Dbytes #300 (17 August 2017)

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

“Cost-Benefit Analysis does not ask, “What is right for society as a whole?” but rather, “What would generate the greatest (net) benefit for individuals within society?” Only focusing on what generates the greatest net benefit for individuals, risks the crowding out of social goods, institutions and norms that support the environment, individual and community wellbeing.”
Stoeckl et al, 2018 [See item 4]

General News

1. LTERN to be shut down
2. Queensland tree clearing laws fail to pass Parliament in blow to minority Labor Government
3. The future value of ecosystem services: Global scenarios and national Implications
4. The Crowding Out of Complex Social Goods
5.
The role of social license in conservation

EDG News

UMelb Node: Anwar Hossain presents on vulnerability of freshwater crayfish at ICCB
UQ Node: Alienor Chauvenet wins Qld Young Tall Poppy Science Award
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer and colleagues speak out on the closure of LTERN
RMIT Node: The Victorian Biodiversity Conference 6th – 7th February 2018
UWA Node:
Ram Pandit in IPBES Assessments

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General News

1. LTERN to be shut down

“A body funded by Australia’s federal government plans to stop funding all 12 sites in Australia’s Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTERN), including the 8000-square-kilometer Simpson Desert site, at the end of this year. In a letter in today’s issue of Science, Wardle and 68 co-authors decry the decision as “totally out of step with international trends and national imperatives.”
Australia to ax support for long-term ecology sites; Science magazine
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/australia-ax-support-long-term-ecology-sites
[And see ANU Node news]

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2. Queensland tree clearing laws fail to pass Parliament in blow to minority Labor Government

The minority Palaszczuk Government has failed to get enough support from the crossbenchers to pass its toughened tree clearing laws, a defeat which it says will put the Great Barrier Reef at risk of losing its World Heritage listing.

The reforms would have reversed the onus of proof to require landholders to prove they had not illegally bulldozed their land. It was an election commitment after the former Liberal National Party relaxed the rules.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-19/queensland-parliament-tree-clearing-laws-fail-unesco-fears/7765214
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3. The future value of ecosystem services: Global scenarios and national Implications

Results show that the global value of ecosystem services can either decrease by USD $51 trillion/yr or increase by USD $30 trillion/yr, depending on which scenario we choose. The latter scenario adopts policies similar to those required to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which would greatly enhance ecosystem services, human wellbeing, and sustainability.

Ref: Ida Kubiszewski, Robert Costanza, Sharolyn Anderson, Paul Sutton, The future value of ecosystem services: Global scenarios and national implications, Ecosystem Services, Volume 26, 2017, Pages 289-301, ISSN 2212-0416, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.05.004
You can download the full paper here: http://www.idakub.com/academics/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017_J_Kubiszewski_ESscenarios.pdf

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4. The Crowding Out of Complex Social Goods

Simple individual goods (like apples apple) generate separable benefits that accrue to individuals. Complex social goods (like wedding feasts) generate inseparable benefits that accrue to society as a whole. Non-market valuation methods are adept at highlighting the importance of simple individual goods. Methods of ‘valuing’ complex social goods are less well developed. Asking only “what does most good for individuals?” we may erode the values we seek to protect. One also needs to ask “What does the most good for society?”.
Ref: Natalie Stoeckl, Christina Hicks, Marina Farr, Daniel Grainger, Michelle Esparon, Joseph Thomas, Silva Larson, The Crowding Out of Complex Social Goods, Ecological Economics, Volume 144, February 2018, Pages 65-72, ISSN 0921-8009, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.07.021

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5. The role of social license in conservation

“Threatened species programs need a social license to justify public funding” (Zander et al. 2014). Or do they? There is growing acceptance within conservation science that community support for and engagement in ecosystem management programs is likely to lead to better conservation outcomes (Marvier & Wong 2012). However, the language used to characterize relations between conservation and the community is important, and use of the term social license may not always be a useful way to describe this relationship. Since the mid-1990s, the term social license has been widely used in the mining sector to describe implicit acceptance and approval of a mining operation by the community in which it operates (Lacey & Lamont 2014). Other industries such as forestry, aquaculture, and agriculture have begun using the term in a similar way (Edwards & Trafford 2016; Ford & Williams 2016; Moffat et al. 2016). Now social license is beginning to appear in conservation discourse (e.g., Garnett et al., 2015; Oakes et al., 2015). At the same time, the use of social license in other sectors has been criticized (e.g., Owen & Kemp, 2013) because it frames relationships with communities as more singular, binary, and tangible than is feasible or desirable (Parsons & Moffat 2014). The use of social license in conservation needs critical evaluation, particularly given the broad contextual differences between conservation and industries such as mining.”
Ref: Kendal, D. and Ford, R. M. (in press), The role of social license in conservation. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12994
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12994/abstract

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EDG News

UMelb Node: Anwar Hossain presents on vulnerability of freshwater crayfish at ICCB
Anwar Hossain participated in the International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) held in Cartagena, Colombia during 23-27 July 2017. He presented a poster and a talk titled: Assessment of the vulnerability of freshwater crayfish to climate change.

UQ Node: Alienor Chauvenet wins Qld Young Tall Poppy Science Award
Dr Alienor Chauvenet, CEED postdoctoral fellow, was presented with a QLD Young Tall Poppy Science Award last week! The Young Tall Poppy Science awards are a campaign by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science. They recognise early career researchers who produce outstanding research and but also actively engage the community to better understand science. Alienor and the other recipients will work with school students and teachers in a community outreach program, to inspire the community and young people. Alienor citation reads her “research focuses on finding the most cost-efficient solutions to biodiversity conservation problems by developing statistical and computer models based on ecological data. She is at the interface of ecology, maths and social science, and contributes to safeguarding species for the future.”
http://ceed.edu.au/ceed-news/43-news-2017/456-dr-alienor-chauvenet-wins-qld-tall-poppy-award.html

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues speak out on the closure of LTERN
“Australia will lose its integrated long-term ecological research (LTER) network at the end of 2017 (1). The network comprises more than 1100 long-term field plots within temperate forests, rainforests, alpine grasslands, heathlands, deserts, and savannas, with an unparalleled temporal depth in biodiversity data. Its many achievements includ e Australia’s first published trend data for key ecosystems (2) and a suite of IUCN ecosystem risk assessments (3).
Lindenmayer et al. (2017). Science 11 Aug 2017: Vol. 357, Issue 6351, pp. 557
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4228
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6351/557.1

RMIT Node: The Victorian Biodiversity Conference 6th – 7th February 2018
After a successful inaugural Victorian Biodiversity Conference earlier this year, a group of motivated students and early career researchers from a wide range of Victorian Universities (RMIT, La Trobe, Monash, Federation, Charles Sturt, Melbourne, Deakin) have begun planning our next conference to be held early February 2018 at La Trobe University, Melbourne. This event aims to be a low cost and accessible conference to promote networking between graduate and postdoctoral researchers, as well as practitioners in government and NGOs working on research related to Victorian biodiversity. The conference will provide an important and rare opportunity for young researchers to hear from government, industry and non-governmental organisations, as well as foster inter-University interactions through a series of plenaries, invited talks, workshops and networking opportunities.
We are organising! Get your abstracts ready, and stay tuned for further updates!
Visit our website: https://www.vicbiocon.com

UWA Node: Ram Pandit in IPBES Assessments
Ram Pandit recently participated in the third author meetings of the two IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) Assessments. The first was on “Thematic Assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration” in Rome from 17-21 July and the second was on “Regional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Asia-Pacific” in Tokyo from 24-28 July. These assessments were initiated by IPBES in 2015 involving over 100 experts in each assessment from various countries and institutions who are collaborating to assess the evidence base on these themes to enhance the knowledge base for policies to address land degradation as well as to conserve biodiversity and improve provisions of ecosystem services. Both assessments have a focus on drivers and processes, status and trends, institutional, policy and governance arrangements, and scenarios and policy/decision support tools, which are divided into assessment chapters. These assessments have also given prominence to the concept of ‘value’ and the Indigenous and Local Knowledge systems. The final reports of these assessments will be presented at the 6th plenary of the IPBES in March 2018 for consideration. More info: Ram Pandit ram.pandit@uwa.edu.au

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

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

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

 

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Dbytes #299 (10 August 2017)

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

“The current level of resourcing of Australia’s climate modelling activity will not allow Australia to keep pace with world’s best practice…
This shortfall is brought into sharper focus when considering that Australia is potentially more exposed to the impacts of climate change than most developed nations, and our location means that key climate drivers in our region are not well represented in climate models developed in other countries.”

Australian Climate Science Capability Review, 2017 [see item 1]

General News

1. Australian Climate Science Capability Review
2. Fresh Science
3. Led up the Garden Path? Weeds, conservation rhetoric and environmental management

4. Threatened species – comments open for black cockatoos
5. First bioregional assessments released


EDG News

UWA Node: Evaluating CEED’s Impact: an evaluation workshop
UMelb Node:
Kylie Soanes on Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor – The Frankenstein postdoc
UQ Node:
Decision Point en Español launched at ICCB 2017
ANU Node:
David Lindenmayer and colleagues on the anatomy of a failed offset
RMIT Node:
Working with Parks Victoria on the biodiversity benefits of community environmental engagement programs

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General News

1. Australian Climate Science Capability Review
The Australian Academy of Science report recommends that government consider mechanisms to ensure better coordination of climate research across Australia’s universities and climate agencies. It also recommends increasing climate science capability in a number of critical areas, amounting to around 80 new research positions over the next four years.
https://www.science.org.au/news-and-events/news-and-media-releases/academy-releases-review-australias-climate-science-capability

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2. Fresh Science
Fresh Science is a national competition that helps early-career researchers find, and then share, their stories of discovery. Scientists get a day of media training and the chance to share their work with the media, general public and school students.

Nominations close midnight on Thursday 31 August. The training and events will be held from late October to early December

http://freshscience.org.au/
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3. Led up the Garden Path? Weeds, conservation rhetoric and environmental management
Garden plants have become a target in conservation science discourse, particularly the notion that they ‘jump the garden fence’ to become weeds. This paper synthesises findings of a suite of projects exploring the ‘culture of weeds’ through different disciplinary lenses. Together they agree that while home gardens sometimes contain plants known to be environmental weeds, gardens may not always be the vector for their spread into nearby bushland. Many plants attributed to gardens, in fact, originate in agriculture. The metaphor ‘jumping the garden fence’ obscures the complex pathways that underpin the spread of weeds. Weeding is an important part of both gardening and caring for bushland. Historically, we have been weeding the bush for a long time, and it is an important human activity. If it is industrialised, as it has been in agriculture, through broad-scale chemical and mechanical processes, it may be less valuable to both the bush and the people who care for it. A closer scrutiny of the military metaphors associated with enemy weeds may enable a different sort of weeding and different relations with the bush in Australia. It may even be that we need to garden the bush to get the wilderness we desire.

Ref: Kendal, Dave, Libby Robin, Anna Wilson, Cameron Muir, Lilian M. Pearce, Sharon Willoughby, Ian Lunt, ‘Led up the Garden Path? Weeds, conservation rhetoric and environmental management’, Australasian Journal of Environmental Management. 24:3, 228-241, DOI: 10.1080/14486563.2017.1300954
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14486563.2017.1300954

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4. Threatened species – comments open for black cockatoos

The Department of the Environment and Energy is seeking comments on the draft revised referral guidelines for the three threatened black cockatoo species: Carnaby’s Cockatoo, Baudin’s Cockatoo, and Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. The consultation period is open until 5 September 2017.
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5. First bioregional assessments released
The Department of the Environment and Energy has released reports that assess how new and potential coal mines and coal seam gas projects could affect water resources and the environmental and economic assets that depend on them in the Maranoa-Balonne-Condamine and Clarence-Moreton regions. These are the first major assessments from the Bioregional Assessment Program that began in 2012.

http://www.bioregionalassessments.gov.au/factsheets

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EDG News

UWA Node: Evaluating CEED’s Impact: an evaluation workshop
David Pannell (UWA) and Kerrie Wilson (UQ) recently hosted a workshop in Perth to examine the impact that CEED-funded research has had, and continues to have, on our world. Whilst the academic impact can be measured using various metric data, it’s the real world impact (or the knowledge transfer and application) that is difficult to measure in enabling a fair evaluation of CEED’s impact. CEED has conducted 89 research projects, and 58 of these engaged over 100 end-users and stakeholders based in government or industry positions. These professionals are currently being interviewed to gain their perspective, views, and other forms of evidence to support CEED’s claims of impact. Ideas being explored include the adoption of CEED inspired terminology, a change in mindset within an organisation in terms of raising awareness of environmental decision making tools, methods and approaches, and the extent that CEED research has contributed to policy change, the prioritisation of funding or the establishment of programs. There is very little published work on how to evaluate the impact of environmental science research, and we hope our work evaluating CEED’s impact will demonstrate a process and contribute to a better understanding of the various drivers at play. Watch this space for an upcoming paper!
More info: Tammie Harold tamara.harold@uwa.edu.au

UMelb Node: Kylie Soanes on Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor – The Frankenstein postdoc
When Kylie Soanes bounced out of her graduation ceremony with a newly-minted PhD, she thought she knew what she was in for. She expected to have to work really, really hard. What she didn’t expect was how hard it would be just to get the opportunity to work hard, or how much of this work would be done for free.
Kylie: “I did something kind of risky recently. I wrote a blog post about my inability to handle the academic job market. Then I published it, and I asked the world to read it. Peers. Strangers. Potential future employers (well, probably not anymore). Everybody. Now of course, most of the world did not read it. I suppose they were busy. But still many did, and the response surprised me. See, I figured I was in the minority – that my story of being an early career scientist who struggles to land a full-time job, spends months unemployed or scrounging for casual contracts, and was left wracked with self-doubt, was unique. I never for a second imagined that it would resonate so strongly with so many others. Far from the exception, this story seems much closer to the rule for early career researchers, both in Australia and abroad.”
Listen or read the whole transcript at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/the-frankenstein-postdoc/8773886#transcript

UQ Node: Decision Point en Español launched at ICCB 2017
“We’ve just launched our third issue of Decision Point en Español at the ICCB 2017 conference in Colombia. Decision Point en Español is our Spanish-language edition of Decision Point magazine. The third issue in the series was released this July to coincide with the International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) 2017 conference in Catagena, Colombia. CEED researchers held a workshop, ‘Bridging the gap between conservation science and practice in the Spanish speaking world’, to introduce the series and discuss its future direction. CEED Director Prof Kerrie Wilson officially launched the issue, and was joined by CEED researchers and Decision Point en Español editors Eduardo Gallo Cajiao and Duan Biggs. The audience hailed from many different countries including Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Colombia. Decision Point en Español was very well received, with many conservation researchers keen to subscribe and contribute articles. Copies of the latest issue were given to NGO staff, academics, and staff from government agencies.
http://ceed.edu.au/ceed-news/43-news-2017/451-decision-point-en-espanol-launched-at-iccb-2017.html

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on the anatomy of a failed offset
Biodiversity offsetting is widely applied but its effectiveness is rarely assessed. We evaluated a nest box program intended to offset clearing of hollow-bearing trees. The offset targeted 3 threatened species but low rates of nest box use were observed. The offset program did not counterbalance the loss of hollow-bearing trees. We suggest improving future offset programs with greater compliance and offset ratios.
Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Crane, M., Evans, M.C., Maron, M., Gibbons, P., Bekessy, S. and Blanchard, W. (2017). The anatomy of a failed offset. Biological Conservation, 210, 286-292. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000632071730349X

RMIT Node: Working with Parks Victoria on the biodiversity benefits of community environmental engagement programs
On Monday 7 August, Sarah Bekessy, Alex Kusmanoff and Georgia Garrard ran a workshop for Parks Victoria, focussed on understanding and planning for the biodiversity benefits of community environmental engagement programs. The workshop followed from a literature review in which we sought to understand how community environmental engagement and education programs might contribute to biodiversity benefits, either directly, through hands-on activities such as planting, weeding and monitoring, or indirectly, as a result of participant behaviour change outside of the programs. Stay tuned for a publication!

About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

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

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

 

Dbytes #298 (3 August 2017)

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

“February to June 2016 recorded the highest sea surface water temperatures on the Reef since record keeping began in 1900. Globally the year 2016 was also the hottest year on record… The 2016 and 2017 bleaching events may be unprecedented in human history, but they are in line with predictions.”
Excerpts from the Independent Expert Panel’s advice to Government on coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef (see item 1).

General News

1. Advice on responding to mass coral bleaching of the GBR – Independent Expert Panel
2. Who are you calling ‘anti-science’? How science serves social and political agendas
3. Consultation on the National Cities Performance Framework Interim Report
4. Beyond the Aichi Targets
5. How Critical Are Big Parks?

EDG News

RMIT Node: RMITers present at the International Congress for Conservation Biology
UWA Node: Greenhouse gas abatement on southern Australian grains farms: Biophysical potential and financial
UMelb Node: Is there truly “no saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide”?
UQ Node: Tax Shifting and Incentives for Biodiversity Conservation on Private Lands
ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues respond to criticisms on their paper on ‘do not publish’

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General News

1. Advice on responding to mass coral bleaching of the GBR – Independent Expert Panel
At the request of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum, the Reef 2050 Plan Independent Expert Panel met in Brisbane on 5 May 2017 to develop advice on protection and restoration of the Reef considering the widespread coral bleaching in both 2016 and 2017. The key outcomes of the workshop are described in this report.

http://www.smh.com.au/cqstatic/gxnhwk/gbrexpertpanel.pdf

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2. Who are you calling ‘anti-science’? How science serves social and political agendas
Conversation editorial by Darrin Durant
From climate change to vaccination, genetic modification and energy security, anti-science is used as a critical phrase implying a person or group is rejecting science outright. But it’s not that simple. All shades of political positions are routinely ambivalent about science. Neither the right or left arms of politics are consistent supporters or attackers of science.
https://theconversation.com/who-are-you-calling-anti-science-how-science-serves-social-and-political-agendas-74755

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3. Consultation on the National Cities Performance Framework Interim Report
The National Cities Performance Framework will measure the performance of Australia’s largest cities to support all governments to better target, monitor and evaluate cities policy. It will bring together critical data in an easily accessible online format. In one location, you will be able to track the performance of cities across key measures: jobs and skills; infrastructure and investment; liveability and sustainability; innovation and digital opportunities; governance, planning and regulation; and housing. The National Cities Performance Framework Interim Report has been released and is open for consultation until 18 August 2017.
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4. Beyond the Aichi Targets
The IUCN WCPA Beyond the Aichi Targets Task Force will assist parties to the CBD to consider what the goals should be beyond 2020.

https://www.iucn.org/protected-areas/wcpa/what-we-do/beyond-aichi-targets

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5. How Critical Are Big Parks?
Jeremy Hance, a leading environmental journalist, argues that we can make major strides for conservation by making our protected areas bigger: Most of the world’s protected areas are too small to maintain nature — at least in all its spectacular diversity and complexity. A study last year, for example, found that 40 percent of parks in snow leopard territory are too tiny to support even one breeding pair of the big cats. Other research is showing that many small parks don’t sustain viable populations of rare species, protect the most vulnerable species, or maintain valuable ecosystem services — and are likely to suffer heavily with major climate change…
http://alert-conservation.org/issues-research-highlights/2017/7/27/do-we-need-bigger-parks

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EDG News

RMIT Node: RMITers present at the International Congress for Conservation Biology
Sarah Bekessy, Matthew Selinske, Isaac Peterson and Mat Hardy each presented at ICCB in Colombia in July:
Mat presented part of his PhD research “Comparing acquisition strategies for private land conservation revolving funds” in the symposium “Land acquisitions for conservation: reconciling plans with empirical reality”
Sarah presented some recent work on “The role of message framing in delivering effective threatened species conservation programs” in the symposium on “Lost in translation: Navigating complex policy processes to deliver conservation outcomes”
Isaac presented some recent work on “Offset counterfactuals in an uncertain future: An impact assessments framework” in the session on Impact Evaluation.
Matthew organised the lunchtime workshop “A manifesto for predictive conservation” and presented some of his PhD research; and
Matthew and Isaac presented some work on “Red listing human behaviors that impact global biodiversity” in the symposium “The impact of earth’s changing human footprint on biodiversity and humanity”

UWA Node: Greenhouse gas abatement on southern Australian grains farms: Biophysical potential and financial

The agricultural sector generates a substantial proportion of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Changes to agricultural practices can provide GHG abatement by maintaining or increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) stored in soils or vegetation, or by decreasing N2O emissions. However, it can be difficult to identify practices that achieve net abatement because practices that increase SOC stocks may also increase N2O emissions from the soil. This study simulated the net on-farm GHG abatement and gross margins for a range of management scenarios on two grain farms from the western and southern grain growing regions of Australia using the Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) model. The soils and practices selected for the study were typical of these regions. Increased cropping intensity consistently provided emissions reductions for all site-soil combinations. The practice of replacing uncropped or unmanaged pasture fallows with a winter legume crop was the only one of nine scenarios to decrease GHG emissions and increase gross margins relative to baseline practice at both locations over the 100-year simulation period. The greatest abatement was obtained by combining this practice with an additional summer legume crop grown for a short period as green manure. However, adding the summer legume decreased farm gross margins because the summer crop used soil moisture otherwise available to the following cash crop, thus reducing yield and revenue. Annual N2O emissions from the soil were an order of magnitude lower from sandy-well-drained soils at the Western Australian location (Dalwallinu) than at the other location (Wimmera) with clay soil, highlighting the importance of interactions between climate and soil properties in determining appropriate GHG abatement practices. Thus, greatest abatement at Dalwallinu was obtained from maintaining or increasing SOC, but managing both N2O emissions and SOC storage were important for providing abatement at Wimmera.
Ref: Meier, E., Thorburn, P., Kragt, M., Dumbrell, N., Biggs, S., Hoyle, F. and Rees, H(2017). Greenhouse gas abatement on southern Australian grains farms: Biophysical potential and financial. Agricultural Systems,Volume 155, July 2017, Pages 147-157. DOI information: 10.1016/j.agsy.2017.04.012
https://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S0308521X16301913

UMelb Node: Is there truly “no saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide”?
“In a recent reading group Hannah Fraser brought a paper reflecting a synergy between QAECO interests and her current role in the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis. This paper by Seebens et al. (2017) “No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide” evaluates the trends in the introduction of alien species from 1800 to 2000. They have three hypotheses:
1. The rate at which taxa that are deliberately introduced (mammals, birds and vascular plants) should be declining
2. The rate at which taxa are accidentally introduced should be increasing due to increases in trade
3. The rates of alien species introductions should vary between countries depending on country’s history and biosecurity regulations
They show that, overall, the rate of introductions is increasing and that this increase is particularly stark for algae, fungi and invertebrates which are thought to be primarily introduced by accident. They note that the rate of mammal and fish introduction has declined in recent years, possibly consistent with their hypothesis that the rate of deliberate introductions is falling.
https://qaeco.com/2017/05/16/is-there-truly-no-saturation-in-the-accumulation-of-alien-species-worldwide/#more-4422

UQ Node: Tax Shifting and Incentives for Biodiversity Conservation on Private Lands
Some of the most imperilled and bio-diverse regions of Canada, the coastal regions of Southwestern British Columbia, support many species at risk. Yet, with over 80% of these imperilled lands in private hands, it has become impractical to simply buy land for conservation given that $360 million or more is likely needed to meet even minimum international conservation targets in this relatively small region. In a new Conservation Letters paper we explored a novel ‘tax-shifting’ approach to conservation on private lands that would offer incentives to private land owners to maintain or enhance biodiversity and maximize the efficiency of conservation investments. Our findings suggest that modest shifts in tax policies may offer an efficient route to conserving species at risk in highly populated biodiversity hotspots.
Ref: Schuster, R., Law, E. A., Rodewald, A. D., Martin, T. G., Wilson, K. A., Watts, M., Possingham, H. P. and Arcese, P. (2017), Tax Shifting and Incentives for Biodiversity Conservation on Private Lands. CONSERVATION LETTERS. doi:10.1111/conl.12377
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12377/abstract

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues respond to criticisms on their paper on ‘do not publish’
“In our Perspective, we outlined the increasing threat posed by unrestricted access to location information for rare and endangered species. The situation is dire, and evidence shows that the publication of location records can put species at risk. Lowe et al. claim that policies are in place to keep sensitive species location data secure. However, despite laudable efforts, such policies have clearly not translated into effective protection, even in wealthy nations…”
Ref: David Lindenmayer, Glenn Ehmke, Ben Scheele (2017). Publish openly but responsibly—Response. Science 14 Jul 2017: Vol. 357, Issue 6347, pp. 142
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0454
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6347/142.1


About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

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

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

 

Dbytes #297 (27 July 2017)

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

“We seem to have forgotten the dire state of the environment that drove the [Murray-Darling Basin water] reforms. Forests of river red gums, black box eucalypts and coolibah trees dead, denied the water flows they relied on by irrigation. Waterbird numbers have plummeted, half the native fish species are now threatened, blue-green algal blooms are increasing, and the Lower Lakes was once taken over by sulfuric acid and salinity.”
Richard Kingsford in The Environment Report

General News

1. Marine Park draft management plans released: now open for comment

2. Comments open on draft recovery plans for central rock-rat, Macquarie perch and Swan Coastal Plain ecological community

3. Graphics for conservation

4. The interdisciplinary mix you need for evidence-informed policymaking

5. Australian Indigenous Water Policy and the impacts of the ever-changing political cycle

EDG News

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on countering resistance to protected area extension
RMIT Node:
Mat Hardy and colleagues on factors influencing property selection for conservation revolving funds
UWA Node: Isolation predicts compositional change after discrete disturbances in a global meta-study
UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on wildfires are raging in the Mediterranean. What can we learn?
UQ Node: Truly Santika and colleagues on Bornean orangutans in decline despite conservation efforts

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General News

1. Marine Park draft management plans released: now open for comment

The Director of National Parks Sally Barnes has released five draft plans to manage 44 Australian Marine Parks over the next 10 years. You can have your say on how Australian Marine Parks will be managed into the future. The draft plans can be found here. The draft management plans are open for comment until 20 September 2017. More information about Australia’s marine parks – which now cover more than 3.3 million square kilometres of ocean – can be found in the Director of National Parks’ media release and Minister’s media release. The Federal Government has committed $56.1 million over four years to fund the management of Australian Marine Parks.

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2. Comments open on draft recovery plans for central rock-rat, Macquarie perch and Swan Coastal Plain ecological community

A draft recovery plan for the central rock-rat – one of 20 priority mammals in the Threatened Species Strategy – is now out for comment. Have your say by 8 September 2017. Recovery plans for the Clay pans of the Swan Coastal Plain ecological community and the Macquarie perch are also open for comment, by 1 September 2017. Recovery plans set out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, listed threatened species or threatened ecological communities. The aim of a recovery plan is to maximise the long term survival in the wild of a threatened species or ecological community.
http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery-plans/comment

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3. Graphics for conservation
The use of maps and other figures to present data, findings and related information—to help tell a story—is an integral part of writing for conservation and related sciences. A well designed illustration presents information in a way that text cannot. Many authors struggle, however, to prepare publication quality graphics that do justice to their research and conservation work. Graphics for Conservation provides guidance on designing maps and data plots, advice on the wise use of graphics formats, and screencast demonstrations to help with drafting beautiful figures.

http://scalar.usc.edu/works/graphics-for-conservation/introduction?path=index

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4. The interdisciplinary mix you need for evidence-informed policymaking

An article in The Mandarin (and associated research paper) argues that breaking down the walls between different academic disciplines could enhance our understanding of why research evidence does − or doesn’t − make it into policy.
http://www.themandarin.com.au/80801-interdisciplinary-mix-need-evidence-informed-policymaking/


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5. Australian Indigenous Water Policy and the impacts of the ever-changing political cycle
[Editor’s note: another dimension on water-use trade-offs]
First Peoples are leading the conversation about Indigenous water rights policy in Australia. This paper reviews contemporary Aboriginal water policy and initiatives. We examine the ever-changing cycles of government action and inaction, and First Peoples’ responses. Three case studies: Strategic Indigenous Reserves in the Northern Territory, the First Peoples’ Water Engagement Council and the Fitzroy River Declaration illustrate: (1) First People’s expressions of the right to self-determination in relation to water; (2) First Peoples’ contributions to integrated water resource management principles and water governance in Australia; and (3) that State/Commonwealth Aboriginal water initiatives are often discontinued when elected government changes, and rarely given strength through legislation. We finish the review with policy recommendations that underline the need to ‘break the cycle’ of inconsistent government initiatives.
Ref: Katherine Selena Taylor, Bradley J. Moggridge & Anne Poelina (2017). Australian Indigenous Water Policy and the impacts of the ever-changing political cycle. Australasian Journal of Water Resources.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13241583.2017.1348887

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EDG News

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on countering resistance to protected area extension
The establishment of protected areas is a critical strategy for conserving biodiversity. Key policy directives like the Aichi targets seek to expand protected areas to 17% of the earth’s land surface, with calls by some conservation biologists for much more. However, in places such as the USA, Germany and Australia, attempts to increase protected areas are meeting strong resistance from communities, industry groups, and governments. Here we provide case studies of such resistance and suggest four ways to tackle this problem: (1) Broaden the case for protected areas beyond just nature conservation, to include the economic, human health, and other benefits, and translate these into a persuasive business case for protected areas. (2) Better communicate the conservation values of protected areas. This should include highlighting how many species, communities, and ecosystems have been conserved by protected areas and also the counterfactual – what would have been lost without protected area establishment. (3) Consider zoning of activities to ensure the maintenance of effective management. And, (4) Remind citizens to think about conservation when they vote, including holding politicians accountable for their environmental promises. Without tackling resistance to expanding the protected estate, it will be impossible to reach conservation targets and this will undermine attempts to stem the global extinction crisis.
Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Thorn, S., and Noss, R. (2017). Countering resistance to protected area extension. Conservation Biology, doi:10.1111/cobi.12990. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12990/pdf

RMIT Node: Mat Hardy and colleagues on factors influencing property selection for conservation revolving funds
Finding sustainable ways to increase the amount of private land protected for biodiversity is a challenge for many conservation organizations. In a number of countries, organizations use ‘revolving fund’ programs, whereby land is purchased, and then on-sold to conservation-minded owners with a condition to enter into a conservation covenant or easement. The proceeds from sale are then used to purchase, protect and on-sell additional properties, incrementally increasing the amount of protected private land. As the effectiveness of this approach relies upon selecting the right properties, we sought to explore the factors currently considered by practitioners and how these are integrated into decision-making. We conducted exploratory, semi-structured interviews with managers from each of the five major revolving funds in Australia. Responses suggest that whilst conservation factors are important, financial and social factors are also highly influential, with a major determinant being whether the property can be on-sold within a reasonable timeframe, and at a price that replenishes the fund. To facilitate the on-sale process, often selected properties include the potential for the construction of a dwelling. Practitioners are faced with clear trade-offs between conservation, financial, amenity and other factors in selecting properties; and three main potential risks: difficulty recovering the costs of acquisition, protection, and resale; difficulty on-selling the property; and difficulty meeting conservation goals. Our findings suggest that the complexity of these decisions may be limiting revolving fund effectiveness. We draw from participant responses to identify potential strategies to mitigate the risks identified, and suggest that managers could benefit from a shared learning and adaptive approach to property selection given the commonalities between programs. Understanding how practitioners are dealing with complex decisions in the implementation of revolving funds helps to identify future research to improve the performance of this conservation tool.
Ref: Hardy, M. J., Fitzsimons, J. A., Bekessy, S. A. and Gordon, A. (2017), Factors influencing property selection for conservation revolving funds. Conservation Biology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/cobi.12991
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12991/full

UWA Node:
Isolation predicts compositional change after discrete disturbances in a global meta-study
How ecological communities respond to change, both anthropogenic and natural, was the topic of discussion at a CEED workshop held on Rottnest Island, just off the coast from Perth, WA. The resulting paper compiled data sets from 14 projects across four continents, comprising of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that experienced disturbances ranging from a mass coral bleaching event on the Scott Reef system in the Timor Sea through to gopher digging in the Serpentine grasslands of California. Nancy Shackelford and Rachel Standish and colleagues used changes in community composition and species richness to measure the differences between communities before and after disturbance. They explored how community recovery is influenced by factors like species diversity, isolation from surrounding land/seascapes, and disturbance intensity. Can you guess which one was the strongest relationship? Find out more at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecog.02383/full


UMelb Node: Luke Kelly and colleagues on wildfires are raging in the
Mediterranean. What can we learn?
“In Italy, firefighters across the country are battling hundreds of wildfires, the flames fanned by a combination of heat and drought. This is just the latest in a succession of fires in the Mediterranean. In June, forest fires in Portugal killed 64 people in Pedrógão Grande, in the Leira district, and immediately afterwards Spanish forests went up in flames, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,500 people from homes and campsites. Fires are expected in the summer, but they don’t usually have such severe consequences. These incidents highlight the need to rethink how landscapes can be managed to protect people and sustain ecosystems when the region’s climate and population are rapidly changing…”
https://theconversation.com/wildfires-are-raging-in-the-mediterranean-what-can-we-learn-81121

UQ Node: Truly Santika and colleagues on Bornean orangutans in decline despite conservation efforts
A first population trend analysis of Critically Endangered Bornean orangutans reveals that despite decades of conservation work, the species is declining rapidly – at a rate of 25 per cent over the past 10 years. CEED researcher Dr Truly Santika, an Indonesian statistician, led the study. The research team also included CEED Director Professor Kerrie Wilson, and associate Dr Jessie Wells. The analyses show that declines are particularly pronounced in West and Central Kalimantan, but even in relatively well protected areas, such as the Malaysian State of Sabah, the rate of decline is still 21.3 per cent. Every year some USD$30-40 million is invested by governmental and non-governmental organisations to halt the decline of wild populations. The study shows that these funds are not effectively spent. Dr Santika said for many threatened species, the rate and drivers of population decline were difficult to assess accurately. “Our study used advanced modelling techniques that allowed the combination of different survey methods, including helicopter surveys, traditional ground surveys, and interviews with local communities,” she said. Professor Kerrie Wilson said: “This new approach facilitated the break-through and for the first time, enable researchers to determine the population trends of the species over time.” She said the study, conducted by a group of some 50 Indonesian, Malaysian, and international researchers, was a wake-up call for the orangutan conservation community and the Indonesian and Malaysian governments who had committed to saving the species. Ultimately, viable populations of large roaming animals such as the orangutan require a solid network of protected forests that are properly managed, and sustainable practices outside of these protected areas.
http://ceed.edu.au/ceed-news/43-news-2017/447-bornean-orangutans-in-decline-despite-conservation-efforts.html


About Dbytes
Dbytes is the eNewsletter of the Environmental Decisions Group. It is edited and distributed by David Salt. If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info. While Dbytes is primarily aimed at members of the EDG, anyone is welcome to receive it.

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

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

 

Dbytes #296 (20 July 2017)

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

“Population extinctions today are orders of magnitude more frequent than species extinctions. Population extinctions, however, are a prelude to species extinctions, so Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume. The massive loss of populations is already damaging the services ecosystems provide to civilization.”
Ceballos et al, 2017 [see item 1]

General News

1. Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines
2. Dept of Environment and Energy issued conservation advice for 30 species and six ecological communities listed as threatened.
3. Academy of Australian Science releases education reader on invasive species
4. A comparative assessment of field approaches to marine monitoring
5. Local Leadership: Tracking Local Government Progress on Climate Change

EDG News

UQ Node: James Watson and Martine Maron on the GBR – it isn’t listed as ‘in danger’ but it’s still in big trouble
ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on non-target impacts of weed control on birds, mammals, and reptiles
RMIT Node: Laura Mumaw and colleagues on transforming urban gardeners into land stewards
UWA Node: Restoring reptiles
UMelb Node: Freya Thomas on growth races in The Mallee

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General News

1. Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines
[Recommended by Luke Kelly]

“All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life.”

“The strong focus on species extinctions, a critical aspect of the contemporary pulse of biological extinction, leads to a common misimpression that Earth’s biota is not immediately threatened, just slowly entering an episode of major biodiversity loss. This view overlooks the current trends of population declines and extinctions. Using a sample of 27,600 terrestrial vertebrate species, and a more detailed analysis of 177 mammal species, we show the extremely high degree of population decay in vertebrates, even in common “species of low concern.” Dwindling population sizes and range shrinkages amount to a massive anthropogenic erosion of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services essential to civilization. This “biological annihilation” underlines the seriousness for humanity of Earth’s ongoing sixth mass extinction event.”
Ref: Ceballosa G, PR Ehrlich & R Dirzob (2017). Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines.
PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1704949114

[and see item 2]

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2. Dept of Environment and Energy issued conservation advice for 30 species and six ecological communities listed as threatened.

Editor’s note: Of the 30 species listed in this announcement, 16 were animal species and 14 of these were frogs (most of which are found in Queensland).

http://www.environment.gov.au/news/2017/07/13/new-approved-conservation-advices

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3. Academy of Australian Science releases education reader on invasive species
Australia’s silent invaders
http://www.nova.org.au/earth-environment/invasive-species

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4. A comparative assessment of field approaches to marine monitoring

Faced with rapid biodiversity loss, marine researchers and practitioners constrained by both diminishing budgets and rising pressures to build accountability must now more than ever design monitoring programmes that are not only robust but also cost-effective. A vast array of modern tools are available for surveying ocean habitats and wildlife (incl. marine mammals), however choosing among them can be difficult as most differ widely in costs, accessibility, capabilities, mobilisation constraints, resolution or sensitivity, and are evolving rapidly without always being critically evaluated or compared. In response to this, scientists from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme (NESP)’s Marine Biodiversity Hub are undertaking a detailed comparative assessment of field approaches to marine monitoring. Key to achieving this objective is a fundamental understanding of the current patterns of use, perceptions, and awareness of various sampling gears.

The Marine Biodiversity Hub invites you to take part in a short online questionnaire relating to your experience and familiarity with a variety of pelagic platforms (e.g. aerial/vessel surveys, underwater videography, animal-borne tags, environmental DNA, drones, etc. amongst many more). This work is part of ongoing efforts to develop standard operating procedures for the collection of consistent, comparable, interpretable and fit-for-purpose empirical evidence useful in assessing status and trends in ocean ecosystems.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/nespd2-pelagic

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5. Local Leadership: Tracking Local Government Progress on Climate Change

The Climate council issued ‘Local Leadership: Tracking Local Government Progress on Climate Change’.

http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/cpp-report-launch

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EDG News

UQ Node: James Watson and Martine Maron on the GBR – it isn’t listed as ‘in danger’ but it’s still in big trouble
“In a somewhat surprising decision, UNESCO ruled this week that the Great Barrier Reef – one of the Earth’s great natural wonders – should not be listed as “World Heritage in Danger”. The World Heritage Committee praised the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, and the federal minister for the environment, Josh Frydenberg, has called the outcome “a big win for Australia and a big win for the Turnbull government”. But that doesn’t mean the Reef is out of danger. Afforded World Heritage recognition in 1981, the Reef has been on the warning list for nearly three years. It’s not entirely evident why UNESCO decided not to list the Reef as “in danger” at this year’s meeting, given the many ongoing threats to its health. However, the World Heritage Committee has made it clear they remain concerned about the future of this remarkable world heritage site.
https://theconversation.com/the-great-barrier-reef-isnt-listed-as-in-danger-but-its-still-in-big-trouble-80681

ANU Node: David Lindenmayer and colleagues on non-target impacts of weed control on birds, mammals, and reptiles
The impacts of invasive plant control on native animals are rarely evaluated. Using data from an eight-year study in southeastern Australia, we quantified the effects on native bird, mammal, and reptile species of (1) the abundance of the invasive Bitou Bush, Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata, and (2) a Bitou Bush control program, which involved repeated herbicide spraying interspersed with prescribed burning. We found that overall species richness of birds, mammals, and reptiles and the majority of individual vertebrate species were unresponsive to Bitou Bush cover and the number of plants. Two species including the nationally endangered Eastern Bristlebird (Dasyurus brachypterus) responded positively to measures of native vegetation cover following the control of Bitou Bush. Analyses of the effects of different components of the treatment protocol employed to control Bitou Bush revealed (1) no negative effects of spraying on vertebrate species richness; (2) negative effects of spraying on only one individual species (Scarlet Honeyeater); and (3) lower bird species richness but higher reptile species richness after fire. The occupancy of most individual vertebrates species was unaffected by burning; four species responded negatively and one positively to fire. Our study indicated that actions to remove Bitou Bush generally have few negative impacts on native vertebrates. We therefore suggest that controlling this highly invasive exotic plant species has only very limited negative impacts on vertebrate biota.
Ref: Lindenmayer, D.B., Wood, J., MacGregor, C., Hobbs, R.J., and Catford, J.A. (2017). Non-target impacts of weed control on birds, mammals, and reptiles. Ecosphere, 8(5), e01804.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecs2.1804/full

RMIT Node: Laura Mumaw and colleagues on
transforming urban gardeners into land stewards
“Transforming urban gardeners into land stewards: The concept of private land stewardship has been promoted since at least the 1940s as a valuable contribution to conservation. By contrast, urban conservation activities and research have focused on public land. Indeed, it has been suggested that urban landowners are unlikely to demonstrate rural levels of land stewardship for lack of opportunity or the stronger place meanings and sense of place found in rural locations. Laura interviewed 16 members of a municipal wildlife gardening program to understand how participation affected their gardening purpose and practice, and attachments to place and nature. Using inductive analysis and a definition of land stewardship derived from Aldo Leopold that encompasses purpose as well as activities, she posits a model for the urban land stewardship development process. It includes an initiation phase that introduces participants to stewardship and their potential to contribute, followed by a development phase where connections to place deepen; stewardship knowledge, competences and activities strengthen; and commitment to stewardship increases. Results show that urban wildlife gardening programs can foster residential land stewardship through learning by doing; visible community involvement and endorsement of one’s contribution are key; and connections to nature, place and community occur as part of the process.”
Ref: Mumaw, L. (2017). Transforming urban gardeners into land stewards. Journal of Environmental Psychology.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494417300695?via%3Dihub
UWA Node: Restoring reptiles
Dr Leonie Valentine and PhD student Jon-Paul Emery recently presented their current research at the 45th Australian Society for Herpetologists conference held in Fairbridge, Western Australia. Leonie provided an overview of the functional role of reptiles and the potential for translocating reptiles to restore ecosystem function; as has happened with giant tortoises in the Mascarene and Galapagos Islands. JP spoke about his PhD project examining the potential to reintroduce the Christmas Island blue-tailed skinks (Cryptoblepharus egeriae) and Lister’s gecko (Lepidodactylus listeria); two species that are currently extinct in the wild.

For more information see JP’s latest media release: http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201706309740/international/geckos-and-skinks-back-brink and a link to a short video can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ERIEresearchgroup/posts/1609405365760333

UMelb Node: Freya Thomas on growth races in The Mallee
“The second paper from my PhD has been accepted for publication. In this paper Peter Vesk and I explore growth trajectories of woody plants in the Victorian Mallee, a semi-arid region of south-eastern Australia. We examine the influence of plant functional traits on growth trajectories. We test trait-growth relationships by examining the influence of specific leaf area, woody density, seed size and leaf nitrogen content on three aspects of plant growth; maximum relative growth rate, age at maximum growth and asymptotic height. Woody plant species in the semi-arid mallee exhibit fast growth trajectories. Small seeded species were likely to be the fastest to reach maximum height, while large-seeded species with high leaf nitrogen were likely the slowest. Tall species had low stem densities and tended to have low specific leaf area. We modeled plant growth using a hierarchical multi-species model that formally incorporates plant functional traits as species-level predictors of growth, which provides a method for predicting species height growth strategies as a function of their traits. We further extended this approach by using the modeled relationships from our trait-growth model to predict: growth trajectories of species with limited data; real species with only trait data and; hypothetical species based only on trait coordination. We hope this highlights the potential to use trait information for ecological inference and to generate predictions that could be used for management. Please email if you would like more information.”
https://fmthomasresearch.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/growth-races-in-the-mallee/

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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. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

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

Dbytes #295 (13 July 2017)

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

“All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others.”
George Orwell [and quoted by Malcolm Hunter up front in a special issue of Biological Conservation on small natural features (SNFs); see item 1]


General News

1. Conserving small natural features with large ecological roles (a special feature in Biological Conservation)
2. Updated Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Atlas released
3. UNESCO issued ‘Assessment: World Heritage coral reefs likely to disappear by 2100 unless CO2 emissions drastically reduce’
4. 
‘Rewilding’ Australia: not only do we need the outback, the outback needs 5. Book review: The Death of Expertise

EDG News

UMelb Node: Reid Tingley and colleagues on new weapons in the toad toolkit
UQ Node:
Jasmine Lee and colleagues on: The winners and losers of Antarctica’s great thaw
ANU Node:
Conserving large old trees as small natural features
RMIT Node:
The Little Things that Run the City book launch
UWA Node:
Maggie Triska and colleagues on conserving reptiles within a multiple-use landscape

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General News

1. Conserving small natural features with large ecological roles (a special feature in Biological Conservation)

The July issue of “Biological Conservation” includes three reviews on small natural features (SNFs) and nine case studies (three of which are largely based in Australia, see ANU Node news). For each of the case studies, the authors explore three fundamental questions: Why are some small natural features far more important for maintaining biodiversity or providing ecosystem services than their size would indicate? What are the management challenges facing these features and what are some innovative approaches to conserving them?

“Small natural features are an example of what can be termed ‘The Frodo Effect,’” writes Malcolm Hunter, University of Maine professor of wildlife resources and Libra Professor of Conservation Biology, in the journal introduction (Hunter, 2017).

“In the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ the small and unassuming hobbit Frodo has more strength than any of his larger peers and saves Middle Earth with his brave actions,” says Hunter. “Gandalf and the rest of the fellowship of the ring go to great ends to protect him, because they know this.”

“The importance of some of these small natural features, most notably riparian zones, has long been recognized,” says Hunter. “In other cases, our recognition of their role is just emerging, such as caves that harbor large bat colonies known to effect widespread control of insect pests. We are also learning much more about the ecological significance of ephemeral features like temporary streams and pools that are dry much of the time but ‘blossom’ during limited periods.”

“Recognition and management of SNFs (small natural features) can be an efficient way to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

Most small natural features are defined physically, especially the presence of water or rocks. But some are biological entities. For example, trees large enough to harbor hollows and deep cracks in their bark provide microhabitat for many species that cannot live on smaller trees.

The size of these natural features provide novel opportunities to conserve them, according to Hunter and 13 co-authors, including plant and animal biologists, economists and marine scientists, in the issue’s overall synthesis focused on conservation.
Ref: Malcolm L. Hunter (2017), Conserving small natural features with large ecological roles: An introduction and definition, Biological Conservation, Volume 211, 2017, Pages 1-2, ISSN 0006-3207, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.019.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320716310849

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2. Updated Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Atlas released

An updated Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Atlas (GDE Atlas) was released at the Australasian Groundwater Conference 2017 in Sydney. This national dataset of Australian GDEs was developed to inform groundwater planning and management. It is the first and only national inventory of GDEs in Australia. The GDE Atlas web-based mapping application allows you to visualise, analyse and download GDE information for an area of interest without needing specialised software.

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3. UNESCO issued ‘Assessment: World Heritage coral reefs likely to disappear by 2100 unless CO2 emissions drastically reduce’

http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1676/?utm_source=AusSMC+mailing+list&utm_campaign=e4916be336-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_06_23&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_90d9431cd5-e4916be336-126962585

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4.‘Rewilding’ Australia: not only do we need the outback, the outback needs us
[Recommended by Martine Maron]

Even in vast natural ecosystems, the fate and condition of nature lies in the hands of the people who live on, know, respect and manage that land

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/25/rewilding-australia-not-only-do-we-need-the-outback-the-outback-needs-us?CMP=share_btn_tw

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5. Book review: The Death of Expertise
[A Conversation book review by Rod Lamberts; and recommended by Jim Donaldson]

“In the author’s words, his goal is to examine: … the relationship between experts and citizens in a democracy, why that relationship is collapsing, and what all of us, citizens and experts, might do about it.

This resonates strongly with what I see playing out around the world almost every day – from the appalling state of energy politics in Australia, to the frankly bizarre condition of public debate on just about anything in the US and the UK.

Nichols’ focus is on the US, but the parallels with similar nations are myriad. He expresses a deep concern that “the average American” has base knowledge so low it has crashed through the floor of “uninformed”, passed “misinformed” on the way down, and is now plummeting to “aggressively wrong”. And this is playing out against a backdrop in which people don’t just believe “dumb things”, but actively resist any new information that might threaten these beliefs.”

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EDG News

UMelb Node: Reid Tingley and colleagues on new weapons in the toad toolkit
Our best hope of developing innovative methods to combat invasive species is likely to come from the study of high-profile invaders that have attracted intensive research not only into control, but also basic biology. Here we illustrate that point by reviewing current thinking about novel ways to control one of the world’s most well-studied invasions: that of the cane toad in Australia. Recently developed methods for population suppression include more effective traps based on the toad’s acoustic and pheromonal biology. New tools for containing spread include surveillance technologies (e.g., eDNA sampling and automated call detectors), as well as landscape-level barriers that exploit the toad’s vulnerability to desiccation—a strategy that could be significantly enhanced through the introduction of sedentary, range-core genotypes ahead of the invasion front. New methods to reduce the ecological impacts of toads include conditioned taste aversion in free-ranging predators, gene banking, and targeted gene flow. Lastly, recent advances in gene editing and gene drive technology hold the promise of modifying toad phenotypes in ways that may facilitate control or buffer impact. Synergies between these approaches hold great promise for novel and more effective means to combat the toad invasion and its consequent impacts on biodiversity.
Ref: Tingley R, Ward-Fear G, Schwarzkopf L, Greenlees MJ, Phillips BL, Brown G, Clulow S, Webb J, Capon R, Sheppard A, Strive T, Tizard M, Shine R (2017) New weapons in the Toad Toolkit: A review of methods to control and mitigate the biodiversity impacts of invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina). The Quarterly Review of Biology, 92, 123-149.

UQ Node: Jasmine Lee and colleagues on:
The winners and losers of Antarctica’s great thaw
When you think of Antarctica, you probably picture vast, continuous ice sheets and glaciers, with maybe a penguin or two thrown in. Yet most Antarctic plants and animals live in the permanently ice-free areas that cover about 1% of the continent. Our new research predicts that these areas could grow by a quarter during this century, with mixed prospects for the species that currently live there. Besides everyone’s favourite Emperor and Adélie penguins, terrestrial Antarctic species also include beautiful mosses, lichens, two types of flowering plants, and a suite of hardy invertebrates such as nematodes, springtails, rotifers and tardigrades, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Tardigrades – tiny creatures sometimes nicknamed “waterbears” – are so tough they can survive in space.Antarctica’s ice-free areas are currently limited to a scattering of rocky outcrops along the coastline, or cliff faces, or the tops of mountain ranges. They form small patches of suitable habitat in a huge sea of ice, much like islands. As a result, the plants and animals that live there are often isolated from each other. But as Antarctica’s climate warms, we expect ice-free areas to get bigger and eventually start joining up. This would create more habitat for native species, but also new opportunities for non-native species to spread.
https://theconversation.com/the-winners-and-losers-of-antarcticas-great-thaw-80140

ANU Node: Conserving large old trees as small natural features
In many ecosystems globally, large old trees occur as single, spatially isolated individual trees or as small groups of scattered trees and can therefore be considered to be small natural features. Despite being constrained spatially, individual large old trees and small stands of such trees nevertheless play numerous critical ecological roles (e.g. in carbon storage and provision of wildlife habitat). The protection and management of large old trees as small natural features is essential to maintain these roles and will often require targeted fine-scale conservation strategies. Such strategies can include bans on cutting trees above a certain size, micro-fencing to control threats associated with livestock grazing, and buffers comprised of other vegetation to limit the impacts of fire and chemical sprays. Effective conservation to mitigate the effects of factors threatening large old trees will often demand ecosystem-specific responses. This is because the drivers of loss will often manifest in ecosystem-specific ways. Three general principles will likely apply in almost all cases: (1) Protect existing individual large old trees; (2) Reduce rates of adult mortality. This is because adult mortality is a key part of the life cycle of large old trees; increased adult mortality can lead to population crashes; and (3) Ensure there are sufficient recruits of trees of varying ages to replace existing large old trees as they eventually die.
Ref: David B. Lindenmayer (2017), Conserving large old trees as small natural features, Biological Conservation, Volume 211, 2017, Pages 51-59, ISSN 0006-3207, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.012.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320716307893

RMIT Node: The Little Things that Run the City book launch
A children’s book entitled The Little Things that Run the City, created by Kate Cranney, Sarah Bekessy and Luis Mata, was launched at the Melbourne Museum on Saturday 24 June. The book explores the diversity of insects we have within Melbourne’s boundaries and examines what we can do to help them survive and thrive. The event also launched two new strategies from the City of Melbourne: Nature in the City and Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Refresh, as well as an interactive Urban Biodiversity Visual website.

http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/community/parks-open-spaces/urban-nature/Pages/little-things-that-run-the-city.aspx

UWA Node: Maggie Triska and colleagues on conserving reptiles within a multiple-use landscape
In disturbed landscapes it is important to identify habitat affiliations of all species to manage and conserve the most species. Maggie and her colleagues completed reptile and vegetation surveys in the Jarrah forest to determine habitat affiliations of common, uncommon and rare reptiles. Although it was impossible to define habitat affiliations of all species, particularly rare, they suggest that exploratory analyses provide guidance for further research and can assist habitat management, but ultimately maintaining habitat heterogeneity is best to conserve the greatest number of species.
Ref: Triska Maggie D., Craig Michael D., Stokes Vicki L., Pech Roger P., Hobbs Richard J. (2017) Conserving reptiles within a multiple-use landscape: determining habitat affiliations of reptile communities in the northern jarrah forest of south-western Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology 65, 21-32.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO16074


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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. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

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

Dbytes #294 (5 July 2017)

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

“They talk about the facts, they talk about the science … the evidence, the ‘p values’, the correlations. And the public don’t listen to that.”
Edy MacDonald on invasive pest control [see item 3]


General News

1. 2017–18 watering priorities to build on best conditions in 25 years
2. Agri-environmental schemes: how to enhance the agriculture–environment relationship
3. Scientists fight to make invasive pest control palatable to the public
4. Release of Report on the Review of the National Landcare Program
5. Join the ‘Recent Ecological Change in Australia’ Survey


EDG News

UWA Node: Richard Hobbs on the right to be a citizen and a scientist
UMelb Node: Geoff Heard’s new paper: Can habitat management mitigate disease impacts on threatened amphibians?
UQ Node:
Carla Archibald and Rachel Friedman create new podcast named Conservation Crossroads.
ANU Node:
Stephanie Pulsford and colleagues on remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences for reptiles in agricultural landscapes
RMIT Node:
Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum

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General News

1. 2017–18 watering priorities to build on best conditions in 25 years

Capitalising on the wettest conditions for years to support native fish, waterbirds, native vegetation and river flows in the Basin are a key focus for watering priorities in 2017–18. The annual watering priorities help guide environmental water holders and managers on where to focus environmental watering from a whole-of-Basin perspective. MDBA Executive Director Environmental Management, Carl Binning said this year was the best opportunity seen in 25 years to help our rivers and wetlands thrive.
https://www.mdba.gov.au/media/mr/2017-18-watering-priorities-build-best-conditions-25-years

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2. Agri-environmental schemes: how to enhance the agriculture–environment relationship
(A Thematic issue from the EU’s Science for Environment Policy)
Environmental protection and human food security co-exist in a critical balance, one that is often difficult to get right. The pressures of population rise, farming intensification, and loss of habitats and species mean that protections afforded under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are pivotal to the conservation of agri-ecology. In the EU, agri-environment schemes (AES) encourage farmers to undertake environmentally friendly practices and are thus vital to the objective of sustainable agriculture. This Thematic Issue looks at some of the impacts that AES have had on European farm ecosystems, biodiversity and farmers. Intensification was one aspect of the modernisation of agriculture, but it had the unfortunate side-effect of increasing pressure on the environment. That is why the reforms of the CAP since 1992 have aimed to progressively reduce the pressure of agriculture on the environment.

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/AES_impacts_on_agricultural_environment_57si_en.pdf

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3. Scientists fight to make invasive pest control palatable to the public

Social scientist Edy MacDonald wants researchers to get more emotional about invasive pest control. She believes one of the biggest hurdles facing scientists in this area is their own inability to explain their research to the public — and more specifically, their failure to acknowledge that when you’re talking about killing animals, people get upset.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-13/should-invasive-pest-control-be-acceptable-to-the-public/8613070

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4. Release of Report on the Review of the National Landcare Program

The Report on the Review of the National Landcare Program. The review considered the effectiveness of the program in delivering environment and agriculture outcomes, as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of delivery arrangements. The review process generated a lot of stakeholder interest and participation, including input from over 900 individuals and organisations through its stakeholder survey. The National Landcare Advisory Committee’s foreword to the review notes that government investment in landcare over the last 30 years has created a profound legacy. That legacy is the foundation of farming and natural resource management in Australia. The landcare movement has involved hundreds of thousands of people working across the country on thousands of projects to improve the environment. The review found that the program had achieved significant benefits for agricultural productivity, environmental conservation and community engagement, with flow on economic and social benefits.

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5. Join the ‘Recent Ecological Change in Australia’ Survey

The Department of the Environment and Energy is collaborating with CSIRO on projects that will improve the knowledge-base and long-term research infrastructure to support biodiversity conservation and natural resource management (NRM). One of these projects is collecting stories and anecdotes that will help to build a national picture of the kinds of ecological changes that have been occurring across the country over the past 10-20 years, or more. We are looking for people with strong links to Australian environments (e.g. farmers, natural resource managers, ecologists, naturalists) to share their perceptions of recent ecological change in an area they know well, and how this might link with climate or other change. To participate, you would need to be able to select a natural area (e.g. your local region or farm, a Nature Reserve, urban bushland) that you have been familiar with for at least the last 10 years. We are interested both in areas where change has been observed and where change has not been observed. The survey will take about 30-40 minutes – click here to undertake the survey. For further information contact Suzanne.Prober@csiro.au.
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EDG News

UWA Node: Richard Hobbs on the right to be a citizen and a scientist
In a recent contribution from Richard Hobbs as the Southern Correspondent for the British Ecological Society Bulletin, Richard discusses the importance of retaining the right to be a citizen and a scientist. As ecologists we can aim to guide and inform policy makers, but that is not sufficient to effect change. During protests against the Roe 8 road development in Perth, several university professors engaged in various forms of environmental activism including peaceful protests and giving ecological evidence at Senate hearings. More details about the Roe 8 campaign can be found at our Facebook page, including – a picture of a very young (beardless) Richard Hobbs
https://www.facebook.com/ERIEresearchgroup/posts/1608169515883918


UMelb Node: Geoff Heard’s new paper: Can habitat management mitigate disease impacts on threatened amphibians?
How does one tackle a rapacious pathogen? If it were an infectious agent of humans, we would have much in our armoury. We could isolate the stricken, and slow the pathogens spread. We could search for the vector and extinguish it. We could take antibodies from the immune and treat the susceptible with their serum. Or we could disseminate doses of powerful antibiotics or vaccines, and lead the pathogen down the path to functional extinction.
But what if the pathogen targets wildlife? In that case, our armoury is much diminished. So much so that the outcome of wildlife-pathogen interactions in nature are almost always determined by natural mechanisms; by the death of the susceptible and, failing complete extinction, either the survival and proliferation of the immune, or persistence of relic populations in disease refugia, away from reservoir hosts or in regions outside the pathogens environmental hitting zone.
In our latest paper, just out in Conservation Letters, we assess the degree to which knowledge of environmental refugia can be used to mitigate the impacts of perhaps the worst wildlife pathogen of modern times – the amphibian chytrid fungus. Chytrid emerged as a major pathogen of amphibians late last century, for reasons unknown. It spread across the globe, facilitated by us, and decimated frogs and toads as it went. The toll is difficult to quantify (and continues to mount), but at least 200 species are now thought to have either succumbed completely to chytridiomycosis, or suffered significant population declines.
https://gwheardresearch.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/new-paper-can-habitat-management-mitigate-disease-impacts-on-threatened-amphibians/


UQ Node: Carla Archibald and Rachel Friedman create new podcast named Conservation Crossroads.
From Carla and Rachel: Conservation science is at crossroads, species are declining at rapid rates and ecosystems are being thrown out of balance! During this podcast hosts, Carla Archibald and Rachel Friedman will be exploring and sharing the most up-to-date thinking in conservation science and environmental problem-solving. Keep up to date, or tell us what you want to hear, by tweeting at us
Here is a link to the podcast trailer: http://bit.ly/2svoFTd
This is the first episode: http://bit.ly/2sNpho2. We recorded this episode when Professor Niels Strange was visiting CEED and we chat to Niels about how to value nature!

ANU Node: Stephanie Pulsford and colleagues on remnant vegetation, plantings, and fences for reptiles in agricultural landscapes
Managing agricultural landscapes for biodiversity conservation is increasingly difficult as land use is modified or intensified for production. Finding ways to mitigate the negative effects of agriculture on biodiversity is therefore critical. We asked the question: 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: (i) grazed pasture, (ii) linear plantings, (iii) coarse woody debris (CWD) added to grazed pasture and (iv) 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 CWD 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, Journal of Applied Ecology: available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12923.

And see the blog on this paper at: https://jappliedecologyblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/for-the-love-of-trees/?platform=hootsuite


RMIT Node: Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum
The City of Melbourne held a Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum last week. The aim of this forum was to connect environmental managers and practitioners at the City of Melbourne with relevant scientists. The CAUL Hub was well represented at this event, with researchers who presented including Sarah Bekessy, Dave Kendal, Claire Farrell, Nick Williams, Steve Livesley and Kirsten Parris. Topics presented included urban forests, green infrastructure and urban biodiversity, drawing on the Urban Greening and Shared Urban Habitat research projects of the Hub. An important theme across a number of presentations was the interrelationship between benefits for biodiversity with benefits for humans, with good ecological outcomes often producing good social outcomes as well. Some highlights from the discussions are on RMIT’s Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group’s Conservation Science Blog.

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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. The EDG receives support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). You can find out about the wonderful work of CEED by reading its magazine, Decision Point (which, as it happens, is also produced by David Salt).

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