Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Eco Logic

Eco Logic column

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.

What Do Greenies Want?

By Hugh Possingham

The conservation movement is often too busy stopping others from getting what they want, and doesn’t spend enough time trying to make its own progress. Maybe it’s time to create a clear set of objectives with plans on how to deliver those objectives.

Earlier this year I attended and spoke at the Queensland Growth Management Summit, an initiative of Queensland’s Premier, Anna Bligh. The summit was a bold move to start the dialogue on the why, how much and where of population growth in Queensland. There were many impressive presentations from people with diverse views and backgrounds.

Professor Hugh Possingham is Director of the Applied Environmental Decision Analysis centre at the University of Queensland.

Are Biodiversity Offsets Good for Biodiversity?

By Phil Gibbons

Policy-makers love biodiversity offsets while ecologists are wary of them. What's important is their impact relative to the status quo.

Love them or hate them, biodiversity offsets have become a popular policy instrument in Australia in recent years. They were included as part of reforms to land clearing legislation in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, and the recent review of the Commonwealth’s biodiversity legislation includes a recommendation to adopt mitigation banking (a form of biodiversity offsets).

Dr Phil Gibbons is a Research Fellow at the Applied Environmental Decision Analysis centre at the Australian National University.