Australia is second worst in world for biodiversity loss

A new international study published in the journal Nature found that Australia is among a group of seven countries who are causing around fifty percent of global biodiversity loss.


Using measures from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, the study calculated that Indonesia has the worst record, accounting for 21% of global biodiversity loss, with Australia coming in second. The other main offenders were Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, China, India, and the United States (largely due to Hawaii’s influence).

The study also showed that biodiversity loss has a direct relationship with government spending on conservation efforts (or lack thereof) as well as other ‘human development pressures’ such as economic, agricultural and population growth.

 

Conservation spending is inversely proportional to biodiversity decline.

 

Between 1996 and 2008 the 109 countries who signed up to the Convention on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development Goals were able to reduce biodiversity loss by 29% per country through conservation investment.

In order to help policy makers decide how much to spend on conservation investment in order to reach specific conservation goals, the authors of the study have developed a model which predicts the effects of conservation investment when combined with varying levels of human development pressures.

 

“The model offers a flexible tool for balancing the Sustainable Development Goals of human development and maintaining biodiversity, by predicting the dynamic changes in conservation finance that will be needed as human development proceeds.”

 

In Australia, there are a number of pressures contributing to the the loss of biodiversity. According to Environmental sustainability professor Barry Brook from the University of Tasmania:

 

“The predominant one is land clearing ~ ongoing clearing for habitat. New South Wales and Queensland have been particularly bad for that over the past two decades,”

 

Given that the study also found that the effects of conservation funding are reduced as human development pressures increase, it is likely that conservation investment in Australia will not only need to ramp up in the short-term, but also increase over time to meet the increasing demands of agriculture and population growth.


Re-post ∼ Australia among seven nations responsible for more than 50 per cent of global biodiversity loss

Read more ∼ Reductions in global biodiversity loss predicted from conservation spending

 

Land returned to Aboriginal Owners thanks to donation collaboration

A large area of land in north-west Tasmania has been returned to the local Aboriginal community thanks to a $325,000 donation from Graeme Wood, the founder of travel website Wotif. This donation, combined with funds from the Indigenous Land Corporation, the Bob Brown Foundation, the Tasmania Land Conservancy have enabled the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (ALCT) to be purchased from Geoff King, whose family have farmed the land for over 100 years.

 

Two Aboriginal women, Bron and Luanna, reconnect with the land at Kings Run. Photo: Loic Le Gully

 

Mr King had expressed a desire for the land to be returned to its Indigenous Owners before his death. In recent years he and his wife had stopped running cattle on the land, which runs between Arthur River and Marrawah, and had instead focused on conservation management and ecotourism. This shift occurred after a visit from Nick Mooney, a wildlife biologist who pointed out that Kings Run was on the migratory route of the orange-bellied parrot. There are only 150-200 of these parrots left in the world.

 

“The parrot feeds on a number of species along the foreshore. I realised when my cattle came down here, one of the first things they did was go down to the foreshore and eat those plants.”

 

Kings Run also houses Indigenous burial sites, hut depressions and habitats for other threatened species, including the Tasmanian Devil and the wedge-tailed eagle.

Eddie Fry, Chair of the Indigenous Land Corporation, said that the land purchase will have lasting impact for Tasmanian Indigenous people.

 

“Acquiring Kings Run increases the Indigenous estate in Tasmania and provides the Aboriginal community access to what is land of significant cultural and heritage value,” Mr Fry said.

 

Chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, Clyde Mansell, praised the collaboration that enabled the block to be purchased, hailing it as an example of what can be achieved when like-minded bodies work together to redress land dispossession.

Re-post ∼ Wotif founder’s donation seals the deal to return Kings Run to Aboriginal owners on ABC News.

Glen Innes recognised as renewable energy hub

Glen Innes is at the centre of the renewables revolution according to a recent ABC news article, which highlights the Sapphire and White Rock wind farms. Both are being constructed close to the town due to the ideal combination of high winds and grid connectivity found on this part of the Great Dividing Range.

Goldwind, who are responsible for White Rock wind farm, have also started construction of a 70,000 panel solar farm in the area making the town a genuine renewable energy hub.

The developments have brought a huge boost for the local economy. Some of the 30 farmers on whose land the new turbines are being built have declared that it is helping them to drought-proof their businesses. What’s more, local businesses are employing more staff to deal with the influx of construction workers who are now spending money in the area.

 

Alex Hewitt, MD of CWP Renewables says the company is looking to invest over $300 million in renewables projects in NSW over the next four years.

Starfish is collaborating with Sapphire Wind Farm, which will be the largest wind farm in NSW, to pioneer a community investment project. This would give community members the chance to capitalise even further on the development by investing directly in the wind farm. For further information and to show your interest complete the Community Investment Survey here.

Starfish’s is also work to develop a community-owned wind farm for the region, called New England Wind. This is a longer-term project, with a large amount of work required to secure a viable site and successfully put the project together ~ hence the excitement at Sapphire’s community investment, which, all going well, will happen in the short-term!

Read more ∼ Small town of Glen Innes to become renewable energy hub scattered with wind turbines by Phillipa McDonald on ABC News

Sapphire Community Investment Survey

NSW farmer compares widespread use of herbicides to ‘genocide’

A fifth generation NSW farmer, Charles Massy has always had an intimate relationship with the land he works. But his experience of the drought years, earning a PhD in human ecology as a mature student and listening to the wisdom of his Aboriginal friends has convinced him that the white man’s ‘mechanical mind’ understanding of natural systems is severely flawed. 

 

Farmer Charles Massy at Severn Park, the NSW property his family has farmed for five generations.

 

Massy is the author of Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture – A New Earth, in which he makes a poetic as well as scholarly case for a revolution in the way we think about the soil beneath our feet.

He links the widespread use of glyphosphate (Roundup) to a whole slew of autoimmune diseases and disorders such as Autism and ADHD, which he says are intimately linked to immune function and therefore gut health.

 

Glyphosphate is disrupting the balance of natural ecosystems according to Charles Massy.

 

Massy believes that healthy soil equals healthy, nutrient rich food, and he has therefore become a practitioner and vocal proponent of biodiverse planting and holistic grazing, which have transformed the ecosystems on his farm.

 

“If people ate truly nutrient-rich food out of healthy soil, you would slash the national health bill straight away. The big chemical companies and big food companies know exactly what they are doing. It is now causing millions of deaths – tell me why that is not genocide?”

 

But it’s not just the benefits to humans that interest Massy. He would like to see humans get out of the way of nature and let the ‘self-organising regulating system’ of the Earth recover equilibrium. For an example of how this can be done in the unique Australian landscape he points to pre-colonial times and the way Aboriginal people nurtured and nourished the land and lived in “one of the greatest ever sustainable partnerships between humankind and the ecosystems they occupied”.

When the soil is nurtured in this way, what emerges is:

“a burgeoning mass of life and activity that is 10-fold that above the ground; fungi bacteria, and other organisms have begun to create and sustain an entirely different, living absorbent soil structure; the very heart and essence of healthy farming and landscape function. The secret is to simply restore healthy landscape function and allow nature to do the rest.”

 

Repost ~ Farmer wants a revolution: ‘How is this not genocide?’ | The Guardian

Protein powder made from crickets off to a strong start

WA entrepreneur Paula Pownell has been given the go-ahead to start selling the crickets, grown by her business Grubs Up Australia, as food.


Although public interest and support for her project has been high, Paula expects her innovative ideas for processing the bugs, such as protein powder and bars, to go down better than whole crickets. This Perth Science Fair attendee seems to agree.

 

Eating bugs for the future here with Grubs Up Australia at Perth Science Festival! #GRUBSUP

Posted by Perth Science Festival on Friday, August 11, 2017

 

Several countries, such as Canada, America and Vietnam, have already adopted crickets as the food of the future due to the ease of producing them and their sustainable life cycle. Ms Pownall uses a vertical farming technique to save space and feeds her crickets on fruit and vegetable scraps, turning all of their manure into fertiliser.

“We go from hatching to harvest within six to eight weeks and within that time we have pretty much a zero waste system,” she said.

She hopes to gain interest from the fitness market for her products, due to the high protein content of crickets, claiming that they contain 69% protein, in comparison with most proteins on the market which are only contain around 30%. They also have 9 essential amino acids and are high in Folate and Vitamin B12.

 

Ms Pownall has an agricultural background and also plans to look into the potential of crickets to be used as animal feed.

Re-post ~ Edible crickets: WA farm gets green light to sell insects for food by Tyne Logan and Anthony Pancia for ABC News

Well-managed refugee resettlement can be win-win in rural areas

Refugee advocate Ataus Samad from Multicultural Queensland’s Advisory Council believes that, with the right support and incentives, refugees and migrant workers can be resettled into rural and regional areas, for the benefit of all concerned.

 

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Sweet potato farmer Jean Ntakarutimana and his family, who are happily re-settled in Gracemere, QLD.

 

Jean Ntakarutimana and his parents on the farm with their new employer, Eric Coleman

 

This was certainly the case for Jean Ntakarutimana who struggled to find work and settle into Australian life after being transferred from a Tanzanian refugee camp as a teenager. Ntakarutimana now works on a sweet potato farm in central Queensland, a move which has been so successful that he has now brought his extended family to live and work with him.

 

“We’re happy to be here, the rent is cheap, everything is easier,” Mr Ntakarutimana said.

 

The arrangement has also brought benefits for Eric Coleman, the owner of the sweet potato farm, who enjoys the happy nature and hardworking ethos of the family.

 

“I think the best thing about Johnno and his dad is they come from an agricultural background, so it’s not actually foreign to them but I think the employment agencies are probably running them into places like Brisbane and trying to get them jobs in an environment that’s totally foreign.”

 

He would like to see employment agencies put more time and funding into providing English lessons, driver licences and tickets to make the prospect more attractive for potential employers.

 

Ataus Samad agrees:

 

“If we want to develop our regional and rural areas, we need people. We need to create an environment that will encourage people to settle,” he said.

 

By working closely with refugees and migrants, as well as with employers, Mr Samad has been able to successfully transition groups of refugees into rural life using an employment-first approach.

Re-post ~ Refugee resettlement in regional Australia brings success but needs more incentives by By Inga Stünzner on ABC News

Wind power saves agribusiness expansion project and creates rural jobs

The largest hydroponic vegetable grower in Australia has been able to expand its operations thanks to a groundbreaking collaboration with a 196MW wind farm development.

 

Nectar Farms had planned to power its $565m expansion project with gas but almost had to abandon the project when costs proved to be prohibitive. However, after discussions with state government, local council and Neoen, the wind farm developer, they will now convert their entire operation to run on electricity from the wind farm and expand their glasshouses to 40 acres, creating 1,300 new jobs in an area which has recently suffered the closure of a goldmine.

 

Bulgana GPH Announcement from New Era Media on Vimeo.

 

Energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio highlighted the fact that renewable energy can ‘unlock opportunities for large, energy intensive businesses, to create jobs in regional communities’.

“We’re delivering affordable, secure and clean energy, which is powering new jobs right across our state,” D’Ambrosio said.

The project will also incorporate 20MW of battery storage, meaning it is 100% powered by wind energy. Nectar Farms will only use 10% of the electricity generated by the wind farm, with the rest to be purchased by the Victorian government.

This is one of several wind and solar farms planned for western Victoria, which will help the state to meet its target of 40% renewable electricity by 2025 and also count towards the federal renewable energy target.

Re-post ~ Giles Parkinson – Victoria agribusiness turns to 196MW wind farm with 20MW storage in RenewEconomy

Report highlights importance of preserving Australia’s plant biodiversity

Kew Gardens has released its second annual State of the World’s Plants report. Last year’s report named Australia as one of the top three places in the world to discover new plant species, but also estimated that it is home to 12% of the world’s threatened plants.

This year’s report deepens the research from the previous year. For example it increases our understanding of the reasons why particular plants may be more vulnerable to extinction and which plant families contain the highest percentage of medicinal plants. It also maps the major traits associated with a plant’s resilience to climate change, which include thicker leaves, efficient water-use strategies, deeper roots and higher wood density.

The report also looks at threats to various plant species, including the increased need for food production and a particular focus on wildfires, seeking to understand how patterns of burning may be affected by factors such as changing land use and climate change.

Over 100 scientists are involved in preparing the report, which also highlights the good news on newly discovered plants.

Australia has been identified as one of the top three places in the world to discover new plant species, alongside China and Brazil. Dr Martin Taylor, a conservation scientist with WWF Australia, said Australia had about 21,000 plant species, making up 10% of the world’s total.

However, there are concerns that government policies may not be giving plants the protection they are due. An increasing demand for food production and housing mean more pressure to clear land. Dr Taylor singled out land clearing in Queensland as a major issue.

 

“Land clearing has accelerated, we’ve done an estimate that over 200,000 hectares of threatened species habitat was cleared in just the first two years of the Newman Government.”

 

When clearing laws were relaxed in Queensland, so much was cleared it looks set to completely undo greenhouse gas emissions cuts made under the federal government’s Direct Action policy. Photograph: WWF

 

There are concerns that new, more relaxed, land-clearing laws in NSW may lead to a similar trend in the state.

 

Read more ~

Dingoes: a farmer’s new best friend?

Whilst dingoes have traditionally been seen as a pest by farmers, there are some innovative land managers who see dingo populations as a good thing, and the evidence increasingly backs them up.

By law, land managers in Australia are required to take ‘all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with [dingoes] under their control’ as dingoes are considered a pest. However, individual case studies where dingo populations have been left alone show potential for this revolutionary farming practice to positively impact land regeneration.

The benefits of not managing dingo populations artificially include:

  • Smaller numbers of dingoes ~ when their social hierarchies are uninterrupted by poison baiting etc. dingo populations are self-managing, with only one breeding pair per group. The dominant group will scare off other dingoes who venture into the area.
  • Dingoes keep down kangaroo, feral goat, pig, cat and fox numbers, which allows pasture to rest effectively and protects native wildlife.
  • Even with some calves being taken, research shows a net financial benefit to having dingoes on a cattle property.

 

Dingoes are Australia’s apex predator and an essential part of a balanced ecosystem. They keep kangaroo populations in check, which in turn prevents overgrazing and land degradation. Photo: Angus Emmott

Dingoes are a bigger issue for sheep farmers than cattle farmers and this has created some controversy in areas where farmers are experimenting with allowing dingoes to live on their land. However, there are a number of potential ways of protecting sheep without killing dingoes, such as dingo-proof fencing and the use of guardian dogs, which have been shown to be effective dingo-deterrents in many locations across Australia. This, in combination with a longer-term move towards changing our eating habits” farming and eating native fauna, such as kangaroos, would allow massive regeneration of land that has been overgrazed and degraded for decades.

These experiments seem to back up what has been learned from other land regeneration efforts: that working with natural processes, rather than against them, is the simplest and most cost-effective way to live well on Australian soils.

 

Re-post ~ Why do some graziers want to retain, not kill, dingoes? by Euan Richie in The Conversation.

Read more ~ Predator-friendly farming—good for livestock, dingoes and the bottom line by Marea Martlew on Phys.org

Free manual on the use of guardian dogs for protecting livestock by Linda van Bommel

The virtuous circle: predator-friendly farming and ecological restoration in Australia by Johnson and Wallach in the Resotoration Ecology Journal

Bush foods set to boom, but will Aboriginal Australians benefit?

What do Kakadu Plums, Champagne and Camenbert Cheese have in common? Not much as yet. But some people would like to see Australia adopt rules and policies for bush foods which protect the interests of the place they come from and the people who hold special knowledge about them, as is the case in Europe. This would ensure traditional owners have a stake in the exploitation of these foods and are reimbursed for their intellectual property.

In Europe, “products that are deeply rooted in tradition, culture and geography” are sometimes covered by ‘protected geographical indications‘ which only allow, for example, sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France to be called Champagne. These rules support rural development by establishing a unique provenance that in turn can create jobs in processing and production of these commodities locally.

 

The Kakadu Plum, also known as the Billygoat Plum, is sought after as a great source of vitamin C and has long been used as bush medicine by Aboriginal people.

 

Wendy Morgan, chair of the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council, argues that such measures are necessary since currently corporations have no qualms about exploiting indigenous knowledge, and this is a missed opportunity to generate income for Aboriginal communities.

 

“You’ll have the big pharmaceutical companies coming out and talking to [Aboriginal communities] and taking samples of their medicines. They might acknowledge where they got it from, but there is no money going back into that community they got the information from.”

 

Under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, when products are taken from specific locations the benefits from those products should be shared with the providers of those resources, be they national governments or indigenous communities.

However, there are loopholes in Australian law which allow international companies to bypass this process. There is also the possibility that Aboriginal people could be legislated out of their own heritage, as almost happened in when a major US cosmetics company tried to patent an extract of Kakadu Plum.

These issues are all the more relevant because the bush food market, including other well-known native Australian plants such as lemon myrtle, wattle seed, finger lime, warrigal greens, quandong and bush tomatoes, appears to be on the verge of booming. It has even been suggested that Australia may have to start importing bush foods to meet demand.

According to Jocelyn Grant, the general manager of First Australians Capital, one of the major factors holding back the bush food market is lack of supply due to current protocols. These mandate that when a not-for-profit business that processes, for example, Kakadu plums, seeks government grants and financial support they have to sign over all the IP to the government. She’d like to see this change.

 

“Why wouldn’t we look at a whole-of-government strategy where not only are we protecting indigenous foods and the rights of people passing on knowledge about those foods ~ but also the value to the Australian economy is huge because it is an export opportunity,” she says.

 

Re-post ~ Protecting the Kakadu in Kakadu plums: selling bush foods to the world by Fiona Smith in The Guardian

Read more ~