Speed Symposia

New tools for ecosystem assessment, management and conservation

Organiser: Lucie Bland, University of Melbourne

The necessity of managing and conserving whole ecosystems is increasingly recognized. Yet key challenges remain in assessing the status of ecosystems; including ecosystems in conservation plans; and effectively managing the services they provide. This session will explore how new scientific and policy tools can help manage ecosystems more effectively. The session will span a wide range of ecosystems—from Antarctic marine ecosystems to temperate forests of south east Australia— as well as theoretical and practical questions. The session will outline recent scientific advances in ecosystem risk assessment led by key researchers in the Oceania region. The session will then address two key challenges: 1) How can novel sources of data be used for ecosystem assessment?; 2) How can ecosystem assessment inform management and conservation? The management component of this symposium will be strong, with three presentations addressing natural resource use and conservation planning. The session will also be highly policy relevant. The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems is a high-visibility policy product, and has recently been adopted by Australia as the official national protocol for assessing risks to ecosystems. The proposed symposium meets the meeting theme by spanning a range of ecosystems, and explicitly linking scientific tools with management and conservation applications.

Conserving migratory and mobile species under threat: challenges, tools and thinking for solving this and other conservation conundrums

Organisers: Viv Tulloch, University of Queensland and Jennifer McGowan, University of Queensland

Migratory and mobile species connect us across nations, across landscapes and across time. The large-scale movements of these species set them apart from other biodiversity when it comes to management and conservation. The persistence of migrants or highly mobile species relies on a number of unique integrated factors, including whole suites of ecologically important sites remaining intact, the resources they require at those sites being available at the right time and the connections between sites remaining within reach given a species’ movement capability. Incorporating such linkages can make a dramatic difference to conservation success, however uncertainties in understanding dependencies between species and sites create challenges for effective management.
This session aims to explore the latest advances in how decision-makers can incorporate migratory connections to safeguard this natural phenomenon. We demonstrate a range of exciting new integrative decision-theoretic or “whole of system” modeling approaches that account for the complex trophic interactions between species within and across ecosystems. A further critical aspect of the approaches presented is understanding migratory movements through animal tracking and telemetry studies. A fundamental challenge involves linking telemetry data to conservation decision-making frameworks by explicitly reducing the uncertainties affecting where, when and what management actions to take. To address this, we gather relevant scientists and managers to discuss the barriers, new developments, and tools surrounding how to best maximize return-on-investment in animal tracking and telemetry to address real world conservation challenges with a particular emphasis on conservation of migratory animals. By bringing together experts in migratory or highly mobile species research and management, this session identifies how decision-makers can explicitly consider migrations across a range of different taxa, understand the consequences of their declines, and develop effective conservation actions.

Reptile conservation: challenges in assessment and application

Organiser: Megan Barnes, University of Queensland

Reptiles are on track to being recognised as the most diverse group of terrestrial vertebrates (10,270 as of August 2015). Unlike the relatively well-known bird and mammal faunas, our grasp on their conservation status and key threatening processes is rudimentary. This is exemplified by that fact that the first ‘comprehensive’ global analysis of the conservation status of reptiles (Böhm et al., 2013, Biological Conservation), only considered 1,500 randomly selected species (and many of those were classified as ‘Data Deficient’). A key challenge is to not only obtain rapid and accurate assessments of threat status for the majority of reptiles (i.e. non-assessed or data deficient species), but also to identify and act to mitigate the key drivers of extinction risk for Reptiles. Many reptiles are data deficient consequently likely to be highly threatened, and unmanaged. Oceania has globally high reptile diversity – Australia is a global centre of reptile endemicity, and uniquely adapted taxa. Many of Oceania’s reptiles inhabit islands, and face accelerating threatening processes. This symposium will highlight recent advances in extinction risk modelling and reptile conservation, address key knowledge gaps, propose some potential solutions, and engage conference participants in a facilitated discussion.

Understanding the human dimensions of environmental problems: connecting the dots through interdisciplinary research

Megan Evans, Australian National University, Claudia Benham, Australian National University and Nadine Marshall, CSIRO

An understanding of both the environmental and human dimensions of complex conservation problems is increasingly seen as necessary for their resolution. For decades now, calls for greater integration of the social sciences into conservation research have been commonplace. Given the urgency of the environmental challenges that we currently face and the role of humans in both driving and mitigating environmental degradation, it is critical to understand and respond to the human dimensions of conservation problems. A broad range of social research methods are available which can provide insights into these complex problems, yet there is often limited understanding of which methods can used, what kind of information can be elicited, and how this can be used to make recommendations for improved conservation management and governance. In this session we explore how the social sciences can be integrated into conservation research agendas, and, and inform on-ground management. The session will showcase a range of social research in the conservation space using a number of disciplinary and methodological approaches, and drawing upon examples from the terrestrial, coastal and marine environments. A key outcome of the symposium will be to enhance understanding of the range of social research and methods that are being applied to complex environmental problems, with the aim of strengthening linkages across disciplines to improve conservation outcomes.

Social Network Analysis for Conservation: Challenges and Opportunities

Organisers: Angela M. Guerrero, University of Queensland and Michele Barnes, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Social network analysis (SNA) is rapidly gaining ground in conservation science and management. This move reflects the reality that conservation and environmental management actions are typically the result of decision-making processes that are not made in isolation; they are made in a social setting.  A network approach is one way to visualise and analyse the social settings in which decisions are made that affect conservation outcomes. There are several ways in which SNA can be useful in this regard: to describe a system, to understand a system, or to inform an objective-driven analysis in support of conservation action. Yet despite the utility of SNA for advancing conservation and broader environmental management objectives, there is serious potential for misuse. Drawing on examples from both terrestrial and marine systems, this session will 1) showcase the different ways in which SNA has been used to support conservation science and management, 2) demonstrate how social networks can be incorporated into conservation and environmental management research along a casual pathway; i.e. as an explanatory variable, a mechanism explaining an outcome, or as an outcome itself, and 3) highlight critical challenges associated with the use of SNA in conservation science and environmental management research.