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Eco Logic

Eco Logic column

A World of Difference?

By Hugh Possingham

Conservation science, management and policy confront the same problems around the world. Claiming that Australia is different is not a valid excuse for not getting on with the job.

Having recently returned from a whirlwind trip through Asia, I am prompted to ask: just how much difference is there in conservation issues around the world? Before I left I would have predicted that Asia, given cultural and language differences, would be far more different than North America or Europe. I was wrong.

The first obvious difference travelling from Australia to Asia is crossing Wallace’s Line. Suddenly the species change a lot: honeyeaters become sunbirds, marsupials become placentals, and eucalypts essentially disappear (except for the ones that have been planted).

Evidence-based Conservation Could Be NICE

By Hugh Possingham

Conservationists need to take some cues from evidence-based medicine to determine the most appropriate strategies.

Evidence-based conservation, like evidence-based medicine, sounds like a no-brainer – of course our conservation actions should be based on evidence of what actually works. But just because an action is demonstrated to work it doesn’t mean it is the most appropriate management option for a particular species or place. For evidence-based conservation to better inform management it needs to factor in cost.

Species vs Landscape: A False Dichotomy

By Hugh Possingham

It’s not a question of focusing on landscape or species, because they’re inseparable. You can’t conserve the landscape without accounting for what’s happening at the species level.

Recent events might lead us to believe that single species conservation is dead, and that landscapes rule. A move to landscape-scale conservation is driven by the supposed failure of single-species conservation.

Does Recovery Planning Benefit Threatened Species?

By Madeleine Bottrill

A new analysis suggests that recovery plans for threatened species need to be significantly improved if they are to make a difference.

Recovery planning is a key component of government-funded initiatives to address declining populations of threatened species. In the past decade over $17 million has been invested by the Australian government in developing more than 600 recovery plans for more than 850 species. The purpose of these plans is to collate quantitative data on threatened species with expert opinion to specify threats, management priorities and recovery criteria.

What We Can Do for Long-Term Biodiversity Monitoring

By Hugh Possingham

The vexed issue of long-term biodiversity monitoring in Australia has had a long history of discussion but few outcomes. Here are a few obvious things we could do now.

Every 5 years there is a State of Environment Report that laments the lack of consistent nationwide biodiversity data. The Commonwealth Auditor General has similarly called for the country to get its environmental accounts in order.

A “Colombo Plan” for Biodiversity Conservation

By Hugh Possingham

Building an effective and self-supporting network of conservation research professionals across the region could prove to be Australia’s greatest biodiversity legacy.

The vast majority of the research on biodiversity conservation in Australia is funded by Australian taxpayers through Australia’s governments or Australian universities, with some scattered industry and international funds. Much of our research is used by agencies in other countries.

Don’t we have enough problems of our own? Why would we spend time writing papers about prioritising threatened species in New Zealand, optimal methods for surveying tigers in Sumatra and conservation investment in the coral triangle? There are at least four answers.

Do Our Reserves Protect Endangered Species?

By David Salt

A new analysis has found that our National Reserve System is not much better than a completely random placement of reserves when it comes to protecting our endangered species.

Australia’s National Reserve System (NRS) is up there among the world’s best in terms of size, but a new study out of the University of Queensland has revealed it’s not doing much in achieving one of its primary goals – the protection of our threatened species.

Does Fishing Kill Fish?

By Hugh Possingham

Do marine reserves work?

Science has long demonstrated that marine reserves protect marine biodiversity. Rather than answer the same question again, isn’t it about time we started funding research that answers some useful scientific questions?

Australia’s Acoustic Environmental Accounts

Birds, bats, frogs and a few insects will dominate the data collected

Birds, bats, frogs and a few insects will dominate the data collected by the network but it is still a cheap and effective start to monitoring biodiversity at a continental scale

By Professor Hugh Possingham

A network of acoustic monitoring boxes spread across Australia’s bioregions could provide a cheap continent-wide biodiversity surveillance system providing feedback on how biodiversity is changing over time.

Interest in developing environmental accounts for Australia is enormous. The reason is simple – people have realised that if we can’t find credible and transparent metrics to quantitatively predict the consequences of policy and management on environmental issues like biodiversity, then those issues will always take a back seat to economic measures in policy development. This means that our growth in GDP, and other metrics like interest rates, will dominate our leaders’ attention rather than our declines in biodiversity.

The News Is Not Good

By David Salt

This year’s global update on the state of biodiversity tells us that the world has failed to meet all of the international targets set in 2002. But is news bad enough for any country to do anything about it?

“The news is not good,” says the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity in a press release announcing the findings of the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3).

“We continue to lose biodiversity at a rate never before seen in history – extinction rates may be up to 1,000 times higher than the historical background rate.