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Polyakov M.,University of Western Australia | Rowles A.D.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | Rowles A.D.,La Trobe University | Radford J.Q.,Bush Heritage Australia | And 4 more authors.
Landscape Ecology | Year: 2013

The removal, alteration and fragmentation of habitat are key causes of biodiversity decline worldwide. In Australia, temperate woodlands have been disproportionately cleared following European settlement. Biodiversity decline in such systems may be reversed by restoration of native vegetation on agricultural land. However, rebuilding functioning habitat will require understanding the determinants of species distributions in existing habitat. We used logistic regression of bird occurrence data from 240 sites across northern Victoria, to determine the probability of occurrence of 29 woodland-dependent bird species. We modelled occurrence as a function of habitat variables that characterise both the extent (amount) and composition of native vegetation surrounding sites. Our specific goal was to determine whether the predictive performance of models is improved by accounting for both extent and composition of native vegetation compared with models that characterise native vegetation by extent alone. For nearly all species, accounting for vegetation composition in addition to extent and weighting habitat variables by distance improved the explanatory power of models, explaining on average 5. 4 % (range 0-27. 6 %) of the residual uncertainty in models that accounted for extent alone. Models that incorporate variation in vegetation composition can not only provide more accurate predictions of species occurrence, but also guide more appropriate restoration. They highlight the need for restoration to incorporate sites with fertile soils that support productive vegetation types. These models of woodland birds will be used to inform a spatially-explicit optimisation model for restoring native vegetation cover on agricultural land in this region, with the goal of achieving biodiversity gains while minimizing loss to production. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Park G.,North Central Catchment Management Authority | Roberts A.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | Alexander J.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | McNamara L.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | And 2 more authors.
Australasian Journal of Environmental Management | Year: 2013

Natural resource management organisations in Australia routinely establish resource condition targets in their regional plans and catchment strategies. We reviewed biodiversity, water and community resource condition targets set by Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) over planning cycles since 1997 against criteria of being specific, measurable and time-bound (SMT). The overall quality of targets is poor, with less than 30 per cent of targets meeting the three criteria. Disturbingly, there are no SMT targets in the most recent NSW CMA catchment strategies. We identify three major reasons for poor target setting: a lack of appropriate standards and guidelines from governments to enable high quality target setting; a lack of realism about the budgetary and technical feasibility of ambitious environmental targets amongst those involved in natural resource management; and a lack of adequate focus on outcomes by both CMAs and governments. Improvements to target setting can be achieved through stronger signals and commitment by governments, including by rewarding performance of regional bodies practising outcome-focused accountability. © 2013 Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand Inc.


Pannell D.J.,University of Western Australia | Pannell D.J.,Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Center | Roberts A.M.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | Roberts A.M.,Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Center | And 4 more authors.
Land Use Policy | Year: 2012

A framework for comprehensive integrated assessment of environmental projects is developed and applied in partnership with a regional environmental body. The framework combines theory with practice, bringing a pragmatic and efficient approach to the rigorous assessment of projects for a large number of environmental assets in the north central region of the state of Victoria, Australia. The approach is codified as the Investment Framework for Environmental Resources (INFFER). The analysis assisted the environmental body to make strong business cases for a number of environmental projects, resulting in funding for those projects. Key features of the study include extensive participation of decision makers and stakeholders, integration of a comprehensive set of information about projects, explicit assessment of uncertainties and information gaps, and analysis of the most appropriate policy mechanism for each project. The process of applying the framework involved four steps: identification of around 300 important environmental assets in the region, filtering the list of assets to remove those that are less likely to provide opportunities for cost-effective public investment, development and detailed assessment of projects for a subset of assets, and negotiation of funding for projects. Implications for land-use policy include that environmental projects vary widely in their cost-effectiveness, requiring careful targeting of funds if environmental benefits are to be maximised. Many existing environmental programs use simplistic analyses to support decision making, resulting in missed opportunities for substantially greater environmental benefits. Promoting adoption of improved analytical methods is very challenging, requiring changes in mind-set and culture in environmental organisations. Widespread adoption is unlikely unless funders create incentives by rewarding those project proponents who undertake rigorous and comprehensive project assessments that focus on achievement of environmental outcomes. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Polyakov M.,University of Western Australia | Pannell D.J.,University of Western Australia | Pandit R.,University of Western Australia | Tapsuwan S.,University of Western Australia | Park G.,North Central Catchment Management Authority
Agricultural and Resource Economics Review | Year: 2013

Lifestyle landowners value land for its amenities and ecological characteristics and could play an important role in managing and conserving native vegetation in multifunctional rural landscapes. We quantify values of ecosystem services captured by owners of rural lifestyle properties in Victoria, Australia, using a spatial hedonic property price model. The value of ecosystem services provided by native vegetation is maximized when that vegetation occupies about 40 percent of the area of a lifestyle property. Since the current median proportion of native vegetation is 15 percent, most lifestyle landowners could benefit from increasing the area of native vegetation on their properties. Copyright 2013 Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association.


Maher M.,North Central Catchment Management Authority | Campbell E.,North Central Catchment Management Authority
Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria | Year: 2010

Efficient and accountable management of water resources in Northern Victoria has become a critical issue for the future of irrigation, communities and the environment, both north and south of the Great Dividing Range. To increase efficiencies and enhance accountability for water resource use, the Victorian Government is investing $1 billion through the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project (NVIRP) to upgrade ageing irrigation infrastructure across the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District. The upgrade is expected to generate an additional 225 GL of water that will be distributed equally between irrigators, the environment and Melbourne. Whilst there are significant potential benefits for the environment as a whole from the water savings initiatives, there may also be adverse impacts from altering the hydrology of the diverse array of wetlands and rivers which are directly linked to the irrigation delivery network. The NVIRP Environmental Referrals process has investigated these potential impacts and identified ten wetlands and four rivers of high environmental value that require the development of environmental watering plans. These plans are the primary means by which the NVIRP commitment to 'no net environmental loss' will be achieved and assets of high environmental value will be protected. Three Environmental Watering Plans (EWPs) were completed prior to the operation of NVIRP works in the 2009-2010 irrigation season. These are for Johnson Swamp, Lake Elizabeth and Lake Murphy. The paper will describe the development of the Lake Elizabeth EWPs by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA), within the context of uncertain climatic conditions, the recent long drought and the need to demonstrate accountability and efficiency in the use of a scarce and finite resource.

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