Dbytes #285 (27 April 2017)

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

“Would we knock down the pyramids or flatten the Acropolis to make way for housing estates, roads or farms? You would hope not… …Yet right now, across our planet, many of the United Nations’ World Heritage sites that have been designated for natural reasons are being rapidly destroyed in the pursuit of short-term economic goals.”
James Watson, James Allan and Sean Maxwell in The Conversation


General News

1. Invasive species: A leading threat to Australia’s wildlife
2.
Commentary: Is the [US] Endangered Species Act facing extinction?
3. Defending scientific integrity in conservation policy processes: lessons from Canada, Australia, and the United States
4. Saved: the endangered species back from the brink of extinction
5. Night Parrot: What happens when the world’s most endangered species is discovered on your property

EDG News

ANU Node: Stephanie Pulford and colleagues on remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes
RMIT node:
Laura Mumaw and Sarah Bekessy on Wildlife gardening for collaborative public–private biodiversity conservation
UWA Node:
Impact of water allocation strategies to manage groundwater resources in Western Australia: Equity and efficiency considerations
UQ Node:
Martina Di Fonzo and colleagues on a the ‘Cost-Effective Resource Allocator’ tool for prioritising management actions
UMelb Node: David Duncan returns to UMelb to work on Buloke restoration

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General News

1. Invasive species: A leading threat to Australia’s wildlife

Invasive Species Council report: Habitat loss is often assumed to be the main threatening process in Australia, but the evidence indicates that invasive species have caused the most animal extinctions, and pose the main threat to some animal groups. The evidence for this comes from a number of sources and is summarised in this report, firstly as it applies to threatened species (drawing upon three studies), secondly to threatened ecological communities, and thirdly to extinct animals.
https://invasives.org.au/publications/invasive-species-leading-threat/

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2. Commentary: Is the [US] Endangered Species Act facing extinction?
Before we overhaul the Endangered Species Act, we should better understand what it means to deliberately allow a species to go extinct.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/Breakthroughs-Voices/2017/0413/Commentary-Is-the-Endangered-Species-Act-facing-extinction?cmpid=gigya-tw

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3. Defending scientific integrity in conservation policy processes: lessons from Canada, Australia, and the United States

Government agencies faced with politically controversial decisions often discount or ignore scientific information, whether from agency staff or non-governmental scientists. Recent developments in scientific integrity (the ability to perform, use, communicate and publish science free from censorship or political interference) in Canada, Australia and the United States demonstrate a similar trajectory: a perceived increase in scientific integrity abuses is followed by concerted pressure by the scientific community, leading to efforts to improve scientific integrity protections under a new administration. However, protections are often inconsistently applied, and are at risk of reversal under administrations that are publicly hostile to evidence-based policy. We compare recent challenges to scientific integrity to determine what aspects of scientific input into conservation policy are most at risk of political distortion and what can be done to strengthen safeguards against such abuses. To ensure the integrity of outbound communication from government scientists to public, we suggest that governments strengthen scientific integrity policies, include scientists’ right to speak freely in collective bargaining agreements, guarantee public access to scientific information, and strengthen agency culture supporting scientific integrity. To ensure the transparency and integrity with which information from non-governmental scientists (e.g., submitted comments or formal policy reviews) informs the policy process, we suggest that governments broaden the scope of independent reviews, ensure greater diversity of expert input with transparency regarding conflicts of interest, require substantive response to input from agencies, and engage proactively with scientific societies. For their part, scientists and scientific societies have a civic responsibility to engage with the wider public to affirm that science is a crucial resource for developing evidence-based policy and regulations that are in the public interest.

Carroll C, Hartl B, Goldman GT, Rohlf DJ, Treves A, Kerr JT, Ritchie EG, Kingsford RT, Gibbs KE, Maron M, Watson JEM. (2017) Defending scientific integrity in conservation policy processes: lessons from Canada, Australia, and the United States. PeerJ Preprints 5:e2946v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.2946v1

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4. Saved: the endangered species back from the brink of extinction

Human activity has put wildlife around the world at risk, but many creatures are now thriving thanks to conservationists

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/08/endangered-species-conservation-successes?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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5. Night Parrot: What happens when the world’s most endangered species is discovered on your property

Thought to be extinct, the discovery of the night parrot on a remote Queensland cattle station was thrilling for the science world … but not so for the grazier. Kathy McLeish went bush to find out what happens when the world’s most endangered species turns up on your property.
The night parrot disappeared more than a hundred years ago and was long thought to be extinct.

But it was in fact, hiding in plain sight.

So what happens when one of the world’s most endangered species turns up on your property?

For one landholder it’s actually proved to be a positive.

http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2017/s4650656.htm

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EDG News

ANU Node: Stephanie Pulford and colleagues on remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes
How do remnant patches, paddock types and grazing regimes influence reptile assemblages in a grazing landscape? At 12 sites, we surveyed reptiles and environmental covariates in remnant woodland patches and in four paddock types: a) grazed pasture, b) linear plantings, c) coarse woody debris added to grazed pasture and d) fences between grazed pasture. Each site was either continuously or rotationally grazed. Remnant vegetation and other vegetation attributes such as tree cover and leaf litter greatly influenced reptiles. We recorded higher reptile abundance and species richness in areas with more tree cover and leaf litter. For rare species (captured in ≤4 sites <70 captures) there were 5.7 more animals and 2.6 more species in sites with 50% woody cover within 3 km compared to 5% woody cover. The abundance and richness of rare species, and one common species differed between paddock types and were higher in linear plantings and fence transects compared to coarse woody debris and pasture transects.
Synthesis and applications: Grazed paddocks, particularly those with key features such as fences and plantings can provide habitat for reptiles. This suggests that discrete differentiation between patch and matrix does not apply for reptiles in these systems. Management to promote reptile conservation in agricultural landscapes should involve protecting existing remnant vegetation, regardless of amount; and promote key habitat features of trees, leaf litter and shrubs. Establishing plantings and fences is important as they support high numbers of less common reptiles and may facilitate reptiles to move through and use greater amounts of the landscape.
Ref: Pulsford, S. A., Driscoll, D. A., Barton, P. S. and Lindenmayer, D. B. (2017), Remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences are beneficial for reptiles in agricultural landscapes. J Appl Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12923/full

RMIT node: Laura Mumaw and Sarah Bekessy on Wildlife gardening for collaborative public–private biodiversity conservation
In this article we explore how the Knox Gardens for Wildlife program, a collaboration between a municipality (Knox City Council) and community group (Knox Environment Society) in greater Melbourne involves residents in gardening to help conserve indigenous biodiversity. We used semi-structured interviews and Council survey data to identify key program features that engaged and supported members to modify their gardening: on site garden assessment; community nursery; communication hubs; a framework that fosters experiential learning and community linkages; and endorsement of each garden’s potential contribution. We discuss the implications for managing urban landscapes for biodiversity conservation.
Ref: Mumaw L & S Bekessy (2017). Wildlife gardening for collaborative public–private biodiversity conservation. Aust Journal of Environ Manag.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14486563.2017.1309695


UWA Node: Impact of water allocation strategies to manage groundwater resources in Western Australia: Equity and efficiency considerations
Globally, billions of people depend on groundwater resources. Groundwater accounts for about 50% of global drinking water and 43% of global irrigation. In Australia, 5,000GL of water is sourced from groundwater per year, providing almost one-third of the total drinking water and 70% of the water used in agriculture. There are also many groundwater dependent ecosystems of significant ecological value. However, in many parts of the world groundwater is being depleting at an alarming rate causing substantial economic, environmental and ecological loss. Where groundwater extraction is licenced, regulators often respond to resource depletion by reducing all individual licences by a fixed proportion. This approach can be effective in achieving a reduction in the volume of water extracted, but the approach is not efficient. In water resource management the issue of the equity efficiency trade-off has been explored in a number of contexts, but not in the context of allocation from a groundwater system. To contribute to this knowledge gap we conduct an empirical case study for Western Australia’s most important groundwater system: the Gnangara Groundwater System (GGS). Resource depletion is a serious issue for the GGS, and substantial reductions in groundwater extraction are required to stabilise the system. Using an individual-based farm optimization model we study both the overall impact and the distributional impact of a fixed percentage water allocation cut to horticulture sector licence holders. The model is parameterised using water licence specific data on farm area and water allocation. The modelling shows that much of the impact of water allocation reductions can be mitigated through changing the cropping mix and the irrigation technology used. The modelling also shows that the scope for gains through the aggregation of holdings into larger farms is much greater than the potential losses due to water allocation reductions. The impact of water allocation cuts is also shown to impact large farms more than small farms. Adoption of a more efficient approach would allow to stabilize groundwater resources at lower cost.
Ref: James Fogarty & Md Sayed Iftekhar (2017). Impact of water allocation strategies to manage groundwater resources in Western Australia: Equity and efficiency considerations, Journal of Hydrology, 548, p145–156. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.02.052

UQ Node: Martina Di Fonzo and colleagues on a the ‘Cost-Effective Resource Allocator’ tool for prioritising management actions
Faced with increasing rates of biodiversity loss and modest conservation budgets, it is essential that natural resource managers allocate their financial resources in a cost-effective manner and provide transparent evidence for extra funding. We develop the ‘Cost-Effective Resource Allocator’, a Microsoft Excel-based decision support tool to assist natural resource managers and policy makers to prioritise the set of management strategies that maximise the total number of years that a suite of species are expected to persist given a budget constraint. We describe this tool using a case-study of four locally threatened species from the Australian Commonwealth National Park of Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. These include: a native fern (Pneumatopteris truncata), the Christmas Island Red Crab (Gecarcoidea natalis), the Golden Bosun (Phaethon lepturus fulvus), and Abbott’s Booby (Papasula abbotti). Under a hypothetical budget of 8,826,000 AUD over ten years, in which all species are considered equal, our tool recommends funding: fern propagation and planting, rat control, cat control, and Yellow Crazy Ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) survey and control. We found that the cost-effectiveness rankings of these strategies were sensitive to the importance that assessors’ assigned to different species. The ‘Cost-Effective Resource Allocator’ can accommodate input from up to eight assessors, and analyse a maximum of 50 management strategies for 30 species.
Ref: Di Fonzo, M.M.I., Nicol, S., Possingham, H. P., Flakus, S., West, J. G., Failing, L., Long, G., and Walshe, T. 2017. Cost-Effective Resource Allocator: A decision support tool for threatened species management. PARKS 23.1, 101-113, doi: 10.2305/IUCN.CH.2017.PARKS-23-1MMIDF.en
https://martinadifonzo.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/introducing-the-cost-effective-resource-allocator-a-free-tool-for-prioritising-management-actions/

UMelb Node: David Duncan returns to UMelb to work on Buloke restoration
David Duncan recently returned to Melbourne University for a one-year research fellowship with Peter Vesk on native vegetation management problems for NESP and CEED. On the NESP side he’ll be joining his efforts to the problem of restoring the nationally Endangered Buloke Woodland community in the Mallee Parks of north-west of Victoria, where there is a persistent and concerning lack of regeneration of the dominant structural species Buloke and Slender Pine. In his CEEDier moments he’ll be exploring broader decision problems of woody regeneration. David returned to Australia in January having spent 2015&16 lecturing and developing courses in statistics at the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja in Ecuador.
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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.

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

Dbytes #284 (19 April 2017)

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

“If you already consider climate change a pressing issue, you might not think carefully about the way you talk about it – regardless of how you discuss it, you already think of global warming as a problem. But the way we talk about climate change affects the way people think about it.”
Rose Hendricks; The Conversation, Communicating climate change: Focus on the framing, not just the facts
[and see item 4]


General News

1. (Vic) Biodiversity plan 2037
2. Tools and models to support sustainable development decisions in northern Australia
3. The Future of Conservation survey
4. Rapid and significant sea-level rise expected if global warming exceeds 2°C, with global variation
5. The Native Australian Animal Trust

EDG News

UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire and biodiversity
ANU Node: Mason Crane and colleagues on Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider in agricultural landscapes
RMIT node: Ascelin Gordon co-author on study on integrated species distribution models
UWA Node: Maksym Polyakov and colleagues on Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics
UQ Node: Stephanie Avery-Gomm helps produce the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference

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General News

1. Biodiversity plan 2037
Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 is Victoria’s plan to stop the decline of our native plants and animals and improve our natural environment so it is healthy, valued and actively cared for.
The Victorian Government has delivered on its commitment to develop Victoria’s biodiversity plan, Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037. Coupled with reviews of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) and native vegetation clearing regulations, the Plan will ensure that Victoria has a modern and effective approach to protecting and managing Victoria’s biodiversity.
https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-plan?mc_cid=378e6494af&mc_eid=a7fb2bf62c

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2. Tools and models to support sustainable development decisions in northern Australia
There is a lot of interest in developing northern Australia while also caring for its unique natural landscape. However, trying to decide how to develop and protect at the same time can be a challenge. A NESP Northern Hub project is supporting planning and development decisions across the north by comparing and contrasting available modelling and decision tools and helping potential users know what might work best for them. This research identified nine categories of models and assessed the suitability of each one for supporting different types of development decisions in northern Australia. Real-world case studies, many from northern Australia, show how these models have been used in the region. A decision tree was also developed to help practitioners in choosing the most appropriate model for their needs. This decision tree and other resources will be turned into an online tool to help researchers choose the best model for their needs. The wrap-up factsheet is available here, along with the full report and a stand-alone summary.
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3. The Future of Conservation survey

“There have long been debates regarding the future direction of biodiversity conservation, but these have tended to be dominated by a few powerful individuals.

This survey allows you to contribute your views, so that a broader range of voices can be taken into account. It will take just 15 minutes to complete, and at the end you will be presented with a graphical representation of your views and how they compare to others who have taken the survey. We hope that you enjoy the survey and encourage you to share your experience by asking others to take part!”

http://www.futureconservation.org/

[Editor’s note: unlike most surveys in which you never seem to find out what the survey uncovered until months or years later or never, this survey gives you an immediate classification –whether you are leaning more towards ‘new conservation’ vs ‘traditional conservation’ vs ‘market biocentrism’ vs ‘critical social science’ – and a comparison with other survey takers. Not surprisingly (after being ‘influenced’ by the thinking of the Environmental Decisions Group over several years), I ended up in the ‘new conservation camp’. Highly recommended survey.]

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4. Rapid and significant sea-level rise expected if global warming exceeds 2°C, with global variation

The world could experience the highest ever global sea-level rise in the history of human civilisation if global temperature rises exceed 2 °C, predicts a new study. Under current carbon-emission rates, this temperature rise will occur around the middle of this century, with damaging effects on coastal businesses and ecosystems, while also triggering major human migration from low-lying areas. Global sea-level rise will not be uniform, and will differ for different points of the globe.

Source: Jevrejeva, S., Jackson, L.P., Riva, R.E.M., Grinsted, A. and Moore, J.C. (2016). Coastal sea level rise with warming above 2 °C. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(47): 13342–13347. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1605312113.
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5. The Native Australian Animal Trust
The Native Australian Animal Trust established in 2017 will provide a way for people who are passionate about Australia’s wildlife and their environments to connect with and support the University of Melbourne’s research, teaching and engagement activities. The idea for the Trust came about after researchers found 20 new species of freshwater fish in the remote Kimberley region.
While the trust will support a wide range of activities, the first major initiative of the Trust will be to establish the ‘Award for Conservation Research into Northern Australian Animals and their Ecosystems’. The award’s aim is to understand more about the animals of northern Australia so as to better protect them. Small to medium-sized mammals in northern Australia are in rapid decline, and many other fish, animals and birds may suffer the same fate. There is clearly an opportunity to learn from the mistakes made in the south, to create better outcomes for the animals of the north.
http://biosciences.unimelb.edu.au/engage/native-australian-animals-trust#about
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EDG News

UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on fire and biodiversity
All around the world fire is profoundly influencing people, climate and ecosystems. Many plants and animals need fire for their survival, yet even in fire-prone areas, some species are sensitive to fire. How then, can a fire regime support the conservation of species with different requirements? A new paper by Luke Kelly in Science magazine shows how researchers and fire managers are confronting this challenge in a rapidly changing world.
Ref: Kelly, L.T., Brotons, L. (2017) Using fire to promote biodiversity. Science, 355, 1264-1265. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6331/1264

ANU Node: Mason Crane and colleagues on Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider in agricultural landscapes
Southern Squirrel Glider populations are genetically distinct and generally found in the agricultural landscapes inland of Australia’s Great Dividing Range. These populations are considered to be under greater threat of extinction than northern, coastal populations and face a unique set of environmental conditions and conservation challenges. For these reasons, we suggest that southern populations qualify as a separate evolutionarily significant unit to those from the northern, coastal segment of the range and should be managed separately. We summarize the species’ ecology specific to southern populations and relevant to management. We conduct a basic SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to highlight potential future management directions. From our review of new and existing ecological data and SWOT analysis, we outline ten points of action important for securing the future of southern Squirrel Glider populations.
Ref: Crane, M., Lindenmayer, D.B., and Banks, S.C. (2017). Conserving and restoring endangered southern populations of the Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) in agricultural landscapes. Ecological Management and Restoration, 18, 15-25. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/emr.12245/full

RMIT node: Ascelin Gordon co-author on study on integrated species distribution models
1. Two main sources of data for species distribution models (SDMs) are site-occupancy (SO) data from planned surveys, and presence-background (PB) data from opportunistic surveys and other sources. SO surveys give high quality data about presences and absences of the species in a particular area. However, due to their high cost, they often cover a smaller area relative to PB data, and are usually not representative of the geographic range of a species. In contrast, PB data is plentiful, covers a larger area, but is less reliable due to the lack of information on species absences, and is usually characterised by biased sampling. Here we present a new approach for species distribution modelling that integrates these two data types.
2. We have used an inhomogeneous Poisson point process as the basis for constructing an integrated SDM that fits both PB and SO data simultaneously. It is the first implementation of an Integrated SO–PB Model which uses repeated survey occupancy data and also incorporates detection probability.
3. The Integrated Model’s performance was evaluated, using simulated data and compared to approaches using PB or SO data alone. It was found to be superior, improving the predictions of species spatial distributions, even when SO data is sparse and collected in a limited area. The Integrated Model was also found effective when environmental covariates were significantly correlated. Our method was demonstrated with real SO and PB data for the Yellow-bellied glider (Petaurus australis) in south-eastern Australia, with the predictive performance of the Integrated Model again found to be superior.
4. PB models are known to produce biased estimates of species occupancy or abundance. The small sample size of SO datasets often results in poor out-of-sample predictions. Integrated models combine data from these two sources, providing superior predictions of species abundance compared to using either data source alone. Unlike conventional SDMs which have restrictive scale-dependence in their predictions, our Integrated Model is based on a point process model and has no such scale-dependency. It may be used for predictions of abundance at any spatial-scale while still maintaining the underlying relationship between abundance and area.
Integrated species distribution models: combining presence-background data and site-occupancy data with imperfect detection.
Refe: Koshkina, V., Wang, Y., Gordon, A., Dorazio, R. M., White, M. and Stone, L. (2017), Integrated species distribution models: combining presence-background data and site-occupancy data with imperfect detection. Methods Ecol Evol, 8: 420–430. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12738
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.12738/abstract

UWA Node:
Maksym Polyakov and colleagues on Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics
Environmental and Resource Economics is one of the premier journals in the field of environmental economics. It was established with an aspiration to focus more on applied and policy relevant research compared to other established journals, and to establish better channels of communication and collaboration between researchers from Europe and other parts of the world. We present a text based exploratory analysis of 1630 articles published in the Journal from 1991 to 2015 that suggests the Journal has been somewhat successful in meeting both these aims. Perhaps more importantly, it shows the Journal continues to progress toward these goals. The European authors are the largest contributors to the Journal, which is in contrast to other prominent journals (such as Journal of Environmental Economics and Management and Ecological Economics). And while most of the collaboration has occurred within this geographic region (e.g., European authors collaborated with other European authors more frequently), this trend appears to be changing as the proportion of articles written by international collaborators is gradually increasing. Topic analysis reveals that almost all of the articles could be grouped under applied and/or policy relevant topics, and almost two-thirds of the articles are empirical in nature, which suggest that the journal has been able to fulfil both of its commitments. We also investigate trends in research foci over the last 25 years and what kind of research gaps can be discerned.
Ref: Polyakov, M., Chalak, M., Iftekhar, M.S. et al. (2017). Authorship, Collaboration, Topics, and Research Gaps in Environmental and Resource Economics 1991–2015, Environmental and Resource Economics, 28th March 2017 online, 1-23. doi:10.1007/s10640-017-0147-2

UQ Node: Stephanie Avery-Gomm helps produce the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference
Last week saw the running of the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference (#WSTC3), staged over 3 days. It was a carbon friendly and free science communication event held exclusively on Twitter. Seabird researchers, conservationists and NGOs from all over the world shared their work in 6 tweets. There were over 125 presentations, grouped into 22 themed sessions and scheduled across all time zones. Stephanie Avery-Gomm was on the Organizing Committee and reports that the ‘audience’ of WSTC# was 3.5 million Twitter users (i.e., the number of users who could have seen the conference hashtag). Obviously, not all of those reached were seabird scientists, thus demonstrating the immense value of these conferences for communicating science to a broader audience. Stephanie will be discussing the virtues of virtual conferencing in an up and coming issue of Decision Point.

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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.

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

Dbytes #283 (5 April 2017)

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

“Giving nature legal rights means the law can see ‘nature’ as a legal person, thus creating rights that can then be enforced.”

Erin o’Donnell and Julia Talbot-Jones (see item 1)


General News

1. Three rivers are now legally people – but that’s just the start of looking after them
2. World Heritage Species
3. Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being
4. Harnessing nature’s bounty: strong outlook for Murray–Darling Basin environment
5. New plan to prevent exotic snakes as future pests

EDG News

UQ Node: Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on: Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning
UMelb Node:
Hannah Fraser on the value of virtual conferencing
ANU Node:
Sachiko Okada and colleagues on: How does a transforming landscape influence bird breeding success?
RMIT node:
Chris Ives and colleagues on capturing residents’ values for urban green space
UWA Node: Ram Pandit a co-author on valuing nature’s contributions to people: the IPBES approach

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General News

1. Three rivers are now legally people – but that’s just the start of looking after them
The Conversation, an editorial by Erin o’Donnell and Julia Talbot-Jones

In the space of a week, the world has gained three notable new legal persons: the Whanganui River in New Zealand, and the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers in India.

In New Zealand, the government passed legislation that recognised the Whanganui River catchment as a legal person. This significant legal reform emerged from the longstanding Treaty of Waitangi negotiations and is a way of formally acknowledging the special relationship local Māori have with the river.

In India, the Uttarakhand high court ruled that the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers have the same legal rights as a person, in response to the urgent need to reduce pollution in two rivers considered sacred in the Hindu religion.

https://theconversation.com/three-rivers-are-now-legally-people-but-thats-just-the-start-of-looking-after-them-74983?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitterbutton

[Editor’s note: And if a river can have ‘person’ rights, why not give species World Heritage protection; see the next item]

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2. World Heritage Species
A Conservation Bytes editorial

“Clearly our existing systems aren’t working, and just listing a species as threatened, or highlighting their uniqueness in nature documentaries, isn’t going to cut it. This could be just another public-relations tool in the conservation toolbox that might save a few of our most special species.”
Corey Bradshaw on the idea of declaring ‘World Heritage Species’ (See Conservation Bytes)

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3. Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being

Distributions of Earth’s species are changing at accelerating rates, increasingly driven by human mediated climate change. Such changes are already altering the composition of ecological communities, but beyond conservation of natural systems, how and why does this matter? We review evidence that climate-driven species redistribution at regional to global scales affects ecosystem functioning, human well-being, and the dynamics of climate change itself. Production of natural resources required for food security, patterns of disease transmission, and processes of carbon sequestration are all altered by changes in species distribution. Consideration of these effects of biodiversity redistribution is critical yet lacking in most mitigation and adaptation strategies, including the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Ref: Pecl, G. T., Araújo, M. B., Bell, J. D., Blanchard, J., Bonebrake, T. C., Chen, I.-C., . . . Williams, S. E. (2017). Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being. Science, 355(6332). doi: 10.1126/science.aai9214
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6332/eaai9214

The Guardian has also written a piece on the article:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/30/climate-change-global-reshuffle-of-wildlife-will-have-huge-impacts-on-humanity
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4. Harnessing nature’s bounty: strong outlook for Murray–Darling Basin environment

Forecasting released by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) today shows that active use of environmental water in the coming year will extend the benefits already emerging from the wet conditions experienced across much of the Murray–Darling Basin last spring. The MDBA head of environmental management, Carl Binning, said the best results for the environment would be achieved by using available water to extend the benefits of the 2016 flows and build on the current good conditions.

https://www.mdba.gov.au/media/mr/harnessing-natures-bounty-strong-outlook-murray-darling-basin-environment

The Basin environmental watering outlook 2017–18 is available at https://www.mdba.gov.au/publications/mdba-reports/basin-environmental-watering-outlook-2017-18

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5. New plan to prevent exotic snakes as future pests

A new National Incursion Response Plan for Terrestrial Snakes has been launched to provide important information and procedures that can be used by biosecurity specialists and professional snake handlers to respond to terrestrial snake incursions in Australia. The plan was developed through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre in consultation with the Invasive Animals and Plants Committee (IPAC) Vertebrate Pest Incursions Expert Group and the Australian and State and Territory Governments.

To reduce the risks posed by new and emerging vertebrate pests, Australia is committed to improving national incursion management and the development of this plan is part of the improvement process. The plan focuses on five of the 17 snake families present around the world that, if established in Australia, would have detrimental impacts on our environment, human health and agricultural industries.

http://www.canberraiq.com.au/downloads/2017-4-3-3.pdf
The National Incursions Response Plan for Terrestrial Snakes can be downloaded via PestSmart at www.pestsmart.org.au/national-incursion-response-plan-for-terrestrial-snakes

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EDG News

UQ Node: Moreno Di Marco and colleagues on: Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning
Range maps represent the geographic distribution of species, and they are commonly used to determine species coverage within protected areas and to find additional places needing protection. However, range maps are characterized by commission errors, where species are thought to be present in locations where they are not. When available, habitat suitability models can reduce commission errors in range maps, but these models are not always available. Adopting a coarse spatial resolution is often seen as an alternative approach for reducing the effect of commission errors, but this comes with poorly explored conservation trade-offs.
2.Here, we characterize these trade-offs by identifying scenarios of protected area expansion for the world’s threatened terrestrial mammals under different resolutions (10–200 km) and distribution data deriving from range maps and habitat suitability models.
3.We found that planning new protected areas using range maps results in an overestimation of the species protection level when compared with habitat suitability models (which are more closely related to species presence). This overestimation increases when more area is selected for protection and is higher when higher spatial resolutions are employed.
4.Adopting coarse resolutions reduced the overestimation of species protection and also halved the spatial incongruence between protected areas prioritized from range maps or habitat suitability models. However, this came at a very high cost, with an area of up to four times greater (12 M km2 vs. 3 M km2) needed to adequately protect all species.
5.Synthesis and applications. Our findings demonstrate that adopting coarse resolutions in protected area planning results in unsustainable increases in costs, with limited benefits in terms of reducing the effect of commission errors in species range maps. We recommend that, if some level of uncertainty is acceptable to practitioners, using range maps at resolutions of 20–30 km is the best compromise for reducing the effect of commission errors while maintaining cost-efficiency in conservation analyses.
Ref: Di Marco, M., Watson, J. E. M., Possingham, H. P. and Venter, O. (2017), Limitations and trade-offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning. J Appl Ecol, 54: 402–411. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12771
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12771/full

UMelb Node: Hannah Fraser on the value of virtual conferencing
“Ecologists and conservation researchers often research and express concern about climate change. These same researchers travel long distances to conferences contributing substantively to global carbon emissions that cause climate change. Many of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and most pressing conservation problems happen in the developing world but the financial cost of travelling to conferences means that many of these researchers are unable to communicate their research or learn from recent research at international conferences. Holding virtual conferences have the potential to overcome both problems: reducing researchers’ carbon footprint and increasing the accessibility of conferences from more poorly funded institutions such as those in developing countries.
https://hsfraser.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/publication-the-value-of-virtual-conferencing-for-ecology-and-conservation/

ANU Node: Sachiko Okada and colleagues on: How does a transforming landscape influence bird breeding success?
The conversion of agricultural landscapes to tree plantations is a major form of landscape transformation worldwide, but its effects on biodiversity, particularly key population processes like reproductive success, are poorly understood. We compared bird breeding success between woodland remnants surrounded by maturing stands of plantation Radiata Pine and a matched set of woodland remnants in semi-cleared grazing land. Our study was conducted in the Nanangroe region in south-eastern New South Wales, Australia. Using repeated field measurements, we quantified bird breeding success in 23 woodland remnants; 13 surrounded by Radiata Pine plantations and 10 on farms where remnants were surrounded by semi-cleared grazing land. We matched the attributes of native remnant patches between two types of matrix. We found that: (1) rates of nesting success of smaller-bodied birds in woodland remnants surrounded by grazing land were significantly higher than in woodland remnants surrounded by pine plantations; and (2) taxa with domed nests were more successful at nesting than species that constructed open cup/bowl nests in woodland remnants within farmlands.
Our findings suggest that bird breeding success in remnant woodland patches is significantly diminished as a result of the conversion of semi-cleared grazing land to pine plantations.
Ref: Okada, S., Lindenmayer, D.B., Wood, J.T., Crane, M.J., and Pierson, J.C. (2017). How does a transforming landscape influence bird breeding success? Landscape Ecology, doi:10.1007/s10980-017-0507-x.


RMIT node: Chris Ives and colleagues on capturing residents’ values for urban green space
Planning for green space is guided by standards and guidelines but there is currently little understanding of the variety of values people assign to green spaces or their determinants. Land use planners need to know what values are associated with different landscape characteristics and how value elicitation techniques can inform decisions. We designed a Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) study and surveyed residents of four urbanising suburbs in the Lower Hunter region of NSW, Australia. Participants assigned dots on maps to indicate places they associated with a typology of values (specific attributes or functions considered important) and negative qualities related to green spaces. The marker points were digitised and aggregated according to discrete park polygons for statistical analysis. People assigned a variety of values to green spaces (such as aesthetic value or social interaction value), which were related to landscape characteristics. Some variables (e.g. distance to water) were statistically associated with multiple open space values. Distance from place of residence however did not strongly influence value assignment after landscape configuration was accounted for. Value compatibility analysis revealed that some values co-occurred in park polygons more than others (e.g. nature value and health/therapeutic value). Results highlight the potential for PPGIS techniques to inform green space planning through the spatial representation of complex human-nature relationships. However, a number of potential pitfalls and challenges should be addressed. These include the non-random spatial arrangement of landscape features that can skew interpretation of results and the need to communicate clearly about theory that explains observed patterns.”
Ref: Christopher D. Ives, Cathy Oke, Ailish Hehir, Ascelin Gordon, Yan Wang, Sarah A. Bekessy, Capturing residents’ values for urban green space: Mapping, analysis and guidance for practice, Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 161, May 2017, Pages 32-43, ISSN 0169-2046, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.12.010.

UWA Node: Ram Pandit a co-author on valuing nature’s contributions to people: the IPBES approach
Perth: Nature is perceived and valued in starkly different and often conflicting ways. This paper presents the rationale for the inclusive valuation of nature’s contributions to people (NCP) in decision making, as well as broad methodological steps for doing so. While developed within the context of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), this approach is more widely applicable to initiatives at the knowledge–policy interface, which require a pluralistic approach to recognizing the diversity of values. We argue that transformative practices aiming at sustainable futures would benefit from embracing such diversity, which require recognizing and addressing power relationships across stakeholder groups that hold different values on human nature relations and NCP.
Ref: Unai Pascual, Patricia Balvanera et al. (2017). Valuing nature’s contributions to people: the IPBES approach, Science Direct, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 26: 7–16.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343517300040

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. 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 (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.

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

 

 

Dbytes #282 (30 March 2017)

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

“Supporting this mine would fly in the face of advice from experts who have collectively devoted over 1,200 years studying climate change, marine ecosystems and coral reefs”
Will Steffen and Lesley Hughes in a letter from the Climate Council to Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Board on the development of the Carmichael Coal Mine Rail Link. [And see item 3]

General News

1. MPA effectiveness relates three times more to staffing & resources than biological, geological or ecological factors.
2. Blogging for nature
3.
Why speak?
4. Submissions invited on the Review of Australia’s Climate Change Policies

5. Communicating climate extremes

EDG News

UWA Node: Predicting soil organic carbon in reforested lands
UQ news: What motivates ecological restoration
UMelb Node: Online graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling
ANU Node: Ben Scheele and colleagues on Niche Contractions in Declining Species
RMIT node: Florence Damiens and colleagues on: Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy (a response to Kareiva and Fuller, 2016)

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General News

1. MPA effectiveness relates three times more to staffing & resources than biological, geological or ecological factors.

Nature paper: Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally

Abstract: Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being used globally to conserve marine resources. However, whether many MPAs are being effectively and equitably managed, and how MPA management influences substantive outcomes remain unknown. We developed a global database of management and fish population data (433 and 218 MPAs, respectively) to assess: MPA management processes; the effects of MPAs on fish populations; and relationships between management processes and ecological effects. Here we report that many MPAs failed to meet thresholds for effective and equitable management processes, with widespread shortfalls in staff and financial resources. Although 71% of MPAs positively influenced fish populations, these conservation impacts were highly variable. Staff and budget capacity were the strongest predictors of conservation impact: MPAs with adequate staff capacity had ecological effects 2.9 times greater than MPAs with inadequate capacity. Thus, continued global expansion of MPAs without adequate investment in human and financial capacity is likely to lead to sub-optimal conservation outcomes
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature21708.html

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2. Blogging for nature
[Editor’s note: Geoff Park, long-term friend to the Environmental Decisions Group, runs Natural Newstead, a photo-based bird-blog documenting the bird life (and other natural history) around his place of residence in Newstead, central Victoria. If you haven’t seen it, check it out at https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/ Geoff has just written a story about the rise and rise of his blog in the Victorian Landcare Magazine. It’s a highly recommended read for anyone wanting their own natural-history blogging to change the world.]

“Two days before Christmas in 2008 I sat down and wrote my first blog post. It was called ‘A Walk in the Rise and Shine’: “Have just enjoyed a nice walk in the Rise and Shine Nature Conservation Reserve with one of our three boys, Joe. There was lots of bird activity with Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters, a family of White-browed Babblers, Dusky Woodswallows and a pair of Jacky Winters feeding a young fledgling. We also found active nests of Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters with at least one nest hung in the low foliage of a Long-leaf Box.

Little did I realise at the time that the blog, Natural Newstead, would become a minor personal obsession that is regarded with affection by readers from our local patch and around the world. With more than 2000 posts and nearly half a million page hits, Natural Newstead is now one of the top 100 birding web sites in the world…”

https://www.landcarevic.org.au/magazine-issues/summer-2017/blogging-for-nature/

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3. Why speak?
By Emma Johnston
“In an information free-for-all why should scientists bother to add their voice? In this commentary piece I argue there is an increasingly important role for scientists amongst the growing ranks of public intellectuals and the many who style themselves as such. First, we must become the sifters and sorters. We need to be willing to use our research and analytical skills to identify what is valuable amongst all the noise, and, if necessary, to volubly reject what is not. And, second, we need to create and defend the space everyone needs for deep thought and consideration. We need to influence ongoing debates by seeking to push them towards evidence-based arguments and areas of scientific consensus. To sift out the deliberately distracting stories and to counter fake news.”
Ref: Johnston, E. L. (2017). ‘Why speak?’. JCOM 16 (01), C02

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4. Submissions invited on the Review of Australia’s Climate Change Policies

The Department of the Environment and Energy has released a discussion paper on the review of Australia’s climate change policies. The discussion paper invites input from business and the community. It is open for public consultation until 5 May 2017. The discussion paper follows the Government’s commitment to review its climate change policies when it set Australia’s target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/review-climate-change-policies/discussion-paper-2017

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5. Communicating climate extremes

There is still widespread confusion about the linkages between human-induced climate change and extreme weather. In an article published in the World Meteorological Organization Bulletin, several simple guidelines for clear communication were proposed regarding extremes, including:
-lead with what we know, and save the caveats for later
-use metaphors to explain risk and probabilities
-avoid loaded language like ‘blame’
-use accessible language
-try to avoid language that creates a sense of hopelessness.

Ref: (Un)Natural Disasters: Communicating Linkages Between Extreme Events and Climate Change. (2016)
https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/bulletin/unnatural-disasters-communicating-linkages-between-extreme-events-and-climate
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EDG News

UWA Node: Predicting soil organic carbon in reforested lands
In a recent study of mixed species environmental plantings on agricultural land, Dr Mike Perring and his colleagues investigated the organic carbon content of soil collected at 117 paired sites from a range of climate types including Mediterranean, temperate and tropical regions across Australia. Soil samples were used to calibrate a soil carbon accounting model in a bid to better predict sequestration rates of atmospheric carbon in these kind of plantings.
Ref: Dinesh B. Madhavan, Jeff A. Baldock, Zoe J. Read, Simon C. Murphy, Shaun C. Cunningham, Michael P. Perring, Tim Herrmann, Tom Lewis, Timothy R. Cavagnaro, Jacqueline R. England, Keryn I. Paul, Christopher J. Weston, Thomas G. Baker, Rapid prediction of particulate, humus and resistant fractions of soil organic carbon in reforested lands using infrared spectroscopy, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 193, 15 May 2017, Pages 290-299, ISSN 0301-4797, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.02.013

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479717301172

UQ news: What motivates ecological restoration
“Ecological restoration projects are motivated by diverse environmental and social reasons. Motivations likely vary between stakeholders or regions, and influence the approach taken to plan, implement, and monitor restoration projects. We surveyed 307 people involved in the restoration of native vegetation across Australia to identify their underlying motivations. We also elicited information on planning, implementation, and monitoring of restoration projects. We found that biodiversity enhancement is the main motivation for undertaking restoration, with biodiversity offsetting, water quality improvements, and social reasons as important secondary motivations. Motivations varied significantly by stakeholder type and region. Restoration projects primarily motivated by ecosystem service provision (e.g. water quality improvements and social reasons) sought less pristine ecological outcomes than projects motivated by biodiversity enhancement or offsetting. Rigorous monitoring designs (e.g. quantitative, repeatable surveys, and use of performance indicators) were rarely used in restoration projects, except for projects motivated by scientific research. Better alignment of different restoration motivations with the planning and monitoring of restoration projects should deliver greater benefits through setting appropriate objectives and evaluating outcomes against these objectives. These improvements will increase the capacity of the restoration practice to meet international biodiversity commitments and communicate restoration outcomes to stakeholders.”
Ref: Hagger V, Dwyer J and Wilson K (2017). What motivates ecological restoration? Restoration Ecology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec.12503/full

UMelb Node: Online graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling
“Are you interested in modelling? Are you a graduate student, and your project involves studying species distributions? Or maybe you are a research professional or a manager wanting to expand your quantitative skills? Species distribution modelling is one of the most highly cited areas of ecological research. And it is not just about research; species distribution models are also very useful for supporting a wide range of environmental decisions. So why not learn more about them? We are pleased to announce that at the University of Melbourne we are running a graduate subject on Species Distribution Modelling, delivered entirely online. The subject runs this year from 24 July to 22 October, and it is offered to externals (with a cost) through the university’s Community Access Program (CAP). Through this program, you may choose to study in either assessed or non-assessed mode. The subject covers species distribution modelling from two different angles, ecophysiological models and correlative models (GLMs, Maxent, BRTs…), and consists of video lectures and guided computer practicals in R. The content emphasises an understanding of the problem, the data, and the model, and provides practical skills in fitting the models. The subject team includes Mike Kearney and Jane Elith, two internationally recognised experts in the field! Tempted? Get in touch if you are; we will be happy to answer your queries.
https://qaeco.com/2017/03/23/wanting-to-learn-species-distribution-modelling-consider-enrolling-in-our-online-subject/

ANU Node: Ben Scheele and colleagues on Niche Contractions in Declining Species
“A fundamental aim of conservation biology is to understand how species respond to threatening processes, with much research effort focused on identifying threats and quantifying spatial and temporal patterns of species decline. Here, we argue that threats often reduce the realized niche breadth of declining species because environmental, biotic, and evolutionary processes reduce or amplify threats, or because a species’ capacity to tolerate threats varies across niche space. Our ‘niche reduction hypothesis’ provides anew lens for understanding why species decline in some locations and not others. This perspective can improve management of declining species by identifying where to focus resources and which interventions are most likely to be effective in a given environment.”
Ref: Scheele B, Claire N.Foster, Sam C.Banks, and David B.Lindenmayer (2017).
Niche Contractions in Declining Species: Mechanisms and Consequences. TREE
http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(17)30049-6

RMIT node: Florence Damiens and colleagues on: Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy (a response to Kareiva and Fuller,2016)
“Kareiva and Fuller (2016) consider the future prospects for biodiversity conservation in the face of the profound disruptions of the Anthropocene. They argue that more flexible and entrepreneurial approaches to conservation are needed. While some of the approaches they promote may work in particular situations, we believe their proposal risks unintended and detrimental social and ecological consequences by presenting them as global solutions to complex political, economic, social and ethical problems that are context-dependent. Here we argue that the authors inadequately considers the following core issues of biodiversity conservation, namely: (1) the structural causes of biodiversity depletion and the responsibilities of key actors; (2) the questions around what should be conserved, the processes by which biodiversity is valued, and who has the legitimate authority to value it; (3) the fact that new tools, technologies and innovative approaches are unsuitable as guiding principles to solve complex, context-dependent social-ecological problems; (4) the challenges of choosing relevant interventions, given experts’ limited ability to ‘manage for change and evolution’; and (5) the risks associated with promoting a utilitarian approach and a neoliberal governance model for conservation at the global scale.”
Ref: Damiens, F. L. P., Mumaw, L., Backstrom, A., Bekessy, S. A., Coffey, B., Faulkner, R., Garrard, G. E., Hardy, M. J., Kusmanoff, A. M., Mata, L., Rickards, L., Selinske, M. J., Torabi, N. and Gordon, A. (2017), Why Politics and Context Matter in Conservation Policy. Glob Policy. doi:10.1111/1758-5899.12415
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1758-5899.12415/abstract


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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. 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 (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.

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

 

Dbytes #281 (23 March 2017)

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

“This is the most depressing paper I have ever been involved in!”
Maria Beger on the latest science on climate change and coral bleaching [see item 1]


General News

1. Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals – Nature

2. Government needs to front up billions, not millions, to save Australia’s threatened species

3. Issues paper: Action on the land: reducing emissions, conserving natural capital and improving farm profitability

4. Reframing the Food–Biodiversity Challenge

5. Measuring well being – happiness is on the wane in the US, UN global report finds

EDG News

RMIT Node: Luis Mata in panel discussion on: Has the lawn outlived its purpose?
UWA Node: Keren Raiter in campaign to formally recognise the Great Western Woodlands
UQ node: James Allen and colleagues on increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites
UMelb Node: Cindy Hauser on estimating detectability to address alien plant incursions
ANU Node: Booderee National Park shows what Sydney looked like before development

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General News

1. Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals – Nature

[Maria Beger’s message to CEED researchers:]

“As the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching again right now, the 16 March issue of Nature features an article about the 2016 severe bleaching. The research is led by Terry Hughes of James Cook University and the Australian Research Council’s Coral Reef Center of Excellence, and involved contributions from 45 co-authors including me.
What are the take-homes?

  • 2015-2016 saw record temperatures that triggered massive coral bleaching across the tropics.
  • The Great Barrier Reef has had three major bleaching episodes, in 1998, 2002 and 2016, with the latest being the most severe and with catastrophic levels of bleaching occurring in the northern part.
  • The amount of bleaching on individual reefs in 2016 was tightly linked to heat exposure.
  • Better water quality or reduced fishing pressure did not significantly reduce the severity of bleaching.
  • Past exposure to bleaching in 1998 and 2002 did not lessen the severity of the bleaching in 2016.

This is the most depressing paper I have ever been involved in! The paper can be accessed here: http://www.nature.com/articles/nature21707.epdf?author_access_token=4so7-Gu6CqUuB42UK6hKVtRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0NYcseJcueSDf5mFE1OHwy-cGaJ3e9TQ3xjkYQu2fRCG7IHQ9-sk_kPZwCW64dSYiRzZU5_nnJ112tNo5iNyXSn
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2. Government needs to front up billions, not millions, to save Australia’s threatened species
[An editorial in The Conversation by Don Driscoll, Bek Christensen and Euan Ritchie on the new Threatened Species Prospectus:
https://theconversation.com/government-needs-to-front-up-billions-not-millions-to-save-australias-threatened-species-74250]

Here’s an excerpt: “Over the past three years the federal government has invested A$210 million in threatened species. This annual investment of A$70 million each year is minuscule compared with the government’s revenue (0.017% of A$416.9 billion). It includes projects under the National Landcare Program, Green Army (much of which didn’t help threatened species) and the 20 Million Trees program.

The A$14 million that the prospectus hopes to raise is a near-negligible proportion of annual revenue (0.003%). Globally, the amount of money needed to prevent extinctions and recover threatened species is at least ten times more than what is being spent.

In Australia, A$40 million each year would prevent the loss of 45 mammals, birds and reptiles from the Kimberley region. The inescapable truth is that Australia’s conservation spend needs to be in the billions, not the current and grossly inadequate tens of millions, to reverse the disastrous state of the environment.

Can we afford it? The 2016 Defence White Paper outlines an expansion of Australia’s defence expenditure from A$32.4 billion in 2016-17 to A$58.7 billion by 2025, even though the appropriate level of investment is extremely uncertain. We are more certain that our biodiversity will continue to decline with current funding levels. Every State of the Environment report shows ongoing biodiversity loss at relatively stable, low-level funding.

And what will happen if industry won’t open its wallets? Will the government close the funding gap, or shrug its shoulders, hoping the delay between committing a species to extinction and the actual event will be long enough to avoid accountability?

In the past few years we’ve seen the extinction of the Christmas Island forest skink, the Christmas Island pipistrelle, and the Bramble Cay melomys with no public inquiry. Academics have been left to probe the causes, and there is no clear line of government responsibility or mechanism to provide enough funding to help prevent more extinctions.”

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3. Issues paper: Action on the land: reducing emissions, conserving natural capital and improving farm profitability

The Climate Change Authority has released an issues paper for consultation called Action on the land: reducing emissions, conserving natural capital and improving farm profitability.
The issues paper considers the following areas:
•the agriculture sector, its challenges and opportunities including improving productivity, climate change impacts and natural resource management (NRM)
•existing agricultural-related policies and programs
•measurement and reporting needed to design or evaluate programs aimed at coordinating NRM and emissions reduction initiatives
•options to involve the private sector in creating new markets for NRM outcomes and environmental services
•options for integrating emissions reductions, broader NRM outcomes and farm profitability through research and development.
Submissions can be made until 20 April 2017.
http://climatechangeauthority.gov.au/publications/action-land-reducing-emissions-conserving-natural-capital-and-improving-farm

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4. Reframing the Food–Biodiversity Challenge

Given the serious limitations of production-oriented frameworks, we offer here a new conceptual framework for how to analyze the nexus of food security and biodiversity conservation. We introduce four archetypes of social-ecological system states corresponding to win–win (e.g., agroecology), win–lose (e.g., intensive agriculture), lose–win (e.g., fortress conservation), and lose–lose (e.g., degraded landscapes) outcomes for food security and biodiversity conservation. Each archetype is shaped by characteristic external drivers, exhibits characteristic internal social-ecological features, and has characteristic feedbacks that maintain it. This framework shifts the emphasis from focusing on production only to considering social-ecological dynamics, and enables comparison among landscapes. Moreover, examining drivers and feedbacks facilitates the analysis of possible transitions between system states (e.g., from a lose–lose outcome to a more preferred outcome).

Ref: Joern Fischer, David J. Abson, Arvid Bergsten, Neil French Collier, Ine Dorresteijn, Jan Hanspach, Kristoffer Hylander, Jannik Schultner, Feyera Senbeta, Reframing the Food–Biodiversity Challenge, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Available online 9 March 2017, ISSN 0169-5347, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2017.02.009 .
And read Joern Fischer’s blog at https://ideas4sustainability.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/new-paper-a-fresh-perspective-on-food-and-biodiversity/

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5. Measuring well being – happiness is on the wane in the US, UN global report finds
[Guardian story recommended by Nick Abel]

Happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump’s policies forecast to deepen the country’s social crisis. The US has slipped to 14th place in the World Happiness Report 2017, produced by the United Nations. Norway knocked Denmark off the top spot as the world’s happiest country, with Iceland and Switzerland rounding out the top four. The next tier of countries are regular leaders in international happiness surveys: Finland is in fifth place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

The world’s “unhappiest” countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.

The UN report, which is based on Gallup polls of self-reported wellbeing as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom, this year has a special focus on the “story of reduced happiness” in the US. Although the US is ranked in 14th place in the UN report, released on Monday, other studies highlighted by the authors show how rapidly the country has slid down international rankings on wellbeing.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/norway-ousts-denmark-as-worlds-happiest-country-un-report?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=218173&subid=8186478&CMP=GT_US_collection

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EDG News

RMIT Node: Luis Mata in panel discussion on: Has the lawn outlived its purpose?

Radio National’s a Blueprint for living: The much maligned lawn can play an important role in our culture – including commemorating those killed in war – but what are the pros and cons in terms of the environment? A radio discussion between Prof Tim Entwistle and RMIT’s Luis Mata and Prof Paul Gough.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/blueprintforliving/lawns/8342076

UWA Node: Keren Raiter in campaign to formally recognise the Great Western Woodlands
The Great Western Woodlands (GWW) is the largest intact woodland left on Earth. It is vast, beautiful and unprotected. The Wilderness Society, with the help from local artists including Dr Keren Raiter have started a campaign for formal recognition of this special place. Recently at the GWW campaign launch, Keren presented her research about the enigmatic impacts of mining and linear infrastructure development in the GWW, including a poem she wrote about her experience doing field work in the GWW and the reflections on the magnificent Helena Aurora Range.
https://sustainingecology.com/2017/02/23/wildos-video/

UQ node: James Allen and colleagues on increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites
“We analysed changes in human pressure and forest loss across the entire global network of Natural World Heritage Sites over the last two decades. We found that human pressure is increasing and forest loss is occurring in the majority of sites worldwide, with a handful being highly damaged. The greatest increases in human pressure occurred in Asian sites, and the largest areas of forest were lost in the Americas. These findings are particularly concerning since Natural World Heritage Sites are the most outstanding and unique natural areas in the world. Any human damage or modification undermines their value.”
Ref: Allan, J.R. Venter, O. Maxwell, S. Bertzky, B. Jones, K. Shi, Y. and Watson J. 2017. Recent increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites. Biological Conservation.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320716310138

UMelb Node: Cindy Hauser on estimating detectability to address alien plant incursions
“I’ve contributed a small section to the recently published Detecting and Responding to Alien Plant Incursions. This volume addresses the full continuum of management from pre-border efforts through early detection to selecting management options and overarching governance. It’s a synthesis of the literature that will be of value to researchers. More importantly, it’s framed as guidance to the land managers and policy makers who are responsible for addressing these threats.

The break-out box that Joslin Moore and I were invited to write regards detectability, and how we can go about estimating it experimentally. This process calls on statistics and experimental design, tempered with biosecurity concerns and our desire to accurately simulate real survey conditions. Throughout, we’ve used examples from our hawkweed detection experiments to demonstrate how we’ve made these trade-offs ourselves. We were also able to include a couple of lovely photographs taken by Roger Cousens during our field work…”

https://cindyehauser.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/estimating-detectability-to-address-alien-plant-incursions/

ANU Node: Booderee National Park shows what Sydney looked like before development
David Lindenmayer and Chris MacGregor in ABC story on the importance of Booderee National Park:
“In many respects, this place is Sydney without all the development,” says Professor David Lindenmayer from the Australian National University.
“It [has] extraordinary cliffs, amazing heath vegetation, forest, an unbelievably exquisite bay, beautiful marine environments — except without the development.”
Professor Lindenmayer says Booderee looks the same as Sydney Cove’s natural heritage “before they added five million people to it”.
Just as in Sydney Cove, Professor Lindenmayer also stresses the extreme natural variance contained within the park…
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-17/booderee-national-park-how-sydney-would-look-without-development/8331360


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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. 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 (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.

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

 

 

Dbytes #280 (16 March 2017)

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

“a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence.”
Daniel Oppenheimer (in his classic paper ‘Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity’)

General News

1. Common Assessment Method for Threatened Species
2. Bridging science and traditional knowledge to assess cumulative impacts of stressors on ecosystem health
3. The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science
4. Review of governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
5. Why facts don’t change our minds

EDG News

ANU Node: Chris MacGregor and David Lindenmayer on a ‘bird with whiskers, a ‘flying koala’ and terrible Mr fox (Radio National Off Track)’
RMIT Node: Luis Mata coauthors paper on simple vegetation interventions in urban green spaces
UWA Node:
Michael Craig co-author on study on the consequences of post-mining restoration on the genetics of the Yellow-footed Antechinus
UQ node: Madeleine Stigner, Kiran Dhanjal-Adams and Richard Fuller reflect on beaches, dogs and shorebirds (contested spaces)
UMelb Node: Geoff Heard on 2016 herping in review

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General News

1. Common Assessment Method for Threatened Species
From DoEE: “In 2015 environment ministers agreed to introduce a Common Assessment Method for Threatened Species across Australia. The objective is to ensure consistency, with each species being assessed once and listed in the same threat category by relevant jurisdictions. This is a significant step towards achieving accurate and aligned lists of nationally threatened species. There has been progress with an intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding signed by six jurisdictions, the development of a policy framework, and work to resolve the misalignment of lists across the states, territories and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The initiative reached an important milestone in February. The Common Assessment Method was used for the first time by Western Australia and New South Wales to assess 16 species and these assessments are now available for public comment under the EPBC Act. These species include some of Australia’s unique and beautiful threatened flora and fauna like Caladenia hopperiana (Boddington spider orchid), Eremophila glabra subsp. chlorella (an emu bush) and Lerista lineata (Perth slider).
The Common Assessment Method, which is a target in the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Strategy, will have positive outcomes for both the conservation of species and for efficiency of regulatory processes, and is a great example of effective interjurisdictional collaboration.”

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2. Bridging science and traditional knowledge to assess cumulative impacts of stressors on ecosystem health
From the paper’s first author, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle: “In this paper we present a new ‘two-eyed seeing’ approach for co-producing and blending traditional knowledge (TK) and scientific knowledge (SK) to address key questions about ecosystem health when considerable uncertainty exists. TK is often ‘integrated’ with SK for sustaining natural resources, but may disadvantage Indigenous peoples and cause power imbalances between Indigenous knowledge systems and outside forces when attempting integration. Understanding how to bridge these knowledge systems rather than ‘integrating’ them remains a major gap in the practical application of adaptive and environmental co-management of socio-ecological systems research. We adapted a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) to a case study in the Slave River and Delta region of Canada’s Northwest Territories, to offer a way of bridging (without necessarily integrating) TK with SK to obtain both qualitative and quantitative assessments about system behavior. Using both TK and SK, the model output gave low probabilities that the social-ecological system is healthy. The BBN worked as a political power neutral method and offers a critical social-ecological tool for widening the evidence-base to more holistically understand the system dynamics of multiple environmental stressors in ecosystems. Such an approach can be achieved in other monitoring and research programs worldwide for improved conservation and resource management that transformatively draws from the wider normative framework of adaptive co-management in social-ecological systems.

Ref: Mantyka-Pringle, Chrystal S., Timothy D. Jardine, Lori Bradford, Lalita Bharadwaj, Andrew P. Kythreotis, Jennifer Fresque-Baxter, Erin Kelly et al. “Bridging science and traditional knowledge to assess cumulative impacts of stressors on ecosystem health.” Environment International (2017) DO1: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.02.008

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3. The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science
Each year the Australian Government honours Australia’s best scientists, innovators, and science teachers through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.
Prizes include:
$250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation
$50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (past winners include Kerrie Wilson and Jane Elith)
$50,000 Prize for New Innovators

Nominations close at 5 pm Canberra time, Wednesday 12 April 2017.
It’s simple to nominate in the first (shortlisting) stage, with an online form. If a nomination is shortlisted, further material will be required in the final stage.
For eligibility, selection criteria, nomination guidelines and forms, visit: www.business.gov.au/scienceprizes

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4. review of governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
The Australian Government is conducting a review of governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The Review will help ensure the institutions supporting the health and resilience of the Reef are strong and continue to evolve.

http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/frydenberg/media-releases/mr20170307a.html

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5. Why facts don’t change our minds
New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason. Story in the New Yorker

Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds

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EDG News

ANU Node: Chris MacGregor and David Lindenmayer on a ‘bird with whiskers, a ‘flying koala’ and terrible Mr fox (Radio National Off Track)’

Chris MacGregor and David Lindenmayer feature in the latest episode of Off Track on Radio National which visits Booderee National Park in NSW and discusses the importance of long term monitoring, eastern bristle birds, fox control and unexpected impacts on great gliders.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/offtrack/boooderee-one-segment/8317826


RMIT Node: Luis Mata coauthors paper on simple vegetation interventions in urban green spaces
“We found the probability of occupancy of most species examined was substantially reduced in urban green spaces with sparse understorey vegetation and few native plants. Our findings provide evidence that increasing understorey cover and native plantings in urban green spaces can improve biodiversity outcomes. Redressing the dominance of simplified and exotic vegetation present in urban landscapes with an increase in understorey vegetation volume and percentage of native vegetation will benefit a broad array of biodiversity.”
Ref: Threlfall CG, Mata L, Mackie J, Hahs AK, Stork NE, Williams NSG, Livesley SJ. (Online, 30 January 2017) Increasing biodiversity in urban green spaces through simple vegetation interventions. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12876
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12876/full

UWA Node: Michael Craig co-author on study on
the consequences of post-mining restoration on the genetics of the Yellow-footed Antechinus
A paper recently accepted in Restoration Ecology investigated the consequences of post-mining restoration on the genetics of a small marsupial, the Yellow-footed Antechinus (Antechinus flavipes). By sampling individuals in post-mining restoration and nearby unmined forest, the study found that the restoration did not provide a barrier to gene flow and that individuals in restoration were as genetically diverse as those in unmined forest. Considering the species starts to recolonise post-mining restoration ~4 years post-mining and reaches the abundance found in unmined forest after ~8 years, the result was not surprising but this is the first study to confirm that, in a post-mining restored landscape, population maintenance equates with the maintenance of genetic diversity in a vertebrate. However, the study did identify a lack of genetic diversity from past anthropogenic disturbances which indicates that management should ideally conducted be at a much larger spatial scale then where the restoration is located. This study highlights the importance of understanding the genetic consequences of restoration to ensure that sufficient diversity remains for adaptation of likely rapid future change.
Link to the paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec.12493/epdf.

UQ node: Madeleine Stigner, Kiran Dhanjal-Adams and Richard Fuller reflect on beaches, dogs and shorebirds (contested spaces)
In yesterday’s The Conversation:
“Head to a beach like Bondi on Christmas Day and you’ll share that space with more than 40,000 people. But we aren’t just jostling with each other for coveted beach space. Scuttling, waddling, hopping or flying away from beachgoers all around Australia are crabs, shorebirds, baby turtles, crocodiles, fairy penguins and even dingoes.
Beaches are home to an incredible array of animals, and sharing this busy space with people is critical to their survival. But, if we find it hard to share our beaches with each other, how can we possibly find space for nature on our beaches?”
https://theconversation.com/contested-spaces-saving-nature-when-our-beaches-have-gone-to-the-dogs-72078

UMelb Node: Geoff Heard on 2016 herping in review
Between 2013 and 2015, I was lucky enough to embark on an ecological odyssey to the UK. With backing from a Victorian Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, I set off for the University of York and spent a happy two years learning at the knee of Prof. Chris Thomas. Through daily chats with Chris, and the other great folk that called York’s J2 lab home, I gathered a sense of the incredible biodiversity data sets that UK ecologists have at their disposal. The British populace, I soon realised, are just as fanatical about collecting biodiversity data as they are about train spotting, building model aeroplanes and tracking down obscure antiques. From immense observational data sets, to comprehensive, statistically-rigorous monitoring programs, the Brits produce masses of species occurrence and abundance data every year. I was hugely impressed; not just with the British fervor for good, solid data, but the end products too – great ecological science and perhaps an unrivaled capacity to monitor the country’s biodiversity.
Returning to Australia, I had a new found sense of the importance of maintaining records of the species I see in my travels. Specifically, time-stamped occurrence data, the sorts of which are vital to producing species distribution maps and models, and which, in the long-term, can provide insights into population declines, range shifts or even invasions. I’ve been diligently keeping these records ever since, with annual uploads to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas and the Atlas of Living Australia…”

https://gwheardresearch.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/2016-herping/

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. 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 (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.

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

Dbytes #279 (9 March 2017)

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

“In the past 5 years (2011–16), environmental policies and management practices in Australia have achieved improvements in the state and trends of parts of the Australian environment. Australia’s built environment, natural and cultural heritage, and marine and Antarctic environments are generally in good condition.”
First para of exec summary of State of the Environment 2016
https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/overview

“The federal government needs to increase funding for conservation and environmental protection by at least 400 per cent if it is to reverse the dramatic decline of Australia’s wildlife, reefs and forests documented in the new national State of the Environment report.”
First para of ACF’s statement on SoE 2016
https://www.acf.org.au/state_of_environment_statement

[See item 1]

General News

1. State of the Environment 2016 released
2. New web-based tool to predict the impact of extreme heat on flying-fox camps.

3. Market-Based Incentives and Private Ownership of Wildlife to Remedy Shortfalls in Government Funding for Conservation
4. The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes
5. the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment 

EDG News

UMelb Node: Cindy Hauser on ‘Sally, Connor & volunteer teams are a triple threat for hawkweeds’
ANU Node: Martin Westgate and David Lindenmayer on the difficulties of systematic reviews
RMIT Node: Alex Kusmanoff has submitted his PhD
UWA Node:
Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems – a new database
UQ node: Nicki Shumway and colleagues say Australia needs a wake-up call over the GBR (in letter to Science)

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General News

1. State of the Environment 2016 released
Thanks to Megan Evans for providing the following links:

Website: https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/overview

WWF release: http://www.wwf.org.au/news/news/2017/state-of-the-environment-report-reveals-australias-53-million-hectare-gap-in-ecosystem-protection
Article in The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/five-yearly-environmental-stocktake-highlights-the-conflict-between-economy-and-nature-73964

Megan points out that there’s a lot of work by CEED and NESP researchers that has been cited in the Land and Biodiversity chapters (Martine Maron and Ayesha Tulloch to name just two).
Megan’s deforestation work is drawn on in the Land chapter (https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/land/topics), and the summarised data from her 2016 paper is available to download from here:
http://data.gov.au/dataset/2016-soe-land-amount-of-deforestation-by-type-and-decade-1972-2014-excludes-act
http://data.gov.au/dataset/2016-soe-land-pct-total-deforestation-decade-by-land-use-2005-06-land-tenure-as-of-1993
And Ayesha contributed information to several themes (Vegetation and Pressures) from a recent paper on the change in patch sizes of ecosystems across Australia. https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/biodiversity/topic/2016/terrestrial-ecosystems-and-communities

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2. New web-based tool to predict the impact of extreme heat on flying-fox camps. Recent heatwaves caused thousands of flying-fox deaths across southern and eastern Australia. With research showing that temperatures higher than 42°C can kill flying-foxes, researchers from Western Sydney University, the University of Melbourne, and the Bureau of Meteorology teamed up to develop the Flying-Fox Heat Stress Forecaster. The new tool forecasts heat stress risks up to 72 hours in advance. It highlights priority “hot sites” where flying-fox camps are at risk and provides hourly temperature profiles for affected camps. The tool is aimed at supporting wildlife carers, land managers and other stakeholders to cope with extreme heat events.

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3. Market-Based Incentives and Private Ownership of Wildlife to Remedy Shortfalls in Government Funding for Conservation
In some parts of the world, proprietorship, price incentives, and devolved responsibility for management, accompanied by effective regulation, have increased wildlife and protected habitats, particularly for iconic and valuable species. Elsewhere, market incentives are constrained by policies and laws, and in some places virtually prohibited. In Australia and New Zealand, micro economic reform has enhanced innovation and improved outcomes in many areas of the economy, but economic liberalism and competition are rarely applied to the management of wildlife. This policy perspective examines if commercial value and markets could attract private sector investment to compensate for Government underspend on biodiversity conservation. It proposes trials in which landholders, community groups, and investors would have a form of wildlife ownership by leasing animals on land outside protected areas. They would be able to acquire threatened species from locally overabundant populations, breed them, innovate, and assist further colonization/range expansion while making a profit from the increase. The role of government would be to regulate, as is appropriate in a mixed economy, rather than be the (sole) owner and manager of wildlife. Wide application of the trials would not answer all biodiversity-loss problems, but it could assist in the restoration of degraded habitat and connectivity

Ref: Wilson GR, Hayward MW and Wilson C (2016). Market-Based Incentives and Private Ownership of Wildlife to Remedy Shortfalls in Government Funding for Conservation. Conservation Letters. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12313/abstract

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4. The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes

Known as the ‘Oscars of Australian science,’ the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes celebrate research, science communication and journalism, leadership, and students. The Emerging Leader in Science award is specifically for an ECR within in 5 years of receiving their PhD, and you may also be eligible for one of the other discipline-specific awards. Nominations close Friday 5 May 2017. Finalists will be announced online on July 28, and winners at a gala dinner on August 30.
https://www.australianmuseum.net.au/eurekaprizes

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5. the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment

The ESA is delighted to partner with the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment in 2017. The Holsworth Endowment invites applications for post-graduate student research support in ecology, wildlife management and natural history studies. The first round of applications opens on 1 March.

Professor Don Driscoll, President of the Ecological Society of Australia, says the fund supports around 200 post-graduate students each year to conduct research in ecology, wildlife management, and natural history studies. ‘Individual grants of up to $22,500 for 3 years are available,’ says Professor Driscoll. ‘Applications are especially invited for postgraduate students doing field work on Australian native plants and animals, studies relating to the management of protected areas and rare or threatened species in Australia, and wildlife management relating to hunting, harvesting, pest control, and the effect of land management on native species.’

http://www.ecolsoc.org.au/endowments
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EDG News

UMelb Node: Cindy Hauser on ‘Sally, Connor & volunteer teams are a triple threat for hawkweeds’
“A year ago I posted about the formidable Hawkweed Eradication Program, which is primarily focused on the Alpine National Park of south-eastern Australia. All summer parks staff, private contractors and volunteers scour likely locations to weed out Hieracium species. Detector dogs Sally and Connor are now very much part of the action, too!
Last week we gathered in Falls Creek to evaluate Sally and Connor’s search skills in the Victorian environment. We sent them – plus a team of the High Plains’ proud volunteer searchers – to some specially selected plots where live hawkweeds were known to be hiding. The three search teams found almost all of those known plants, and additionally spotted several undocumented infestations!”
https://cindyehauser.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/sally-connor-volunteer-teams-are-a-triple-threat-for-hawkweeds/

ANU Node: Martin Westgate and David Lindenmayer on the difficulties of systematic reviews
The need for robust evidence to support conservation actions has driven the adoption of systematic approaches to research synthesis in ecology. However, applying systematic review to complex or open questions remains challenging, and this task is becoming more difficult as the quantity of scientific literature increases. Here, we draw on the science of linguistics for guidance as to why the process of identifying and sorting information during systematic review remains so labor-intensive, and to provide potential solutions. Several linguistic properties of peer-reviewed corpora – including non-random selection of review topics, ‘small world’ properties of semantic networks, and spatiotemporal variation in word meaning – greatly increase the effort needed to complete the systematic review process. Conversely, the resolution of these semantic complexities is a common motivation for so-called ‘narrative’ reviews, but this process is rarely enacted with the rigor applied during linguistic analysis. Therefore, linguistics provides a unifying framework for understanding some key challenges of systematic review. Where semantic complexity generates barriers to synthesis, ecologists should consider drawing on existing methods from linguistics and information management that provide models for mapping and resolving that complexity.
Ref: Westgate, M., and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2017). The difficulties of systematic reviews. Conservation Biology, doi:10.1111/cobi.12890.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12890/abstract?campaign=wolacceptedarticle

RMIT Node: Alex Kusmanoff has submitted his PhD
Alex’s PhD is entitled “Framing the Conservation Conversation: An investigation into framing techniques for communicating biodiversity conservation”. He is now completing a report for Parks Victoria, as well as some additional work with Georgia Garrard and and Sarah Bekessy on conservation messaging.

UWA Node: Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems – a new database
The online storage of data from published papers and the development of open access databases are increasingly becoming the norm in research. Open access online databases in particular, have the potential to answer big, broad questions relating to biodiversity and have likely arisen partly due to increasing loss of biodiversity during the Anthropocene. The value of these databases increases with the geographic and taxonomic spread of datasets included within them. Arguably the largest open access online database relating to biodiversity has just been made available and its value outlined in a recent publication in Ecology and Evolution. The PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) database contains more than 3.2 million records from 666 studies that were sampled at over 26,000 locations from all 14 of the world’s major biomes. These sampled sites span 94 of the world’s countries, including all 17 megadiverse countries, 281 of the 814 terrestrial ecoregions and 32 of Conservation International’s 35 biodiversity hotspots. Taxonomically, over 47,000 species are represented, including 29,737 animals, 15,545 plants, 1,759 fungi, and three protists, which is over 2% of described species.
Dr Michael Craig and Dr Melinda Moir contributed several datasets to PREDICTS with the intent to have widespread geographic and taxonomic coverage within the project. This should enable many big questions relating to biodiversity to be answered and many examples are provided in the paper. The plan is to continually add data to the database so that’s its value will increase over time.
The paper can be found here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.2579/abstract

Hudson et al. (2017) The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) project. Ecology and Evolution 7(1):145-188.

UQ node: Nicki Shumway and colleagues say Australia needs a wake-up call over the GBR (in letter to Science)
“Whether Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will be placed on the World Heritage ‘in danger’ list will likely be decided by July. Australia was given a conditional reprieve from an ‘in danger’ classification in 2015 to implement the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan. Soon after, in 2016, the largest climate-induced bleaching event on record caused at least 22% coral mortality in the Great Barrier Reef, which had already been listed in poor condition for the fifth year in a row and was suffering from ~50% loss of long-term coral cover.
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6328/918.1

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About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. 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 (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.

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