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National Environmental Science Program
October 2020 update
Welcome to this month's update from the National Environmental Science Program (NESP). NESP is a national program, with a footprint in nearly every corner of Australia. We are celebrating this breadth with the release of our State and territory showcase. From saving endangered frogs, handfish and orchids; restoring shellfish reefs; and protecting the environmental and cultural values of the Fitzroy River; to building the mango industry’s climate resilience; mapping urban heat; and supporting Traditional Owners to manage their sea country, NESP has something for every Australian to be proud of. Read on to discover more current research from our hubs.
Merri Creek, Victoria. Photo: Judy Bush
Bridging disciplinary boundaries: the roles of governance for urban green-blue spaces
Urban green (and blue) spaces, such as parks, waterways, wetlands, street trees, gardens and nature reserves are essential elements of resilient and liveable cities. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, these spaces provide many functions and benefits for people and the other species that call our cities home. They cool our cities, treat air and water, provide space for recreation and connection, and habitat for biodiversity. There are many different types of green-blue spaces in cities – and many different models for their governance, planning and management. Hub researcher Dr Judy Bush has investigated new approaches to governance and policies to support the creation and retention of healthy, multifunctional green-blue spaces. The hub has released a series of new factsheets that provide an overview and definitions of ‘governance’, and how governance and policy for green-blue spaces can contribute to retaining and maximising resilient nature in cities.
Collection of symbols to help tell the research stories of northern Australia. Photo: Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub
100+ northern Australia symbols now available
The Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub has launched its free collection of 100+ northern Australia symbols to help tell the research stories of northern Australia and to aid knowledge exchange with Traditional Owners, Indigenous rangers, other land managers and government decision-makers. There are symbols of invasive species such as feral pigs and stinking passionflower, native plants and animals such as boab trees and shorebirds, land uses such as grazing, and, most importantly, people. There are both raster and vector versions of each symbol (as well as a bonus swatch palette of northern Australia colours) that can be used in a range of software applications to synthesise and communicate science with graphical abstracts, posters, animations, conceptual diagrams and more. The symbols have already been successfully used to communicate hub research in the Northen Territory Oolloo Dolostone Aquifer Water Allocation Plan, by the Western Australian Government in their consultations with Traditional Owners in the Kimberley on the Fitzroy River water allocation plan and management plan, and in several scientific papers published by hub researchers.
Feral cat with a tracking collar at Arid Recovery SA. Photo: Hugh McGregor
Cat science to the rescue of native animals
Saving Australian wildlife from an invasive introduced predator is the objective driving a Threatened Species Recovery Hub team of more than 30 Australian scientists, government and non-government conservation managers and Indigenous rangers. For the past five years the team has been collaborating on research to better understand and reduce the impact of cats on vulnerable native animals. The team collated the findings of more than 100 studies across the country to fill key knowledge gaps about cats and how best to manage their impacts. They also conducted field trials to test management options to see what works best in different situations and parts of the country to reduce cat impacts. Their work has helped to inform priority areas for new cat- and fox-free havens; where and when we can use poison baiting most effectively and safely to control cats; how you can reduce cat populations by removing other introduced pests like rabbits; how to reduce cat impacts through careful management of fire and grazing; and the role that the community are playing in reducing cat numbers. The project is a finalist for a prestigious Australian Museum Eureka Prize, in the category of Applied Environmental Research. Find out more in this article, video or this special edition of the hub magazine.
Recreational fishers retrieving boats in the Ningaloo Marine Park. Photo: Matt Navarro
Monitoring the human dimensions of Australian Marine Parks
A Marine Biodiversity Hub study has identified potential ‘indicators’ to measure how Australian Marine Parks (AMPs) affect the social and economic benefits people derive from the marine environment. The socio-economics team led by The University of Western Australia selected the indicators after reviewing and discussing monitoring approaches with park managers and other specialists at workshops around Australia. Importantly, the indicators are simple to understand and cost-effective to apply at a national scale. They draw on a range of existing data sources, including catch and effort reports from commercial fisheries, oil and gas infrastructure databases, and vessel registration data. New data collection is also proposed to fill gaps. This would focus on understanding use patterns, awareness and attitudes towards AMPs among stakeholder groups such as charter operators and recreational users, but also the general public. The indicators are designed for incorporation in the Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement System being developed by Parks Australia.
Gondwana mist through forest. Photo: Melinda Laidlaw, Queensland department of Environment and Science
Using co-produced research to inform climate change adaptation planning for the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area
The Gondwana Rainforest World Heritage Area is one of 19 listed World Heritage properties in Australia, recognised by UNESCO for its rich biodiversity and home to many threatened and endemic species. But the changing climate poses a threat to the unique habitats and species that live there. The high-elevation forests rely on cloud and fog for their annual rainfall requirements, with 40% of the moisture in the forests coming from clouds. Rainforest managers therefore need to understand future changes to cloud cover and how this might affect the property’s flora and fauna. The Earth Systems and Climate Change (ESCC) Hub collaborated with Gondwana Rainforest managers in a co-produced case study to provide relevant, downscaled climate projections out to 2070. The projections suggest that even minor changes to the elevation of cloud cover due to climate change may affect cloud-water dependent species, especially during the dry season. This may result in ecological community change. This case study can inform future risk assessments for the Gondwana Rainforests, including for bushfire, complementing other spatial tools used by land management agencies to assess and mitigate risk. Read more about the case study on the ESCC Hub website, and watch the case study webinar.
Tourism operators transporting coral colonies during a coral restoration workshop in Port Douglas. Photo: Pablo Cogollos
What’s driving new tourism projects in reef restoration?
Active coral restoration is a new endeavour on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), with initial projects starting in 2017. Methods used in these early projects include coral gardening, direct transplantation of larvae, and the improvement of reef structure to aid in recovery. A new technical report released by the hub’s Best Practice in Coral Restoration Project outlines some of the key reasons various tourism operators on the GBR have now begun undertaking restoration projects of their own. The report gives an initial look into operator motivations and found the major drivers of restoration are protecting the reef from increasing pressures and improving customer satisfaction. The report also lists a number of challenges facing operators on this issue, including being able to work within existing regulations and the uncertainties and impacts linked to future weather and climate events.
Stay in touch and find out more about the interesting work happening across the Australian Government’s agriculture, water and environment portfolios: