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Supporting the long-term stewardship of privately protected areas

Thousands of rural landholders across Australia have entered into permanent conservation agreements to protect Australia’s unique flora and fauna. By turning their properties into privately protected areas (PPA), landholders are providing stewardship of our natural heritage that benefits society. But how can we as a society better support these landholders? Lab members Matthew Selinske, Mat Hardy, and Ascelin Gordon provide some answers to this question in a recently published policy brief Supporting the long-term stewardship of privately protected areas.

PPAs are an increasingly popular approach in global conservation efforts, and Australia has one of the largest PPA networks in the world. Recently, the IUCN PPA Specialist Group met in Germany to develop best practice guidelines, which will serve as a guide to how PPAs are implemented in the future. There are several key elements to PPAs – identifying land with conservation value, protecting it, and then looking after it with appropriate stewardship. Landholders enroll in PPA programs for varying reasons, but beyond the initial sign up, supporting them is important for ensuring ongoing stewardship. PPA landholders are diverse and the landscapes in which PPAs sit are dynamic. Properties change ownership over time, and as the needs of landholders change, stewardship of PPAs is best supported through multiple policy mechanisms. The concept of intergenerational stewardship is critical to the long-term effectiveness to PPA programs, and can assist in meeting the challenges facing PPAs.

This policy brief explores the key drivers of landowner participation in PPA programs (i.e. covenants, easements, servitudes and other long-term agreements with individuals or groups of landowners) and the program mechanisms that maintain successive generations of landowners to be engaged and committed to long-term stewardship. It also considers the challenges faced by PPA programs in developing and maintaining strong collaborative arrangements between the stakeholders involved in these programs.

Also, keep an eye out for the September issue of Decision Point where the ICSRG lab discusses PPA stewardship in greater detail.

Citation:

Selinske, M., Hardy, M., Gordon, A., & Knight, A. (2017, August 17). Policy brief for Privately Protected Areas Futures 2017: Supporting the long-term stewardship of privately protected areas. Retrieved from osf.io/znsdq

 

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The Victorian Biodiversity Conference 6th – 7th February 2018

After a successful inaugural Victorian Biodiversity Conference earlier this year, a group of motivated students and early career researchers from a wide range of Victorian Universities (RMIT, La Trobe, Monash, Federation, Charles Sturt, Melbourne, Deakin) have begun planning our next conference to be held early February 2018 at La Trobe University, Melbourne (https://www.vicbiocon.com).

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Halgania cyanea (Boraginaceae) from the Victorian Mallee

This event aims to be a low cost and accessible conference to promote networking between graduate and postdoctoral researchers, as well as practitioners in government and NGOs working on research related to Victorian biodiversity.

The conference will provide an important and rare opportunity for young researchers to hear from government, industry and non-governmental organisations, as well as foster inter-University interactions through a series of plenaries, invited talks, workshops and networking opportunities.

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A bee on a daisy in the Victorian Alps

We are organising!
Get your abstracts ready, and stay tuned for further updates!
Visit our website: https://www.vicbiocon.com

 

 

Transforming urban gardeners into land stewards

by Laura Mumaw

Gardenedited

The American conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote about the importance of practicing a ‘land ethic’, adopting personal responsibility for the health of the land – the soils, waters, plants and animals of a place – for the good of the community. Private land stewardship, caring for native flora and fauna on one’s property, has long been promoted in rural settings as a valuable contribution to conservation. By contrast in cities, conservation activities and research have focused on public land. Indeed, it has been suggested that urban landowners are unlikely to demonstrate the levels of land stewardship found rurally for lack of opportunity or the stronger place meanings and sense of place found in the country.

I interviewed 16 members of a municipal wildlife gardening program (Knox Gardens for Wildlife) in Melbourne Australia to understand how participation affected their reported gardening purpose and practice, and attachments to place and nature. Using inductive analysis and a definition of land stewardship derived from Aldo Leopold that includes purposes as well as activities, I developed a model for the development of urban land stewardship (below). It includes an initiation phase that introduces participants to stewardship and their potential to contribute, followed by a development phase where connections to place deepen; stewardship knowledge, competences and activities strengthen; and commitment to stewardship increases.

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A model for the development of urban private land stewardship

Results show that urban wildlife gardening programs can foster residential land stewardship through learning by doing. Visible community involvement and endorsement of one’s contribution are key, and connections to nature, place and community occur as part of the process.

You can read the article here or feel free to email me at laura.mumaw@rmit.edu.au for a copy.

Citation:  Mumaw L. (Online, 26 May 2017) Transforming urban gardeners into land stewards. Journal of Environmental Psychology. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.05.003

Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum in The City of Melbourne

Members of the ICS research group recently attended The Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum held by The City of Melbourne – a day of discussions about biodiversity research in the urban area of Melbourne. It was a fantastic day to meet practitioners, decision makers and researchers working in Melbourne.

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A figure from a recently published report showing The City of Melbourne extent and some green spaces recently surveyed for biodiversity.

Three members of ICS spoke about projects underway in the City that revolve around increasing biodiversity and human well being in Melbourne’s urban area.

Sarah Bekessy presented research led by Luis Mata* that aims to quantify biodiversity changes in a network of greening intervention sites.

With the rapid and pervasive urbanisation of the planet, urban ecosystems are increasingly being valued for their biodiversity, human health and wellbeing outcomes. Enthusiasm for greening in cities is growing around the world, as is interest from conservation scientists and stakeholders working in urban environments to incorporate greening into the design of cities. Yet, while a strong body of evidence is mounting for the social and ecological co-benefits of existing urban green spaces, very few studies have quantified the changes in biodiversity that may occur after a greening intervention takes place, and no studies have investigated these changes in a systematic, experimental way using standardised survey methodologies across a wide range of different interventions.

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A honeyeater seen in a newly ‘greened’ space.  Photo: Luis Mata

Luis’ research has been specifically conceived to quantify the before and after changes in biodiversity resulting from a series of greening intervention sites that are presently been undertaken across a series of urban green spaces in Metropolitan Melbourne. With the support of the National Environmental Science Programme – Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub industry, government and community partners, a Network of Greening Intervention Sites (NGIS) has been established, including numerous sites in the City of Melbourne. These sites will be used to demonstrate the positive outcomes that greening has on beneficial insect, including native pollinators such as bees and butterflies, birds and other taxa. Findings will help guide management actions aimed at supporting existing biodiversity and bringing locally extinct species back into our cities.

* contributing researchers: Ashley Olson, Anna Backstrom, Tessa Smith, Kirsten Parris and Sarah Bekessy.

Holly Kirk presented research on behalf of a number of collaborators* entitled Our City’s Little Gems.

Following the success of “The Little Things that Run the City” insect ecology, biodiversity and conservation research project (2015-16), the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group at RMIT University and the City Of Melbourne extended this research to include butterflies. In addition to being eye-catching animals, butterflies play a key role as pollinators. Yet, despite their visibility, relatively little is known about the interactions between different plant and butterfly species, particularly in urban habitats with a mix of native and introduced vegetation.

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Vanessa kershawi – photo: Luis Mata

During January 2017, flower and butterfly surveys were conducted in 15 public green spaces across the City of Melbourne, observing over 20 000 flowers in bloom. Of the 21 butterfly species or species groups identified from historic records, eleven were observed during these surveys. From these data key plant-butterfly interactions have been identified. These will help provide recommendations which can be used to guide management actions and strategies aimed at strengthening existing butterfly populations, and potentially attract additional butterfly species into the city.

* contributing researchers: Tessa Smith, Anna Backstrom, Alejandra Morán-Ordóñez, Georgia Garrard, Ascelin Gordon, Christopher Ives, Sarah Bekessy and Luis Mata.

Freya Thomas presented on behalf of a range of collaborators and industry partners* a new project about Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human wellbeing.

The health and wellbeing of urban residents is intrinsically linked to urban green spaces and their biodiversity. Yet, very little is known about the causal mechanisms and pathways linking green space design to biodiversity and human wellbeing benefits. The ‘Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human wellbeing’ ARC-Linkage Project proposes to untangle some of these mechanisms though strong industry partnerships with The City of Melbourne, Arup, Phillip Johnson Landscapes and Greening Australia. Through an experimental approach revolving around modular green space plots the project aims to: (1) investigate the mechanisms linking green space design to biodiversity outcomes; (2) investigate the mechanisms linking green space to human wellbeing; and (3) develop best practice urban design guidelines that reflect these mechanisms and supports biodiversity and human wellbeing.

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Happy members of our research team talking about designing green spaces for biodiversity and human well-being. 

Initial concepts were presented of the experimental approach based on controlled, manipulative field experiments, as well as the conceptual framework, which links green space design to (1) biodiversity, through the ecological niche theory; and (2) human wellbeing, through the stress reduction and attention restoration theories. Understanding the causal links between urban design and benefits to biodiversity and human wellbeing is critical to underpin evidence-based policy around green spaces. The findings from this research will enable industry partners, including the City of Melbourne, to demonstrate the value of good urban design and access to nature, thereby raising the profile of urban biodiversity for city residents and exploring the potential for new opportunities for urban greening.

* contributing researchers and partners: Luis Mata, Katherine Berthon, Adrian Dyer, Fiona Fidler, Richard Fuller, Jair Garcia, Georgia Garrard, Ascelin Gordon, Vaughn Greenhill, Lee Harrison, Dieter Hochuli, Christopher Ives, Sacha Jellinek, Phillip Johnson, Cecily Maller, Rodney van der Ree, Rob Turk and Sarah Bekessy.

The Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum in The City of Melbourne was a great space to communicate our research and hear about other research going on in The City.

 

 

Dividing lines in conservation

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 11.51.47 amAs members of an interdisciplinary lab, I initially thought our views of conservation would be a little more divergent. But, after taking the Future of Conservation Survey (like a personality test for conservationists), it seems we collectively straddle the left-hand side of the Conservation and Capitalism x-axis; meaning that we view natural and social systems as inseparable and intertwined. We fell into the New Conservationists or Critical Social Science groupings (for a comprehensive breakdown of the groupings visit the description page).

Where we differ and only just slightly, are in our views the roles that market-based mechanisms, ecosystem services and corporations play in conservation. Our group is made up of wayward physicists, ecologists, political scientists, and practitioners whose epistemologies for the most part reflect pragmatism rather than strict ideologies and I guess this pragmatism is the reason why we were all mostly aligned.

As you can see from my red dot on the graph I fall in the upper left quadrant, the New Conservation “camp”, but only just so. There were certain statements in the questionnaire such as “Economic arguments for conservation are risky because they can lead to unintended negative conservation outcomes” that I think most conservationists agree with even if they, as I do, support the limited use of financial instruments or economic case for the conservation of biodiversity. Economic incentives can work but they often do not (Lim et al. 2017, Selinske et al. 2017)—context matters.

At least from the snapshot of other’s results that took the test before me, it seems that most would agree with Georgina Mace’s Science editorial Whose Conservation? in which she posits that we are currently in a People and Nature framing of conservation, celebrating interdisciplinarity, both social and ecological sciences and concepts of change such as resilience and adaptability; rejecting a nature for people and “Half-Earth” framing of conservation. The debates that mark conservation—new conservation vs. traditional conservation; land-sparing vs. land sharing—are not black or white and it is likely that many conservationists have nuanced views of conservation, and fall across the spectrum.

Debates are a fixture of conservation science, because we are passionate about our work and the direction of conservation as evidenced by our recent disagreement with an article published by Peter Karieva and Emma Fuller. Conservation practice emerged as a ‘big tent’ movement encompassing the divergent views of visionaries such as Muir, Pinchot, and Leopold, and this continued diversity in conservation science should be supported, critiqued and embraced as the conservation community for some time will remain an assemblage of philosophies and approaches to conservation policy and implementation.

Wildlife gardening for conservation in cities

by Laura Mumaw

Eastern spinebill in a Victorian garden (Photo by Patrick Kavanagh)

In this article we explore how the Knox Gardens for Wildlife program, a collaboration between a municipality (Knox City Council) and community group (Knox Environment Society) in greater Melbourne involves residents in gardening to help conserve indigenous biodiversity. We used semi-structured interviews and Council survey data to identify key program features that engaged and supported members to modify their gardening: on site garden assessment; community nursery; communication hubs; a framework that fosters experiential learning and community linkages; and endorsement of each garden’s potential contribution. We discuss the implications for managing urban landscapes for biodiversity conservation.

Click here for the full article or feel free to email me at laura.mumaw@rmit.edu.au for a copy.

Citation:

Mumaw L, Bekessy S. (Online) Wildlife gardening for collaborative public–private biodiversity conservation. Australasian Journal of Environmental Management.

Why politics and context matter in conservation policy

By Florence Damiens

Politics and context matter for conservation policy. That is why our research group, in collaboration with Brian Coffey and Lauren Rickards from RMIT University’s Centre for Urban Research, has just published a collective reply to Peter Kareiva and Emma Fuller’s article in Global Policy.

In brief, we argue that Kareiva’s and Fuller’s proposal does not sufficiently consider the core challenges faced by biodiversity conservation researchers and practitioners in this time of dramatic change, for people and nature. Conservation issues are context-dependent: ecological, economic, social, ethical and political. Embracing and responding to this complexity is a necessity when conceiving potential solutions for the future of conservation, humans and the biosphere.

While some of the approaches the authors promote may work in particular situations, we believe their proposal risks unintended and detrimental social and ecological consequences by presenting them as global solutions to complex problems that are context-dependent. In particular, their proposal does not address some of the key causes of biodiversity loss, i.e. over-exploitation of natural resources, intensive agricultural activity, urban development, and pollution. These causes are accepted as fait accompli and their mitigation as potential conservation strategies is not considered. New technologies and ‘managing for evolution’ are presented as guiding principles for any context, which is problematic. Moreover, the questions around what should be conserved, the processes by which biodiversity is valued, and who has the legitimacy to value it are not addressed. Lastly, we argue that a one-size-fits-all utilitarian approach and a neoliberal governance model, as proposed by Kareiva and Fuller, risks poor involvement or opposition from communities and societies and may undermine their traditional structures and relationships with nature.

See our full reply here: Damiens et al. (Online, 13 March 2017)

If you can’t access the paper using this link please send me an e-mail (florence.damiens@rmit.edu.au) and I will send you the pdf directly – thanks!