Box Hill South, Australia
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Connor A.O.,National Parks and Wildlife Service
Biology and Environment | Year: 2016

The Birds and Habitats Directives are not pieces of water legislation but are integrally, legally linked to the Water Framework Directive (WFD). WFD plans must include measures to support the waterrelated objectives for some 44 water-dependent natural habitats and 22 species protected in Special Areas of Conservation, as well as water-dependent Special Protection Areas. In this opinion piece, it is suggested that insufficient consideration is being given to these linkages, despite the complementary ecological aims of the directives. WFD assessment, with its use of status categories and Ecological Quality Ratio scores, masks biological and ecological meaning, and its focus on relationships to pressure gradients appears to result in biology being used as a surrogate for chemistry. The complexity of WFD language also contributes to poor communication with other natural scientists and the public. Incorporation of nature conservation objectives and measures into the WFD requires an increased involvement of biologists in WFD characterisation, objective setting and planning. © Royal Irish Academy.


Anika Molesworth is enjoying experimenting with drones on her family’s farm at Broken Hill but the sheep are not cooperating. “The drones are not quite a toy but we are trying to work out how to make use of them,” she says. “So we are flying them out to the paddocks and checking where our sheep are and where the goats are.” Disappointingly, the animals do not seem to regard the drones as alternative sheepdogs. “They haven’t been terribly obliging – yet,” says Molesworth, who is studying for her PhD in agriculture climate science. The 29-year-old farmer looks forward to seeing continued improvements in technology, genetics, robotics, automation, which she says will make farming more efficient, easier and kinder on the natural environment. A sustainable farming advocate and 2015 Australian young farmer of the year, Molesworth would like to combine her work on the family property, in western New South Wales, with a career as a consultant and educator in sustainable farming. Financially, the farm is just breaking even: “We farm it because we love it out there.” Off-farm income (where people earn money in parallel careers) tends to be a feature of Australian farms – it helps families ride out the peaks and troughs of inclement weather and fluctuating demand for produce. About 50% of women on farms in Australia are working off-farm to help provide for their families. At the Molesworths’ 4,000-hectare property, four of the five family members earn money elsewhere. Anika’s two brothers have no plans to become farmers, she says. Her mother, Lindy (who runs the farm), is a geologist and a consultant to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and her father, Simon, has a distinguished history in environmental law and is a judge of the land and environment court of NSW. Formerly Melbourne-based, the family bought the Broken Hill property in 2000 (when Anika was 12) at the start of a decade-long drought. “We were pitched headfirst into the challenges of drought,” she says. “We had to completely destock, we watched the dams evaporate. It was a huge strain on land – you could see it suffering. It was a strain on the community of Broken Hill.” Concerned about her future as a farmer, Molesworth set about learning as much as she could about climate science and sustainable farming. Her undergraduate degree in agribusiness was done by correspondence. Women have always had a key role in farming but their contribution is hard to quantify because unpaid work is often not recognised. This lack of clarity is why women in agriculture are often called the “invisible farmers” or the “silent partners”. Indeed a national three-year project titled The Invisible Farmer was launched this year by Museums Victoria and ABC Rural to draw attention to the contribution of Australian female farmers. Liza Dale-Hallett, the project’s lead curator says “We know that around 49% of real farm income in Australia is contributed by women. This figure includes a whole range of activities such as on-farm work, off-farm waged work and household, volunteer and community work, however unfortunately a lot of this work tends to go unnoticed, undocumented and uncelebrated in the public eye.” Government research shows the proportion of women as paid workers in agriculture has increased from 15% to 32% over the past 15 years and they now make up 40% of agricultural business partners. About 48% of real farm income in Australia is contributed by women and this figure includes on-farm work, off-farm waged work and household, volunteer and community work. University enrolments indicate that women are taking a bigger role in the business of farming. Female students have slightly outnumbered males in tertiary agriculture courses since 2003. Molesworth says young women are injecting new ideas and perspectives into the industry and points to her family enterprise, which has established several conservation areas and has introduced an African breed of sheep that does well in semi-arid environments. “The younger generation are so much more aware of what is happening around the world. We do go travelling. We are studying with colleagues from all over the world and we are bringing those ideas to the farming landscape.” Molesworth is spreading her enthusiasm for farming through Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions – a program to provide youth “ambassadors” with communication, marketing and professional development skills. Art4Agriculture was founded by Lynne Strong, a sixth-generation farmer who came back to the industry after 20 years as a pharmacist. Strong now co-owns and operates (with her husband, Michael, and son Nicholas) the Clover Hill Dairies at Jamberoo on the NSW south coast. “I brought back the skills I had in pharmacy,” she says, adding that she provided business advice, marketing, liaison with farm consultants and managing people. “I certainly didn’t milk cows.” Strong says her frustration with the farming sector’s lack of self-promotion led her to start Art4Agriculture, which uses art and multimedia to teach thousands of school students about the valuable role farmers play. Strong says young people tend to want to “do good” in their careers: “It is not all about the money.” Katrina Sasse is a 29-year-old farmer who won a Nuffield scholarship to study how farmers’ daughters are making their way into family businesses. Sasse, from Morawa in Western Australia, says women have traditionally been disadvantaged because of the tradition of sons inheriting farms. “I am looking at ways of including daughters in the family farm – how we can include all siblings into the succession plan,” she says. “There are a lot of stories where women feel discontented because they feel ignored or they have been pushed away and they don’t have any influence in the decision-making on the future of the family farm.” About 10% of daughters are returning to the farm and this proportion is growing, she says. For some of the farming families, inclusion may mean looking at their daughters’ strengths and working out how to use them on the farm or in the community. Sasse has a background in agribusiness banking and decided to come back home to work seasonally four years ago, then took on some of the management duties of the farm, which mostly grows wheat and canola. She says she enjoys the process of using big data on the farm and finding efficiencies using technology. “I think I am more business-minded than the previous generation, whereas Dad has always had it in his head – it is a gut-feeling approach [for him].” In her family, both her siblings are female and one of her sisters has bought an adjoining property. Sasse says her biggest challenge is mechanical work: “My mind does not allow me to pick things apart, pull them back together and understand how they work.” Coming from a remote area, she went to boarding school at the age of 13 and didn’t get the experience of helping her father out after school. Boys in boarding school often get the opportunity to learn mechanics and auto-electrics in the classroom, she says. “Out our way, most farmers do absolutely everything,” she says. “The sons take over from their father and … they do so much. “The variety of tasks are so broad, I know I am not going to be strong in everything. If I am going to continue into the future, maybe we have to spend more money on mechanical charges.”


Monteiro N.M.,Fernando Pessoa University | Lyons D.O.,National Parks and Wildlife Service
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

In order to answer broader questions about sexual selection, one needs to measure selection on a wide array of phenotypic traits, simultaneously through space and time. Nevertheless, studies that simultaneously address temporal and spatial variation in reproduction are scarce. Here, we aimed to investigate the reproductive dynamics of a cold-water pipefish simultaneously through time (encompassing variation within each breeding cycle and as individuals grow) and space (by contrasting populations experiencing distinct water temperature regimes) in order to test hypothesized differences in sexual selection. Even though the sampled populations inhabited locations with very different water temperature regimes, they exhibited considerable similarities in reproductive parameters. The most striking was the existence of a well-defined substructure in reproductive activity, where larger individuals reproduce for longer periods, which seemed dependent on a high temperature threshold for breeding rather than on the low temperatures that vary heavily according to latitude. Furthermore, the perceived disparities among populations, such as size at first reproduction, female reproductive investment, or degree of sexual size dimorphism, seemed dependent on the interplay between seawater temperature and the operational sex ratio (OSR). Contrary to our expectations of an enhanced opportunity for sexual selection in the north, we found the opposite: higher female reproductive investment coupled with increased sexual size dimorphism in warmer waters, implying that a prolonged breeding season does not necessarily translate into reduced sexual selection pressure. In fact, if the limited sex has the ability to reproduce either continuously or recurrently during the entire breeding season, an increased opportunity for sexual selection might arise from the need to compete for available partners under strongly biased OSRs across protracted breeding seasons. A more general discussion on the effects of climate change in the pressure of sexual selection is also presented. © 2012 Monteiro, Lyons.


Migratory geese accumulate energy and nutrient stores in winter to fly to refuelling spring staging areas before onward migration to breeding areas. Mean ground temperatures at two important Greenland White-fronted Geese wintering sites rose in winter and spring by 1.0-1.3°C during 1973-2007. Greenland White-fronted Geese departed the Wexford winter quarters on 3rd April 2007 for Icelandic spring staging areas, the earliest on record, representing a mean advancement of 15 days since 1973, mirrored amongst mean dates of departure amongst Scottish wintering birds that have advanced by 12 days during 1973-2007. Icelandic temperatures at critical midway staging areas en route to Greenland showed no significant change since 1973, suggesting that it is warming on the winter quarters that enable geese to depart earlier, rather than elevated temperatures at ultimate spring staging areas. However, Wexford departure date did not correlate with spring temperature. Data presented here show that Greenland White-fronted Geese have accumulated threshold body stores progressively earlier in spring migration, especially during 1995-2007. Although this did not correlate with ambient temperature, the mean degree of accumulated fat stored by 1st April in each year was a statistically significant predictor of departure date for the wintering population at Wexford. These data support the hypothesis that it is intrinsic factors (i. e. improvements in internal body state resulting from better feeding conditions) that has permitted progressively earlier departure of these geese from Wexford on spring migration, rather than amelioration of spring conditions in Iceland or solely the result of warming of the winter quarters. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


News Article | November 14, 2016
Site: www.newscientist.com

Nothing will stand in their way. After devastating Australia’s low-lying regions, European rabbits are now muscling in on snowy mountainous areas by adapting to survive on toxic snow gum leaves. Rabbits were introduced to Australia in the 19th century and rapidly spread across the continent, creating huge problems for native wildlife and farmers. The only areas they have failed to colonise are those with snow cover in winter, because the grass they eat is buried. But in 2011, Ken Green at Australia’s National Parks and Wildlife Service began to notice rabbits living above the winter snowline in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. To understand how they are surviving, he collected their faecal pellets for three years and sent them to the University of Melbourne for dietary analysis. The results showed that the leaves of alpine eucalyptus trees, also known as snow gums, form the biggest part of the rabbits’ winter diet. It is astonishing that the rabbits can eat such high quantities of eucalyptus leaves, says Green. The tough leaves are difficult to digest, low in nutrients and contain toxins like tannins, terpenes and phenolics. Native animals like koalas can survive on gum leaves because they have evolved special digestive mechanisms – such as hindgut fermentation – that allow them to extract nutrients and detoxify the chemicals. But koalas are mostly sedentary, conserving the limited energy they can extract. “Rabbits of course are quite different – they are very energetic – so it’s amazing that they’re getting by and not having major digestive issues,” Green says. How they are managing this is not clear. In theory, the rabbits might have acquired gut microbes that help them digest eucalyptus leaves, or evolved physical adaptations. Or it could just be a behavioural change, which means the rabbits must already have had some ability to digest the leaves. The health of the rabbits was not directly monitored, but they continued breeding from year to year, suggesting they were surviving well, he says. This may be because they only need to eat the gum leaves for three to four months of the year while there is snow cover, says Green. The leaves that the rabbits are eating are those that have recently regenerated after a bushfire ripped through the area in the summer of 2003. These may be gentler on the rabbits’ stomachs than older leaves, says David Lee at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. The regenerating trees also have leaves low enough to the snow for the rabbits to reach them. How the rabbits will fare as the trees grow taller is not clear. This species of rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, has not colonised snowy regions in Europe because European trees lose their leaves during winter, Green says. “It just goes to show that if you take animals out of their native range and put them in novel environments, strange things will happen.”


News Article | December 10, 2015
Site: phys.org

Admittedly, once radio telescopes began to make the first inroads into the invisible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, the game changed. Today, there's no portion of that universal hum of radiation that is off-limits to ground- or space-based telescopes. But optical astronomy – the old-fashioned kind, using visible light – still reigns supreme. Today's optical astronomers are able to glean the most astonishing information from starlight. For example, with exotic calibration tools like iodine cells and laser combs, they can measure a star's speed with a precision better than one metre per second – a slow walking pace. Over time, this miniscule Doppler shift can reveal the existence of orbiting exoplanets by the wobble they induce on their parent stars. More exciting still are the possibilities offered by the coming generation of Extremely Large Telescopes, which will boast mirrors larger than 20 metres in diameter. Within the next ten years, astronomers will have the capability not only to see the distant exoplanets directly, but also to detect signatures of life in their atmospheres. The discovery of any such biomarkers would profoundly alter the way we see ourselves, and our place in space. With optical astronomy on the brink of a new golden age, it's no idle boast that the sky is, indeed, the limit. The threat to the night sky But that's the problem. In optical astronomy, the sky really is the limit. When astronomers observe celestial objects, they see them superimposed on the natural luminous background of the night sky. The Earth's rarefied upper atmosphere contributes to this, as its air molecules relax after a hard day in the sun. There's also light from sunlit dust in the solar system, together with a faint background of light from myriad distant stars and galaxies. Pushing to observe ever-fainter celestial bodies, astronomers are sometimes measuring objects whose brightness is only one percent greater than the natural night-time skyglow. So you can easily imagine what happens if the night sky is polluted by artificial light from towns, cities and industrial complexes. The faint objects simply disappear. For this reason, astronomers site their giant telescopes well away from centres of population. Australia's national observatory, for example – a A$100 million infrastructure investment – is located at Siding Spring Mountain in the Warrumbungle Range, 350km from Sydney. But due to the scattering of light by the Earth's atmosphere, remoteness is no guarantee of darkness, and from Siding Spring, the glow of Sydney can clearly be seen on the horizon. That light-scattering process turns out to be much more efficient for the blue component of light than for its red component. That's why the sky is blue; sunlight's blue constituent is very effectively scattered in all directions. But the same is true for artificial light. Light with a high blue content (think of those intense white LED headlights now seen everywhere on our roads) makes a bigger contribution to light pollution than warmer, cream-coloured light. Is this all about astronomy? No, it's not just astronomers who fall victim to light pollution. Many nocturnal animal species – principally birds and insects – are disturbed by the skyglow of cities, sometimes resulting in large numbers of fatalities. Recent studies suggest that in the US, up to a billion birds are killed each year by becoming disoriented by city lights. And the poster child of the dark-sky movement is the loggerhead turtle, whose hatchlings are confused by urban lighting as they seek the lines of surf that mark their route to a safe ocean habitat. Research shows that humans, too, can suffer debilitating effects from an excessively bright nocturnal environment, with shift workers at particular risk. The recent discovery of a third light-sensing system in the human eye (a layer of ganglion cells in front of the retina) links the secretion of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin to an absence of light. A new study suggests that while humans in the pre-industrial world probably didn't sleep any more than we do, the longer periods of darkness they experienced led to more restorative sleep. Moreover, the artificial light available to our forebears was always the orange light of a flame, rather than the daylight-mimicking lighting available today. Used at the wrong time – for example, late at night – such blue-rich illumination can seriously disrupt circadian rhythms. Perhaps the most compelling reason for taking a good look at light pollution is the cost of waste upward light, its effect on both the hip pocket and the atmosphere. Light fittings that are meant to illuminate surfaces such as roadways, sportsgrounds, parking lots and building facades often have a high upward component, sometimes putting more than 40 percent of their output into the night sky. Even the humble backyard light is frequently tilted to extend its area of coverage, causing a high proportion of its light to radiate uselessly upwards. It's estimated that in the US alone, upward light-spill from all these sources wastes some US$3.3 billion annually, with a resulting greenhouse gas emission from fossil fuels of about 21 million tonnes CO₂ equivalent. Not surprisingly, it is observatories that have led the crusade against light pollution. The peak advocacy body for good outdoor lighting - the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) – had its origins in the 1980s, when astronomers at major US observatories became alarmed by night-sky degradation. Large telescopes are major investments and need complete freedom from light pollution. But the IDA is not just for astronomers – it's for everyone. And so, the association has launched its International Dark Sky Places program, which recognises the planet's accessible, pristine skies. A handful have qualified worldwide. The IDA also acknowledges communities with "exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky". Our national observatory at Siding Spring is close to the beautiful Warrumbungle National Park. It is already a dark site, protected by state legislation, and an obvious candidate for Australia's first IDA-recognised Dark Sky Park. With support from local communities and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Siding Spring Observatory is working towards that recognition. There are some in the dark sky lobby who are driven to despair by the spread of urban and industrial lighting, but my own view is more optimistic. Yes, we have cities with high levels of upward light-spill, but they are largely a product of a bygone era, when lighting was designed with no thought for the environment. Today's outdoor lighting designers are gifted with an extraordinary array of light sources, such as LEDs, that are eminently controllable in direction, colour and intensity, allowing them to create efficient, effective and elegant lighting without contaminating the night sky. A recent meeting of lighting designers at Sydney Observatory sent out a clear message – to make a city beautiful and safe, you don't need to light up absolutely everything. Astronomers and dark sky advocates have no wish to see city streetscapes turned into dim and uninteresting places. It's the direct upward light-spill that is the problem, and that can be mitigated by the use of properly shielded lighting. If it also has a low blue-content, so much the better – for both the environment and ourselves. With growing environmental awareness, there's also public support for a reduction in waste light, with its consequent greenhouse footprint. I believe the cities of the future will be less polluting than those of today in every respect – including their artificial sky-glow. The real challenge is winning the hearts and minds of everyone concerned with outdoor lighting. That's one reason why I'm so enthusiastic about the IYL – it's a great opportunity to publicise the best of modern sky-friendly lighting design. And, yes, one of the principal legacy items of this International Year of Light might, indeed, turn out to be darkness. Just enough darkness to enable all of us to reconnect with the starry skies of our marvellous country. Explore further: New Earth at night images reveal global light pollution problem


Edwards E.D.,CSIRO | Green K.,National Parks and Wildlife Service
Australian Journal of Entomology | Year: 2011

Oxycanus oreades sp.n. and Oxycanus oressigenes sp.n. (Lepidoptera: Hepialidae) are described from the subalpine and alpine zones above 1600m in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales. The females of O. oreades are sub-brachypterous and flightless. These species are compared to similar species of Oxycanus and to other Oxycanus found in the Mt Kosciuszko area. Sub-brachypterous Hepialidae in New Zealand and Europe are discussed. Aspects of the biology of the new species are described and the suitability of O. oreades for assessing climatic change is evaluated. © 2011 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2011 Australian Entomological Society.


Green K.,National Parks and Wildlife Service
Journal of Mountain Science | Year: 2010

The phenologies of plants and animals in snow-covered landscapes are expected to accelerate with global warming. However, there are few studies that have examined a range of unrelated taxa in alpine environments to determine whether there is commonality in the proximate causes, synchrony in timing, or the direction of any changes. Records for five alpine animal species and two alpine plant species, chosen primarily for their visibility, were examined to determine their temporal response to regional climate warming. Over the 30-year period studied, they showed an array of different phenological responses. Plant flowering appeared linked to date of snow melt, whereas animal responses varied. Although having accelerated phenologies, two migratory bird species exhibited contrary changes; one to low-altitude warming regardless of snow conditions in the alpine zone (flame robin) and the other to state of the snowpack regardless of low-altitude temperatures (Richard's pipit). By contrast, the migratory bogong moth arrived significantly later over the years with no apparent explanatory climatic cause. Although bogong moths are not responding to earlier snow melt, insectivorous predators on the ground are. This could lead to a serious mismatch in timing at different trophic levels, putting pressure on endangered vertebrates. Emergence of locally wintering insect species, March flies and Macleay's swallowtails, were not significantly related to measured climatic parameters over the study period. A consequence of the disparate responses to climate warming recorded here is the questionable value of 'indicator species' to examine the impact of climate warming on alpine ecosystems. © 2010 Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


Green K.,National Parks and Wildlife Service
Victorian Naturalist | Year: 2013

The seasonal changes in abundance of bird species and individuals in subalpine woodland in the Munyang Valley were studied from 2000 to 2012. The immediate response of the avifauna to the fires of 2003 was a reduction in the number of species (from 12 to 7) and individuals (by 77%). Key to these reductions was the loss of foraging substrates that did not recover quickly, such as shrubs and the tree canopy, bark, lower branches and leaves. The general response of the avifauna was in contrast to other areas in south-eastern Australia, particularly with the slower recovery of vegetation due to low growth rates and trees regenerating from lignotuber tillers rather than epicormic shoots. The Flame Robin Petroica phoenicea was the first to re-occupy the woodland, with winter resident species being next to return. After ten years, the canopy had still not regrown, adversely affecting canopy foraging species, particularly seed eaters, while food sources such as flowers of Grevillea victoriae were not available in pre-fire amounts, slowing the return of honeyeaters.


Green K.,National Parks and Wildlife Service
Journal of Mountain Science | Year: 2011

Seasonal ice cover is uncommon on Australian lakes. In the Snowy Mountains, there are five natural, seasonally ice-covered lakes including Lake Cootapatamba, the highest lake in Australia. Blue Lake is the only one of the five lakes with sufficient volume to be relatively independent of short-term changes in ambient temperature, and therefore is the lake most likely to be of use in tracking long-term regional climate change. Ice forms on Blue Lake near the winter solstice and ice-breakup occurs from late September to November. Timing of breakup is related to spring temperature and, as such, mirrors the timing of general snow thaw in the mountains. The existence of historic photographs taken of the lake at about the time of ice breakup allows for the possibility of reconstructing a history of alpine climate and in 1905 ice breakup was probably as late as mid-December. © 2011 Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

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