WWF Australia

Sydney, Australia

WWF Australia

Sydney, Australia
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Shoo L.P.,James Cook University | Shoo L.P.,University of Queensland | Hoffmann A.A.,University of Melbourne | Garnett S.,Charles Darwin University | And 8 more authors.
Climatic Change | Year: 2013

Severe impacts on biodiversity are predicted to arise from climate change. These impacts may not be adequately addressed by conventional approaches to conservation. As a result, additional management actions are now being considered. However, there is currently limited guidance to help decision makers choose which set of actions (and in what order) is most appropriate for species that are considered to be vulnerable. Here, we provide a decision framework for the full complement of actions aimed at conserving species under climate change from ongoing conservation in existing refugia through various forms of mobility enhancement to ex situ conservation outside the natural environment. We explicitly recognize that allocation of conservation resources toward particular actions may be governed by factors such as the likelihood of success, cost and likely co-benefits to non-target species in addition to perceived vulnerability of individual species. As such, we use expert judgment of probable tradeoffs in resource allocation to inform the sequential evaluation of proposed management interventions. © 2013 The Author(s).

News Article | October 25, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, north-eastern Australia (AFP Photo/Sarah Lai) Australia on Thursday admitted more needs to be done to protect the Great Barrier Reef from pollution after a government-backed report painted a bleak picture of the natural wonder. The giant ecosystem is under pressure from farming run-off, development, the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish and the impacts of climate change, which saw mass a bleaching event this year that killed swathes of coral. Canberra insists it is doing more than ever before to protect the reef, but its annual report into water quality, seagrass and coral gave it a "D" -- which represents "poor" -- for the fifth year in a row. The reef receives run-off from 35 major catchments in an area larger than Japan, with sediment in the water reducing the light available to seagrass ecosystems and coral reefs, affecting coral settlement, growth and reproduction. This ultimately hinders the reef's ability to recover from the impacts of climate change such as bleaching and more intense extreme weather events. Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg admitted more work needed to be done, but said progress was being made under the government's Reef 2050 Plan to improve its health. "This report card shows some real positives, but also some areas where we need to focus more effort," he said of the study for the year to June 2015. "Almost half the horticulture and grains land across the Great Barrier Reef catchments is already managed using best management practice systems, with more work needed in sugarcane and grazing management." Conservation group WWF said scoring "D" five years in a row was not good enough and more money was needed, with Australia due to report to UNESCO by December 1 on the progress being made to rescue the reef. Australia last year narrowly avoided the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation putting the reef on its endangered list. "The scary thing is this latest fail was for the period before the mass bleaching event killed an estimated 22 percent of the reef's coral," said WWF Australia spokesman Sean Hoobin. "The continuing poor scores are further evidence that the current programmes and spending on reef pollution fall far short of what's required." The reef experienced an unprecedented bleaching earlier this year that saw much of it whiten and almost a quarter of corals die. The government has committed more than Aus$2.0 billion (US$1.53 billion) to protect the reef over the next decade. Steven Miles, minister for the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland state where it is located, admitted greater efforts were needed to reduce pollutant run-off. "We know that everyone, not just farmers, needs to play their part," he said. "Moving forward, we will be working with councils, industry and communities to identify actions they can take to improve the quality of water flowing to the reef."

King J.,WWF Australia | Alexander F.,James Cook University | Brodie J.,James Cook University
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2013

Globally coral reefs are at threat from land-sourced pollution. In Australia it is well established that the largest reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef, has been seriously damaged by land-sourced pollution primarily from agricultural activities. The Great Barrier Reef is Australia's best documented case of contamination of an ecosystem by pesticides. We describe Australia's current regulatory arrangements for managing pesticide risks to the environment at both national and state level and evaluate the regulatory response to pesticide pollution of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and its catchments as a case study. It is argued that the relatively advanced state of knowledge about the problem and the Great Barrier Reef's World Heritage status means that it presents the best case scenario for Australia's ability to respond to pesticide risks to the environment. Yet the only regulatory action taken to date - restricted conditions of use for particular chemical products introduced by the Queensland Government - has occurred outside of the dedicated regulatory regime for managing pesticide risks. Other lower profile and less-studied Australian water bodies are likely to be even less protected. The ad hoc, case-by-case and very slow chemical review process administered by Australia's national pesticide regulator has not effectively assessed or addressed chemical risks to the GBR. Some failures of the current system would be addressed by a systematic re-registration program of the kind in place in the European Union and United States. We conclude that to adequately protect the GBR, given its marine protected area and World Heritage status, both the special management provisions for the area already existing plus an effective national pesticide regulatory regime of the standard of the European Union are the minimum requirements. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Di Gregorio M.,University of Leeds | Brockhaus M.,Center for International Forestry Research | Cronin T.,WWF Australia | Muharrom E.,Center for International Forestry Research | And 3 more authors.
Ecology and Society | Year: 2013

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is primarily a market-based mechanism for achieving the effective reduction of carbon emissions from forests. Increasingly, however, concerns are being raised about the implications of REDD+ for equity, including the importance of equity for achieving effective carbon emission reductions from forests. Equity is a multifaceted concept that is understood differently by different actors and at different scales, and public discourse helps determine which equity concerns reach the national policy agenda. Results from a comparative media analysis of REDD+ public discourse in four countries show that policy makers focus more on international than national equity concerns, and that they neglect both the need for increased participation in decision making and recognition of local and indigenous rights. To move from addressing the symptoms to addressing the causes of inequality in REDD+, policy actors need to address issues related to contextual equity, that is, the social and political root causes of inequality. © 2013 by the author(s).

Measham T.G.,CSIRO | Preston B.L.,Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Smith T.F.,University of The Sunshine Coast | Brooke C.,WWF Australia | And 3 more authors.
Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change | Year: 2011

Municipal planning represents a key avenue for local adaptation, but is subject to recognised constraints. To date, these constraints have focused on simplistic factors such as limited resources and lack of information. In this paper we argue that this focus has obscured a wider set of constraints which need to be acknowledged and addressed if adaptation is likely to advance through municipal planning. Although these recognised constraints are relevant, we argue that what underpins these issues are more fundamental challenges affecting local, placed-based planning by drawing on the related field of community-based environmental planning (CBEP). In considering a wider set of constraints to practical attempts towards adaptation, the paper considers planning based on a case study of three municipalities in Sydney, Australia in 2008. The results demonstrate that climate adaptation was widely accepted as an important issue for planning conducted by local governments. However, it was yet to be embedded in planning practice which retained a strong mitigation bias in relation to climate change. In considering the case study, we draw attention to factors thus far under-acknowledged in the climate adaptation literature. These include leadership, institutional context and competing planning agendas. These factors can serve as constraints or enabling mechanisms for achieving climate adaptation depending upon how they are exploited in any given situation. The paper concludes that, through addressing these issues, local, place-based planning can play a greater role in achieving climate adaptation. © 2011 The Author(s).

Johansen K.,University of Queensland | Phinn S.,University of Queensland | Taylor M.,WWF Australia
Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment | Year: 2015

Monitoring of vegetation clearing in Australia is the province of state governments. Only recently have data and services become available for generalised access to change detection tools suited to this task. The objective of this research was to examine if a globally available cloud computing service, Google Earth Engine Beta, could be used to predict decreases of woody vegetation with accuracies approaching those obtained by the government of the state of Queensland, Australia. This research compared the remote sensing results derived with the Google Earth Engine with those reported by the Queensland Government, using their standard remote sensing methods. Four change detection approaches were investigated using the Landsat-5 TM and 7 ETM+ time-series and algorithms available through the Google Earth Engine Application Programming Interface: (1) Classification and Regression Tree (CART) and (2) Random Forest classifiers; and a normalised time-series of (3) Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and (4) Foliage Projective Cover (FPC) combined with a spectral index, used to predict woody vegetation change between two image composites. The CART and Random Forest classifiers produced the highest user's (78-92%) and producer's (55-77%) mapping accuracies of clearing compared against the woody vegetation loss maps produced by the Queensland Government when detecting change within epochs for which training data were available. Extrapolation to epochs without training data reduced the mapping accuracies. The normalised FPC and NDVI time-series approaches were more robust for calculating clearing probability, as no training data were required, and can hence be tuned to provide automated alerts for large woody vegetation clearing events by selecting suitable thresholds. This research provides a foundation to build further capacity to use globally accessible, free, online image datasets and processing tools to detect woody vegetation clearing in an automated manner. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

Taylor M.F.J.,WWF Australia | Sattler P.S.,68 Sanctuary Drive | Evans M.,University of Queensland | Fuller R.A.,University of Queensland | And 3 more authors.
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2011

Despite the growing numbers of threatened species and high levels of spending on their recovery worldwide, there is surprisingly little evidence about which conservation approaches are effective in arresting or reversing threatened species declines. Using two government data sets, we examined associations between population trends for 841 nationally-threatened terrestrial species in Australia, and four measures of conservation effort: (a) how much their distribution overlaps with strictly protected areas (IUCN I-IV), (b) and other protected areas (IUCN V-VI), (c) the number of recovery activities directed at the species, and (d) numbers of natural resource conservation activities applied in areas where populations of the threatened species occur. We found that all populations of 606 (72%) species were in decline. Species with greater distributional overlap with strictly protected areas had proportionately more populations that were increasing or stable. This effect was robust to geographic range size, data quality differences and extent of protection. Measures other than strictly protected areas showed no positive associations with stable or increasing trends. Indeed, species from regions with more natural resource conservation activities were found to be more likely to be declining, consistent with differential targeting of such generalised conservation activities to highly disturbed landscapes. Major differences in trends were also found among the different jurisdictions in which species predominantly occurred, which may be related to different legislative protections against habitat destruction. Although we were not able to test causation, this research corroborates other evidence that protected areas contribute to the stabilization or recovery of threatened species, and provides little empirical support for other conservation approaches. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

Over the Southern Ocean and remote Australian grasslands, there are flying robots — drones, actually, but they're not for purposes of counterterrorism or Amazon deliveries. Rather, these unmanned aerial vehicles are being used by research scientists to sidestep time-consuming, labor-intensive work that was once done by foot, boat, or via expensive plane flights: tracking animal behavior. SEE ALSO: This robot may have just ruined your sick day While humans have always been curious to learn about the habits of animals, such research is more pressing than ever. Habitat loss and climate change are having dramatic impact on almost all species — estimates suggest as many as 1 in 6 species may go extinct due to global warming. The need to know more is urgent, and drones are changing the game by allowing scientists to be more ambitious and efficient with their studies. Chris Johnson, an ocean sciences manager at WWF Australia in Melbourne, is involved in whale research in the Great Australian Bight. In the past, he said, a study to, say, observe the size of breeding whales would require flying an airplane at low altitude, and even briefly sticking one's head and camera outside the aircraft at high speed to capture images as detailed as those done by drone during the Bight project. "Drones actually make it safer for researchers to do very similar work," he said, particularly getting close enough to recognize individual whales. It also costs less: The drone they used in 2016 was an off-the-shelf DJI Inspire 1 Pro, priced at around A$5,600 (US$4,289) total, along with some additional lens, hard drive and battery costs. The team's Bight drone project lasted three months, whereas he estimated that a plane doing the same job might cost roughly between A$3,000 (US$2,298) to A$10,000 (US$7,659) per day. "It's a win-win tool — it's really changing, really disrupting, whale research — they're seeing behaviors that are very difficult to document by airplane," he added. For Debra Saunders, an ecologist at the Australian National University in Canberra, drones have also cut down on labor. While looking at the habits of a critically endangered migratory bird, the swift parrot, she hit up against the shortcomings of traditional techniques. Because it's such a small creature, typical satellite or GPS tags were too cumbersome to attach to the tiny critters, and "by foot" counting methods were too slow. So Saunders helped develop a drone to do the same work from the air. It can track small transmitters attached to the animal, weighing only about one gram, that send a radio signal back to base camp. When launched, the drone does a one-minute rotation on the spot looking for the signal of tagged animals in the area and giving Saunders and her team their approximate location. Based on that information, it automatically decides where the next best place is to maximize data collection about the bird's whereabouts. "With two or three rotations, you can pinpoint where an animal is within 10 meters (33 feet)," she said. "That's like an hour's worth of work in less than 10 minutes." While drones have already significantly sped up animal research, they still have one glaring problem: battery life. That's an issue for Johnson, whose work often occurs out at sea. "Some whale research I do that's off the continental shelf of Southwest Australia — that's 25 miles (40 kilometers) away, so you need a different type of drone, which is very expensive," he said. Meanwhile, in the south of Australia at the Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility (URAF) in Adelaide, Jarrod Hodgson and his team are using drones to monitor wildlife from koalas to marine mammals.  Hodgson also cited aircraft battery endurance as a factor that would help increase the machines' impact on animal studies, as well as better sensors. "The continued integration of sensors to allow drones to make decisions and fly autonomously, avoiding moving obstacles for example, will also create new possibilities," he said via email. At URAF, Hodgson is investigating whether animals are disturbed by unmanned aircraft. After all, there's there's little point in using drones to better understand wild animals if those same aircraft affect the animals' behavior.  So in 2016, he helped write an animal-drone code of conduct. "Currently, we have a limited understanding of the potential impacts that drones may have on wildlife," he said. "We expect that wildlife responses will vary due to factors such as an animal's life history, its ability to detect the drone and also its environment." Like Hodgson, Saunders noted the aim of any wildlife researcher should be to understand the animal's natural behavior, not its disturbed behavior. If researchers can ensure drones aren't causing a ruckus, the technology could even improve on by-foot research, which can be surprisingly disruptive. Southern right whale and calf spotted along the coast of the Head of Bight in South Australia. "Many small animals live in tall grasses, so by just physically going close to the animal [on foot], you're trampling the very habitat that they use and altering their behavior," she said. "This is one of the benefits of using [drones], in that we don't actually have to get close to the animal." It seems clear that researchers will need to abide by high standards for drones to have impact that improves on traditional methods. While most animal studies require research permits, Johnson also suggested it was also important researchers have proper drone-piloting credentials. "I think that we do have to be cautious, especially around wildlife," he said. "There are already so many impacts on them, from loss of habitat to climate change no matter what species, so it's important that researchers using drones have proper permits, proper training." As humans grapple with their role in climate change, it may seem strange that little robotic collections of metal and plastic could make a difference. In the hands of scientists however, they could become powerful tools for understanding animal populations in crisis.

News Article | October 29, 2016
Site: www.gizmag.com

'Hey, where did everyone go?' A lone penguin navigates the icy waters of the Ross Sea(Credit: John Weller) Not a week goes by where we don't hear about the impending extinction of another species, so here's something positive for a change: after six years of diplomatic impasse, the countries that determine the fate of Antarctica's waters have finally reached a historic agreement to declare the Ross Sea an official Marine Protected Area, making it the world's largest protected marine area and the first time that multiple countries have worked together to protect an area that falls outside the jurisdiction of any one country. Covering 1.55 million square km (598,458 sq miles) – about twice the size of Texas – the Ross Sea is often called the Last Ocean or the Serengeti of the Antarctic, owing to its pristine ecosystem. For a long time, its remote location buffered it from human activities, such as overfishing and pollution, which have plagued other oceans, thus enabling an incredibly diverse and near-pristine marine ecosystem to flourish. Thanks to its nutrient-rich waters, over 10,000 species, including orcas, minke whales, seals, and a sizeable number of the world's Adélie and emperor penguins, call the Ross Sea home. Here, scientific data goes as far back as 170 years, making it an invaluable resource for scientists studying the effects of climate change on ecosystems. In recent years, however, commercial fishing trawlers have started encroaching upon the Ross Sea's idyllic existence owing to the abundance of toothfish (which is marketed as Chilean Sea Bass in restaurants) in its waters. The watershed agreement, which was ratified this Friday by the members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), seeks to protect the Ross Sea from the perils of commercial fishing. When it comes into effect in December 2017, 72 percent of the reserve will be a "no-take" zone, which forbids all fishing. There will also be limits placed on krill fishing for the next five years to protect the Antarctic ecosystem. And while no changes have been made to the total tonnage of fish that can be taken from the Ross Sea, vessels will need to go farther out to sea, away from critical feeding and breeding grounds. The deal, which was brokered by New Zealand and the US, became a reality after Russia, which had been the last holdout owing to concerns over the impact of the agreement on its fishing industries, finally came on board with the other 24 member countries and the EU after concessions were made. While this agreement has been hailed as a hard-won victory for diplomacy and the environment, its 35-year protection limit has raised concerns in some quarters. "The limited 35-year restriction for protection of the Ross Sea contradicts the scientific advice that marine protection should be long-term," said Mike Walker, Project Director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance. "It's critical to set aside these really epic spots for diversity, not just as marine parks but as places that can build resistance to the changing climate," added WWF Australia Ocean Science Manager Chris Johnson in an interview with CNN. Nevertheless for all involved, this is a positive first step forward, especially considering the time and effort it's taken to get to this point. "The creation of the Ross Sea MPA is an extraordinary step forward for marine protection," said US Secretary of State John Kerry in a press statement. "[It] will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet … [and] is designed to be a natural laboratory for valuable scientific research to increase our understanding of the impact of climate change and fishing on the ocean and its resources."

News Article | October 12, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

The southern right whale was given its name because tragically, it was the "right" whale for whaling. The animals tended to swim close to shore, making them easy marks for whalers who hunted them to the brink of extinction. Thanks to drones, researchers are helping the southern right whale make a comeback while keeping an eye on the effects of climate change. SEE ALSO: Climate activists shut down 5 tar sands oil pipelines Researchers from Murdoch University, supported by WWF Australia, are monitoring the whales as they breed in the Great Australian Bight in the country's south. Fredrik Christiansen, a researcher at Murdoch University, told Mashable southern right whale populations are recovering, albeit slowly. In Australia, they are thought to number only around 3,500. "Although the humpback was hunted almost as much, the humpbacks are 10 times as many now as the southern right whale," he said. "They are still endangered. There are still populations in the North Atlantic where they are critically endangered." When the whales visit Australia, they typically breed and aggregate along the south coast of the country from late May to late October. That gives scientists the opportunity to use drones to monitor their health. Christiansen said the technology has proved invaluable. "To get this kind of information before you would need a helicopter or a plane — it was expensive, noisy and involved some risk for the operator," he added. The team fly DJI Inspire 1 Pro drones off the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight with the permission of the Aboriginal Lands Trust, allowing them to minimise disturbance to the animals while getting high resolution images and measurements. After months of monitoring, the team found female southern right whales lose an extraordinary amount of body mass while feeding and fattening their calves. Some females lose more than half a metre in width roughly, Christiansen explained, while the calves can grow more than two metres (seven foot) in length. "When the whales leave, the females look quite emaciated," he said. "There is so much energy being transferred between the female and the calves, especially when they're not feeding." During this time, the mother whales rely entirely on their fat stores. Ultimately, the team hope to discover how climate change will affect the whales. For example, how krill production in their Antarctic feeding ground — the abundance of which will likely be impacted by the rise in sea temperature and receding sea ice — will affect their condition once they arrive in Australia. Monitoring these factors can tell scientists about the probability of the whales surviving and reproducing. Southern right whales only calve every three to four years. "We can also compare our population to other populations to see if the Australian population is doing better," he added. Bella on July 3 (top) and September 4 (bottom). She lost 31 centimetres (12 inches) in width in 63 days. To continue the work, the WWF is campaigning to raise additional funds. "This [drone] technology is getting picked up all over the world by whale monitoring groups," Christiansen said. "In a few years, we're going to know the condition of most baleen whale populations around the world." BONUS: Veteran caught in extreme flooding saved thanks to drone

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