Field work in Kiribati

In April and May I spent two months in Kiribati undertaking field work toward my PhD. Kiribati is an island nation made up of 32 atolls (and one raised limestone island) with a total land area of 800 km2 spread over 3.5 million km2. To put that into perspective, on a ratio basis it is equivalent to chopping Cairns into 33 pieces and scattering it across Australia. I was in awe when flying in that people had found their way to these tiny pockets of land in the middle of the Pacific, and survived for thousands of years. My next thought was that due to anthropogenic climate change Kiribati is in danger of becoming uninhabitable into the future. The purpose of my fieldwork was to consult with co

Staring at the abyss

Having already lost much of its habitat in the last 30 years, the Southern Black-throated Finch will plummet towards extinction if Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine goes ahead as planned, experts have warned. Image courtesy of Eric Vanderduys In a report submitted to Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg today, the Black-throated Finch Recovery Team—charged with safeguarding this Endangered species—describes a fundamentally flawed offset plan that will have grave consequences for the future of this bird. April Reside from the recovery team described the plan as "grossly inadequate". "The only way to avoid impact to a threatened species is to create those offsets and make sure they are

Trade‐offs in triple‐bottom‐line outcomes when recovering fisheries

Almost all environmental management comes at an economic cost that may not be borne equitably by all stakeholders. Here, we investigate how heterogeneity in catch and profits among fishers influences the trade‐off among the triple‐bottom‐line objectives of recovering a fish population, maximizing its economic value and distributing restrictions equitably across fishers. As a case‐study, we examine management reform of an ecologically and economically important coral reef fishery operating within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Using a simulation model, we find that total profitability of the fishing industry is 40% lower if recovery plans are equitable when compared to the most economica

Temporally inter-comparable maps of terrestrial wilderness and the Last of the Wild

Wilderness areas, defined as areas free of industrial scale activities and other human pressures which result in significant biophysical disturbance, are important for biodiversity conservation and sustaining the key ecological processes underpinning planetary life-support systems. Despite their importance, wilderness areas are being rapidly eroded in extent and fragmented. Here we present the most up-to-date temporally inter-comparable maps of global terrestrial wilderness areas, which are essential for monitoring changes in their extent, and for proactively planning conservation interventions to ensure their preservation. Using maps of human pressure on the natural environment for 1993 and

Patterns of forest loss in one of Africa’s last remaining wilderness areas: Niassa National Reserve

Niassa National Reserve (NNR) supports Mozambique’s largest populations of endangered fauna and sustains the livelihoods of> 40,000 people who utilise its natural resources. Accurately monitoring finescale spatial and temporal trends in land-use and tree-cover is increasingly used for monitoring the ecological state of conservation areas. Here we provide essential information on land-use changes in NNR to support ongoing conservation efforts in the region. We examined patterns of forest and woodland loss in NNR between 2001 and 2014 using high resolution maps of global tree-cover change, and compared this with changes in the wider region. We found that NNR lost 108 km2 of forest (0.9 per cen

Ecology: a global plan for nature conservation

Climate change and biodiversity loss are the two greatest environmental challenges of our time. The 2015 Paris climate agreement states that global warming must be limited to a rise in temperature of less than 2 oC above pre-industrial levels to avoid the greatest impacts of climate change1. This goal has served as a rallying point for global efforts to limit carbon emissions. However, a comparably clear, agreed target for the amount of natural space that should be conserved to address the biodiversity crisis has been much more elusive. Writing in BioScience, Dinerstein et al. 2 analyse the current level of ecosystem protection on a global scale, and propose a way to address the problem of b

Defending the scientific integrity of conservation‐policy processes

Government agencies faced with politically controversial decisions often discount or ignore scientific information, whether from agency staff or nongovernmental scientists. Recent developments in scientific integrity (the ability to perform, use, communicate, and publish science free from censorship or political interference) in Canada, Australia, and the United States demonstrate a similar trajectory. A perceived increase in scientific‐integrity abuses provokes concerted pressure by the scientific community, leading to efforts to improve scientific‐integrity protections under a new administration. However, protections are often inconsistently applied and are at risk of reversal under admini

Renewal ecology: conservation for the Anthropocene

The global scale and rapidity of environmental change is challenging ecologists to reimagine their theoretical principles and management practices. Increasingly, historical ecological conditions are inadequate targets for restoration ecology, geographically circumscribed nature reserves are incapable of protecting all biodiversity, and the precautionary principle applied to management interventions no longer ensures avoidance of ecological harm. In addition, human responses to global environmental changes, such as migration, building of protective infrastructures, and land use change, are having their own negative environmental impacts. We use examples from wildlands, urban, and degraded env

Opportunities and constraints for implementing integrated land–sea management on islands

Despite a growing body of literature on integrated land–sea management (ILSM), very little critical assessment has been conducted in order to evaluate ILSM in practice on island systems. Here we develop indicators for assessing 10 integrated island management principles and evaluate the performance of planning and implementation in four island ILSM projects from the tropical Pacific across different governance structures. We find that where customary governance is still strongly respected and enabled through national legislation, ILSM in practice can be very effective at restricting access and use according to fluctuations in resource availability. However, decision-making under customary go

Toward reassessing data‐deficient species

One in 6 species (13,465 species) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List is classified as data deficient due to lack of information on their taxonomy, population status, or impact of threats. Despite the chance that many are at high risk of extinction, data‐deficient species are typically excluded from global and local conservation priorities, as well as funding schemes. The number of data‐deficient species will greatly increase as the IUCN Red List becomes more inclusive of poorly known and speciose groups. A strategic approach is urgently needed to enhance the conservation value of data‐deficient assessments. To develop this, we reviewed 2879 data‐deficient a

Forecasting ecosystem responses to climate change across Africa's Albertine Rift

Climate change is likely to shift the distributions of ecosystems worldwide. Most assessments of climate change are primarily species-focused and do not directly estimate how entire ecosystems may change. Using an ecosystem-based modelling approach, we provide a region-wide climate change vulnerability assessment of the seven major ecosystems across Africa's Albertine Rift. The Albertine Rift is a global biodiversity hotspot, containing more endemic vertebrates than anywhere else in Africa. We used Maxent to estimate each ecosystem's extent using current climate data, then we projected the potential distribution of each ecosystem for 2050 and 2070. We found that suitable conditions for most

Observations on breeding Night Parrots (Pezoporus occidentalis) in western Queensland

A population of Night Parrots (Pezoporus occidentalis) was discovered in 2013 in western Queensland and has become the primary focus of efforts aimed at conserving habitat and protecting the species from extinction. Critical information on nesting habitat and location, breeding season and behaviour, clutch size and breeding success is currently limited to anecdotal 19th-century observations and accounts by early natural historians. Here we describe several breeding attempts at Pullen Pullen Reserve. Our observations include nest and fledgling descriptions, habitat and clutch characteristics, breeding seasonality, adult breeding behaviour and vocalisations. We also identify a King Brown Snake

Towards a threat assessment framework for ecosystem services

How can we tell if the ecosystem services upon which we rely are at risk of being lost, potentially permanently? Ecosystem services underpin human well-being, but we lack a consistent approach for categorizing the extent to which they are threatened. We present an assessment framework for assessing the degree to which the adequate and sustainable provision of a given ecosystem service is threatened. Our framework combines information on the states and trends of both ecosystem service supply and demand, with reference to two critical thresholds: demand exceeding supply and ecosystem service ‘extinction’. This framework can provide a basis for global, national, and regional assessments of thre

Changing trends and persisting biases in three decades of conservation science

Conservation science is a rapidly developing discipline, and the knowledge base it generates is relevant for practical applications. It is therefore crucial to monitor biases and trends in conservation literature, to track the progress of the discipline and re-align efforts where needed. We evaluated past and present trends in the focus of the conservation literature, and how they relate to conservation needs. We defined the focus of the past literature from 13 published reviews referring to 18,369 article classifications, and the focus of the current literature by analysing 2553 articles published between 2011–2015. We found that some of the historically under-studied biodiversity elements

Limitations and trade‐offs in the use of species distribution maps for protected area planning

Summary Range maps represent the geographic distribution of species, and they are commonly used to determine species coverage within protected areas and to find additional places needing protection. However, range maps are characterized by commission errors, where species are thought to be present in locations where they are not. When available, habitat suitability models can reduce commission errors in range maps, but these models are not always available. Adopting a coarse spatial resolution is often seen as an alternative approach for reducing the effect of commission errors, but this comes with poorly explored conservation trade‐offs. Here, we characterize these trade‐offs by identifying

Australia needs a wake-up call

WHETHER AUSTRALIA’S Great Barrier Reef will be placed on the World Heritage “in danger” list will likely be decided by July. Australia was given a conditional reprieve from an “in danger” classification in 2015 (1) to implement the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan (2). Soon after, in 2016, the largest climate-induced bleaching event on record caused at least 22% coral mortality in the Great Barrier Reef, which had already been listed in poor condition for the fifth year in a row (3) and was suffering from~ 50% loss of long-term coral cover (4). Government action has fallen short. Reforms of deforestation laws, a government pledge to the World Heritage Committee to alleviate declining

Species’ traits influenced their response to recent climate change

Although it is widely accepted that future climatic change—if unabated—is likely to have major impacts on biodiversity1,2, few studies have attempted to quantify the number of species whose populations have already been impacted by climate change3,4. Using a systematic review of published literature, we identified mammals and birds for which there is evidence that they have already been impacted by climate change. We modelled the relationships between observed responses and intrinsic (for example, body mass) and spatial traits (for example, temperature seasonality within the geographic range). Using this model, we estimated that 47% of terrestrial non-volant threatened mammals (out of 873 sp

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