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.

Kenyan government introduces toughest plastic bag ban to date

In the toughest crack-down on single-use plastic yet, the Kenyan government has introduced a countrywide ban on the production, sale and use of plastic bags, with penalties of up to four years’ jail or fines of up to $US40,000.

 

 

Whilst critics of the ban say it will cause job losses and affect small tradespeople’s ability to sell their products, many Kenyans are pleased that the ban has finally been enforced, after ten years of government effort. Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the UN Environment Programme in Kenya, notes that many plastic bags end up in waterways where they strangle or are eaten by marine life:

“If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

There are also concerns that cattle are now routinely arriving at Kenyan slaughterhouses with up to 20 plastic bags in their stomachs. Plastics eaten by fish and animals then make their way into the human food chain.

 

Plastic bag ban infographic

 

Forty other countries have introduced some level of plastic bag ban, and although Kenya’s is potentially the harshest, Environment Minister Judy Wakhungu points out that bag manufacturers will initially be the main targets of enforcement.

Re-post ~ Plastic bag-makers and users risk jail, fines as Kenya cracks down on pollution in ABC News

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

Collaboration sees Aboriginal people back as custodians of their lands

The Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation are taking an active role in the management of six state and national parks and reserves which are within the Country which was returned to the Dja Dja Wurrung people in a recognition agreement in 2013.

The Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board, will manage the parks and reserves in partnership with Parks Victoria. They have appointed CSIRO to lead the creation of a Joint Management Plan, which will have Dja Dja Wurrung’s 20-year vision for people (Jaara) and country (Djanderk) at its centre.

 

A gathering of Dja Dja Wurrung people, at Hepburn Regional Park, one of the six parks being jointly managed by the Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board.

 

Graham Atkinson, chairperson of the board, who was instrumental in negotiating recognition of traditional ownership with the state government says:

“Our Country Plan acknowledges that we must transmit our cultural heritage to younger generations. The Dja Dja Wurrung people have kept their connection to country alive through oral history, as well as through researching historical publications written at the time of European settlement.”

Dr Ro Hill, who will be leading the CSIRO team as they develop the joint management plan, recognises the importance of ‘weaving together’ traditional and scientific knowledge in order to benefit from both. He also believes that some of the ways of seeing the land enshrined in traditional knowledge, such as a focus on larger, more visible species, may be make the parks management strategy more accessible to the public. In the same vein, he notes that the holistic way of understanding how humans and the landscape are connected has influenced national parks management worldwide, as exemplified by Parks Victoria’s ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’ campaign.

Re-post ~ Returning good health to country and spirit by Mary-Lou Consdine in ECOS

Costa Rica setting the bar for sustainability

Costa Rica has broken its own record for sustainable energy production and had another UNESCO Biosphere Reserve declared within its borders, all before the end of July 2017. Phew!

Aiming to be the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2021, Costa Ricans have set themselves high standards in sustainability. Over the last 30 years they have already achieved producing around 93% of their energy from sustainable sources such as wind, geothermal, solar and hydroelectric power. However, in the first six months of this year they upped that figure to an impressive 99%!

Adding to the year’s environmental achievements, The Savegre River, an area of great biodiversity in the Zona de los Santos, was declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Biosphere Reserves are areas dedicated to exploring how sustainable development might practically work by ‘combining core protected areas with zones where sustainable development is fostered by local dwellers and enterprises’. The naming of this new reserve means that Costa Rica is now home to a total of four Biosphere Reserves.

 

A pair of Cappuchin Monkeys laze happily in the Savegre River Biosphere Reserve. The area is home to 54% of the mammal species native to Costa Rica, 20% of the country’s flora and 59% of its birds. Image – Paradise Products

 

According to the Costa Rica Tourism board, tourism has had a huge part to play in encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices at all levels of society. The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) encourages entrepreneurs to think sustainably and rewards their efforts with a five-leaf system which can be displayed on their publicity materials, setting them apart from other businesses.

 

Re-post ~ Costa Rica Achieves Two New Records in Sustainability Effort | Market Watch

Read more ~ Costa Rica Achieves Two New Records in Sustainability Effort | Newswire Canada

Climate change leads to huge infrastructure cost on Torres Strait island

The economic costs of rising sea levels due to climate change are beginning to hit home as a $24.5m sea wall is completed on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

The small island just off the coast of Papua New Guinea has been suffering the effects of land erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels for years. At one point it was feared that its 350 inhabitants would have to be permanently evacuated. However, in 2014, under the Torres Strait Seawalls Project, the Australian Federal and Queensland governments pledged a total of $26.2 million to help the islands deal with the crisis.

$24 million has now been spent building only one seawall on Saibai and, whilst this sea wall is expected to protect the community and its livelihood for 50 years, it leaves little money for infrastructure on the other 5 islands in need of protection. Preliminary talks to try and secure more funding are now underway.

However, with sea levels rising by millimetres every year, inhabitants of the other islands can not afford to wait for beaureaucracy. They are at risk of losing land and culture in the very near future, despite adaptation plans which are being developed. This is especially true for the narrow coral island of Poruma, to the south of Saibai.

 

“Time is very critical in terms of getting some work underway so we can actually protect and combat erosion at Poruma — Poruma doesn’t have time to wait,” said Torres Strait Mayor, Fred Gela.

 

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The old, damaged sea wall on Saibai Island.

 

Sabai Island’s new seawall. which cost nearly $25 million and is a harbinger of the huge costs climate change could bring to governments and taxpayers worldwide.

 

Queensland Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Mark Furner said that the Palaszczuk Government’s $12 million contribution to the Torres Strait Seawalls Project demonstrated their commitment to improving communities in regional and remote parts of Queensland.

 

“These are Queenslanders facing real risks to their homes and livelihoods as a result of the impacts of climate change, so to be able to provide a long‐term infrastructure solution is a great win for this community.”

 

However, it remains to be seen if government will remain so committed and optimistic as the inevitable economic costs of climate change continue to rise.

 

Read more ~ Saibai islanders celebrate new $24.5m seawall to fight rising ocean levels in Torres Strait by Emilia Terzon for ABC News

Read more ~ Minister Scullion: Saibai Island Seawalls ready to hold back the tide on indigenous.gov.au

Why the Paris climate deal is not enough without economic de-growth

Whilst the Paris climate deal has noble aims, it is based on shaky assumptions, according to a recent article in the Guardian. To genuinely put ourselves on a trajectory which avoids the economic crisis that climate change will force upon us, we need to embrace purposeful economic de-growth. 

The Paris climate deal relies upon data and ‘pathways’ modeled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The emissions cuts agreed upon in Paris will not sufficiently limit climate change unless the ‘negative emissions technologies’ the IPCC models rely upon are successful. Unfortunately 80% of the models are based upon BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage) which is a technology which has not been proven at scale and which is being increasingly discredited by scientists.

This reliance on ‘negative emissions technologies’ has come about as the IPCC attempt to appease politicians and big business. Original IPCC models, which did not assume humanity’s ability to pull large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, required the slowing and reversing of economic growth in a way which would have been hard for those benefiting from the current economic model to stomach.

However, these original models, based on what we currently know to be possible, clearly called for economic de-growth.

 

“De-growth might sound scary, but it’s really not. All it means is easing the intensity of our economy, cutting the excesses of the very richest, sharing what we have instead of plundering the Earth for more, and liberating ourselves from the frenetic consumerism that we all know does nothing to improve our wellbeing or happiness.”

 

Humanity is now faced with a choice: to choose controlled economic de-growth or to allow the economic crisis which is sure to arise from climate change to choose us.

 

Re-post ~ The Paris climate deal won’t save us – our future depends on de-growth by Jason Hickel in The Guardian

Read more ~ In defense of de-growth: opinions and minifestos by By Giorgos Kallis, edited by Aaron Vansintjan

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