From Birdsong Metrics to Ancient Arctic DNA: Selected Publications from the 1st Quarter, 2014

In the first quarter of 2014, researchers at The Environment Institute have published on a vast array of topics, from Ancient DNA in the Arctic, to birdsongs to  recommendations for improvements to guidelines such as the Ecological Footprint in order to better inform policy makers.

A selection of these publications is listed below.

1. Fifty thousand years of Arctic vegetation and megafaunal diet. Nature
Research into the type of vegetation present during the last 50 thousand years in the Arctic is presented. Rather than using fossilised pollen as the main source of data as has been the case for previous studies, this study used plant and nematode DNA from sites across the Arctic. This data brings into question the diet of megafauna such as the woolly mammoth.

2. Distribution and Diversity of Soil Microfauna from East Antarctica: Assessing the Link between Biotic and Abiotic Factors. PLOS ONE
An investigation into soil microfauna composition, abundance, and distribution in East Antarctica. The study found that where a population exists is likely to be determined by soil geochemistry.

3. Higher Levels of Multiple Paternities Increase Seedling Survival in the Long-Lived Tree Eucalyptus gracilis. PLOS ONE
Data from populations of Eucalyptus gracilis (white mallee or yorrell) across the Murray-Darling Basin in southern Australia was collected in order to gain an understanding of how local environments affect seed quality.

4. Rapid deforestation threatens mid‐elevational endemic birds but climate change is most important at higher elevations. Biodiversity Research
The effect of deforestation and climate change on bird communities in Lore Lindu National Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia was investigated. The National Park is a globally important hotspot of avian endemism, and has lost almost 12% of its forest in the decade of 2000-2010.

5. Does the Shoe Fit? Real versus Imagined Ecological Footprints. PLOS BIOLOGY
This article seeks to demonstrate that “Ecological Footprint” measurements as currently constructed and presented misleading and cannot be used effectively in any serious science or policy context. Outlined are a set of principles that any ecological indicator should be based on in order to be scientifically sound and relevant for use in decision making.

6. Historical changes in mean trophic level of southern Australian fisheries. Marine and Freshwater Research
It is suggested that care in interpretation of mean trophic level (MTL) of catches should be taken because reductions do not necessarily reflect change in species high on the food chain by fishing pressure. They found that the change in MTL is mainly attributable to large catches of sardines.

7. Ecology Needs a Convention of Nomenclature. BioScience
A convention of ecological nomenclature as well as a transnational institution to manage it is proposed, in order to overcome the synonymy and polysemy across disciplines, which currently handicaps the progress of ecology.

8.Emerging Challenges for the Drinking Water Industry Environmental Science & Technology
Three principles that underpin alternative water source choices are introduced: Reliability, thresholds and future projections of water quality and quantity.

9. The evolution of lncRNA repertoires and expression patterns in tetrapods. Nature
The first large-scale evolutionary study of long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) repertoires and expression patterns in eleven tetrapod species is presented. About 400 highly conserved lncRNA’s (of more than 10 000 identified) probably originated an astonishing 300 million years ago at least.

10. Direct evidence for organic carbon preservation as clay-organic nanocomposites in a Devonian black shale; from deposition to diagenesis Earth and Planetary Science Letters
The temperature and oxygenation of the oceans are influenced by one of the most fundamental biogeochemical processes on Earth-the burial of organic carbon in marine sediments. This buried organic carbon also comprises the primary source of hydrocarbons. This paper presents research into the composition of Woodford Shale.

11. A guide to southern temperate seagrasses (Book, CSIRO Publishing)
A reference guide to the diverse seagrasses present in the ocean of the temperate parts of the southern hemisphere. Evolution, biology and ecology of the seagrasses is introduced. This book allows readers to rapidly identify a particular species, including those often confused with others.

12. A Potential Metric of the Attractiveness of Bird Song to Humans. Ethology
Bird species such as the common nightingale and European blackbird have songs that are known to have inspired classical music. Developing a metric for these songs might help identify birds that are present in international bird trade which could contribute to studies of invasion and conservation biology.

13. Genetics in conservation management: Revised recommendations for the 50/500 rules, Red List criteria and population viability analyses. Biological Conservation
A review of recent theoretical and empirical evidence concludes that the population rules for minimising inbreeding and for maintaining evolutionary potential in perpetuity need to be at least doubled and sections of the IUCN Red List criteria require revision, to be more effective conservation tools.

Resilience to Blooms – Published in Science

Justin Brookes, Director of the Water Research Centre at The University of Adelaide, and Caylean Carey have had an article published in Science today.

The article is titled ‘Resilience to Blooms’ Science 7 October 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6052 pp. 46-47 DOI: 10.1126/science.1207349

Cyanobacterial blooms (see the figure) present health risks worldwide for humans and livestock that drink or use contaminated water, and also represent substantial economic costs to communities due to water treatment, lost tourism and recreation revenue, and declining property values (1). These explosive growths occur in fresh and marine water, and may be increasing globally. One recommendation is that water managers must address the effects of climate change when combating cyanobacterial blooms (2). However, recent studies suggest that controlling nutrients may be more important in increasing aquatic ecosystem resilience to these blooms.

Read the full article

Water Wednesday – ‘Making consultation more effective’

Making consultation more effective will be the subject of a free public forum at the University of Adelaide this Wednesday, 13 April.

Hosted by the Water Research Centre, the ‘Water Wednesday’ forum will focus on improving community and industry engagement in natural resources management.

Water Research Centre Director Associate Professor Justin Brookes says there are concerns that community engagement needs to be more effective in order to support key reforms in water management.

“We need to ensure that the story of good science is told well and that data is accessible to the communities and stakeholders who will be affected by recommended reforms,” says Associate Professor Brookes.

“The process of consulting with community and interest groups needs to be just as well researched and advanced as the evolving science designed to support management decisions.”

Guest presenters at the forum will include:

• Ms Ann Shaw-Rungie, private consultant specialising in facilitation and community engagement

• Assoc Prof David Paton, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide

• Ms Ruchira Talukdar, Healthy Ecosystems Campaigner, Australian Conservation Foundation.

Speakers will give examples and suggestions on how to build community and industry support for sustainable resource management and to undertake necessary reforms such as in water management. The forum will explore the way that communication is changing, with social media and networks, and more sophisticated technologies for more immediate social connections.

Assoc Prof Brookes said, “The recent stormy process of consultation for the Guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan discredited the good science underpinning the Plan, and has undermined and delayed the consultation process for critical water reforms.”

“This Water Wednesday forum aims to present examples of effective engagement, and to draw conclusions about how to learn from these experiences to assist the water reform process through better engagement with community groups and stakeholders.”

WHERE: Napier 102 Lecture Theatre, North Terrace Campus, University of Adelaide

WHEN: 5.30pm–6.45pm, Wednesday 13 April

COST: Free, but bookings essential. BOOK HERE

CLLAMMecology – Food webs in the Coorong

A/Professor Justin Brookes, Director of the Water Research Centre at the University of Adelaide presented a final report from a team who worked on Sustaining Food Webs within the Coorong at the final technical briefing of CLLAMMecology on 21 July 2009 .

You can also watch a Slidecast video presentation

Written by The Environment Institute, 29 July 2009