Australia’s biodiversity: management and restoration tools

Australia’s biodiversity: management and restoration tools

[Music plays] (Dr. Tara Martin) Australia
is facing an unprecedented decline in biodiversity, as is the globe, and one of the challenges is
that there is a huge amount of uncertainty in terms of how to
deal with that biodiversity loss. There is also a limited amount of resources that we can use to tackle those
problems, and at the same time there’s a lot of
competing, other problems that we’re trying to deal with
around the world that are taking up those same resources. So we have a very challenging
set of problems to deal with in Australia, and
we’re trying to do it in the best way possible, with the
resources that we have at hand. Amongst the threats to
Australian biodiversity there’s two that are key,
and that is habitat loss and fragmentation and the
introduction of exotic species. In terms of managing those threats there’s many actions we
can take, but the first one is to remove the threat entirely. So in terms of habitat
loss, it’s removing the destruction of habitat,
and for invasive species it’s preventing entry into Australia. Other actions we can take for
habitat loss includes restoration, active restoration, putting vegetation and animals backing into the landscape. And in terms of invasive species
we want to contain their distribution once they come into
Australia, and then if they start to spread we want
to control that spread. There are many other threats
facing Australia, livestock grazing and misuse of fire
are two other big ones. Grazing affects over 80% of
the Australian landscape, and by managing stock density
we can go a long way towards maintaining biodiversity
in these landscapes. In terms of fire, fire
frequencies have become too frequent in many parts
of the Australian landscape, and also too extensive. So by
understanding Aboriginal fire regimes we’re trying to
get back to something more in tune with what the
fire regimes were prior to European colonisation. [Music plays] Over the last ten years or
so we’ve developed a lot of techniques to help us
make better decisions in the face of this high level
of uncertainty and resource constraints, and we call
this process of decision making called structured decision making. There’s a few key steps
that we take when we’re using this process, and
they are firstly to clearly define the problem that we have. The second thing we need to do is
clearly articulate what actions we’re actually going to take.
What can we do to protect biodiversity in these
different circumstances? The next thing we need
to do is ask ourselves, well what’s the actual benefit
of taking that action? If we, for example, are going to
minimise grazing in a particular area, what’s going to be the benefit
of that gazing response on the plants and animals
that we’re trying to protect? Finally, we need to think about
what the resource constraints are. Often we try and solve these
problems without having an understanding of the
costs of undertaking the different actions, and
that’s really like trying to go shopping without price tags. So we need to know how
much money do we have to deal with this particular
problem, and how much time do we have, what’s
the timeframe in terms of solving this type of problem? [Music plays] We’re using these methods of
structured decision making to solve some very tricky
problems in Australia, and they include how to recover
our endangered species. At the moment we have
over 700 species listed on the EPBC, that’s the
Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. We don’t have enough
resources to recover all of those species, so we need
to come up with a way of actually deciding which
ones we can recover for the resources we have.
So using this technique is a very helpful way of doing that. We can define the costs of
taking the different actions, we can define the benefits
for each species of taking these actions, and we can
also look at the feasibility. The reason why this approach has been so successful is that we’re
essentially producing a prospectus for investing in biodiversity. And this is really useful when we’re
working with government agencies and industry bodies in that we’re
able to say this is how much biodiversity you’re likely to conserve
for this amount of money spent. (Eddie Game) My name is Eddie Game. I’m a Senior Scientist with
the Nature Conservancy, which is the world’s largest conservation non-government organisation.
We work in about 45 countries around the world on biodiversity
conservation strategies. In Australia we work in the Kimberley, and we support conservation
management in a number of Indigenous protected areas. This is the same place where CSIRO
has been working to determine the most cost effective approaches
to managing our biodiversity. We use CSIRO’s products. That’s one of the big reasons
why people support the Nature Conservancy, is that
we’re really committed to using science to
determine the work we do. And it’s a big incentive
for our supporters that we’re always looking for
the most cost effective approaches to biodiversity conservation. In the Kimberley this turns
out to be for us managing fire regimes, managing
cattle on those lands, and also managing invasive herbivores. [Music plays] (Dr. Tara Martin) Many of the
problems that we have right now in terms of biodiversity
conservation are very urgent, and failure to make
decisions in a timely way will lead to extinction.
In fact one of our most recent extinctions was the
Christmas Island Pipistrelle. And that’s a species that we had been monitoring for quite a long
time, but a failure to act in time resulted in the
extinction of that species. We want to avoid that in the future. We have the tools at hand to
make decisions under huge amounts of uncertainty. Australia
is very well placed in terms of managing its
biodiversity because a lot of the scientific expertise has been
developed in this country. So given the political will
and the social appetite for biodiversity conservation
is there, we should do very well in halting the decline
of our biodiversity and recovering the biodiversity
that is already in decline. [Music plays]

Comments (1)

  1. Greetings Dr. Tara :o)

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