Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Eco Logic

Eco Logic column

Why Publish Research?

By Hugh Possingham

Why publish research when what we are after is conservation outcomes? Here’s why.

It has been suggested by some that Environmental Decisions Group researchers should focus more on “outcomes, communication and engagement” rather than peer-reviewed publication. As these conversations progress we have discovered that there is a great deal of confusion about research and research communication.

Perversity in the Pasture

By Don Driscoll and Jane Catford

Hundreds of the invasive plant species that inflict environmental and economic damage in Australia were originally developed and distributed as pasture species, yet we don’t seem to have learnt from these mistakes.

African lovegrass was used to “improve” pasture in Australia for almost 100 years, but is now declared a weed in four Australian states and the ACT. It has been of little value in pastures, poses a substantial fire risk and threatens a range of native species. Similarly, gamba grass was widely promoted in northern Australia by the cattle industry and government. It is now listed as a weed of national significance.

To Thin or Not to Thin

By Chris Jones

Stands of dense woody regrowth are increasing in extent across Australia and around the world. The effect of dense stands and thinning on tree growth is well understood but the impacts on the understorey are not.

Dense woody regrowth commonly pops up on cleared land where there has been some change in land use, usually a reduction in grazing pressure. In some places, this regrowth is considered a bad outcome.

In parts of Europe, for example, the grasslands that may have been grazed for centuries are considered valuable for biodiversity in their own right. In Australia, on the other hand, woody regrowth is often considered a good outcome for biodiversity as it represents a transition back to the pre-cleared vegetation state.

Sustainable Fish and Chips

By Carissa Klein

One of the simplest things anyone can do to promote marine conservation is to stop eating unsustainable seafood.

Whether it’s fish-and-chips by the seaside or prawns on the barbie at Christmas, Aussies love their seafood. For most of us it’s a part of our way of life. For a country that has such a love affair with the ocean and the food we harvest from it, I find it perplexing that we eat so much unsustainable seafood.

Burning Questions for Black Cockatoos

By Leonie Valentine and Richard Hobbs

Fire management around Perth may hold the key to the future of an endangered cockatoo.

The gregarious Carnaby’s cockatoo is such a common sight in Perth that it is easy to forget it is endangered and that the urban and agricultural expansion of south-western Australia has removed the bulk of its habitat. How we manage their remaining habitat will have important consequences for the species’ survival.

Balancing Species Numbers and Phylogenetic Diversity

By Joseph Bennett

The current extinction crisis can be thought of as a fire in the genetic library of life. In the scramble to save as much as we can, we want to save as many books (i.e. species) as possible but we also want to save as much total information (i.e. unique genes) as possible.

The global extinction crisis shows no signs of abating, and conservation funding falls far short of what is necessary to stop declines in biodiversity. Thus, either implicitly or explicitly, conservation agencies engage in prioritisation: they try to use their limited resources to maximise achievable goals.

Tidal Flats Are Disappearing

By Nick Murray

The world is losing its tidal flats at an alarming rate, putting enormous pressure on threatened migratory birds.

Who speaks for the tidal flat? There are many voices for the mangrove forest, the coral reef and the seagrass meadow, but the chorus for tidal flats is often silent. Not only do hundreds of species of migratory bird depend on them for their existence, this coastal ecosystem also protects large chunks of humanity, providing ecosystem services to hundreds of millions of people.

A Call to Better Protect Antarctic Biodiversity

By Justine Shaw

As “the last wilderness on Earth” Antarctica requires a better system of protected areas.

Most of Antarctica is covered in ice, with less than 1% permanently ice-free. This ice-free land is where the majority of bio­diversity occurs, and is also where most human activity is concentrated, yet only 1.5% of these areas belong to Antarctic Specially Protected Areas under the Antarctic Treaty System.

Complex Ideas in Ecology Made Simple

By Don Driscoll

Have you just published an important journal article? Why not turn it into a movie?

Last year I published a really exciting paper on the matrix in fragmented landscapes in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The matrix is the land in which patches of native vegetation are embedded. More often than not it’s cropland or grazing lands or plantation forests.

My paper brought together a number of ideas about the matrix, and outlined an overarching conceptual model of the conservation value of the matrix. If we’re serious about conservation in production country, this type of understanding is critical to our capacity to save biodiversity in these landscapes.

Priorities for Koala Recovery

By Jonathan Rhodes

There is no “silver bullet” solution to declining koala numbers. Successful koala recovery is likely to require very different recovery strategies in different places.

In April 2012, the koala was listed as vulnerable in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory under national environmental law (the EPBC Act). The koala is currently widely distributed across eastern Australia, but the listing acknowledges that the species is declining rapidly across much of its range and protection is critical. Having invoked Commonwealth protection, a major challenge now is to develop strategies for recovering declining populations so as to ensure the koala’s persistence into the future.