Re-imagining the Indigenous-conservation alliance

Organiser: Cathy Robinson, CSIRO

The relationship between Indigenous and conservation agendas has had a troubled past and continues to challenge contemporary co-management agreements. At times conservation areas have had a negative impact on Indigenous people and Indigenous rights, collaborations between conservation science and Indigenous knowledge is often an aspiration rather than a reality, and Indigenous people’s aspirations for their communities and estates can appear to contradict conservation goals. On the other hand, Indigenous and conservation alliances have resulted in the return of millions of hectares of land to Indigenous ownership, defeated proposals for incompatible development inside world heritage areas, secured significant government and philanthropic funding for Indigenous land and sea management and given a voice to Indigenous people in international fora and mechanisms such as the World Heritage and Biodiversity Conventions. This session acknowledges both the challenges and the opportunities, focusing on the potential for re-imagining Indigenous conservation alliances and partnerships. We welcome papers that: highlight the environmental significance of Indigenous estates around the world; show-case the innovative approaches used by Indigenous landholders to protect the natural and cultural values of their land and sea estates; and consider new conservation standards and opportunities for environmental service provision that also improve long-term livelihood security and well-being of Indigenous peoples and local communities.

Advances in invasive predator management for threatened species conservation

Organisers: Tim Doherty, Deakin University and Al Glen, Landcare Research, NZ

Invasive predators are one of the most pervasive drivers of bird, mammal and reptile extinctions globally. Reducing their impacts is a primary conservation goal worldwide, particular in Oceania. Many species in the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand are on the verge of extinction due to predation, disease and competition from introduced rodents, cats, foxes, mustelids and possums. Lethal control of the predators (e.g. baiting, trapping, shooting) is the most commonly used management approach, but this has often resulted in ecological surprises and undesirable outcomes (e.g. trophic cascades). Also, emerging evidence shows that the problem is further complicated by interaction between invasive predators and other ecological disturbances, such as fire, grazing and top-predator declines. This suggests an urgent need to refine our understanding of invasive predator management, such as when and where to use lethal control, and to consider alternative means of reducing the impact of invasive predators on threatened species. This notion is central to the congress’ theme of ‘Science meets Action, Water meets Land’ because it is increasingly recognized that evidence-based approaches are necessary if threatened species are to be saved from invasive predator impacts. Rather than focusing solely on the well-established impacts of predators, this symposium will concentrate on solutions. The symposium will bring together research scientists and frontline conservation practitioners who are using innovative tools, techniques and approaches in the field of predator management. This includes technological advances, along with novel modelling approaches and insights from behavioural ecology.

Continuous monitoring of invisible places: bioacoustics in marine and freshwater environments

Organisers: Simon Linke, Griffith University, Angela Recalde-Salas, Curtin University and Toby Gifford, Griffith Conservatorium

Monitoring aquatic species in underwater environments – rivers, lakes and oceans – has proven even more difficult than terrestrial surveys of endangered taxa. Traditional methods of aquatic survey techniques bear a) risks to fish health and habitat integrity, b) introduce bias, because it might cause fright responses in key aquatic species and c) standard surveying only produces a snapshot from the time of surveying – which in many cases does not happen more than once a year and d) it can be very expensive, particularly in areas with remote access. Non-invasive passive bioacoustic monitoring can address all four problems. This special session will explore novel techniques in aquatic bioacoustics that can aid conservation managers. Topics will range from holistic ecosystem monitoring (Linke, Gifford) to descriptions of detailed algorithms with which soniferous aquatic taxa can be detected. The symposium will also include talks on the challenges of using acoustical data for monitoring populations and on protocols for monitoring and mitigating impacts of noise.   The final talk by Dr Leah Barclay will cover bioacoustics as a tool for engaging with the public. We hope that this first session in freshwater and marine bioacoustics at a continental or worldwide SCB conference will raise awareness and kickstart increased joint efforts by marine and freshwater scientists to establish bioacoustics monitoring as a key survey method.

Confronting threats to marine ecosystems through the use of biodiversity offsets

Organiser: Nicole Shumway, University of Queensland

Biodiversity offsets are increasingly being used as a mechanism to mitigate impacts from economic expansion and development on species and ecosystems. Current offset research and policy are primarily focused on terrestrial ecosystems while marine offset development has lagged behind, despite a global increase in marine development and exploitation. Addressing this gap is crucial to providing better outcomes for marine species. The symposium will seek to address the following key issues:

  • Development of novel and innovative marine offset actions and explore strategies that will best benefit people and biodiversity;
  • Assessing current offset strategies in the marine environment;
  • Challenges for identifying mitigation strategies and setting the research agenda;
  • Policy issues related to governance and implementation;
  • Case studies of marine biodiversity offsets in conservation planning;
  • Discussion: what are the next steps forward?

PADDD (protected-area downsizing, downgrading, and degazettement) in Australia: PADDD decisions on land and in the sea and their implications for policy, practice, and nature conservation

Organiser: Bob Pressey, James Cook University

Australia’s protected areas play an important role in the persistence of the continent’s biodiversity. Despite this importance, decisions by Australia’s Federal, state, and territory governments over the last 10-15 years have progressively weakened terrestrial and marine protected areas. Evidence for this weakening includes diminishing management budgets, opening of parks to commercial and extractive interests, and altering boundaries to allow extraction of natural resources. All such decisions pose risks to biodiversity that have not been assessed explicitly by governments. Meanwhile, the review of Commonwealth marine parks has been underway since July 2014 and will report “as soon as possible”. This symposium brings together national experts to present the first comprehensive record of PADDD events in Australia, to discuss the risks for biodiversity, and to describe the need for more progressive practice and policy for protected areas.

Conservation Oceania Style: Highlighting Oceania’s unique approaches to conservation biology and on ground outcomes

Organiser: Rebecca Spindler, Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Oceania is a diverse region encompassing Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, New Zealand, and Polynesia, and it contains six of the world’s 39 hotspots of diversity. This biodiversity in combination with a poor record for extinctions and widespread threats makes the region a priority for immediate and sustained conservation action. In this session we take a look at a diverse range of conservation solutions in Oceania, capturing the breadth of nations, methods and environments in the region. The theme is organized by the major threats faced in the region: habitat loss, over exploitation and invasive species. These threats have been assessed as the largest threats for the region. Talks in this session will present work undertaken across the region, discussing successes, challenges and failures faced by conservation professionals in the region and lessons learned that can be applied to better conservation planning across regions.

When conservation goes viral: Social science insights for understanding the spread of conservation initiatives in Oceania

Organisers: Morena Mills, University of Queensland, Rebecca Weeks, James Cook University and Mike Mascia, Conservation International

This symposium will explore patterns and trends in the establishment of conservation interventions through a social science lens (sociological theories of innovation diffusion), providing novel insights for conservation science and evidence-based policy. Despite billions of dollars invested, “getting to scale” remains a fundamental challenge for conservation donors and practitioners. Effective community-based projects often struggle to deliver national-scale results, while a well-recognized “implementation gap” frequently exists between regional conservation plans and local action. Occasionally, however, a conservation intervention will “go viral,” with rapid, widespread adoption and implementation (i.e., diffusion) that transforms the relationship between people and nature across large areas. Understanding why an intervention goes viral is essential to evidence-based conservation policy and practice. Diffusion of innovation theory — the study of how, why, and at what rate novel ideas and practices are adopted by individuals, groups, organizations, and countries — provides a novel lens through which to examine rates and patterns associated with establishment of conservation policies, programs, and practices. This symposium will explore the spread of conservation and fisheries management initiatives within Oceania, and highlight key elements of program design and policy formulation that facilitate their adoption.

Coastal conservation under climate change

Organiser: Nathalie Butt (University of Queensland) & Kiki Dethmers (Charles Darwin University)

Coastal species, habitats and ecosystems may be more at risk from climate change-related threats than marine or terrestrial systems alone, because they form an important interface between these two systems. Factors such as sea level rise may change the distribution of seagrass, coral reefs, mangroves, saltmarshes and the species that use them, such as sea turtles and migratory birds. These changes will also affect coastal communities that rely on these natural systems for food security and other ecosystem services. Threats to coastal biodiversity are faced by developing and developed nations alike, and in many cases community management is the key player in effective mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change stressors. In order to ‘climate proof’ coastal conservation efforts, conservation planning needs to incorporate short-term processes such as behavioural plasticity and coastal development strategies, as well as long-term processes such as expression of key genes and ocean connectivity. In this symposium we highlight the vulnerability of coastal ecosystems to climate change, discussing impacts on coastal habitats, species’ behaviour and urban coastal communities. We address the need for management planning to protect coastal biodiversity and allow for the expansion of coastal urban areas.

Conservation of free-flowing rivers – governance, communication, management and science

Organisers: Richard Kingsford, University of New South Wales, and Jamie Pittock, Australian National University

Many of the world’s rivers are highly developed with dams and diversions of water. Prevention is better than cure is particularly relevant for the management of free-flowing rivers where considerable damage can be inflicted on these large ecosystems through development to divert water as well as floodplain development. This symposium is designed to capitalize on the recent winning of the international river prize by the Lake Eyre Basin Partnership and commitment to a twinning program. We have had discussions with managers, the Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM) of our chosen river, the Okavango River Basin.  We believe this symposium is particularly appropriate for this conference, given the importance of policies and management in the protection of large free flowing rivers.

Conservation in urban areas: opportunities and advances

Organizers: Karen Ikin, Australian National University and Georgia Garrard, RMIT

Evidence is building that urban areas can support diverse assemblages of ecological communities, including nationally important threatened species. With this growing recognition has come a changing perspective that conservation in cities and towns is a realistic policy and management priority. Urban ecology research has shifted from documenting negative effects of urbanisation on biodiversity to a greater focus on what can be done to achieve more effective urban conservation outcomes. This symposium will focus on this “positive” urban ecology research and aims to identify ways forward for better integration of science into policy and management. The symposium will present a series of case studies of new urban conservation research. These case studies span the natural and social sciences, to include biodiversity-sensitive urban design and green infrastructure, wildlife habitat and rewilding, and access to nature, community engagement and social values. Together, these case studies highlight best practices in urban conservation science.

Reframing the process of how we formulate and approach big questions in Pacific Islands Conservation Biology

Organizers: Chris Filardi, American Museum of Natural History, Senoveva Mauli, Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership, Lisa Dabek, Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, Mikal Eversole Nolan, Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, Carina Wyborn, Luc Hoffmann Institute, WWF International

One of the central objectives of conservation biology and primary theme of this gathering is to create knowledge that can be transformed into action.  Several decades of conservation practice and social science literature demonstrate a central role of problem framing in connecting scientific knowledge with policy, decision-making and conservation. Critically, work shows that how research questions are framed, and who is involved in the framing, determines what type of knowledge is prioritized in the research process and whose knowledge is valued. Across the Pacific we see a diverse set of large and small scale research, planning and management initiatives that have adopted a narrow approach to problem framing, leading to varied success in supporting policy and practice that is relevant to people on the ground.  Similarly, we have some bright lights of success from initiatives that have invested in new ways to frame conservation research around questions that include multiple kinds of knowledge and perspectives, in particular those that incorporate local worldviews and perspectives and respond to clear directives from key actors across geographic and political scales. In this symposium, we will use a village meeting format combined with a traditional series of symposium talks that bring together Pacific Island local leaders, conservation practitioners, government officials, and diverse social, biological, and boundary researchers to foster and capture the upshots from a dialogue around the process of framing key research questions for Pacific Islands conservation biology that are relevant to Pacific peoples.

Land-based threats to coastal ecosystems

Organisers: Simone Birrer, University of New South Wales and Emma Johnston, University of New South Wales

Coast represent the interface between terrestrial and aquatic realms, and are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems. However, increasing industrialization and urbanization of the coastal zone has resulted in substantial impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function. Agricultural and industrial activities on land cause substantial threats to adjacent waters, but this connectivity between systems may not be recognized in research or management practices, which tend to be separated by the land-sea divide. Future conservation of coastal biodiversity will require research and management practices that integrate land-based threat monitoring and controls with impact mitigation and remediation in aquatic ecosystems. Advances in technologies that cross system boundaries and provide sensitive and early warning measures of human impacts on coastal biodiversity and ecosystem functions, such as molecular and remote sensing techniques and stable isotope monitoring, have the potential to revolutionize this process. This symposium will bring together researchers and managers representing both terrestrial and aquatic systems to discuss current and emerging threats to coastal ecosystems and the possibilities for using novel techniques to inform future conservation strategies.