What’s the point?

What’s the point?

How much native habitat is enough? The question for farm and landscape planning is: ‘How much intensive production can take place without excluding most native species from the landscape?’ Roughly speaking, if any land use that largely excludes native biodiversity (eg, crops, plantations, fertilised pastures) covers less than one-third of the landscape, it is unlikely […]

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Toad barrier

Earth dams (like the one in the photo on the left taken by Michael Letnic) have facilitated the spread of cane toads throughout arid regions of Australia. The water in this dam was pumped from underground by a mechanical bore, but toads were unable to access the water due to a fence along the dam perimeter. Permanently […]

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INFFER team members assess proposed environmental projects with stakeholders in North Central Victoria. There's never enough money to fund everything so decision makers need to rank or prioritise the projects before them. Ranking projects is a relatively straightforward and logical process. Unfortunately, not many organisations or governments do it well. (Photo by Geoff Park).

Evaluating bang for buck

What is the return on our investments in environmental projects? In most countries, including Australia, funding for public environmental programs is very small relative to the number and scale of environmental problems. How do we generate the most valuable environmental outcomes from public investment in environmental programs? Decisions on how to achieve this are very […]

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A patch of remnant woodland in a sea of pines. New research is
suggesting the pine trees do not facilitate the movement of birds
from patch to patch.

Pine fiction

Measuring connectivity in plantations Forest plantations are everywhere. You’ll find them in almost every vegetated country in the world. They cover a surprisingly large portion of our planet – some 260 million hectares, corresponding to 7% of global forest cover. And their size is increasing at an impressive rate: according to the Food and Agriculture […]

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Cropping in the Brigalow Belt. (Photo by David Salt).

Mapping biodiversity priorities in the Brigalow 

Biodiversity faces a range of threats in our farming regions. And now there’s a new threat emerging in the form of an expanding Coal Seam Gas (CSG) industry (see the box on CSG). The threat posed by CSG operations isn’t simply one additional challenge to factor in because it interacts with all the other pressures being experienced by biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Which threats should decision makers be paying particular attention to? Which management strategies should be applied? There’s considerable uncertainty around these questions which is why CSIRO is working with researchers from the University of Queensland to map the biodiversity management priorities in Queensland’s Brigalow Belt, an agricultural region rich in CSG resources.

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Pasture land in the Brigalow Belt. (Photo by Leonie Seabrook)

One small crop or two large pastures?

How the impact of land use on forest fragmentation varies with spatial scale  The fragmentation of forest ecosystems is a major cause of species extinction. Fragmentation is the process by which forest cover is broken apart into smaller fragments (as opposed to the loss of the total amount of forest). It’s caused by human activities […]

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Stakeholders discuss revegetation on the Greening Australia property Peniup, one of the project sites in the Fitz-Stirling section of Gondwana Link.

Mapping the social network

Achieving cross-scale collaboration for large scale conservation initiatives When it comes to addressing conservation and natural resource management problems it seems like ‘collaboration’ is a prerequisite for success. This is especially true for large-scale problems where multiple actors are involved, multiple objectives are on the table, multiple plans need to be negotiated and multiple solutions […]

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Making environmental decisions using the wrong metric

Good environmental decision making is information-intensive. Environmental managers invest a lot in monitoring and research to collect information, but often take a rough-and-ready approach to combining that information into a form that is useful for decision making. Does this matter? Does it make a difference to environmental outcomes to use a theoretically sound decision metric, compared with a weak decision metric? That was the question we set out to answer by comparing environmental outcomes generated by these two approaches.

What we found, in short, was that it does matter which decision metric you use. Indeed, it can make an enormous difference. As a consequence, many decision metrics used by environmental managers result in us missing out on very large environmental benefits.

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Of practitioners, participants & conservation tenders

Extensive clearing of native vegetation on rural properties throughout Australia over the last century has contributed to significant declines in biodiversity. In an effort to counter this, Australian governments have offered a range of voluntary payments to land owners to undertake conservation actions on their land (eg, planting native trees or protecting remnant native vegetation). In recent years these payments have frequently been offered as conservation tenders. Within these, landholder participants submit a bid to the implementing agency specifying the monetary compensation they require to perform a given set of management activities.

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Does public funding crowd out private supply?

Public funds for ecological landscape restoration are sometimes spent subsidising the revegetation of cleared land, and the protection of remnant vegetation from livestock. The total area treated, however, is often unclear because such projects are not always recorded, and landholders may undertake similar activities without subsidisation. Consequently it’s difficult to know what value the public funding is generating.
In the absence of empirical data, the Victorian state government assumes that privately funded work matches publicly subsidised sites on a hectare for hectare basis (a so-called ‘x2’ assumption). In other words, for every hectare that is restored using public money, there’s a matching hectare being restored that isn’t using public money.

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