our knowledge) study to characterise and quantify the broad-scale impacts of linear infrastructure networks on surface and near-surface hydrology of a semi-arid region, Western Australia’s Great Western Woodlands. With linear infrastructure named ‘one of the most pressing rangeland management concerns in arid and semi-arid lands globally’ (Duniway and Herrick 2013, in Rangeland Ecology and Management), we found that hydrological impacts of linear infrastructure are pervasive, but that there is considerable scope for addressing impacts. Hydrological impacts included erosion and pooling, as well as flow impedance, concentration and channelling, diversion, and new channel initiation at drainage crossings. Strategies for managing and mitigating these impacts include: hydrologically considerate infrastructure design; improving consideration of hydrological impacts in environmental impact evaluations, land-use or conservation plans, and mitigation strategies; developing risk maps to inform landscape-scale planning of linear infrastructure in relatively undisturbed landscapes; and further research to better understand the ecological ramifications of the impacts we report, and identify cost-effective solutions. Our approach and methodology provide information and insights that are useful for cumulative and strategic impact assessment and decision-making as well as landscape planning and conservation policy, and can be applied to a range of other landscapes worldwide.
Ref: Raiter, K.G., Prober, S.M., Possingham, H.P., Westcott, F., Hobbs, R.J., 2018. Linear infrastructure impacts on landscape hydrology. Journal of Environmental Management. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.10.036

UMelb Node: Heini Kujala on which species drive my conservation priorities?
“In conservation planning, we often need to divide resources between multiple species. As conservation budgets virtually never meet the needs of adequate conservation, it’s important that every dollar is spent efficiently. Since many conservation actions have a spatial component, that is, they include the question of where the money should be spent, the question of how to divide resources quickly becomes about how to divide them between locations. If all target species are found in the same location, this question is easily solved. But species practically never have identical distributions, and under fixed budgets targeting one location and the species present there comes with the obvious trade-off of having less money left for other species occurring elsewhere in the landscape. Spatial solutions therefore need to be balanced between different locations. A set of location that together deliver the greatest benefit to all species are typically considered as priority for conservation actions.
I recently led a study with Dr Ascelin Gordon (RMIT) and Prof Atte Moilanen (Uni Helsinki) that looked at how the distribution patterns of target species dictate the way priority patterns emerge in multi-species conservation problems. We asked the following question: if we have a fixed budget (e.g. we can only protect a fixed area of land) and we want to maximize the outcome for species included in the plan, how much does the addition of one species change the plan? We then compared the observed change to the spatial characteristics of the species.
https://hkujalaresearch.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/new-study-which-species-drive-my-conservation-priorities/


-~<>~-

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. 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. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

Dbytes #315 (14 December 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“It’s here! That manic magical time of the year where academics across the world take part in Do-Everything December. If you’ve found yourself uttering such rallying cries as, “I’d like to submit this before Christmas” or “Let’s get this squared away before the break”, you’re not alone (but you’re probably an ECR). This month, we will #finishallthethings so that we can start next year afresh, and with a chunkier CV. But how do we do it? How can we reach peak productivity when it has eluded us for eleven months thus far?”
Kylie Soanes at life on the verge
[Editor’s note: Bugger this productivity lark. I’m off on hols. See you next year. Have a safe and happy Xmas. And there’s a holiday game for you to play in the ANU Node news courtesy of Martin Westgate.]

General News

1. New Threatened Species Commissioner appointed
2. State of [global] Biodiversity Mitigation 2017
3. State of the science of taxonomy in Australia: results of the 2016 Survey of
4.
In hot water: the impacts of climate change on marine fisheries and biodiversity
5. Vaquita porpoise facing extinction after £3m rescue plan abandoned

EDG News

UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire in the foothills
UQ Node:
Matthew Holden and Eve McDonald-Madden on human Burials to Fund the Conservation of Threatened Species
RMIT Node:
Sarah Bekessy on how to live in harmony with urban wildlife
ANU Node:
Martin Westgate challenges you to play the ‘ecoterms’ game
UWA Node:
The economic value of shark-diving tourism in Australia

-~<>~-

General News

1. New Threatened Species Commissioner appointed
“The Turnbull Government is pleased to appoint Dr Sally Box as Australia’s new Threatened Species Commissioner. The Threatened Species Commissioner champions the implementation of the Threatened Species Strategy and practical conservation actions to recover our most threatened plants and animals. Using the principles of science, action and partnership, the Commissioner works with conservation organisations, governments, community and the private sector to improve the trajectory of our threatened species.
“Dr Box will continue the excellent work already underway, develop new initiatives and approaches and increase momentum for threatened species conservation,” said Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP.”
http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/frydenberg/media-releases/mr20171211.html

-~<>~-

2. State of [global] Biodiversity Mitigation 2017
Between 2015 and 2030, an estimated $90 trillion will need to be spent on new infrastructure assets, in order for transportation networks, energy, utilities, and other essential systems to keep pace with projected demand.[1] That is more than the value of the entire existing global infrastructure stock today. Two-thirds of it is needed in developing countries. Infrastructure development is necessary to keep pace with growing populations, our current infrastructure’s depreciation, and the moral imperative to provide a basic modern standard of living for all people on this planet. But infrastructure development also means inevitable impacts to the other living creatures who share the planet with us.
This report shows how smart mitigation policies can leverage new financial resources and momentum in pursuit of “no net loss” of biodiversity, complementing traditional conservation strategies such as protected areas. The State of Biodiversity Mitigation 2017 provides a global benchmark of policy frameworks and market mechanisms using offsets and compensation to achieve no net loss or even net gain of biodiversity. These approaches can also increase regulatory certainty, speed up the pace of planning and permitting, and improve ecological outcomes in managing impacts from infrastructure development.
http://forest-trends.org/releases/p/sobm2017#more

-~<>~-

3. State of the science of taxonomy in Australia: results of the 2016 Survey of Taxonomic Capacity
The Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) is committed to facilitating and supporting Australian researchers in the field of taxonomy and systematics. The ABRS has conducted surveys of taxonomic research capacity in 1975, 1991, 2003 and 2016. Here, we present the results of the most recent survey. We found that the number of researchers actively working in taxonomy and systematics has fallen over the years, but that proportionally more women are now working in the field. We also found that the field is supported substantially by retired or honorary researchers, with over a quarter of the workforce in unsalaried positions. This does enable a sustained level of productivity in the field, but also does mask the fact that there are fewer paid positions in the field. A consistent concern of researchers in the field is that of funding, and job security/career opportunities, highlighted in surveys in 2016, 2003 and 1991. Newer concerns highlighted in 2016 were the lack of positions for postdoctoral researchers and beyond, and the way taxonomy is perceived particularly in the context of bibliometrics. Australia has a good representation of researchers in the Arthropoda and Angiospermae, but there are many taxonomic groups for which we lack experts.
http://www.environment.gov.au/science/abrs/publications/other/taxonomy-survey-results-2016

-~<>~-

4. In hot water: the impacts of climate change on marine fisheries and biodiversity
Senate Committee Report
https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/ClimateChangeOceans/Report

Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson instigated the Inquiry after a recent marine heatwave devastated fisheries and biodiversity off the coast of Tasmania. Here’s how he describes it:
“This report is a landmark compilation and analysis of the impacts of climate change on our marine life and fisheries. It pulls together evidence from communities, agencies and scientists from right around the country and distils it to provide recommendations for actions the Federal government can take to deal with the warming waters. We need to reconstruct our marine policy framework to adjust to this rapidly-changing world. This report calls for a review of all environment and natural resource legislation to account for climate change, to look to incorporate a greenhouse trigger in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and to take steps towards the establishment of independent National Ocean Commissioner. “We also need to regularly review the network of existing marine reserves in light of the impacts of climate change, look to increase the no-take zones to build further climate resilience, and explicitly include climate targets within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2050 plan.”
You can see all his comments at
http://media-senatorwhish-wilson.cmail19.com/t/ViewEmail/t/C63D37E954CFEAC6/4DEF928D4022BFBCC5EC08CADFFC107B

-~<>~-

5. Vaquita porpoise facing extinction after £3m rescue plan abandoned

A last-ditch attempt to save the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita, by taking them into human care has been abandoned. The chances that this rare species of porpoise will become extinct are now extremely high, researchers have warned. They had hoped to catch a few of the planet’s last 30 vaquitas – which are only found in one small area of the Gulf of California – and protect them in a sanctuary where they could breed safely. But last month, the $4m (£3m) rescue plan by an international team of more than 60 scientists and divers ran into trouble after only a few days, when the first vaquita they caught had to be released when it began to display dangerous signs of stress.

Shortly after that, a second vaquita was caught but died a few hours after capture. The team then decided that catching any more animals presented too much risk to the species and further attempts were suspended. “This is a very, very serious setback,” said project scientist Barbara Taylor, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Taking vaquitas into human care was always an extreme measure, but it was virtually our only option. Now even that has gone. The vaquita is now facing extinction unless illegal fishing can be curtailed.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/03/vaquita-porpoise-extinction-threat-rescue-plan-abandoned?CMP=share_btn_tw

-~<>~-

EDG News

UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire in the foothills
‘Foothill forests’ cover approximately 7.5 million ha in the state of Victoria. They are a priority for fire management, containing significant biodiversity and posing risks of fires to people and property. But how do you manage a major natural disturbance like fire when they are occur across a broad-scale environmental gradient like foothill forests? You can read an article on this research in Decision Point or see the research itself in Ecosphere.
Ref: Kelly LT, A Haslem, GJ Holland, S Leonard, J MacHunter, M Bassett, AF Bennett, MJ Bruce, EK Chia, FJ Christie, MF Clarke, J Di Stefano, R Loyn, MA McCarthy, A Pung, N Robinson, H Sitters, M Swan & A York (2017). Fire regimes and environmental gradients shape vertebrate and plant distributions in temperate eucalypt forests. Ecosphere. 8: e01781
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecs2.1781/abstract

UQ Node: Matthew Holden and Eve McDonald-Madden on human Burials to Fund the Conservation of Threatened Species
Most conservation scientists and practitioners are unaware that their corpses can transform into protected areas after death. The practice is called a conservation burial, where burial fees fund the acquisition, protection, restoration, and management of new land to benefit human and environmental well-being. If conservation burials became commonplace, then the revenue generated could exceed the amount of money required to fund the conservation of every threatened species on the planet. The additional human-health benefits of increased urban greenspace could also be substantial. As Halloween, “the day of the dead,” approaches, we urge governments, NGOs, and the public to contemplate how death can support future life on earth through conservation burials.
Ref: Holden, M. H. and McDonald-Madden, E. (2017), Conservation from the Grave: Human Burials to Fund the Conservation of Threatened Species. CONSERVATION LETTERS. doi:10.1111/conl.12421
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12421/full
and see the press release at https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2017/10/spooky-conservation-saving-endangered-species-over-our-dead-bodies

RMIT Node: Sarah Bekessy on how to live in harmony with urban wildlife
ABC Science story by Belinda Smith
“Calamitous cockies, pushy possums and the odd snake: love them or loathe them, Australian cities are rich in native wildlife that’s adapted to an urban lifestyle. And even though they can be annoying and often become pests — as anyone who has had possums living in their roof will attest — we can co-exist happily with our city-dwelling feathered, furry and scaly friends. That’s right — even possums.
Here are a few ways to live alongside the animals on your doorstep without calling pest control every other day. How do I stop possums nibbling on my herbs?
Boil chillies and garlic in water, let it cool, strain and pour it in a spray bottle, and spray your garden. This stinky, spicy concoction will keep possums away, along with loads of other herb-chomping creatures, said Sarah Bekessy, an urban ecologist at RMIT in Melbourne. The natural chemical weapon contains capsaicin from chilli, which is the active ingredient in pepper spray, and irritating sulphur-based garlic compounds, which can kill insects on contact. Or you could take a leaf from the world of permaculture, which accepts that part of a crop will be lost to animals, Professor Bekessy said…”
http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-12-10/living-with-urban-wildlife-ecology-possums-cockatoos-snakes-pest/9231420

ANU Node: Martin Westgate challenges you to play the ‘ecoterms’ game
From Martin: “As the Christmas break approaches, I know that many of you are thinking; how can I do *more* ecology-related activities in my spare time? Fortunately, I’ve built a word-association game for ecologists called ‘ecoterms’. It’s quick to play, and is part of a study I’m running to understand how ecological concepts relate to one another. You can play it here:
https://mjwestgate.shinyapps.io/ecoterms/
Please consider having a go – it’s a tricky game, but it makes you think, and will help with some exciting new research!”

UWA Node: The economic value of shark-diving tourism in Australia
Shark-diving is part of a rapidly growing industry focused on marine wildlife tourism. Our study aimed to provide an estimate of the economic value of shark-diving tourism across Australia by comprehensively surveying the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus), and reef shark (mostly Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos and Triaenodon obesus) diving industries using a standardised approach. A socio-economic survey targeted tourist divers between March 2013 and June 2014 and collected information on expenditures related to diving, accommodation, transport, living costs, and other related activities during divers’ trips. A total of 711 tourist surveys were completed across the four industries, with the total annual direct expenditure by shark divers in Australia estimated conservatively at $25.5M. The findings showed that the economic value of this type of tourism do not flow solely to the industry, but are also spread across the region where it is hosted. This highlights the need to ensure a sustainable dive-tourism industry through adequate management of both shark-diver interactions and biological management of the species on which it is based.
Ref: Huveneers, C., Meekan, M.G., Apps, K. et al. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries (2017) Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 665–680.

https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-017-9486-x



-~<>~-

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. 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. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

Dbytes #314 (7 December 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

[Australia’s] “Threatened Species Strategy mentions land clearing zero times and habitat loss just twice. Feral cats, on the other hand, are mentioned 78 times, with the plan overwhelmingly focused on culling this one invasive species. Other major introduced pests – foxes, rabbits, feral pigs and goats – are mentioned 10 times between them.”
Ritchie et al, The Conversation 

General News

1. Taking stock: progress in natural capital accounting
2. Review of Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin
3. World-first continental acoustic observatory will listen to the sounds of Australia
4. Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?
5. Data gathered by the public on UK butterfly populations could be useful for conservation

EDG News

UWA Node: Sayed Iftekhar receives a DECRA award
UMelb Node:
Modellers vs Experimentalists – why can’t we all just get along?
UQ Node: Jennifer McGowan and colleagues on marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the context of spatial prioritization
RMIT Node:
Emily Gregg presents at the ESA conference on what are the barriers to community buy-in of threatened species conservation in Australia?
ANU Node: Darren Le Roux and colleagues on the value of scattered trees for wildlife

-~<>~-

General News

1. Taking stock: progress in natural capital accounting

The growing human population and a shift to more resource-intensive habits and behaviours are increasing the demands on global ecosystems. Natural capital is a way to describe Earth’s natural assets, including soil, air, water and living things, existing as complex ecosystems, which provide a range of services to humans. Depleting and degrading these reserves may irreversibly reduce the availability of benefits to future generations. This In-Depth Report [from the European Commission] presents an overview of ideas, debates and progress so far in natural capital accounting, in particular in accounting for ecosystems and their services.

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/natural_capital_accounting_taking_stock_IR16_en.pdf

-~<>~-

2. Review of Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin
[A report by the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists]
It has been thirteen years since the historic National Water Initiative was signed, and five years since the Australian Parliament agreed to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Since then, nearly $8 billion of taxpayers’ money has been spent largely to address the chronic over-allocation of water in the river systems of the Murray-Darling Basin. This report is the first independent and comprehensive review of the Basin Plan. Its purpose is to evaluate progress towards the social, environmental and economic objectives of the reforms, with the view to setting out steps necessary to deliver the Basin Plan in full by 2026. This report also looks further into the future and sets out a suite of long-term reforms that are necessary if the nation is to achieve its ultimate goal of restoring the health of river systems in the Murray-Darling Basin. Overall, the review finds there has been significant progress since 2004, but this progress has slowed to a trickle since the Basin Plan was adopted in 2012. Without major changes in implementation, it is almost certain that the Basin Plan will fail.

http://wentworthgroup.org/2017/11/review-of-water-reform-in-the-murray-darling-basin/2017/

-~<>~-

3. World-first continental acoustic observatory will listen to the sounds of Australia

By David Watson (CSU)

The significance of sound in ecosystems is what prompted my colleagues and me to develop a world-first acoustic observatory, made up of 400 permanent sensors embedded across the entire continent. Three test sites, in inland woodlands, wetlands in Northern Australia, and subtropical forest remnants, have illustrated how we can use sound to track the movement of invasive species, the impact of climate change, and the health of remote ecosytems. Now, with the support of five universities and a grant from the Australian Research Council, we are working to install acoustic sensors in ecosystems across Australia. By mid-2018 the full array will be in place. And once we begin recording, every minute will be made available to everybody online.

https://theconversation.com/world-first-continental-acoustic-observatory-will-listen-to-the-sounds-of-australia-88306

-~<>~-

4. Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?

In 2014, many of the world’s major palm oil, pulp and paper companies made a joint commitment to stop clearing natural forests by 2020. As the deadline draws near, how are these ‘No deforestation’ commitments progressing?

An Eco-business feature

-~<>~-

5. Data gathered by the public on UK butterfly populations could be useful for conservation

Researchers have compared the findings of a citizen-science project and a long-running butterfly monitoring scheme in the UK to gain insights into the reliability of data gathering by the public. They found that — contrary to the scepticism with which such projects are sometimes viewed — much of the citizen-recorded data agreed with the findings of more formal monitoring, particularly for species often found in gardens. This indicates that mass-participation sampling not only provides a valuable tool for public engagement, but, in this case, could also provide valid data to inform butterfly conservation.
Ref: Dennis, E.B., Morgan, B.J.T., Brereton, T.M., Roy, D.B., & Fox, R. (2017). Using citizen science butterfly counts to predict species population trends. Conservation Biology. Doi:10.1111/cobi.12956
-~<>~-

EDG News

UWA Node: Sayed Iftekhar receives a DECRA award
CEED member, Dr Sayed Iftekhar, has been awarded a 3-year Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from the ARC to study ‘using improved markets to reduce over-extraction of groundwater’. This is a highly competitive scheme with only 16% of the applications approved for funding in 2018. This economics project aims to investigate the key aspects needed for a successful groundwater market, including extraction limits, innovative trading systems and reasonable transaction costs. The outcomes of the project can contribute to environmental benefits that minimise short-term financial losses to irrigators. The project also expects to enhance the capacity of water agencies to implement cap and trade systems that can reduce over-extraction.

UMelb Node: Modellers vs Experimentalists – why can’t we all just get along?
Are modellers trying to steal your data? Field ecologists not bothering to read your equations? If so, you’re not alone, because the authors in Heuschele et al 2017 share your concern. They reckon that ecological research is being limited by a lack of communication and collaboration between modellers and experimentalists.
QAECO is made up of a diverse bunch of researchers, who use many different approaches to skin a cat. So this week in reading group, I (Matt Rees) bought this paper in to see what everyone thought. Turns out, quite a bit.
The authors of this paper conducted an online survey of ecologists, a bibliometric analysis of highly cited papers, and examined the background of highly cited ecologists. In doing so, they identified two key aspects that seem to be preventing collaboration between modellers and experimentalists: journal articles being written in “cryptic” ways that make it difficult for their counterparts to decipher, as well as a lack of data being exchanged. They showed that the recipe for being a highly cited paper/author, was to model, or use a combination of experimental and modelling approaches (but not just experimental).
https://qaeco.com/2017/11/14/modellers-v-s-experimentalists-why-cant-we-all-just-get-along/

UQ Node: Jennifer McGowan and colleagues on marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the context of spatial prioritization
Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) are sites identified as globally important for bird species conservation. Marine IBAs are one of the few comprehensive multi-species datasets available for the marine environment, and their use in conservation planning will likely increase as countries race to protect 10% of their territorial waters by 2020. We tested 15 planning scenarios for Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone to guide best practice on integrating marine IBAs into spatial conservation prioritization. We found prioritizations based solely on habitat protection failed to protect IBAs, and prioritizations based solely on IBAs similarly failed to meet basic levels of habitat representation. Further, treating all marine IBAs as irreplaceable sites produced the most inefficient plans in terms of ecological representativeness and protection equality. Our analyses suggest that marine spatial planners who wish to use IBAs treat them like any other conservation feature by assigning them a specific protection target.
Ref: McGowan J, RJ Smith R, M Di Marco, RH Clarke & HP Possingham (2017). An evaluation of marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the context of spatial prioritization. Conservation Letters.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12399/full

RMIT Node: Emily Gregg presents at the ESA conference on what are the barriers to community buy-in of threatened species conservation in Australia?
“Saving animals is important for both the world and us, and we need normal people to understand this and play their part for everything to work out. But first we need to understand what exactly is stopping people from doing things to help save animals. I looked at possible problems and suggest that they fit into three types: how people look at the world, being far away from the problem, and whether there is a clear thing to do. I believe that using the right words and ideas in our writing can help with all three types of problems. Understanding what is stopping people from helping is important for our work and should help us make better calls about how to write and speak to people about saving animals.”
https://icsrg.info/2017/11/24/iconscience-at-ecotas-2017/

ANU Node: Darren Le Roux and colleagues on the value of scattered trees for wildlife
“The biodiversity value of scattered trees in modified landscapes is often overlooked in planning and conservation decisions. We conducted a multitaxa study to determine how wildlife abundance, species richness and community composition at individual trees are affected by (1) the landscape context in which trees are located; and (2) the size of trees. Location: Canberra, south-eastern Australia.
Landscape context affected all taxa surveyed. Trunk arthropod communities differed between trees in urban built-up areas and reserves. Bat activity and richness were significantly reduced at trees in urban built-up areas suggesting that echo-locating bats may be disturbed by high levels of urbanization. Bird abundance and richness were highest at trees located in modified landscapes, highlighting the value of scattered trees for birds. Bird communities also differed between non-urban and urban trees. Tree size had a significant effect on birds but did not affect trunk arthropods and bats. Large trees supported higher bird abundance, richness and more unique species compared to medium and small trees.
Conclusions: Scattered trees support a diversity of wildlife. However, landscape context and tree size affected wildlife in contrasting ways. Land management strategies are needed to collectively account for responses exhibited by multiple taxa at varying spatial scales. We recommend that the retention and perpetuation of scattered trees in modified landscapes should be prioritized, hereby providing crucial habitat benefits to a multitude of taxa.
Ref: Le Roux, D.S., Ikin, K., Lindenmayer, D.B., Manning, A.D., and Gibbons, P. (2017). The value of scattered trees for wildlife: Contrasting effects of landscape context and tree size. Diversity and Distributions, doi:10.1111/ddi.12658.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ddi.12658/abstract

-~<>~-

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. 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. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/

 

Dbytes #313 (30 November 2017)

Info & news for members and associates of the Environmental Decisions Group

“What is the extinction of the condor to a child who has never seen a wren?”
From a Guardian story by Robert McFarlane on ‘have children lost touch with nature?

General News

1. ABS Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16
2. Australia’s Great Southern Reef [is being transformed by climate change]
3. Tree disease threatens Australian forests
4. National Heritage Places map
5. Flora of Australia now available online

EDG News

Trinity College Dublin Node: Plant population persistence in poor climates
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer co-author on Science paper on Monarch butterflies
UWA Node: Richard Hobbs and colleagues on shall I stay or shall I go?
UMelb Node:
Tracy Rout and colleagues on monitoring, imperfect detection, and risk optimization of a Tasmanian devil insurance population
UQ node: Claire Runge and colleagues on quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure
-~<>~-

General News

1. ABS Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries are important industries in their own right as they are critical to our capacity to feed, clothe and house growing national and global human populations. They also have a particular significance for the natural environment through the management of natural capital, for example: land management practices; impacts on carbon stocks and emissions; and impacts on the availability of key natural resources (including levels of fish stocks and extent of native forests). Increasingly, for agriculture, forestry and fishing activities, long-term business sustainability is understood to be underpinned by its environmental sustainability.

In seeking to inform progress against these goals, the ABS is cognisant of the multi-disciplinary nature of issues facing Australian agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Ideally, policy makers from across all relevant disciplines should be able to speak to the same information, thus allowing the data to support dialogue between economists, scientists, agronomists, water managers, farmers, social scientists, and business owners among others. The capacity to deliver information to support decision making across a range of policy areas is a key motivation behind the ABS decision to explore the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (SEEA AFF) as a framework.

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4632.0.55.001?OpenDocument#

-~<>~-

2. Australia’s Great Southern Reef [is being transformed by climate change]

Feature story in The Monthly

 

“The south-east of Australia is warming more than two times faster than the global average,” Vergés says. “That’s resulting in the rapid southward movement of many tropical and warm-water species.”

This process has had its most devastating outcomes in Tasmania, where the giant kelp forests that encircled the island and filled its bays were once so dense they featured on shipping maps. In recent years, the East Australian Current has extended its reach, sweeping warm water down from the tropics. This has raised water temperatures around Tasmania by as much as 2.5 degrees Celsius, and allowed a host of species previously confined to mainland waters to migrate south.

The most significant of these is the long-spined sea urchin. A familiar sight along the eastern Australian coast, this marine animal is ruinously voracious, stripping areas of seaweed and other marine plants. Largely as a result of urchin grazing, 95% of the kelp forests around Tasmania are now gone. Together with overfishing, this has had a devastating effect on populations of both abalone and lobster.”

https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2017/november/1509454800/james-bradley/great-southern-reef

-~<>~-

3. Tree disease threatens Australian forests

A disease that has devastated eucalypt plantations in Brazil has reached Australia, where strains of myrtle rust could threaten gums, tea-trees, bottlebrushes, paperbarks and more, at great environmental and economic cost. By Tim Low.

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/environment/2017/11/25/tree-disease-threatens-australian-forests/15115284005547

-~<>~-

4. National Heritage Places map

The new National Heritage Places map documents the places of outstanding heritage importance to Australia. Together these places tell Australia’s story from its earliest fossil records to the long history of Indigenous settlement of this continent, and events that have made Australia what it is today. The front of the map shows the locations of National Heritage listed places, and the back has a summary of their Indigenous, natural and cultural values.

http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/ahc/publications/national-heritage-places-map

-~<>~-

5. Flora of Australia now available online

Flora of Australia is available on a new digital platform that makes Australia’s plant taxonomic information more accessible and user-friendly. It has information on the names, characteristics, distribution and habitat of Australian plants—14,000 profiles are already available online, with more on the way. While the main audience is botanists, Flora of Australia will also be useful for conservation and land managers, government/policy makers, researchers and members of the community with an interest in Australian plants. The new digital Flora of Australia was a joint project of the Australian Biological Resources Study, the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria and the Atlas of Living Australia. A huge thank you to taxonomists in Australia and New Zealand for a monumental collaborative effort.

https://profiles.ala.org.au/opus/foa

-~<>~-

EDG News

Trinity College Dublin Node: plant population persistence in poor climates
[From Yvonne Buckley]: Anna Csergö & Yvonne Buckley together with co-authors Rob Salguero-Gómez and Antoine Guisan have produced a video about plant population persistence in poor climates based on their climate & demography paper in Ecology Letters http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12794/abstract earlier this year (Less favourable climates constrain demographic strategies in plants). Beautiful nature images from Transylvania accompany the science.

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer co-author on Science paper on Monarch butterflies
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) conduct one of the most spectacular migrations in the animal kingdom. Across generations, populations move between their 3,375,000 km2 breeding range in the United States and Canada and the much smaller patch of forest in central Mexico where they spend the winter. This migration is an iconic natural phenomenon that has scientific, educational, cultural, and socioeconomic value. The Oyamel fir forests in Michoacán, Mexico, which are essential for sheltering the overwintering migrant population, were declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2008 to protect them. The overwintering forests are under threat from storms and human disturbance. In March 2016, a severe wind storm hit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The loss of canopy cover due to the storm reduced thermal protection, and a subsequent episode of freezing weather reduced butterfly populations by 31 to 38%. Bans on logging were lifted for a postdisturbance salvage logging operation from April to December 2016, both outside and inside the Reserve, including the theoretically protected core zone. The operation officially targeted removal of windblown trees to reduce fuel accumulation, and it was extended in 2017. Official data about extracted timber volumes are currently lacking, but the salvage logging removed many thousands of trees. Salvage logging impairs the key ecological roles of biological legacies (such as large old trees and fallen timber) in facilitating ecosystem recovery after natural disturbances. Removal of damaged trees can reduce biodiversity, soil fertility, and other ecosystem services, diminish key deadwood resources, alter landscape heterogeneity, and impair other benefits generated by natural disturbances…
Ref: Mexico’s logging threatens butterflies. Alexandro B. Leverkus, Pablo F. Jaramillo-López, Lincoln P. Brower, David B. Lindenmayer and Ernest H. Williams. Science 24 Nov 2017: Vol. 358, Issue 6366, pp. 1008. DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3826
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6366/1008.1


UWA Node: Richard Hobbs and colleagues on shall I stay or shall I go?
In a recent paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution by Richard Hobbs, Leonie Valentine and others, the authors discuss how increased attention to species movement in response to environmental change highlights the need to consider changes in species distributions and altered biological assemblages. Such changes are well known from paleoecological studies, but have accelerated with ongoing pervasive human influence. In addition to species that move, some species will stay put, leading to an array of novel interactions. Species show a variety of responses that can allow movement or persistence. Conservation and restoration actions have traditionally focused on maintaining or returning species in particular places, but increasingly also include interventions that facilitate movement. Approaches are required that incorporate the fluidity of biotic assemblages into the goals set and interventions deployed.
Ref: Hobbs, R. J., L. E. Valentine, R. J. Standish, and S.T. Jackson. 2017. Movers and Stayers: Novel Assemblages in Changing Environments. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2017.11.001


UMelb Node: Tracy Rout and colleagues on monitoring, imperfect detection, and risk optimization of a Tasmanian devil insurance population
From Tracy: I’d like to share a new paper by me, Chris Baker (UQ), Brendan Wintle (Uni Melb), and Stewart Huxtable from the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. I think it’s a great example of scientists and practitioners working together to ensure on-ground decisions are informed by up-to-date modelling and decision analyses. We modelled the removal of a diseased devil population from Forestier peninsula, and analysed the costs and benefits of declaring the area disease-free prior to the reintroduction and establishment of a healthy insurance population. We developed a model that can be run from an Excel spreadsheet, so the management team could use it to plan monitoring intensity while in the field.
Ref: Rout TM, Baker CM, Huxtable S and Wintle BA (2017). Monitoring, imperfect detection, and risk optimization of a Tasmanian devil insurance population, Conservation Biology.

UQ node: Claire Runge and colleagues on quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure
The proliferation of linear infrastructure such as roads and railways is a major global driver of cumulative biodiversity loss. One strategy for reducing habitat loss associated with development is to encourage linear infrastructure providers and users to share infrastructure networks. We quantified the reductions in biodiversity impact and capital costs under linear infrastructure sharing of a range of potential mine to port transportation links for 47 mine locations operated by 28 separate companies in the Upper Spencer Gulf Region of South Australia. We mapped transport links based on least-cost pathways for different levels of linear-infrastructure sharing and used expert-elicited impacts of linear infrastructure to estimate the consequences for biodiversity. Capital costs were calculated based on estimates of construction costs, compensation payments, and transaction costs. We evaluated proposed mine-port links by comparing biodiversity impacts and capital costs across 3 scenarios: an independent scenario, where no infrastructure is shared; a restricted-access scenario, where the largest mining companies share infrastructure but exclude smaller mining companies from sharing; and a shared scenario where all mining companies share linear infrastructure. Fully shared development of linear infrastructure reduced overall biodiversity impacts by 76% and reduced capital costs by 64% compared with the independent scenario. However, there was considerable variation among companies. Our restricted-access scenario showed only modest biodiversity benefits relative to the independent scenario, indicating that reductions are likely to be limited if the dominant mining companies restrict access to infrastructure, which often occurs without policies that promote sharing of infrastructure. Our research helps illuminate the circumstances under which infrastructure sharing can minimize the biodiversity impacts of development.
Ref: Runge, C. A., Tulloch, A. I. T., Gordon, A. and Rhodes, J. R. (2017), Quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.12952
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12952/full


-~<>~-

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. 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. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

About EDG
The Environmental Decision Group (EDG) is a network of conservation researchers working on the science of effective decision making to better conserve biodiversity. Our members are largely based at the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, RMIT and CSIRO. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

Decision Point: http://www.decision-point.com.au/