Angela Guerrero’s work profiled by the government-funded Threatened Species Recovery Hub

Angela Guerrero’s research focuses on the people side of conservation: how governance systems and the decision-making processes can be designed to enable effective management.

Last year Angela worked with the National Environmental Science Programme’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub (TSR) to examine recovery efforts across Australia in an effort to identify the barriers and enablers of successful recovery efforts. The TSR published a profile of Angela’s work. You can see it here.

The $60 million Threatened Species Recovery Hub is supported by funding through the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme (NESP), and matched by contributions from 10 of the country’s leading academic institutions and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. It works closely with more than two dozen collaborating organisations, including management agencies and conservation groups, to ensure its research has an on-ground impact in threatened species management (NESP)

New interdisciplinary research positions now available in the Wilson Conservation Lab

The Wilson Conservation Lab, as part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, is currently adversiting for a 2 year Post-doctoral Fellow and a 1-year Research Assistant. Applications must be received by the 15th of December 2016 and submitted online through the UQ jobs portal.

For further information and a links for submitting applications please see here (for the post-doctoral role) and here (for the research assistance role).

Please also share through your networks if you know of anyone suitable for the roles.

 

Ethics of Conservation Triage

Conservation triage is hard. The fact conservation decisions are made everyday doesn’t make it easier to face decisions to potentially sacrifice hope for highly threatened species in order to better protect the ‘greater good’. In our new paper, “Ethics of conservation triage”, we argue that triage should be hard: conservation triage is far from ‘just’ decision-making, rather it involves complex ethical dilemmas.

We argue that ethics of conservation triage has been treated superficially. While triage contexts – where there are not enough resources to save all species – may be largely inevitable, decision theory itself does not inform what objective ought to be maximized, for whom, or how. These choices are value laden, and therefore incumbent with ethical dilemmas. Unfortunately, current conservation triage is often framed solely as a utilitarian maximization problem, a framing that often sits at odds with the broader conservation ethic of preservation of all species, and also doesn’t align with society preferences and moral ideals.

We looked to emergency medicine, where triage decisions are more common, to ask why triage is much more acceptable in medicine than conservation. We show how conservation triage can be more acceptable, by addressing distributive justice, respecting autonomy, placing triage in a broader system of care, explicitly dealing with risk and risk preferences, and questioning whether these normative ideals are delivered in practice.

We also identify substantial differences distinguishing conservation and emergency medicine contexts, however. These differences mean that conservation triage – at least in some cases – may be more akin to disaster and pandemic scenarios, where resources are more severely constrained, allocated at a population level, and harder decisions need to be faced. Such decisions are often far from optimal, and remain highly controversial: clear indication of the ethical complexity of these problems.

The lesson here is that if you are involved in conservation, as a researcher or practitioner, you really ought to have at least a basic understanding of ethics. Fortunately, our paper provides this, outlining the main ethical frameworks of western philosophy, and how this translates to different perspectives on conservation triage. So if you only ever read one paper on ethics, then let it be this one!

Opportunities for research on Borneo

Student opportunities are available for research on accounting for ecosystem services on Borneo.

The objective of research program is to develop comprehensive accounts of forest ecosystem service values building on 5 years of multi-disciplinary research on the social, environment and economic aspects of land-use change on Borneo. The program is supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions and Borneo Futures, and led by Assoc Prof Kerrie Wilson…read more…

Expand, not just extend, forestry moratorium

Opinion piece by Sugeng Budiharta – Monday May 25, 2015, the Jakarta Post

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has assured he will extend the country’s forestry moratorium as proof of his commitment to protect nature. This implies that there will be no new permits to convert primary forests and peatlands within the moratorium areas for the next two years. However, does it mean anything?
– See more HERE

Collaboration “can save forests and $billions”

Orangutan in Borneo By coordinating conservation and development efforts as well as reforming land-use, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei could retain up to half of the land of Borneo as forests, protect elephant and orangutan habitats, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 per cent, and possibly significantly reduce the opportunity costs by billions of dollars.

The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, is led by researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED).

“Borneo is the world’s third largest island – it harbours over 14,000 plant species and 1,600 land animals,” says lead author Ms Rebecca Runting of CEED and The University of Queensland (UQ). “These tropical forests regulate regional and global climate and provide food and income to millions of people.”

Ms Runting explains that the high rates of forest conversion and degradation over previous decades have prompted the three nations to pledge to protect their natural resources, including maintaining between 45 and 75 per cent of the land area of Borneo as forests. At the same time, Malaysia and Indonesia have planned to greatly expand the area of oil palm and timber plantations.

The study reveals that the governments’ current land-use plans are inadequate, and will fall significantly short of meeting their conservation goals.

READ MEDIA RELEASE HERE

Photo: Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), one of the species that would benefit from more coordinated planningPhoto by Dr Erik Meijaard, co-author.

New publication: ‘Making decisions for managing ecosystem services’

Numerous assessments have quantified, mapped, and valued the services provided by ecosystems that are important for human wellbeing. However, much of the literature does not clarify how the information gathered in such assessments could be used to inform decisions that will impact ecosystem services. We propose that the process of making management decisions for ecosystem services comprises five core steps: identification of the problem and its social–ecological context; specification of objectives and associated performance measures; defining alternative management actions and evaluating the consequences of these actions; assessment of trade-offs and prioritization of alternative management actions; and making management decisions. We synthesize the degree to which the peer-reviewed ecosystem services literature has captured these steps. For the ecosystem service paradigm to gain traction in science and policy arenas, future ecosystem service assessments should have clearly articulated objectives, seek to evaluate the consequences of alternative management actions, and facilitate closer engagement between scientists and stakeholders…read more

Martinez-Harms, M.J., Bryan, B.A., Balvanera, P., Law, E.A., Rhodes, J, Possingham, H.P., and Wilson, K.A. Making decisions for managing ecosystem services. In Press (accepted January 2015). Biological Conservation.

Latest PhD Opportunity…!

Land management strategies to enhance ecosystem services in production landscapes

We seek to understand how production landscapes can be most effectively managed to enhance the delivery of multiple ecosystem services. Contrasting options to achieve this goal are referred to as land sharing and land sparing, which represent endpoints of a continuum of land management strategies. As part of a recently awarded Australian Research Council Discovery Project, our aim is to undertake a rigorous assessment of the environmental and economic implications of land management strategies across three continents.

This PhD project will develop and apply new decision-support technology to evaluate land management strategies over whole landscapes for multiple ecosystem services. The project could potentially involve a range of techniques including landscape modelling, land use optimisation, scenario analysis, generation of data on ecosystem service benefits, regional climate modelling, and elicitation of information from experts. There is flexibility in relation to the ecosystem services and techniques that the successful PhD candidate will focus on, with options ranging from food production, biodiversity, energy, water, carbon sequestration, to regional climate regulation, amongst others. The successful candidate will focus on the intensive agricultural zone of continental Australia, with particular focus on the Brigalow Belt bioregion of Queensland. There will also be opportunities to be involved in projects undertaken in Central Kalimantan and British Columbia.

Applicants must possess a Bachelor’s or equivalent degree with first-class Honours, Master of Science or MPhil with significant research components. Candidates from diverse disciplines are welcome to apply. Successful applicants will have a demonstrated capacity and aptitude for conducting research and it is desirable that they possess or seek to obtain skills in ecological and economic modelling, and spatial and statistical analysis. The candidate will work jointly with scientists across multiple disciplines (including biodiversity conservation, geography, environmental science and environmental economics) at The University of Queensland, CSIRO and University of British Columbia. The supervisory team will include: Assoc. Prof. Kerrie Wilson (UQ), Prof. Clive McAlpine (UQ), Elizabeth Law (UQ/UBC), and Dr Brett Bryan (CSIRO). Resources are available to support the PhD research as part of the broader project.

Prospective applicants should also apply or be the recipient of an APA (or equivalent) scholarship. Interested students should provide a professional CV and a short letter of interest to Assoc. Prof. Kerrie Wilson (k.wilson2@uq.edu.au).

New paper: Restoring degraded tropical forests for carbon and biodiversity

by Sugeng Budiharta, Erik Meijaard, Peter D Erskine, Carlo Rondinini, Michela Pacifici and Kerrie A Wilson

View PDF – Read more about the Borneo Project and Restoration Prioritisation research

Read article in the Jakarta Globe

Abstract

The extensive deforestation and degradation of tropical forests is a significant contributor to the loss of biodiversity and to global warming. Restoration could potentially mitigate the impacts of deforestation, yet knowledge on how to efficiently allocate funding for restoration is still in its infancy. We systematically prioritize investments in restoration in the tropical landscape of East Kalimantan, Indonesia, and through this application demonstrate the capacity to account for a diverse suite of restoration techniques and forests of varying condition. To achieve this we develop a map of forest degradation for the region, characterized on the basis of aboveground biomass and differentiated by broad forest types. We estimate the costs of restoration as well as the benefits in terms of carbon sequestration and improving the suitability of habitat for threatened mammals through time. When the objective is solely to enhance carbon stocks, then restoration of highly degraded lowland forest is the most cost-effective activity. However, if the objective is to improve the habitat of threatened species, multiple forest types should be restored and this reduces the accumulated carbon by up to 24%. Our analysis framework provides a transparent method for prioritizing where and how restoration should occur in heterogeneous landscapes in order to maximize the benefits for carbon and biodiversity.

Citation

Budiharta S., Meijaard E., Erskine P.D., Rondinini C., Pacifici M. & Wilson K.A. 2014. Restoring degraded tropical forests for carbon and biodiversity. Environmental Research Letters, 9, 114020. http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/9/11/114020

 

Map of forest condition across forest types in East Kalimantan. The study area is restricted to the Forest Estate with native vegetation under the authority of the Ministry of Forestry and excluded areas of Non-forest Estate, ITP (industrial timber plantation), mangroves, and water bodies.
Map of forest condition across forest types in East Kalimantan. The study area is restricted to the Forest Estate with native vegetation under the authority of the Ministry of Forestry and excluded areas of Non-forest Estate, ITP (industrial timber plantation), mangroves, and water bodies.