Feed or weed? New pastures sow future problems

Weeds cost Australian farmers around A$4 billion every year — and they are likely to do a similar amount of damage to the environment.

In a new global survey published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we show that new pasture plants, such as grasses, present a substantial weed risk...read more at The Conversation

Nations “failing to save earth’s wildlife”

long-tailed finchThe world can dramatically improve the rate at which it rescues imperilled species if it starts choosing the land set aside as protected areas more wisely, international scientists say.

New research shows that by choosing the least valuable lands as protected areas, the world is doing a poor job of protecting its threatened birds, mammals and amphibians. The study also reveals that with a little compromise, nations can save five times more wildlife at 1.5 times the cost of the cheapest protected area options.

“One of the planet’s greatest extinction crises is happening right now,” says lead author Dr Oscar Venter of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and The University of Queensland, who is presenting the study at the World Parks Congress this week.

“To stop the continuing decline in biodiversity, 193 countries have committed to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets – an international strategy aimed to reduce threats to biodiversity, and to protect the ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.”

Dr Venter explains that the major Aichi Targets include expanding the world’s terrestrial protected areas from 13 to 17 per cent by 2020, and stopping the loss of all known threatened species.

And as the world undergoes the biggest expansion of protected areas in history, it needs to seize the opportunity to protect its imperilled wildlife within these protected areas, instead of focusing only on meeting targets based on area, he says...read the FULL STORY



The study “Targeting global protected area expansion for imperiled biodiversity” by Oscar Venter, Richard A. Fuller, Daniel B. Segan, Josie Carwardine, Thomas Brooks, Stuart H.M. Butchart, Moreno Di Marco, Takuya Iwamura, Liana Joseph, Damien O’Grady, Hugh P. Possingham, Carlo Rondinini, Robert J. Smith, Michelle Venter and James E.M. Watson is published at PLoS Biology. See: http://bit.ly/10Upkwo

Dr Venter and Dr Watson will be presenting their research at the IUCN World Parks Congress, held in Sydney from 12 to 19 November 2014. See: http://bit.ly/1l277D2 Dr Watson’s YouTube clip on protected areas is available at: http://bit.ly/142VxTG


Plant library takes on the global weeds menace

Cat's Claw VineAt-risk native plants worldwide have gained a new ally in their losing battle against aggressive and insidious feral weeds.

International scientists have developed a database with in-depth information on over 600 plant species, including the black pine, prickly cactus, thyme, milkweed, wild garlic and baby root orchid. Called the “COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database”, it is currently the world’s largest open-access source of endangered, native and feral plant demographics.

With the data free and available in a single website, scientists and park managers can use it to better protect native plants and national parks against threats from weeds and climate change, says lead researcher Roberto Salguero-Gómez of The ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), The University of Queensland, and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Germany).

“Invasive weeds are a major threat to native plants and animals worldwide, and are an extremely costly problem,” says Dr Salguero-Gómez. “These weeds compete with native plants for space, nutrients and sunlight, wreck our soil and poison our livestock.”

COMPADRE contains information on every stage of a plant’s lifecycle – seed, seedling, juvenile, adults, where it lives, and fundamental demographic information that allows users to find out how it thrives in an environment, its rate of extinction, its chances of becoming invasive, and when and where it is most vulnerable.

These rich data can be used, among other examples, to determine the most cost-effective way to save an endangered plant or eradicate a weed...read the FULL STORY


The study “The COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database: an open online repository for plant demography is published in Journal of Ecology. See: http://bit.ly/1skTDTH

The database is available at http://www.compadre-db.org/


Photo: Cat's Claw Vine (Macfadyena unguis-cati) blanketing a wall. Source: Atlas of Living Australia

Visitors “can help save our national parks”

RosellasIncreasing nature-based tourism may be one of the keys to saving Australia’s endangered wildlife in a time of budget stringency, a new scientific study suggests.

As funding dwindles for Australia’s national parks and protected areas, nature-based tourism could provide a financial lifeline, says lead author Dr Duan Biggs of ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and The University of Queensland (UQ).

A new study based on South Africa’s National Parks reports that increasing recreational access to protected areas, if properly planned and managed, can generate enough income to underpin conservation activities.

Read the full story...

Photo source: Flickr

EDG leadership program launched

EDG leadership smThe EDG leadership training program was launched this week in Brisbane. Over the course of the foundational week the group are being trained in leadership skills, media, meeting facilitation and career strategies.

CEED researcher elected head of global conservation society

Dr James Watson, CEED researcherAustralia has a stronger voice in conservation, with the election of CEED researcher Associate Professor James Watson as president of the Society for Conservation Biology.

Dr Watson, 37, principal research fellow from The University of Queensland’s School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, is the first Australian and youngest President-elect since the society was founded in 1985.

“The Society for Conservation Biology is the world’s most active conservation science organisation, with more than 10,000 members and a number of journals,” Dr Watson said.

“Its mission is to advance the science and practice of conserving Earth's biological diversity.

“My focus will be on engaging more young people from around the world in conservation activities, and reframing conservation science to be more solution-oriented.

“Thanks to current technology, students have a greater awareness of how the world’s iconic landscapes are changing and are exposed to more diverse perspectives on possible solutions, like the desire for social equity as well as ecological sustainability in areas threatened by commercial expansion.

“I’m keen to provide young people with opportunities that go beyond presenting a conference paper, to encourage involvement with policy and treaty development and the wider community, and opportunities to access mentoring from experienced members of the society.”

Dr Watson plans to establish more local student chapters of the SCB, such as the one thriving at UQ, which he helped establish in 2010.

He was the only Australian chosen from more than 800 international nominations to join the 25-person IPBES taskforce which will encourage scientists, policy makers and indigenous communities to share ecosystem knowledge and respond to the global biodiversity crisis....read more



Split reserves increase bilby’s survival chance

Bilby webAustralia’s shy Easter bunny alternative, the endangered bilby, will have a far better chance of surviving deadly predation by feral cats and foxes if they are kept in several protected areas instead of a single large area, scientists say. 

Dr Michael Bode, at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), says this approach not only applies to the bilby, but also to other threatened native marsupials such as the Tasmanian devil, or Gilbert’s potoroo (one of the world’s most endangered mammals)...read more


(Photo: Bernard Dupont, flickr.com, Creative Commons)



Post-doctoral fellowships available

uq position web

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Two Positions Available)

Highly motivated Postdoctoral Research Fellows are invited to apply for a position within CEED at The University of Queensland.

The successful applicants will work on projects in the areas of: multispecies management, restoration ecology, ecosystem services, threatened species and conservation action prioritisation, adaptive management and monitoring, decision-making in socio-ecological systems, or other emerging priority areas of research. Applications close 02 Nov 2014...read more

PhD opportunity: Smart Allocation of Restoration Funds


The emerging imperative in Australia and globally for restoring ecosystems requires smart investment of limited funds available for conservation and natural resource management. This PhD project is part of a broader ARC Linkage project that involves researchers with expertise in applied conservation and restoration ecology and restoration managers and practitioners at the City of Gold Coast.

The overarching goal of the project is to explore the trade-off between minimising risk and maximising the return on investment in the context of restoration. The successful candidate will assess the relationships between vegetation recovery and time, for different types of restoration actions. The project will likely involve both field research and elicitation of information from experts.

The successful applicant will work jointly with scientists at The University of Queensland, Griffith University and City of Gold Coast. 

The supervisory team will include: Dr. Kerrie Wilson (UQ), Dr. Luke Shoo (UQ), and Professor Carla Catterall (Griffith University). 

Prospective applicants should also apply for an APA scholarship (due internally at UQ on the 17th of October 2014 for domestic applicants and the 19th of September 2014 for international applicants). Generous research operating funds are available. Interested students should provide a professional CV and a short letter of interest to Dr. Kerrie Wilson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). 

CEED Researcher awarded SCOPUS Award


ARC CEED Researcher, Dr Kerrie Wilson has won the Scopus Life Sciences and Biological Sciences award for her research into habitat restoration for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.

Congratulations Kerrie!