It’s not hard for the Environmental Decision Group to point to a stack of achievements such as the publication of high-impact science papers, the presentation of talks and the coordination of workshops. These are all important and worthy activities in themselves and they allow us to tick many of the boxes our funders require. However, in and of themselves, they are only a part of our value; some might say the lesser part.
Separating outputs & outcomes
Landowner decisions about conservation initiatives are influenced by their values, beliefs and social norms. Understanding what drives landowner decision making and how these decisions impact biodiversity on privately owned land can better inform natural resource management.
Conservation triage is a sensitive topic because it forces people to acknowledge that we don’t have enough resources to save all threatened species; that choices have to be made. Invariably when the notion of triage is raised the question is asked: “So, which species are you giving up on?” Triage is associated with logic trumping feeling, of economics ruling the heart.
How does something like the Project Prioritisation Protocol move from research to practice? My thoughts are that it always involves a combination of the science/academic support and the managers/ technicians that make the approach happen, and a group of people who can act as ‘translators’ across these roles.
The Saving our Species program is a new NSW Government program that provides a coherent framework for the conservation of threatened species. It was launched in December 2013. The program engages the community to participate in threatened species recovery projects; aligns threatened species recovery effort across OEH and partners; and guides investment in targeted threatened species management actions.
There’s a global biodiversity crisis unravelling before our eyes and most of the major threats to biodiversity (such as habitat loss and invasive species) are being exacerbated by the growing impact of climate change. Science has convincingly demonstrated the connection between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change. Less well understood is the impact on our natural world of the actual extraction of these fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is part of the Coral Triangle in Maritime Southeast Asia. Fossil fuel exploration and extraction are in their early stages here, but substantial oil and gas reserves exist in PNG and its territorial waters. Mangrove forests in the Gulf of Papua support the highest diversity of mangroves in the world.
The western Amazon is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. It also contains large reserves of oil and gas, many of which are currently untapped. The extraction of these resources would involve direct impacts that include deforestation for construction of roads, drilling platforms and pipelines, contamination from oil spills and wastewater discharge.
Last year the Queensland Government introduced legislation that removed protection for several categories of regrowth vegetation. Previously, regrowth which had not been cleared since 1989, and occurred in ecosystems with less than 30% of their original extent remaining, was protected from most clearing activities (Queensland Government, 2011). This protection has now been removed.
The developing carbon market has created incentives to plant forests that offset carbon emissions. But what types of forests should we plant? Will monocultures of fast-growing trees like those used in the timber industry maximize carbon storage or is there another option?
The Australian Government’s Best Practice Regulation Handbook is “committed to the use of benefit-cost analysis to assess regulatory proposals to encourage better decision making”. But how do you factor in the value of a bird, a beetle or an area of bush in a benefit-cost analysis? Coming up with dollar values for ‘non-market’ components of the environment has always been challenging.
What’s the value of protecting the endangered freshwater sawfish found in the Kimberley’s tropical waterways? A non-market valuation study involving an extensive survey of West Australians found that the West Australian community were willing to pay between $43 and $47 per year, per household, for a five year period. As an aggregate of West Australian households (using 2009 statistics), this equates to about $38 million a year, or $190 million over the five years.
The movement of organisms has a fundamental influence on the distribution of biodiversity. Movement affects community structure and ecological phenomena such as reproduction, resource availability, genetic diversity, food webs, and species interactions. Anthropogenic disturbances and inappropriate management can disrupt these important processes, so movement information should be considered in conservation decisions.
Under the Carbon Farming Futures Programme, rural landholders have the potential to generate carbon credits through activities such as agro-forestry, re-vegetation of land or changed agricultural practices. Each of these activities may have positive or negative effects beyond their intended mitigation of climate change (externalities or co-benefits).
Dbytes is EDG’s internal eNewsletter. It gets sent to members and associates of EDG each week, and consists of small snippets of information relating to environmental decision making. They might be government documents, research articles, blogs or reports from other research groups.
Regrowth is sometimes disparaged by some people as having little conservation value. Research led by Melissa Bruton at the University of Queensland, however, has demonstrated that regrowth in Queensland’s subtropical woodlands has substantial habitat value for reptiles, even relatively young regrowth, as long as it’s within 700 metres of remnant woodland.