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National Environmental Science Program
August 2021 update
There’s been much happening since our last issue of NESP News, including the wrap-up of the first phase of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP), and National Science Week.
Hub leaders recently showcased their significant achievements and impacts over NESP’s first 6 years. Deputy Secretary Lyn O’Connell took the opportunity to thank (virtually) the first-phase hubs for their dedication and achievements.
Research from the first-phase hubs has increased our understanding of climate change and provided on-ground tools to help decision-makers at all levels of government on climate-related matters. It has enhanced our knowledge of environmental threats and invasive pests and given land and sea managers tools to better protect our valuable biodiversity. It has developed resources to make our cities more liveable, and it has strengthened partnerships with our First Nations peoples to help us work together to care for Country. And it has done so much more.
Lyn emphasised that NESP is at the heart of the government’s commitment to managing and protecting Australia’s precious natural environment and heritage, drawing on the best science and Traditional Knowledge across Australia to provide a significant evidence base to inform policy and decision-making. We highlighted some of this important work during National Science Week on the department's social media channels, and within our department, including a presentation by the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub on innovative symbols for science engagement.
We thank the first-phase hubs for their involvement in NESP over the last 6 years and for the powerful legacy they have left. We will continue to build on this through the next phase of the program and its 4 new hubs.
Threatened Species Recovery Hub
Dr Katherine Tuft from Arid Recovery with a Kowari. Photo: Billy La Marca, Threatened Species Recovery Hub.
Co-developed collaborations have underpinned impact for threatened species
The Threatened Species Recovery Hub’s 6-year research program made a massive contribution to the recovery of Australia’s threatened species. To ensure research made a difference on the ground, hub scientists co-developed 147 projects with more than 250 research partners nation-wide. These included 56 government agencies, 60+ non-government organisations, 50+ Indigenous groups, 20+ natural resource management groups and a variety of industry and community groups.
Although most projects have only just finished, there has already been substantial application of research on-the-ground and in policy, which is delivering an improved conservation outlook for many threatened species. For example, a new tool increased Forty-spotted Pardalote chick survival from 8% to 95% in a trial, which will now be applied to a larger area. The hub also developed a method which allows over 30 threatened Leek-orchids to be propagated for the first time. It has since been applied to seven species. New detection methods led to the discovery of Night Parrots, Kangaroo Island Dunnarts and threatened Antechinuses across new locations, and these populations can now be protected. Another example is how the hub’s systematic review of safe havens helped to inform the design of the Australian Government’s Environment Restoration Fund – Safe Havens grants.
The review also helped to inform $7 million in funding to expand Australia’s havens network. The Kowari will be one of the first species to benefit with a translocation to Arid Recovery sanctuary in planning.
Marine Biodiversity Hub
The expedition team for the 2020 Marine Biodiversity Hub survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs in Lord Howe Marine Park included hub partners and collaborators from Parks Australia, University of Tasmania (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and Australian Maritime College), Geoscience Australia, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and the University of Sydney Australian Centre for Field Robotics (Integrated Marine Observing System Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Facility). Photo: Geoscience Australia.
Providing practical solutions for marine biodiversity managers around Australia
Relationships, capabilities and knowledge developed by the Marine Biodiversity Hub are making a practical contribution to marine and coastal biodiversity management around Australia.
A system for identifying monitoring priorities in Australian Marine Parks (AMPs) has been developed jointly by park managers and hub researchers. It is being incorporated into Parks Australia’s management effectiveness system and science plans for regional AMP networks. It draws on extensive data collation and syntheses undertaken by the hub that identified key natural values and pressures, and helped to catalyse national marine data repositories. Standardised, best-practice approaches developed by the hub were applied in surveys that established baseline understanding of natural values in AMPs. Allied projects provided knowledge of social and economic values, risks and cumulative impacts.
Other hub projects, including those that produced population size estimates for threatened and migratory species, and reviewed the extinction risk of all Australia’s sharks and rays, are supporting threatened species management in Australia and in international forums. Along our coasts, initiatives to restore giant kelp, shellfish reef and seagrass ecosystems are guided by hub reviews and practical studies that garnered technical knowledge and community participation.
In all these areas of research, the hub progressively increased Indigenous engagement and partnerships in regionally focused projects, to identify and advance Indigenous research interests and priorities. Read the hub’s impact report for an overview of the hub’s impacts over the 6 years of the program.
Tropical Water Quality Hub
Interactive illustrations from the newly launched Tropical Water Quality Hub synthesis website. Illustration: Kate Hodge, Hodge Environmental.
From ridge to reef: drawing it all together
The Tropical Water Quality Hub's synthesis of research includes a newly launched interactive website for research-users. It provides an accessible portal to visualise the rationale behind, connectivity of and impact from the hub’s last 6 years of research. Research synthesis areas include nutrients, sediments, pesticides, Crown-of-thorns Starfish, reef resilience, working together and restoration.
Visitors to the website can interact with an illustrated catchment map linking to hub projects and their research outcomes. The map shows how these outcomes can be applied to practical management from ridge to reef, to improve water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef and other connected ecosystems.
The Tropical Water Quality Hub synthesis website can be found here.
Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub
Hub researchers Leah Beesley, Chris Keogh and Thiaggo de Castro Tayer, sampling fish and algae in collaboration with Yimardoo Warra Rangers, Jeremiah Green and Shaquille Millindee. Photo: Michael Douglas, Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub.
And that’s a wrap! Stories of hub research impact from northern Australia
The Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub addressed key research questions to come up with practical, on-ground solutions to some of the north’s most complex environmental challenges.
A transdisciplinary research approach has been at the heart of the hub. Integrating key research-users – policy-makers and land managers, including Traditional Owners and ranger groups – into the co-design of research projects has led to rapid uptake of research outcomes into land management practices and decision-making.
Hub projects had impact in 4 broad areas: understanding the importance of rivers and their flows, supporting Indigenous natural resource management and alternative economies, developing new approaches for monitoring and communicating about environmental resources, and managing threatened species and threatening processes.
The hub extends its gratitude and congratulations to all who have been involved in its successful 6-year program.
Keep up to date
Stay in touch and find out more about the interesting work happening across the Australian Government’s agriculture, water and environment portfolios: