A Brave New Green World: does a price on carbon help protect Australia’s biodiversity?

Phot by: Kris*M (Flickr)

Phot by: Kris*M (Flickr)

As Australia shifts to cut greenhouse gas emissions is it also possible to enhance our biodiversity? A new peer-reviewed paper by Environment Institute members Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook (with others) directly addresses this question, showing “biodiversity-related enhancement schemes (including environmental plantings and invasive species reduction) can be compatible with carbon-sequestration initiatives”.

The authors find that most land-management options to reduce or capture greenhouse gas emissions will offer clear advantages for biodiversity. These advantages increase the viability of native biodiversity. However, there are potential negative outcomes. The authors discuss what needs to be considered if biodiversity is to benefit from the new carbon economy.

Issues and opportunities include:

  • Carbon plantings will only have real biodiversity value if they comprise appropriate native tree species and provide suitable habitats and resources for valued fauna.
  • Plantings risk severely altering local water availability, quality and/or water movement.
  • Fire can assist with some positive carbon outcomes such as prescribed burning to reduce the frequency of high-intensity wildfires in northern Australia, However, in southern Australia fire is currently unlikely to help but will become increasingly important for biodiversity conservation as the climate warms.
  • Carbon price changes to agriculture can benefit biodiversity. Such changes include reductions in tillage frequency and livestock densities, reductions in fertiliser use, and retention and regeneration of native shrubs.

This is a complex area but “as long as biodiversity persistence is taken into account at the planning and implementation stages”, it is the authors’ opinions that carbon and biodiversity “goals are not mutually exclusive”. To achieve this “careful amalgamation of such carbon-mitigation approaches with other incentive schemes such as biodiversity offsets … will be required.”

The full findings, issues and opportunities are in the complete paper Brave new green world – Consequences of a carbon economy for the conservation of Australian biodiversity.


► Australia’s new carbon price will have profound implications for land-use change. ► Major changes will arise from environmental plantings and regrowth & fire management. ► Other changes will affect forestry, agriculture and feral animal control. ► Most anticipated land-use changes should benefit biodiversity. ► Negative biodiversity outcomes could arise if changes focus exclusively on carbon.

To see the slide show of this presentation, visit Corey’s SlideShare page.

Call for presentations – Lake Eyre Basin Biennial Conference

LEB Conference Sept 2013The 6th Biennial Lake Eyre Basin Conference is to be held from 17-19 September 2013 with the theme Basin Voice: shared understanding and action for a sustainable LEB future and the Ministerial Forum is calling for presentations at the event.

The call is open for oral and poster presentations to address the conference theme and subject areas:

  • Naturally variable flow in rivers, floodplains, and waterholes
  • Water resources management
  • Regional NRM and adaptive management challenges
  • Biodiversity values, unique flora and fauna, and threatened species
  • Cultural strength and culturally significant sites
  • Invasive pests and weeds
  • Extractive resource industry impacts and management
  • Total grazing pressure
  • Tourism impacts and management

Submissions are due by Tuesday 30 April 2013 to Emma Ross.

Further information relating to document preparation and submission is available in the following documents:
LEB 2013 Conference Presentation Submission Form
LEB 2013 Conference Call for Presentations

Information about the Conference can be found on the LEB Conference website.

ethology Investigates: Invasive Species online conference

Be a part of the next ethology Investigates online conference from 15-17 April 2013.ethology Investigates Invasive Species online conference

Hosted by Mark Hauber, Phill Cassey, Naomi Langmore and Bard Stokke, the conference will highlight new theories and discuss recent findings on the behaviour of invasive species and their impact on the host environment.

Animals today are regularly confronted with ever-changing environmental conditions – destruction of habitat, introduction of new predators or new food sources. Studies on invasive species can yield critical insights into evolutionary theory, behavioural ecology, community ecology, developmental physiology, and conservation practice.

When: Monday 15 April – Wednesday 17 April
Where: Online – registration details below
Cost: FREE

To register visit the ethology Investigates registration page.

For more information visit the ethology Investigates homepage.

Rebirth of the Bilby

Easter in Australia involves not only the ubiquitous chocolate bunnies and eggs but also the native Bilby.

Bilby releaseSince the 1990s chocolate bilbies have been appearing on in Australian shops around Easter time. These Easter Bilbies are an Australian alternative to rabbits, which in Australia are considered invasive pests and cause extensive damage to native species and ecosystems.

Karleah Trengove a PhD student with the Environment Institute has been studying these reintroduced populations, this is what she has to say about the bilby.

The Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) has been greatly affected by European settlement. Originally distributed over 70% of the continent including Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, it is now believed they occupy only 20% of their former range (Southgate 1990). Unfortunately these populations still appear to be declining. The bilby is listed as nationally vulnerable, and was extinct in South Australia.

Recently though, efforts have been made to bring the bilby back to South Australia, and bilbies have been reintroduced at three locations within the state: the Arid Recovery Reserve, Venus Bay Conservation Park and an island offshore from Eyre Peninsula.

These releases were successful and bilbies established small populations at all three sites. I am currently conducting research on the Venus Bay and offshore island populations. My research is looking at breeding success, mating system, genetic diversity and burrow use of the bilbies in these populations, and hopefully my research will allow us to manage these populations for long term conservation of the bilby in South Australia and possibly help to plan any future releases.

Karleah & bilby

The offshore island population has increased dramatically since release, and numbers are now estimated by my trapping results to be in the thousands. Bilbies here are in relatively high density, due to the high amount of food resources available to bilbies on the island and lack of predators, and animals are breeding well with a large number of young surviving. Similarly, the Venus Bay bilbies increased after release, however population growth has slowed in recent years as a number of cats have gained access to the park and are reducing survivorship of the young bilbies once they leave the pouch. There are still a large number of breeding adults in the population, so I hope that once the cats are caught the population will continue to flourish.

As one of these populations occurs on an island, and the other in a fenced off conservation park, there is only limited potential for population growth. These bilbies are not truly wild yet, as islands and fenced reserves are our only option for them at present as cats and foxes are so prevalent across the state. As cats and foxes appear to be a major cause of decline in bilby populations, we really need to put a lot of effort in to dramatically reducing the occurrence of these species before bilbies will ever be able to be released in to the wild, without fences to protect them.

Bilby back into burrowThe reintroductions have indeed proved to be successful in my view, and I hope my research will help us look to the future. Further reintroductions and better feral predator control are what I consider to be the next steps in increasing the number of bilbies in South Australia.

The Foundation for a Rabbit Free Australia, introduced the Easter Bilby in the early 1990s. Part of the proceeds from the sale of chocolate bilbies goes towards helping to rehabilitate the bilby back into the Australian landscape.

So this Easter instead of buying an invasive bunny, buy a bilby and support the rebirth of the bilby in the wild.

Rabbit Free Australia website www.rabbitfreeaustralia.org.au

Arid Recovery Program www.aridrecovery.org.au

Haighs Chocolates – http://haighschocolates.com.au/our_company/environment.html

Darrell Lea and Save the Bilby http://www.easterbilby.com.au/

Southgate, R.I. (1990a). Distribution and abundance of the Greater Bilby Macrotis lagotis Reid (Marsupialia: Peramelidae). In ‘Bandicoots and Bilbies’. (Eds. J.H. Seebeck, P.R. Brown, R.L. Wallis and C.M. Kemper) pp 293-302. (Surrey Beatty and Sons: Sydney.)