Research Briefs

Short accounts of papers from EDG researchers.

On ski resorts and reptiles

As ski resorts bring in more tourists there is demand for more skiing infrastructure. As these resorts are located in sensitive alpine/ subalpine environments this expansion can lead to habitat being modified and fragmented. Unfortunately, there’s not much research in Australia on the effects of ski resorts on wildlife, particularly reptiles. Nor is much known about the effectiveness of management strategies in mitigating adverse impacts. To quantify the effects of ski-related disturbances on specialist and generalist reptile species, Chloe Sato and colleagues surveyed sites in disturbed and undisturbed subalpine habitats. They also examined vegetation composition and habitat structure to determine whether structural or compositional habitat features were driving patterns of reptile occurrence.

Their results indicate that the effects of ski-related disturbance varied between species, but that adverse effects – particularly on ski runs – were more pronounced for specialists. Given that each species studied was positively associated with compositional or structural features of the environment, they argue that alterations to these habitat attributes when creating ski runs will suppress lizard abundances in these areas. However, while ski runs have an adverse effect on reptiles, the persistence of these animals in ski resorts can be facilitated by retaining habitat structure and minimizing disturbance to native vegetation.

Sato, CF, JT Wood, M Schroder, K Green, DR Michael & DB Lindenmayer (2013). The impacts of ski resorts on reptiles: a natural experiment. Animal Conservation.


Paying farmers for biodiversity conservation

Trying to get farmers to protect biodiversity is a difficult task, particularly as it often imposes a cost on them. Australia has been at the forefront of the use of payments to encourage land retirement, in both the short- and long-term, or other activities associated with improving biodiversity conservation. Tapping into this experience, Graeme Doole and colleagues sought to identify the factors that are important within these programs. Their analysis identifies the relative importance of a range of factors that determine the overall cost-effectiveness of these programmes to guide future management, based on the perceptions of survey respondents with experience in their design and implementation.

Conservation tender programs, in which farmers compete for conservation funding, are shown to require (in order of decreasing importance): (a) provision of adequate funding, (b) development of flexible tender designs to aid organisational efficiency, (c) promotion of landholder competition, (d) identification of low-cost means of monitoring, and (e) establishment of strong relationships with landholders.

In contrast, biodiversity offset markets, in which activities that augment or reduce biodiversity are traded, are shown to require (in decreasing order of importance) the: (a) establishment of efficient organisational processes, (b) promotion of a short time lag between development and the restoration of ecological values, (c) employment of contracts of extended duration, (d) investment in landholder education and support, and (e) development of appropriate biophysical models.
While Australia is a world leader in the use of economic instruments to protect biodiversity, a number of key improvements are required if these programs are to be broadly effective.

Doole GJ, L Blackmore & S Schilizzi (2014) Determinants of costeffectiveness in tender and offset programmes for Australian
biodiversity conservation. Land Use Policy 36: 23-32.

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