International Day of Biological Diversity 2014

International Day of Biological Diversity 2014

The United Nations have proclaimed May 22 as International Day of Biological Diversity, (IDBD) to help increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.


IDB2014 Poster

The theme this year is “islands”. Island comprise unique, irreplaceable ecosystems, often with many species found nowhere else on earth. One-tenth of the world’s population live on an island, comprising some 600 million islanders. The conservation of the unique ecosystems are paramount to the livelihood, economy, well-being and cultural identity of these people.

The Environment Institute is involved with important work to monitor and help reduce the rapid rate of biodiversity decline around the world.

Presented here is research by Associate Professor Phill Cassey and the Invasion Ecology group which focuses on Australia’s third largest island, Kangaroo Island.

The presentation is entitled: ” The distribution and management of feral Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) on Kangaroo Island, South Australia”.

Abstract: The Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is a widely-distributed pest bird species. Native to the Indian sub-continent, peafowl have established numerous feral populations in Australasia, USA and Hawaii, Europe, and South Africa. At high densities feral peafowl are habitat modifiers and a social nuisance, although their ecological impacts have been poorly documented. 20 On Kangaroo Island (South Australia) feral peafowl have established from uncontained domestic populations and are now widely dispersed in separate groups across the island. Previous peafowl management on Kangaroo Island has not been implemented in an evidence-based coordinated manner. In 2013 we conducted an Adelaide University Honours research project (C. Cunningham) to quantify the distribution and size of peafowl groups across Kangaroo Island, and to determine the suitability of habitat for future spread and expansion of the feral populations. We found that there is abundant unoccupied suitable habitat on Kangaroo Island and that, without management, the islandwide population is expected to substantially increase. Population modeling demonstrated that an annual cull of 150 birds would sufficiently reduce the island population, in six years, to realistic levels for achieving population eradication.

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.

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.

New Paper: How avian incubation behaviour influences egg surface temperatures: relationships with egg position, development and clutch size

A new paper involving Environment Institute members Rebecca Boulton (an honorary senior research fellow) and Phill Cassey has recently been publihed in the Journal of Avian Biology.

The paper, titled ‘How avian incubation behaviour influences egg surface temperatures: relationships with egg position, development and clutch size’ explains the results of a study of the great tit Parus major, a species with a large clutch size, to investigate surface cooling rates of individual eggs within the nest cup across a range of ambient temperatures in a field situation. The study used state-of-the-art portable infrared imaging and digital photography, testing for associations between egg surface temperature (and rate of cooling) and a combination of egg specific (mass, shape, laying order, position within clutch) and incubation specific (clutch size, ambient temperature, day of incubation) variables.

Download the paper to find out about the results.

New Publication – Managing the risk of exotic vertebrate incursions in Australia

Biological invasions are a profound contribution to human induced environmental change. Preventing the incursion of non-native species to Australia is by far the most cost-effective way to reduce future pest damage.

Phil Cassey

Assoc. Prof. Phill Cassey from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide and colleagues Dr Wendy Henderson and Dr Mary Bomford (Invasive Animals CRC) compiled national data on border incursions and pre-border interceptions (predominantly seizures from private keeping and illegal imports) of exotic terrestrial vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians). The authors identified species with a high risk of establishing wild populations.

The majority of species detected were reported from illegal keeping. Individual species risk assessments revealed that reptile species were more likely to be of greater risk for future establishment than other terrestrial vertebrates. During the preceding decade, the number of novel exotic vertebrate species detected ‘at large’ in Australia has significantly increased.

The authors strongly recommend a nationally coordinated framework for data collection, and data sharing among Australian agencies involved in Biosecurity reporting. Improved reporting of incursions and interceptions, collaborative inter-agency communication, and targeted action against high-risk species are crucial to prevent new pests establishing.

The paper has been published in the CSIRO journal Wildlife Research and has been published early online. Henderson, W., Bomford, M., and Cassey, P. (2011) Managing the risk of exotic vertebrate incursions in Australia. Wildlife Research, doi: 10.1071/WR11089.

A pdf version of the paper is available to download here.