Submission to the NSW Biodiversity legislation review

Megan Evans and Martine Maron recently made a submission to the New South Wales biodiversity legislation review. You can read our full submission here, and key points are summarised below.

We support efforts to reform native vegetation laws to improve outcomes for biodiversity, reduce regulatory burden where possible, and to create new incentives and opportunities for landholders to engage in private land conservation.

However, we are extremely concerned with particular components of the biodiversity legislation package, which will seriously undermine the object of the Act itself, and run directly counter to the recommendations of the independent review of the Native Vegetation Act 2003.

New South Wales has a significant opportunity to reform its biodiversity and native vegetation laws to enhance positive social, economic and environmental outcomes. The draft Biodiversity Conservation Act in its current form is unlikely to deliver these outcomes. Indeed, in absence of rigorous policy monitoring, evaluation and compliance enforcement, it is not likely we will know what, if any, outcomes the new Act will achieve. Crucially, the many exemptions provided for under the Act will very likely facilitate an increase broad-scale clearing in New South Wales, which would be a significant backward step for environmental policy in Australia.

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Better offsets for threatened species

Below is a summary of our NESP-TSR project which Martine Maron, Megan Evans and Fleur Maseyk are involved with.

When species are threatened by development such as urban growth or mining, environmental offsets are often used to help counterbalance the impact.

The idea is to generate an environmental benefit equal to the loss – achieving a neutral net outcome, says Associate Professor Martine Maron from The University of Queensland, who leads the TSR Hub’s ‘Better offsets for threatened species’ Project (5.1).

“Some of the traditional area-based offsets, which may involve creating new habitat and putting protection around it, or restoring the condition of vegetation on other land, can be very expensive but not as effective as we’d hoped,” says Associate Professor Maron.

Flickr_Swift Parrot_heatherw
Image credit: Swift Parrot, courtesy of Heather W (Flickr).

Project 5.1 will explore alternative strategies for providing offset benefits, particularly for threatened species often affected by unavoidable development, such as the Swift Parrot, Regent Honeyeater, Growling Grass Frog and cave-dwelling microbats.

Continue reading “Better offsets for threatened species”

Queensland land clearing is undermining Australia’s environmental progress

Increases in land clearing rates were confirmed in a report released by the Queensland Government late last year. The latest SLATS report, which documents change in woody vegetation in Queensland between 2012-14, shows that the increased rates of clearing are evident across the board: in old-growth vegetation, mature regrowth of threatened ecosystems, and catchments that drain to the Great Barrier Reef – not just young regrowth vegetation. While these land clearing rates increase, they undermine Australia’s environmental programs. Read our recent article in The Conversation here.

Bushfires pushing species to extinction

Climate change is increasing the frequency, severity and extent of bushfires across southern Australia (and in many other parts of the world). Along with Tim Doherty and Rob Davis, Emma Burgess (who has recently graduated form our lab with her PhD) and Martine Maron recently coauthored a story for The Conversation illustrating some of the most recent impacts of bushfires and how the increasing severity is interacting with landscape change to threaten plant and animal species. The paper complements a recent paper by Maron on how increasing climate variability will increase resource bottlenecks for a large range of species globally – see the abstract here and contact if you’d like a reprint.

Postdoctoral position available: better biodiversity offsets for threatened species

We are looking for an outstanding early-career researcher to join our lab as a postdoctoral research fellow. The successful applicant will work collaboratively with a team of people across several universities and organisations in the National Environmental Science Program’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub on the project, “Better offsets for threatened species“.

Offsetting is a relatively new and still-controversial conservation tool. Significant challenges to offset effectiveness for threatened species remain. For example, the vast majority of offsets to date have involved land protection and traditional restoration, which can be expensive, and often have limited and uncertain benefits, which are slow to accrue. This project will identify a suite of Australian threatened species and habitats that most commonly trigger a requirement for offsets, but for which traditional ‘land-based’ offsets are not cost-effective, or for which uncertainty is high. For this suite of species, we will evaluate approaches focussed more directly on threat abatement, including several threat abatement interventions that will be trialled on-ground through linked TSR Hub projects. We will also explore how best to design delivery approaches for such novel offsets, particularly when they require contributions from multiple proponents and investment in threat abatement over the long term.

Click here for all the details on how to apply for this or one of several other postdocs that are now available through The University of Queensland as part of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub. If your interest is in the area of biodiversity offsets, and you have specific questions about the role, you can also contact me by email directly after getting in touch with the central contact person (Hub COO Melanie King). Applications close: 25 Sep 2015 (11:55 PM) E. Australia Standard Time

Martine Maron on ABC Melbourne 774

Noisy miners in the news: should we consider culling this overabundant native for conservation? See ABC news story here:

and listen to an interview with Martine Maron on ABC Melbourne 774 here: