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Eco Logic

Eco Logic column

Making More of Mangrove Ecosystem Services

By Scott Atkinson

Different mangrove areas in the same region provide different ecosystem services. Mapping these is important when deciding where conservation investment should go.

For much of our recent history, societies have often viewed mangroves as swamps, health hazards, and only good for draining and developing. Fast forward to the present day and it’s widely acknowledged that mangroves are anything but wastelands, and do in fact generate highly valuable services such as coastal protection, habitat for wildlife, breeding grounds for fisheries, and carbon storage. This is especially the case in developing Pacific nations where mangroves provide vital services that contribute enormously to both the economy and the well-being of local peoples and cultures.

“Robots” vs Environmental Managers

By Matthew Holden

Can automated algorithms do better than humans in conservation games?

Given all the real-world complexities involved when managing ecosystems, do quantitative methods (which ignore most of these complications) really help decision-makers achieve better environmental outcomes? How do these quantitative methods compare with the alternative: humans making decisions based on intuition, experience and their best judgement?

Restoring Marine Coastal Ecosystems: What’s the Cost?

By Megan Saunders and Elisa Bayraktarov

A review of the costs and feasibility of marine restoration projects reveals that they are often very expensive and risky.

Coasts are popular areas for tourism, recreation, transportation and development. Unfortunately, our love affair with coastal regions has resulted in significant damage to large areas of natural habitat. The result has been extensive and rapid rates of decline in a range of important ecosystems including seagrass, coral reefs, mangroves, saltmarsh and oysters. This decline is being witnessed worldwide.

What’s in a Name?

By Hannah Fraser

Inconsistent classification of species introduces systematic bias to ecological studies.

Woodland birds are bird species that depend on native woodlands. Unfortunately, woodlands have been widely cleared for agriculture and urban development, leading to a widespread belief that woodland birds must be declining.

Many have studied the decline of woodland birds, most commonly the effect of changing tree cover and fragmentation. The results of these studies vary. Some find evidence of decline; others dispute that a decline is taking place.

Beyond Threat Maps

By Vivitskaia Tulloch and Ayesha Tulloch

Targeting threats alone won’t save our wildlife.

Too often, governments and conservation organisations have only one goal for restoring the populations of declining species: to reduce what they perceive as the main “threat”. However, the focus on ‘“threat hotspots” by nations and international conservation bodies can be wasteful and may even push threatened species closer to the brink.

Bias in Natural Resource Management

Natural resource managers must acknowledge the presence of bias and make a conscious effort to minimise its influence in their decisions.

People in all walks of life – from town planners to judges and financial regulators – are subject to bias in their perceptions and judgements. This applies to environmental managers too. We recently explored the influence of bias in natural resource management and found that we may be able to improve our performance if we recognise these influences and work to reduce them.

Conserving Freshwater Crayfish in Australia

Australia has a rich diversity of freshwater crayfish, but many of our species are at risk.

When Thomas Huxley – Darwin’s “bulldog” and greatest advocate – searched for an animal on which to base his Introduction to Zoology (1880), he naturally settled on the humble crayfish. In his own words, he wanted to show how “the careful study of one of the commonest and insignificant of animals, leads us […] to the widest generalisations and the most difficult problems of zoology”. Unfortunately, in his discussions he completely ignored one of the richest countries in freshwater crayfish – Australia.

Chytrid and Frogs in Australia’s High Country

By Ben Scheele

Science is helping conservation managers deal with the curse of chytrid fungus. While the threat has devastated many frog species, there is reason to be hopeful.

Frogs are in trouble. A devastating disease called chytridio­mycosis has been wiping them out, often from pristine habitats. The disease is caused by amphibian chytrid fungus, which disrupts the skin function of infected frogs, leading to cardiac arrest.

Casting a Critical Eye over Biodiversity Offsets

By Georgia Garrard, Sarah Bekessy and Brendan Wintle

Biodiversity offset policies may result in perverse incentives that lock in biodiversity loss.

Biodiversity-offsetting policies are in place across Australia, administered by both state and federal authorities, to ensure that there are no net losses of native vegetation. Development in one part of the landscape is “offset’ by some action in another part of the landscape.

Readers might be alarmed, then, to learn that in 2014 almost 300,000 hectares of native vegetation was cleared in Queensland. That’s an area bigger than the Australian Capital Territory, and more than 3.5 times as much as was cleared in 2010.

Looking after Our Nomadic Species

By Claire Runge

The range of many Australian nomadic birds can contract to a very small area, making them much more vulnerable to extinction.

Geographic range is often treated as a fixed attribute of a species when calculating extinction risk, with species occupying smaller geographic ranges assumed to have a higher risk of extinction.

However, many species move around the landscape. Migratory species move in relatively predictable to-and-fro migrations, while nomadic species move in complex and irregular movements.