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Analysis and Comment (189)

We hear a great deal about China’s future – but how is it treating its past? Sangzhutse Fortress in Shigatse, Tibet – after restoration work. We hear a great deal about China’s future – but how is it treating its past? Sangzhutse Fortress in Shigatse, Tibet – after restoration work. Photo: Tongji University

China’s future is bright, and that includes conserving the past

For most Australians, mention of China probably does not evoke preserved buildings and landscapes in the way the English countryside does or the Italian centro storico. But a new exhibition, Envisioning…
Cattle drovers have won back the right to graze livestock in the Australian Alps - against scientists' advice. Cattle drovers have won back the right to graze livestock in the Australian Alps - against scientists' advice. AAP Image/Bob Richardson

Why is our wildlife in trouble? Because we’re ignoring science

From reef dredging, to shark culling, to opening old-growth forests to logging, environmental policies are leaving Australia’s wildlife exposed to threats. The reason, we propose, is that society and government…
Mining in Madagascar – but do the miners give enough back? Mining in Madagascar – but do the miners give enough back? Amy Glass/People and Development/supplied

Does ‘offsetting’ work to make up for habitat lost to mining?

“Biodiversity offsetting” – protecting animals and plants in one area to make up for negative impacts in another – is increasingly used by companies such as mining firms, as a way to boost their corporate…
Cabo Pulmo, in its current, concrete-free incarnation. Cabo Pulmo, in its current, concrete-free incarnation. Alan Harper

Mexican mega-hotel rises from the dead to threaten biodiversity hotspot once again

When former Mexican president Felipe Calderon shut down the development of a planned US$2 billion, 4,000 hectare hotel mega-resort in 2012, it looked as though the extraordinary diversity of the Cabo Pulmo…
Caught: a female swift parrot emerging from her tree-hollow nest. Caught: a female swift parrot emerging from her tree-hollow nest. Dejan Stojanovic

Sugar gliders are eating swift parrots – but what’s to blame?

Swift parrots are one of Australia’s most endangered birds, but until very recently we didn’t know why. New research shows that they’re being eaten by sugar gliders at their breeding grounds in Tasmania…
Global shipping is expected to triple by 2060. Global shipping is expected to triple by 2060. Let Ideas Compete/Flickr

We need a global conservation agreement for the high seas

The high seas cover about 50% of Earth’s surface and host a major share of the world’s biodiversity, but remain largely ungoverned. With increasing threats to open ocean ecosystems, now more than ever…
A conservation success story, Bald Eagle numbers are now sky high. A conservation success story, Bald Eagle numbers are now sky high. Frank Kovalchek

Conservation should protect genetically isolated species, not just the most rare

The number of endangered bird species is rising and even with our best intentions, there isn’t enough money to save them all – so how do we decide which species we should let go? A new approach has been…
Had his chips? Had his chips? Galyna Andrushko/shutterstock

The grizzly outlook for hunted bears in Canada

This month marks the re-opening of the controversial trophy hunt for at-risk grizzly bears in the province of British Columbia, Canada. Scrutiny of this hunt was ramped up last year with new evidence that…
Furniture retailer Harvey Norman has been targeted by activists, in a campaign described by the federal government as dishonest. Furniture retailer Harvey Norman has been targeted by activists, in a campaign described by the federal government as dishonest. AAP Image/The Last Stand/Matthew Newton

Boycotts are a crucial weapon to fight environment-harming firms

In October 2000, I was driving through downtown Boise, Idaho, and nearly careered off the road. Just in front of me was a giant inflatable Godzilla-like dinosaur, well over 30m tall. It was towering over…
Dingoes offer a way to conserve Australia’s wildlife, for free. Dingoes offer a way to conserve Australia’s wildlife, for free. Arian Wallach

Australia should enlist dingoes to control invasive species

Introduced species pose one of the greatest threats to Australia’s fauna and flora, but expensive efforts to control them aren’t working. Instead of spending millions of dollars on culling, giving dingoes…
Emus, as depicted after being seen on the 1800-04 Baudin voyage. Emus, as depicted after being seen on the 1800-04 Baudin voyage. Charles-Alexandre Lesueur/F. Lambert/Wikimedia Commons

Should Australia’s biodiversity be written into the Constitution?

Environment minister Greg Hunt’s pledge to appoint a threatened species commissioner is a bright spot on an otherwise pretty bleak conservation landscape. Hunt described the “deep challenge” of species…
Lake Judd, in Tasmania’s Southwest National Park. Lake Judd, in Tasmania’s Southwest National Park. JJ Harrison/Wikimedia Commons

Abbott’s half right: our national parks are good but not perfect

Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week told a timber industry dinner that he doesn’t think national parks should be a growth industry: “We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up…
Illegal dumping in the Mzymta River from Sochi’s building frenzy. Illegal dumping in the Mzymta River from Sochi’s building frenzy. sochiwatch

Sochi Olympics have left a trail of environmental destruction

The reports from Sochi’s newly built hotels and Olympic Village have not painted their construction in the best light, with tales of doors that wouldn’t open, yellow drinking water, and collapsing fixtures…
Sawfish are the most endangered members of the shark family. Sawfish are the most endangered members of the shark family. Flickr/Kaptain Kobold

Sharks and rays threatened worldwide – overfishing to blame

We have heard a lot of about sharks recently. In particular Western Australia’s plan to cull threatened white sharks has stirred up plenty of protest from the community, and a frenzy of media coverage…
Woods today, firewood tomorrow? Woods today, firewood tomorrow? Chris Ison/PA

Justified and ancient: our best woodland is irreplaceable

The threat to Britain’s ancient woodland has been much discussed recently, the suggestion being that where they are lost to housing development they might be replaced with new woods through biodiversity…
Without tigers, our ecosystems will suffer. Without tigers, our ecosystems will suffer. Flickr/kohlmann.sascha

The world’s top predators are in decline, and it’s hurting us too

Humans have an innate fear of large predators, and with good reason. Nobody wants to be a shark or a lion’s next meal. But new research in the journal Science shows that our inability to live with these…
What? It’s just a flesh wound. What? It’s just a flesh wound. Steve Jurvetson

Restore large carnivores to save struggling ecosystems

We are losing our large carnivores. In ecosystems around the world, the decline of large predators such as lions, bears, dingoes, wolves, and otters is changing landscapes, from the tropics to the Arctic…
What does the future hold? What does the future hold? SomeDriftwood

Scanning the horizon for future environmental challenges

Medical treatments for amphibians, resurrection of extinct species, increasing temperatures in the deep oceans and trade-offs between the financial value of fossil fuels and the magnitude of climate change…
Saving seeds can protect us from future calamities. Saving seeds can protect us from future calamities. Simone Cottrell/AAP

Seed banks: saving for the future

In 1926, just outside of St Petersburg in Russia, botanist and geneticist Nikolai Vavilov set up the Pavlovsk Experimental Station. It was one of the world’s first “seed banks”. The term “seed bank” or…
Bhutan has built its economy and society on preserving the environment. Bhutan has built its economy and society on preserving the environment. Jean-Marie Hullot

Bhutan’s environmental success is a pleasing paradox

In a time of diminishing global biodiversity, Bhutan’s conservation achievements read like an environmentalist’s heavenly dream. More than 50% of its land area is designated as protected in national parks…
Slow down, you’ll get indigestion. Slow down, you’ll get indigestion. Luca Galuzzi/www.galuzzi.it

Lion hunt quotas could be good for animals but bad for humans

Criticism of sport hunting nearly always focuses on whether hunting is cruel or not. A good example was provided by the recent controversy surrounding Melissa Bachmann, a keen hunter and television personality…
The Jetty at Lundy, England’s first marine conservation zone in 2010. The Jetty at Lundy, England’s first marine conservation zone in 2010. MichaelMaggs

Marine conservation bid upsets everyone it aimed to please

Worldwide, the use of Marine Protected Areas is recognised as an important strategy to safeguard marine biodiversity from the impact of over-fishing, pollution, and other environmental damage. In England…
Captive bred Tasmanian devils have recently been reintroduced to Tasmania. But do we want daring or docile devils in the wild? Captive bred Tasmanian devils have recently been reintroduced to Tasmania. But do we want daring or docile devils in the wild? AAP

Personality matters: when saving animals, fortune favours the bold

Reintroduction programs are key initiatives for re-establishing or re-stocking animal populations, and while some are successful, many, unfortunately, are not. Endangered and critically endangered animals…
Former NBA player Yao Ming is pictured on a billboard in China, endorsing an anti-shark fin campaign. Former NBA player Yao Ming is pictured on a billboard in China, endorsing an anti-shark fin campaign. Mike Fabinyi

Shark fin drops off the menu, conservationists claim victory

In recent times, China has witnessed a series of campaigns aimed at persuading people to stop eating shark fin soup. So it is encouraging that, over the past year, shark fin consumption appears to have…
It ain’t easy being green, especially when your home’s been turned into (other people’s) houses. It ain’t easy being green, especially when your home’s been turned into (other people’s) houses. Andrew Milligan/PA

An amphibian-eye-view of environmental offsetting

In its report published last week, the UK Parliament’s green watchdog, the Environmental Audit Committee, was far from convinced by the government’s proposed policy of biodiversity offsetting. The committee’s…
Working dawn till dusk to turn $10 billion into dust. Working dawn till dusk to turn $10 billion into dust. US FWS Mountain Prarie

Crushing billion-dollar ivory stockpile is an empty gesture

Confiscated ivory taken from smugglers, traders and tourists by US authorities was crushed to chippings last week, The stockpile of more than six tonnes, amassed since the 1989 international embargo on…
150,000 square kilometres of tropical rainforest is destroyed every year. 150,000 square kilometres of tropical rainforest is destroyed every year. Threat to democracy

Carbon emissions must not distract us from conservation

With current concerns focusing, quite rightly, on controlling carbon emissions, it is easy to lose sight of the need for continued conservation efforts. In fact our recent study published in the Proceedings…
Duran, Duran, anyone? Duran, Duran, anyone? Dawn Villella/AP

Bears, wolves, lynx – Europe is going wild

Europe, the world’s most industrialised and intensively managed continent, is going wild. During the past three decades it has witnessed conservation successes with the most unexpected species: Europe…
England’s green and pleasant land: will biodiversity offsetting help or hinder it? England’s green and pleasant land: will biodiversity offsetting help or hinder it? Gareth Fuller/PA

Biodiversity offsets may drive growth, but duck the problem

The idea behind biodiversity offsets is to develop a new way of preserving nature that more accurately accounts for the value to us of the natural world. The abundance and diversity of plants and animals…
Royal interest in tigers has cut both ways through the years. Royal interest in tigers has cut both ways through the years. S. Taheri

Tigers, elephants ask: what have royals ever done for us?

On the face of it the British royal family’s commitment to wildlife conservation is unmistakable. Perhaps the most well-known work is that of Prince Charles, who in May co-hosted a meeting on illegal wildlife…
Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. It’s home to country’s largest oil field. Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. It’s home to country’s largest oil field. Flickr/joshbousel

Leave it in the ground! How fossil fuel extraction affects biodiversity

Greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels have resulted in well-publicised changes to the Earth’s climate. But the impacts of fossil fuels start long before their carbon dioxide reaches…
This diet’s driving me batshit. This diet’s driving me batshit. dsevictoria

Do bats eat mozzies or moths? The clue is in the poo

Bats fascinate me. So, naturally, does their diet. Recent research showed that bats made “feeding buzzes” over saltmarsh habitats. These habitats are full of mosquitoes and this specific buzz is made only…
Yasuni’s frogs are unimpressed with your lack of conviction. Yasuni’s frogs are unimpressed with your lack of conviction. Geoff Gallice

Paying Ecuador to save Yasuni was an idea ahead of its time

When the Ecuadorian Congress this month voted overwhelmingly to allow drilling for oil underneath the Yasuni National Park, it signalled the failure of a novel conservation proposal unlike any the world…
New Zealand’s ancient tuatara might need a helping hand to cope with climate change. New Zealand’s ancient tuatara might need a helping hand to cope with climate change. Flickr/Sheep"R"Us

Should we move species threatened by climate change?

Climate change is one of the greatest threats the world’s animals and plants are facing. In fact the world is facing an extinction crisis, which should concern all of us. The major problem with climate…
Will the sun set on migratory songbird hunting, or the birds themselves? Will the sun set on migratory songbird hunting, or the birds themselves? ONDR

Ending songbird slaughter? There’s an app for that

In an article for National Geographic and a forthcoming documentary film, author and birder Jonathan Franzen ponders the slaughter of migratory songbirds around the Mediterranean, and asks how it can be…
Problems breeding captive pandas shouldn’t distract from the problems faced by those in the wild. Problems breeding captive pandas shouldn’t distract from the problems faced by those in the wild. Andrew Milligan/PA

Price of captive pandas may be borne by those in the wild

When the Chinese authorities in Chengdu showed off their 14 giant panda cubs last week, it again raised questions about the role of panda breeding in zoos outside China, and whether it is a help or hindrance…
“We all look the same, we need some diversity around here.” “We all look the same, we need some diversity around here.” Rick Stuart-Smith/Reef Life Survey

Novel method of measuring biodiversity reveals surprises

I first heard used the term “biodiversity” as a graduate student some years ago. While it appeared to be something everyone agreed was important, nobody could tell me exactly what it meant. It seemed to…
Marlgu Billabong in Australia’s Kimberley region, which new research nominates as a smart place to invest in conservation. Marlgu Billabong in Australia’s Kimberley region, which new research nominates as a smart place to invest in conservation. www.shutterstock.com/Janelle Lugge

Adapt or die: where in the world we should start on cost-effective conservation

As the dust settles on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the science of climate change, the obvious question is: what do we do next? Our research, published in Nature…
Hands up for the environment. Hands up for the environment. Cathal McNaughton/PA

Green NGOs cannot take big business cash and save planet

When she wrote recently that “big green groups” are doing more harm than good when it comes to saving the planet, Naomi Klein was was right to be concerned. In recent years the environmental agenda has…
One reason why: Leadbeater’s Possum will become extinct unless further action is taken to protect their Mountain Ash habitat. One reason why: Leadbeater’s Possum will become extinct unless further action is taken to protect their Mountain Ash habitat. Flcirk/Greens MPs

Why Victoria needs a Giant Forest National Park

The Central Highlands of Victoria are home to the world’s tallest flowering plants, the Mountain Ash, and one of Australia’s most endangered mammals, the Leadbeater’s Possum. Both are threatened by ongoing…
Bird feed now. The whole bird later. Bird feed now. The whole bird later. vermininc

Introducing species to change ecosystems is a balancing act

Species hold ecosystems in a delicate balance. From time to time humans introduce non-native species to an ecosystem, because they may be needed for domestic work, as pets, for carrying loads or even for…
The decline of digging mammals, such as this bilby, is threatening Australia’s ecosystems. The decline of digging mammals, such as this bilby, is threatening Australia’s ecosystems. AAP Image/National Parks and Wildlife

Losing Australia’s diggers is hurting our ecosystems

Despite once being described as common, mammals have been lost across the Australian landscape over the last 200 years. The impact has been particularly severe on Australia’s digging mammals, including…
Diversity is the key. Diversity is the key. Agricultural Research Service

Protect a sixth of the land, save two thirds of species

The scene was typical for an international gathering of governments: bureaucrats, sat behind nameplates and speaking through interpreters. But the less than typical result of the votes cast at this 1992…
Who’s hands is palm oil really in? Who’s hands is palm oil really in? World Bank Photo Collection

Two ways to value sustainable palm oil

What is the value of sustainable palm oil? For some, it is the conservation of tropical forests and wildlife in highly biodiverse regions. For others, it is US$3. That’s the latest price of certificates…
World-renowned naturalist and film-maker Sir David Attenborough visits Melbourne Zoo to meet the miraculous Phasmid, or Lord Howe Island Stick Insect. World-renowned naturalist and film-maker Sir David Attenborough visits Melbourne Zoo to meet the miraculous Phasmid, or Lord Howe Island Stick Insect. JOE CASTRO/AAPIMAGE

Slimy, scaly and forgotten: we need to fund our invertebrates

In Australia, the “cute and cuddlies” receive the vast amount of publicity and conservation management dollars. Little is left for the small, scaly and slimy species that many consider just plain creepy…
#timeforlunch brb. #timeforlunch brb. Sean Gray

Forget tweeting, meet the birds who blog

Researchers in Aberdeen and the RSPB have set up a project that enables Scottish birds to write their own blogs. Readers will be able to track the daily lives of red kites as they travel around the Scottish…
Our threatened species, like this young Leadbeater’s Possum, need some attention. Our threatened species, like this young Leadbeater’s Possum, need some attention. Flickr/Greens MPs

Let’s put threatened species on the election agenda

The Coalition will instate a Commissioner for Threatened Species should it form government, according to shadow environment minister Greg Hunt. The minister says that, while management plans for threatened…
Feeding starving wild animals could lead to domestication: is that adding insult to the injury of taking their habitat? Feeding starving wild animals could lead to domestication: is that adding insult to the injury of taking their habitat? EPA/Jenny E. Ross

Wild animals are starving, and it’s our fault, so should we feed them?

As polar bears begin to die of starvation in a warming Arctic, should we be feeding them? What are the ethical implications of feeding wild animals brought to this point by human actions? A polar bear…
Our environment is an important part of Australia’s national identity. Our environment is an important part of Australia’s national identity. Shawn Smith

Using national pride to protect our environment

Australia’s natural resources are reaching a crisis point as they struggle to support and sustain our lifestyles. But while degradation of these systems continues, research suggests the level of concern…
Buffalo might be introduced to Kakadu, but maybe we need to embrace the change. Buffalo might be introduced to Kakadu, but maybe we need to embrace the change. Flickr/George Olcott

National parks need to embrace global change

On land and in the seas our world now resembles a series of badly run zoos, set in an even more badly run botanic garden. The badly run zoos, our global set of national parks, are often seen as the jewels…
This Yellow Wagtail is a fugitive in flight, but forensic technology will track him down. This Yellow Wagtail is a fugitive in flight, but forensic technology will track him down. Flickr: jcoelho

CSI: Birding … barcoding the past, present and future

The extinction of an animal is no longer the end of our opportunity to learn new things about its ecology and biology. The same technology that recently reconstructed the genome of the Neanderthal man…
According to new research, Australian biodiversity is drastically underfunded. According to new research, Australian biodiversity is drastically underfunded. Flickr/edwin.11

Australia is underfunding biodiversity conservation

When it comes to biodiversity spending, Australia is one of the bottom 40 countries in the world. It’s not the only rich country to feature low on the list (Finland, for example, also did pretty badly…
Without taking action we’ll soon see the back of many species. Without taking action we’ll soon see the back of many species. Chris Ison/PA

Are birds worth the billions?

Birdlife International’s new report recommends a US$80 billion increase in annual spending in order to fully protect important bird biodiversity areas. This surely poses the question: are birds really…
Even starlings are “red listed” as threatened in the UK. Even starlings are “red listed” as threatened in the UK. Clive Gee/PA

An $80bn cry for help that will save more than just birds

BirdLife International’s State of the World’s Birds report hopes to demonstrate an urgent need for funding, advocacy, conservation action and monitoring to halt the global loss of birds and other wildlife…
The decline of this Indian vulture species has costed the economy $30 billion. The decline of this Indian vulture species has costed the economy $30 billion. Bharat Balasubramanian

Neither the charismatic nor the iconic: rethinking conservation

The rate of extinction of species today is many thousand times the natural rate. There are even examples that such loss can have serious impact on humans. So a critical question is: what is the role species…
“Averted loss” biodiversity offsets rely on ongoing biodiversity declines to work. “Averted loss” biodiversity offsets rely on ongoing biodiversity declines to work. Kenneth Pinto

Biodiversity offsets could be locking in species decline

In a recent interview, the Opposition environment spokesperson Greg Hunt promised to reverse biodiversity decline in five years if the Coalition wins the forthcoming election. Is this goal achievable…
We have to get smarter about the way we manage Australia’s national parks. We have to get smarter about the way we manage Australia’s national parks. Nic Prins

Our national parks must be more than playgrounds or paddocks

It’s make or break time for Australia’s national parks. National parks on land and in the ocean are dying a death of a thousand cuts, in the form of bullets, hooks, hotels, logging concessions and grazing…
It’s rough out there: the waters off Townsville present many more threats to dugongs than do the hunters of the Torres Strait. It’s rough out there: the waters off Townsville present many more threats to dugongs than do the hunters of the Torres Strait. Francisco Martins

Dugongs are safer in Torres Strait than Townsville

“How many are there?” and “how are they doing?” are the first questions people usually ask about species of conservation concern. These seemingly straightforward questions are tough to answer when it comes…
This is what a dysfunctional ecosystem looks like: central Asia’s Aral Sea. This is what a dysfunctional ecosystem looks like: central Asia’s Aral Sea. PhillipC/Flickr

Identifying ecosystems at risk – the new IUCN Red List

We know quite a lot about which species around the world are most endangered. The Red List of threatened species, developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), identifies…
The lack of biological information about some species may be keeping them off the IUCN critically endangered list. The lack of biological information about some species may be keeping them off the IUCN critically endangered list. Mariana Campbell

Protecting endangered species we don’t know much about

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) uses set criteria to define species extinction risk. At the pointy end of the wedge, species are classed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Overall…
Maasai herders have made life harder for Tanzanian wildlife, but that doesn’t mean one of them has to go. Maasai herders have made life harder for Tanzanian wildlife, but that doesn’t mean one of them has to go. mar is sea Y/Flickr

Maasai versus wildlife: it’s an unnecessary choice

Tanzanian government plans to exclude Maasai from some traditional pastoral lands in the name of wildlife conservation have met with protest and global media attention. This is certainly not the first…
The endangered dugong is being hunted unsustainably using a cruel harpoon technique. The endangered dugong is being hunted unsustainably using a cruel harpoon technique. Nicola Sfondrini

In the name of culture: dugong hunting is simply cruel

Many Australians are rightly appalled by the slaughter conducted by the Japanese whaling fleet under the guise of “scientific research”. This is not only because whaling is cruel but also because whales…
Australian freshwater mussels are under threat from habitat erosion. Australian freshwater mussels are under threat from habitat erosion. Crawford River/Photo by MW Klunzinger

In muddy waters: the plight of Australia’s threatened freshwater mussels

Freshwater mussels, like other freshwater animals, are disappearing at an alarming rate. They are invertebrates, and while invertebrates may account for 95-99% of animal biodiversity, they are scarcely…
A tiny male Red-finned Blue-eye, half the size of your little finger. A tiny male Red-finned Blue-eye, half the size of your little finger. Adam Kereszy

Australian endangered species: Red-finned Blue-eye

The Red-finned Blue-eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis) grows to a maximum of three centimetres long. As males reach adulthood they develop the vivid colouration suggested by their common name. In contrast…
In the Coral Triangle, conservation plans that helped fish were unfair for people. In the Coral Triangle, conservation plans that helped fish were unfair for people. Zona Retiro/Flickr

Equity, economy or environment: you can’t have it all

You can’t get a project approved these days unless it satisfies the triple bottom line: equity, cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability. But our research shows that getting all three is almost…
The demand for shark fins has pushed threatened shark species from 15 in 1996 to 180 in 2010. The demand for shark fins has pushed threatened shark species from 15 in 1996 to 180 in 2010. Choo Yut Shing

Small win for big fish: convention moves to protect sharks

Each year around 100 million sharks are killed for their fins. The sharks are often pulled from the water, their fins are sliced off and they are thrown back in to drown. The industry is built on the high…
Dead as a … extinct species should stay extinct, and we should focus on saving the ones still living. Dead as a … extinct species should stay extinct, and we should focus on saving the ones still living. Jebulon

De-extinction is about as sensible as de-death

On Friday, March 15 in Washington DC, National Geographic and TEDx are hosting a day-long conference on species-revival science and ethics. In other words, they will be debating whether we can, and should…
More than 400 amphibian species are in decline, but at least one - the Fleay’s barred frog - is showing strong signs of recovery. More than 400 amphibian species are in decline, but at least one - the Fleay’s barred frog - is showing strong signs of recovery. Froggydarb/Wikimedia Commons

Are our frogs bouncing back?

Globally, amphibians have suffered serious declines and extinctions over the last 30 years. But our research, published today, shows that at least one subtropical rainforest frog is recovering. The most…
At the moment, estimating tuna numbers - these are skipjack - is a kind of sophisticated guesswork. At the moment, estimating tuna numbers - these are skipjack - is a kind of sophisticated guesswork. Flickr/dachalan

Counting the tuna in the Pacific

Tuna are vital to the ecology and economy of the Pacific, and maintaining their stocks at a sustainable level exercises the minds of thousands of scientists, bureaucrats, fishers, consumers and conservationists…
The Mekong in Xayaburi Province, Laos – the site of a proposed dam. But what will happen to biodiversity and people? Flickr/International Rivers. The Mekong in Xayaburi Province, Laos – the site of a proposed dam. But what will happen to biodiversity and people? Flickr/International Rivers.

Rhino horn and tiger blood: conservation in the Mekong

When Australians think of the Mekong they think cheap holidays or Vietnamese restaurants. Biodiversity-wise however, the Mekong is a frontier, a place where biological riches collide with human pressure…
Its not just the forests that make the Tarkine distinctive - it is habitat for 117 threatened species of flora and fauna. Its not just the forests that make the Tarkine distinctive - it is habitat for 117 threatened species of flora and fauna. Jennifer Evans

There’s more to the Tarkine than trees

Tasmania’s Tarkine is now instantly recognisable, evoking ancient forests and environmental controversy. It hasn’t always been so, however, with research and celebration building over the past 40 years…
Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary in the Kimberley is one of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s properties. Who else is privately conserving biodiversity? Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary in the Kimberley is one of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s properties. Who else is privately conserving biodiversity? dracophylla/Flickr

Private land is an important piece of the conservation jigsaw

There is general agreement that the Commonwealth and state governments lack the commitment, and hence funding, to preserve Australia’s biodiversity. Professor Tim Flannery addressed these issues in his…
Sewer infrastructure isn’t ready for our water saving techniques. Sewer infrastructure isn’t ready for our water saving techniques. gnackgnackgnack/Flickr

What’s that smell? Water saving’s unintended consequences

Saving water is a good thing, right? But what if I told you it could also cause problems. A recent study from Victoria University indicates water-conservation can have unintended consequences for residents…
We’re happy to kill individual creatures in large numbers - what’s stopping us wiping out the biosphere? We’re happy to kill individual creatures in large numbers - what’s stopping us wiping out the biosphere? Darren Harmon

Is an ethic of biodiversity enough?

The environmental crisis has never loomed so large nor been so extensively debated as in the last few years. But at the same time we have never heard less about environmental ethics - the bio-inclusive…
It’s a relief to lizards and scientists that new hands-off methods are making their way into herpetology. It’s a relief to lizards and scientists that new hands-off methods are making their way into herpetology. Kaptain Kobold/Flickr

New gadgets are opening windows on reptiles

You have probably heard someone utter the cliché “I grew up in a different era”. Compared to today, my youth was technologically anorexic. It was a time where you would never be told “Please turn off your…
A squirrel glider crosses a rope bridge over the Hume Freeway. A squirrel glider crosses a rope bridge over the Hume Freeway. Kylie Soanes

Mysterious poles make road crossing easier for high flying mammals

Wildlife can have a tough time crossing roads. Noisy, fast vehicles and wide, open gaps in habitat make it an uninviting and risky venture. This means some animals are cut off from food, shelter or loving…
Only 3-8% of the original number of Southern Bluefin Tuna still exist. Only 3-8% of the original number of Southern Bluefin Tuna still exist. AAP

Australian endangered species: Southern Bluefin Tuna

Note: Southern Bluefin Tuna is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, but only as conservation dependent under Australian legislation. Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) are majestic, temperate…
Australia’s marine parks are all show, no substance, so why are conservation groups so supportive? Australia’s marine parks are all show, no substance, so why are conservation groups so supportive? AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Australia’s new marine protected areas: why they won’t work

On land and in the sea, we’re losing sight of what nature conservation is about. We’ve become dangerously focused on protected areas, but rarely consider what they’re supposed to achieve. One result is…
Logging of Mountain Ash doesn’t make the sustainable forestry grade. Logging of Mountain Ash doesn’t make the sustainable forestry grade. lizardstomp/Flickr

Victorian forestry is definitely not ecologically sustainable

By any scientific yardstick, forestry operations in Victoria cannot be regarded as ecologically sustainable. Much of the attention of politicians, policy makers and the general public has been on the tall…
The Beautiful Nursery Frog is found only on Thornton Peak in northeast Queensland. The Beautiful Nursery Frog is found only on Thornton Peak in northeast Queensland. Steve Williams

Australian endangered species: Beautiful Nursery Frog

The Beautiful Nursery Frog (Cophixalus concinnus) is a tiny ground-living frog from the family Microhylidae - from the Greek words “micros”, meaning small, and “hyla”, meaning forest or woods. The species…
An exotic pet - like this slow loris - won’t have come to you voluntarily. An exotic pet - like this slow loris - won’t have come to you voluntarily. Michael Whitehead

Dear Santa, please don’t deliver exotic pets for Christmas!

What’s the worst Christmas gift you could give someone? It would have to be a non-human primate or a big cat. Images of people cuddling cute baby chimpanzees, slow lorises or tigers can lead to false perceptions…
An early dry season fire in Kakadu National Park – are these fires burning up our mammals? An early dry season fire in Kakadu National Park – are these fires burning up our mammals? Clay Trauernicht

Scientists and national park managers are failing northern Australia’s vanishing mammals

Conservationists should take heart that Australia is finally waking up to the biodiversity crisis in Australia’s north. It is an urgent problem: right now, a diverse assortment of our small mammals – bandicoots…
Euastacus dharawalus is the most critical of the spiny crayfish group. Euastacus dharawalus is the most critical of the spiny crayfish group. Jason Coughran

Australian endangered species: Spiny Crayfish

You may be familiar with some of Australia’s more iconic spiny crayfish, such as the giant Murray River crayfish, Euastacus armatus, but there is an untold diversity within this endemic Australian genus…
If Victoria keeps logging the way it is, the Leadbeater’s Possum is doomed. If Victoria keeps logging the way it is, the Leadbeater’s Possum is doomed. ccdoh1/flickr

Sending Leadbeater’s Possum down the road to extinction

We have studied the effects of current widespread clear-felling in Victoria’s Mountain ash forests for almost three decades. Clear-felling now loses large amounts of money for the state of Victoria, degrades…
As any barramundi fisher will tell you, northern Australia’s water isn’t going to waste. As any barramundi fisher will tell you, northern Australia’s water isn’t going to waste. Justin Friend

Someone is already using northern Australia’s water: wildlife

With increasing pressure on Australia’s water resources, many have looked to northern Australia to provide water for agriculture, urban development and other human needs. Much of northern Australia is…
Trees need stability and protection to get big, and both of those are in short supply. Trees need stability and protection to get big, and both of those are in short supply. William Laurance

The end of big trees?

When I was a small lad there was a stately old tree in our backyard. My little sister and I practically lived in it — it was our lair, our fortress, our stairway to the sky. Decades later, I sometimes…
What keeps crocodiles under control? Bigger crocodiles. What keeps crocodiles under control? Bigger crocodiles. Grahame Webb

Crocodile culls won’t solve crocodile attacks

There have been two fatal saltwater crocodile attacks on people in the Northern Territory (NT) in the last four weeks. Calls to “cull” the wild population of crocodiles have inevitably surfaced. More school…
Tasmanian devils have had low genetic diversity for hundreds of years. Tasmanian devils have had low genetic diversity for hundreds of years. AAP/Devil Ark/Mandy Kennedy

Settlers weren’t responsible for Tasmanian devil gene decline

European settlers were not responsible for thinning the gene pool of the Tasmanian devil, new research has found. Tasmanian devils are currently under threat due to the spread of an aggressive facial tumour…
National parks' role as a refuge from direct human intervention will only become more important in future. National parks' role as a refuge from direct human intervention will only become more important in future. dracopylla/Flickr

Biodiversity crisis demands bolder thinking than bagging national parks

Tim Flannery’s recent Quarterly Essay, After the Future, questions whether Australian national parks will become “marsupial ghost towns” despite the tens of millions of dollars governments spend on them…
Without help, parks like Kakadu could become marsupial ghost towns. Without help, parks like Kakadu could become marsupial ghost towns. Territory Expeditions

The future for biodiversity conservation isn’t more national parks

Today we begin a series on Australia’s endangered species and how best to conserve them. The series will run each Thursday, and begins with this excerpt from Tim Flannery’s Quarterly Essay, After the Future…
Invertebrates can seem alien and “other”, but the world can’t get by without them. Invertebrates can seem alien and “other”, but the world can’t get by without them. Thomas Shahan

Ignoring invertebrate conservation is simply spineless

Invertebrates are all around us – crawling, squirming and buzzing about their business. From forests canopies to ocean depths, they form about 80% of the known species on Earth. By virtue of their sheer…
Locals in Mamberamo, Papua, support conservation, but also want services and development projects; now they’re getting involved in land use planning. Locals in Mamberamo, Papua, support conservation, but also want services and development projects; now they’re getting involved in land use planning. Mokhamad Edliadi (CIFOR)

Maps for the people: Papuans planning how their land is used

When people ask us about our research, we answer: we are working on land-use planning. We rarely receive another question. Most of the time, after seconds of embarrassed silence, people move swiftly to…
When shot and injured but not killed, ducks will be left to fend for themselves under new Victorian laws. When shot and injured but not killed, ducks will be left to fend for themselves under new Victorian laws. oblivion9999/Flickr

The problem with Victoria’s ban on duck rescuers

Just before dawn on the third Saturday in March, the first shots will be fired, and the 2013 Victorian duck hunting session will commence. But 2013 will be unlike previous years. You are probably unaware…
Automated cameras and microphones will help better connect the public with life in the wild. Automated cameras and microphones will help better connect the public with life in the wild. Scott_Calleja

Ready for my closeup: camera traps bring home the wild

For 60 years Sir David Attenborough has brought the “extraordinary” of far off lands closer to home. In some aspects, Sir Dave has brought it so close that the only experiences you miss from not travelling…
Saving the Tasmanian Devil is one of many pressing preservation goals. Saving the Tasmanian Devil is one of many pressing preservation goals. Mandy Kennedy/AAP

Money in the gene bank: save the ‘Frozen Zoo’ and save species

You may have heard of Australia’s “Frozen Zoo” – the only facility of its kind on the continent – and that it’s facing funding difficulties. Why should you care about this? Let me explain. An increasing…
Fisheries around the world are depleted, but they can be saved. Fisheries around the world are depleted, but they can be saved. Isaac Pearlman

It is still possible to make fisheries sustainable

Many fisheries around the world are in bad shape and getting worse. Solving this problem will require innovative monitoring and management tools, but we can provide tremendous benefits if we act now to…
Flying-foxes are taking refuge in populated areas, and people are deciding they don’t like them. Flying-foxes are taking refuge in populated areas, and people are deciding they don’t like them. James Reed

Culling flying-foxes is ineffective, so why suggest slaughter?

Animosity towards the grey-headed flying-fox has intensified as their contact with humans has increased. Last month, the Queensland government announced that it would issue an annual quota of 1280 permits…
Public attitudes are shifting against government shark culling programs. Public attitudes are shifting against government shark culling programs. Athel D'Ombrain Collection, University of Newcastle

The great shark debate: to cull or not to cull?

The great shark debate continues in Australia as summer approaches. Shark bites on bathers and surfers are a particularly sensitive reality. These are personal and community-wide tragedies that implore…
An average of three million kangaroos are killed per year for pet meat, meat for human consumption and hides. An average of three million kangaroos are killed per year for pet meat, meat for human consumption and hides. DarthShrine/Flickr

Australia’s commercial kangaroo industry: hopping to nowhere

Australia’s commercial kangaroo industry is the world’s largest consumptive mammalian wildlife industry. Calculated on a ten-year period, an average of three million adult kangaroos are killed each year…
The proposed logging bill would tighten exportation from Indonesia in particular. The proposed logging bill would tighten exportation from Indonesia in particular. CIFOR

Australia attempts to stump illegal loggers

The Australian Senate is about to take on the task of stopping illegal logging, with legislation banning the importation and sale of timber products containing illegally logged timber being considered…
Healthy animals, perhaps, but is it ethical to confine large wild mammals to a tank for the purposes of profit and education? Healthy animals, perhaps, but is it ethical to confine large wild mammals to a tank for the purposes of profit and education? Greg Lilly

Not all fun and games: the missing ethics of animals in tourism

Animals are a mainstay of global tourism development. They’re consumed in fishing and hunting, and used as part of “experiences” - horses in trail rides, marine mammals in theme parks, whale sharks for…
The environment is more than a passive background to human dramas. The environment is more than a passive background to human dramas. George Lenard

Science can’t do it alone: the environment needs humanities too

Over the past couple of decades, India’s vultures have been all but wiped out. They have been poisoned by a veterinary drug given to cattle whose carcasses they then eat. While medicinal for cattle, the…
Exporting elephants from Laos to Japan could be the end of this Asian elephant population. Exporting elephants from Laos to Japan could be the end of this Asian elephant population. ElefantAsia

Really Laos, you shouldn’t have: giving elephants to Japan is a bad idea

The 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan was undeniably a tragedy on many scales. Thousands killed, tainted agriculture, disappearing tourism and overall economic gloom. It’s little wonder the Japanese government…
The US Endangered Species Act controversially lets ordinary citizens propose endangered species: would it work in Australia? The US Endangered Species Act controversially lets ordinary citizens propose endangered species: would it work in Australia? Doug Beckers

Trust the public: citizens can help save endangered species

The US Endangered Species Act, which became law in 1973, was one of the first major pieces of national legislation for the protection of biodiversity. It is still one of the most stringent. It has also…
We are really just beginning to learn what’s gone wrong for native species like the Murray Cod. We are really just beginning to learn what’s gone wrong for native species like the Murray Cod. Biodiversity Heritage Library

Native fish - and recreational fishers - need native fish funding

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Native Fish Strategy (NFS) is at serious risk of winding up, after NSW announced it is cutting its financial contributions. This is a serious blow to the conservation…
Illegal hunting is a severe threat to wildlife in many protected areas. Shown is the skull of a young forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) killed in southern Gabon. Illegal hunting is a severe threat to wildlife in many protected areas. Shown is the skull of a young forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) killed in southern Gabon. Ralph Buij

Are nature reserves working? Take a look outside

You couldn’t have witnessed the recent massacre of elephants at Bouba N’Djida National Park and not be worried about the future of biodiversity. The park, in northern Cameroon, is supposed to be a refuge…
Super trawlers aren’t the only boats that take bycatch: 200 black browed albatross could be caught every year in the Commonwealth’s South East Trawl Fishery. Super trawlers aren’t the only boats that take bycatch: 200 black browed albatross could be caught every year in the Commonwealth’s South East Trawl Fishery. Geoff Edwards

Super trawler not the only fishing problem needing review

Tony Burke and Joe Ludwig have just announced a review of the Fisheries Management Act and the EPBC Act, thanks to public opposition to the super trawler. But the Commonwealth should take a good hard look…
While the number and extent of protected areas has increased, the impact on biodiversity isn’t yet known. While the number and extent of protected areas has increased, the impact on biodiversity isn’t yet known. Flickr/Tony Rodd

Megatrends: biodiversity - going, going … gone?

Welcome to The Conversation’s series on megatrends, exploring the compelling economic, social, environmental, political and technological issues facing Australia, as part of the CSIRO’s new report, Our…
Bumping into a jaguar in Mexico’s cloud forest could soon be a thing of the past. Bumping into a jaguar in Mexico’s cloud forest could soon be a thing of the past. Kjersti Holmang/Wikimedia Commons

Head in the clouds: reserves won’t save Mexico’s forest

The chances of being roared at by a jaguar in a Mexican cloud forest are already low, but that is precisely what happened to me during a recent fieldwork expedition. I was very lucky to see a jaguar close…
Native or not? Red cabbage palms found in Palm Valley in the Northern Territory were introduced by Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. Native or not? Red cabbage palms found in Palm Valley in the Northern Territory were introduced by Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. Jurriaan Persyn

What is a native and why should we care?

New molecular techniques show that an iconic palm only grows in central Australia because humans moved it there thousands of years ago. It poses the question: should we still regard this as a native species…
A tiger photographed at 3,000m asl by Bhutanese researchers using a remote camera in the year 2000. How then could the BBC claim discovery of tigers at high altitude a decade later? A tiger photographed at 3,000m asl by Bhutanese researchers using a remote camera in the year 2000. How then could the BBC claim discovery of tigers at high altitude a decade later?

Tall tales misrepresent the real story behind Bhutan’s high altitude tigers

In September 2010, the BBC announced a stunning discovery of tigers (Panthera tigris) living at high altitude in the Himalayas. The article claimed that a BBC team had discovered first hand evidence of…
Eastern long-necked turtles, once common and abundant, are now greatly reduced throughout much of their range. Eastern long-necked turtles, once common and abundant, are now greatly reduced throughout much of their range. Damien Naidoo

Life in the slow lane pushes turtles towards extinction

Turtles are great evolutionary survivors. With their iconic shells and ponderously slow pace of life, they have plodded through 220 million years of natural selective pressures. In the face of forces that…
Beware the hyperbole: Campbell Newman has vowed to axe the Wild Rivers legislation, but what’s the reality beneath the rhetoric? Beware the hyperbole: Campbell Newman has vowed to axe the Wild Rivers legislation, but what’s the reality beneath the rhetoric? AAP/Alan Porritt

Overturn, axe and bury: the LNP and Queensland’s Wild Rivers Act

Those who follow the Wild Rivers debates in Queensland probably know better than to trust the headlines. When, in January 2010, Tony Abbott announced a federal intervention into the state’s environmental…
No simple matter: logging and conservation are not polar opposites, and controlled harvesting can fund the protection of forests. No simple matter: logging and conservation are not polar opposites, and controlled harvesting can fund the protection of forests. AAP/Greenpeace/Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

Can forest conservation and logging be reconciled?

Is there a role for logging in ensuring the future of the world’s tropical forests and their rich diversity of plants and animals? For many this idea is absurd, because timber production achieving conservation…
Extinct: the Christmas Island Pipistrelle. Extinct: the Christmas Island Pipistrelle. Lindy Lumsden

Threat of extinction demands fast and decisive action

When it comes to mammal extinctions, Australia’s track record over the last 200 years has been abysmal. Since European settlement, nearly half of the world’s mammalian extinctions have occurred in Australia…
An important ‘apex predator’ that should neither be hunted as an enemy nor treated as a pet. With respect and wisdom, we can coexist. An important ‘apex predator’ that should neither be hunted as an enemy nor treated as a pet. With respect and wisdom, we can coexist. AAP/Tony Phillips

The Australian dingo: to be respected, at a distance

It’s the dry season in the Northern Territory, and for many people that means camping under a clear winter’s sky in the Top End. Yet rediscovering nature can be a fraught exercise in wilderness areas like…
Our parks are an incredible asset, and if we ran them more like a business we would see that. Our parks are an incredible asset, and if we ran them more like a business we would see that. AAP/Patrick Horton

Thinking corporately: getting national parks on national balance sheets

National parks are among Australia and New Zealand’s most precious assets. But we don’t account for them properly, so they’re struggling. It’s time for a rethink. The assets managed by the parks agencies…
Quarries and quandaries: Australia’s natural splendour is a major source of income, yet it sits uncomfortably with mining’s spread. Quarries and quandaries: Australia’s natural splendour is a major source of income, yet it sits uncomfortably with mining’s spread. AAP/Fantasea Adventure Cruising

Mining and the environment: the future of Australia’s brand

Australia has built a strong global brand based on its iconic natural beauty. For example, the new Australia Tourism campaign, “There’s nothing like Australia”, features icons like the Kimberley, Uluru…
To know how to ease the damage we do, we must first take stock of the natural world. New Zealand does; Australia does not. To know how to ease the damage we do, we must first take stock of the natural world. New Zealand does; Australia does not. Flickr/borkazoid

Seeing the wood for the trees: Kiwi lead in biodiversity conservation

In 1992-93, 168 countries including Australia and New Zealand signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) acknowledging an urgent need to halt ongoing decline in the planet’s biodiversity. In its…
Queue for iPad 2 in Sydney: green activists targeting companies and governments should realise that those ‘enemies’ reflect the values of the money and consumption-hungry populace. Queue for iPad 2 in Sydney: green activists targeting companies and governments should realise that those ‘enemies’ reflect the values of the money and consumption-hungry populace. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Why the global environmental movement is failing

The recent news out of the RIO+20 summit is dire. No collective pre-agreement, no institutional change, no investment. The difference between RIO+20 and Kyoto was that at least Kyoto created an agreement…
Arise marsupial: the NSW town of Campbelltown could be the place to claw back Big Koala status from this one at Dadswell Bridge, Victoria. Arise marsupial: the NSW town of Campbelltown could be the place to claw back Big Koala status from this one at Dadswell Bridge, Victoria. Flickr/pixelhut

High time for NSW to have a Big Koala debate

One of Campbelltown Council’s councillors, facing re-election in the upcoming elections, recently suggested that the city should construct a “Big Koala” (BK) in the style of other “big local features…
Networks of nature: a potato cod with striped cleaner wrasse at Osprey Reef, an area in the expanded marine reservations announced today. Networks of nature: a potato cod with striped cleaner wrasse at Osprey Reef, an area in the expanded marine reservations announced today. Flickr/richard ling

Big splash: welcome back to top-shelf marine conservation

Today’s announcement of a national network of marine parks is really a memorable day for Australian nature conservation. The political rhetoric and self-congratulation associated with major events is often…
How bad do things have to get before we want to seriously address environmental issues? How bad do things have to get before we want to seriously address environmental issues? AAP

UN produces another boring global environmental warning; world continues not caring

The fifth edition of the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5) - a global environmental report card by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - reads like the results for a sedentary, middle-aged…
A shortage of their usual food sources may be pushing wombats to eat toxic weeds. A shortage of their usual food sources may be pushing wombats to eat toxic weeds. Jenny Scott

What’s happening to the southern hairy nosed wombats?

Over the past 18 months, increasing numbers of southern hairy nosed wombats in the Murraylands region have been found in poor to emaciated condition with damage to their skin and other organs. The skin…
When you buy imported products, are you buying dead endangered species as well? When you buy imported products, are you buying dead endangered species as well? Mark Hudson

Globalisation’s dark side: how shoppers consume threatened species

The tide of globalisation drives development, providing jobs and much needed dollars. But development and trade consumes local biodiversity, much of it in the iconic biodiversity hotspots of tropical countries…
We don’t have enough money to save all species, but would invertebrates get a look in if the public chose what lived and died? We don’t have enough money to save all species, but would invertebrates get a look in if the public chose what lived and died? Howard Rawson

The public should help decide which species to save and which to let go

At current levels of funding, it is not possible to save all threatened species in Australia from extinction. Trade-offs are required. For example, managers could concentrate efforts on the most threatened…
Vietnam’s growing economic prosperity, and demand for cute pets, has given its gibbons a bleak future. Vietnam’s growing economic prosperity, and demand for cute pets, has given its gibbons a bleak future. Clare Campbell

Southeast Asia’s small apes swing close to extinction

Gibbons are among our closest living relatives. These small apes are beautiful singers and glorious swingers. But a new survey of their numbers has found an economic boom in Vietnam is eating up their…
Conservation doesn’t fare well once the miners move in. Conservation doesn’t fare well once the miners move in. Kate Ausburn

Mining is digging the heart out of conservation covenants

Across Australia, landholders are signing conservation agreements or covenants to protect biodiversity on their property. These agreements, offered by state governments, create private protected areas…
Decades of work to reduce rhino poaching has achieved little. Farming rhino is one alternative, but what happens to a species when it’s domesticated? Decades of work to reduce rhino poaching has achieved little. Farming rhino is one alternative, but what happens to a species when it’s domesticated? Jim Epler

Farming endangered species to save them - extinction by another means?

When we talk of conserving an animal species what do we actually mean? We are likely to have in mind a vision of a rhinoceros (or any other species, for that matter) being given the opportunity to pursue…
The dingo fence is a blunt instrument; we could do better. The dingo fence is a blunt instrument; we could do better. Paleontour/Flickr

Can Australia afford the dingo fence?

We feel we have to set the record straight after some of our (Bradshaw’s) comments were taken grossly out of context, or not considered at all (Ritchie’s). A bubbling kerfuffle in the media over the last…
Land of the snow gums: Australian forests are dynamic. Land of the snow gums: Australian forests are dynamic. Flickr/SplaTT

Australia’s vast and dynamic forest cover: a bird’s-eye view

Forests spark emotional debates in Australia. Much of the rhetoric is about saving “the last of Tasmania’s wild forests” or how we must “stop logging in Australian native forests”. Australian forests…
Working with farmers, Australian researchers have come up with technology and methods to make farming kinder to the environment. Working with farmers, Australian researchers have come up with technology and methods to make farming kinder to the environment. Chesapeake Bay Program

From dust bowls to food bowls: Australia’s conservation farming revolution

The misconception of Australian agriculture being inefficient and unsustainable is deeply concerning for me. Images of dusty ploughed fields and dying sheep and trees are misleading. On the contrary, if…
Collaboration is the only way to preserve biodiversity. Collaboration is the only way to preserve biodiversity. Kasi Metcalfe

Forget the market: competition won’t save species

Plans for conserving Australian species rely on successfully collaborating across regions and across jurisdictions. It makes sense: species don’t recognise state or local government boundaries. But at…
Scientists are clear that tuna catch needs to be cut, but figuring out who will fish less and where is much trickier. Scientists are clear that tuna catch needs to be cut, but figuring out who will fish less and where is much trickier. AAP

What a tangled net: unravelling the international complications of tuna conservation

The eighth meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission concluded in Guam on Friday 30 March 2012. Five hundred delegates from more than 40 countries argued for a week about how to reduce…
Habitat of the Eastern Curlew along its migratory pathway in east Asia is rapidly being reclaimed for development. Habitat of the Eastern Curlew along its migratory pathway in east Asia is rapidly being reclaimed for development. Dean Ingwersen

The numbers are in: Australia must do more to protect migratory birds

Australia is a signed up member of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and a strong supporter of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Both these global programs are trying to reduce the rate…
Species have trouble getting around without landscape-scale corridors. Species have trouble getting around without landscape-scale corridors. Michael Dawes

Why a carbon tax for wildlife corridors is a good idea

In the 1980s, ecologists were locked in a debate about how best to preserve biodiversity. Which, they asked, was better: a single large reserve, or several small reserves? The debate was never resolved…
For whom the bell tolls: a Little Penguin. For whom the bell tolls: a Little Penguin. Belinda Cannell

Grim reaper cuts swathes through the Little Penguins of Perth

Little Penguins off the coast of Perth are being found dead - starved, battered, and in some cases almost completely beheaded - as elements both natural and manmade conspire against them. Penguin Island…
Dingos are introduced, but have they gone native? Dingos are introduced, but have they gone native? AAP

Ask the locals: a new way to tell if dingoes are native

Native status is a big deal. It affects where conservation dollars are spent, and our inherent reaction to a species. Most people believe that native equals good and alien equals bad, but in some cases…
Researchers have taken important steps in conserving endangered cats. Researchers have taken important steps in conserving endangered cats. dragaroo/Flickr

Saving the snow leopard: stem-cell generation a bright new hope

Looking at embryonic cells allows researchers to understand many of the fundamental questions about how an animal’s genes are structured and the role they play in developing the adult animal. This information…
Pet cats are single-minded hunters, but are they wiping out native species? Pet cats are single-minded hunters, but are they wiping out native species? bolg/Flickr

Jury still out on whether cats are killers, but prison is on the cards

In “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson”, Mark Twain equated keeping a cat to domestic bliss: When there was room on the ledge outside of the pots and boxes for a cat, the cat was there – in sunny weather…
The US has information about its threatened species, but isn’t acting on it. The US has information about its threatened species, but isn’t acting on it. photommo/Flickr

Three-quarters of America’s threatened species aren’t being protected

We know very little about the world’s biodiversity. A recent study suggests that, despite 250 years of taxonomic effort, a mere 14% of the world’s species are recognised by scientists. Worryingly, anthropogenic…
In northern Australia, the state of the environment has improved. In northern Australia, the state of the environment has improved. pallotron/Flickr

Australia’s environment takes its five-yearly health check

Every five years the Australian Government must report on how our environment and heritage are fairing. The 2011 State of the Environment Report gives Australians the clearest and most comprehensive assessment…
The Coral Sea could soon become the world’s largest marine park. The Coral Sea could soon become the world’s largest marine park. babasteve

Does the Coral Sea marine park proposal provide enough protection?

The release of the Coral Sea Commonwealth marine reserve proposal is a milestone achievement in marine protection. The area proposed to be covered is larger than that of many small European nations. In…
How do we know whether replacing lost habitat with new habitat has worked? How do we know whether replacing lost habitat with new habitat has worked? OZ in OH

Biodiversity offsets: solving the habitat-saving equation

Biodiversity offsets are touted as a new tool for protecting our natural environment. While they have the potential to deliver real gains, understanding the possible consequences of these polices over…
Western Australia’s new dedication to shark research is good news for sharks, and for beachgoers. Western Australia’s new dedication to shark research is good news for sharks, and for beachgoers. autumn_leaf

A great day for Western Australia’s sharks, and for public safety

Public concern following the recent wave of shark attacks in WA initially prompted the government to respond with suggestions of a shark cull to reduce numbers in a misguided attempt to improve public…
National parks: the traditional way, but is it the best? National parks: the traditional way, but is it the best? flickr

Are national parks the best way to conserve nature?

Many plants and animals will become extinct in this century – millions of years of evolutionary experimentation will be abruptly terminated. This raises profound philosophical dilemmas: which species should…
Australia’s eastern forests are on par with those of Brazil. Australia’s eastern forests are on par with those of Brazil. YAZMDG

Forests of eastern Australia are the world’s newest biodiversity hotspot

If you live in eastern Australia there’s a good chance you’re one of nine million Australians who call the world’s newest biodiversity hotspot home. In a recent publication, “Forests of East Australia…
Success stories like the recovery of the Southern White Rhino give cause for hope, and impetus to act. Success stories like the recovery of the Southern White Rhino give cause for hope, and impetus to act. AAP

It’s not all bad news: conservation success should be celebrated

A recent article in Nature Neuroscience contends that optimism is hard-wired – that we are more likely to update our knowledge with positive than negative news. So what happens if all the news seems bad…
Culling sharks is unlikely to make our beaches safer. Culling sharks is unlikely to make our beaches safer. Hermanus Backpackers

Cull or be killed: is this really the solution to stop shark attacks?

In Western Australia, politicians and members of the public are calling for a shark cull in response to the state’s recent shark attack fatalities. The most recent of these attacks was on a diver off the…
Eighteen tigers from a private zoo in Ohio have been shot: could you have a pet tiger here? Eighteen tigers from a private zoo in Ohio have been shot: could you have a pet tiger here? Karl Vernes

Is Ohio zoo slaughter a setback for tiger conservation?

Residents of Zanesville, Ohio, woke to the news today that most of the bears, wolves, lions and tigers that had been roaming free in their neighbourhood had been shot by police. Police believe the animals…
Biting is a big part of the devil’s life. It’s also their undoing. Biting is a big part of the devil’s life. It’s also their undoing. AAP

Saving the Tasmanian devil: if not by selective culling, then how?

For more than a decade, the Tasmanian devil has been fighting for survival against an unusual enemy – Devil Facial Tumour Disease (or DFTD). This deadly infectious cancer has ravaged the Tasmanian devil…
Shark nets have been proven to hurt sharks, but does that help humans? Shark nets have been proven to hurt sharks, but does that help humans? AAP

The untold story of shark nets in Australia

Western Australia’s Cottesloe Beach has been closed due to concerns a swimmer there was taken by a great white shark. The public is understandably worried, but the local mayor says no shark nets will be…
People who get to know flying foxes are less likely to loathe them. People who get to know flying foxes are less likely to loathe them. michis

Conservation shouldn’t be a popularity contest

Even Australia’s most iconic, charismatic species are in danger of extinction. Species such as the cassowary, Tasmanian devil and koala all enjoy significant community support and relatively generous funding…
Protecting coral reefs means thinking about people, not just marine species. Protecting coral reefs means thinking about people, not just marine species. Fran Tapia

Poverty, not population, is ruining coral reef ecosystems

Overfishing is a serious problem on many of the world’s coral reefs – a problem that is generally attributed to too many people. But our research has found that economic development, rather than population…
As Australia gets warmer and drier, koalas will struggle to survive. As Australia gets warmer and drier, koalas will struggle to survive. JSFauxtography

Koalas, people and climate change: not a good mix

On 22 September, a Senate inquiry released its report, The koala - saving our national icon. The inquiry made 19 recommendations, and called for more funding for koala research. The environment minister…
Research done in South Africa can guide Australian conservation managers on where to focus effort. Research done in South Africa can guide Australian conservation managers on where to focus effort. Brian van Wilgen

Spending to save: what’s the best use of our conservation dollar?

It’s true: many species will go extinct due to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. We will have to make some hard decisions about where to invest conservation dollars for the best effect…
Primary forest is best for biodiversity, but we should also look at second-best. Primary forest is best for biodiversity, but we should also look at second-best. cknara/Flickr

Original and the best: nothing beats primary forests for biodiversity

We live in an age of vanishing rainforests. Half of the world’s tropical forests have disappeared since World War II and roughly another 10 million hectares are being felled each year — the equivalent…
Dharawal National Park is safe from mining, but do we value biodiversity enough to spread protection? Dharawal National Park is safe from mining, but do we value biodiversity enough to spread protection? taffynorm/Flickr

No refuge: When a ‘protected area’ is not really protected

The New South Wales government last week said it would ban mining in the newly announced Dharawal National Park, an area where Illawara Coal was planning to extract up to $40 billion worth of black coal…
Fruit bats carry disease, pollen and a warning about the state of the environment. Fruit bats carry disease, pollen and a warning about the state of the environment. shellac/Flickr

Culling bats isn’t the way to control Hendra virus

This year has had the lot. First came the tempest, then the floods. Fires are on their way as the landscape dries out. Now we have pestilence, in the form of Hendra virus. Calls for bat culls have ensued…
Cosy, sure, unless your house is on fire. Cosy, sure, unless your house is on fire. sediger/Flickr

Firewood and biodiversity - are we burning their homes to warm ours?

The issue of firewood management has recently attracted renewed attention in Victoria, where the State Government has changed the regulations on collecting firewood from State Forests. Firewood is cheap…
In India, species decline when they have to share land with agriculture. In India, species decline when they have to share land with agriculture. flickrPrince

Food vs. fauna: can we have our biodiversity and eat, too?

So, we have to feed an extra 2.5 billion people by 2050. For those of us interested in the future of biodiversity on this planet, this poses an uncomfortable challenge. It is also the topic of a recent…
We can’t run away from it: we need food, and we need biodiversity. We can’t run away from it: we need food, and we need biodiversity. buiversonian

A global juggling act: feeding the world, saving species

Our planet is on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction event. But unlike the five previous mass extinctions, this one is man-made: a global biodiversity crisis in which species are disappearing three…
Why deplete a country’s mineral resources when its natural capital is worth so much more? Why deplete a country’s mineral resources when its natural capital is worth so much more? Muhammad Erdi Lazuardi

Raja Ampat: why reefs are worth more money than mines

“Natural capital” is the resources in nature’s bank. Nature’s capital is not evenly spread across the world: some areas are “richer” than others. Raja Ampat in Papua is one of the richest. Currently under…
Coral reefs may cease to exist – where will their inhabitants go? Coral reefs may cease to exist – where will their inhabitants go? Nick Hobgood

Species affected by climate change: to shift or not to shift?

Human-induced climatic changes are altering ecosystems worldwide. Because of these ecosystem changes, the geographic range of species is shifting towards the poles or to higher elevations. The speed of…
The peace package will have to work hard to bring forestry workers into the modern economy. The peace package will have to work hard to bring forestry workers into the modern economy. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

Can Tasmania’s forest deal secure ‘peace’ for workers?

The recently announced $276 million Tasmanian forest agreement agreement sets out to end the war between loggers and conservationists. But the war has been bitter, and forest industry workers have often…
If we keep going the way we are, Australia’s environment will be in trouble in 2050. If we keep going the way we are, Australia’s environment will be in trouble in 2050. adriansalamandre/Flickr

2050: our future State of the Environment report

AUSTRALIA 2050 – There’s no way of predicting what the environment will be like in 2050, but there are many possibilities. I will sketch out two extremes. The first is bleak. The first independent national…
Southern bluefin tuna are critically endangered, but the fishing industry wants to catch more. Southern bluefin tuna are critically endangered, but the fishing industry wants to catch more. AAP

Tuna or not tuna? The real cost of taking a fish out of water

The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna is meeting today to discuss raising Australia’s tuna fishing quota. The tuna industry is expected to ask for a 30% rise in Australia’s allocated…
Seals, turtles, sharks and dolphins are killed by abandoned fishing nets. Seals, turtles, sharks and dolphins are killed by abandoned fishing nets. tedxgp/Flickr

Marine debris: biodiversity impacts and potential solutions

Pollution from human activities has major impact on the world’s marine ecosystems. Plastic refuse is one of the most pervasive types of pollution. More than 80 million tons of plastics are estimated to…
The wave of extinction that swamped southern species like the stick-nest rat is heading north. The wave of extinction that swamped southern species like the stick-nest rat is heading north. Gould/Wikimedia Commons

The Kimberley: pristine, precious and on the precipice

Mention “The Kimberley”, and for most Australians visions of spectacular sunsets, giant boab trees, rocky escarpments and cascading waterfalls spring to mind. But there is a storm on the horizon, and it…
The trees are falling, but is anyone listening? The trees are falling, but is anyone listening? NatureNut3/flickr

The Tasmanian Forest Agreement: too close to collapse?

Political scientists now commonly distinguish between ‘government’ and ‘governance’. The former refers to a hierarchical institution while the latter captures the idea of a general process of social steering…
Kangaroo populations are robust and abundant. Kangaroo populations are robust and abundant. Wombalano/Flickr

From pests to profits: making kangaroos valuable to farmers

The Scottish eat their deer and the South Africans their springbok. Australia’s national icon is gentle on the environment, doesn’t emit methane, is good to eat and could be a great source of income for…
Much of nature’s delicate balance is a case of give and take. Much of nature’s delicate balance is a case of give and take. UCCSbiology

It takes (at least) two: why mutualism and conservation go hand in hand

We now know that mountain treeshrews and summit rats feed on the nectar secreted by the giant pitcher plant – Nepenthes rajah – then defecate into its pitchers, providing it with much needed nutrients…
Every trip has positive and negative effects. Every trip has positive and negative effects. Ben Beiske/Flickr

Can tourism really have conservation benefits?

Many of us eagerly await those few weeks when we can escape the daily grind and break away to some breathtaking holiday destination. But with increasing concern over climate change and the emissions generated…
Marine parks are an evidence-based way to stop trashing ocean environments. Marine parks are an evidence-based way to stop trashing ocean environments. Urban Woodswalker/flickr

Why are we so reluctant to protect marine species from extinction?

Given the growing evidence of catastrophic extinctions in the world’s oceans due to climate change and overfishing (see, for example, the recent IPSO report) one would expect a groundswell of demand for…
As species head for greener pastures, we need to reconsider old ideas about what belongs where. As species head for greener pastures, we need to reconsider old ideas about what belongs where. Matthew Stewart/Flickr

With rapid global change, what is a native species?

For many agencies and community groups interested in protecting biodiversity, a primary goal has been to protect native species and to control introduced alien species, such as feral animals and weeds…
Hated enemy or part of the landscape? Hated enemy or part of the landscape? Radio Pictures

Cane toad movie says put aside prejudice - in 3D

Every night under cover of darkness an advancing wall of toads heads west. Rather than winding through the bush, the toads march straight down the highway, ignoring the official border signs. Meanwhile…
The pancake batfish is endearingly ugly, and we may have wiped it out. The pancake batfish is endearingly ugly, and we may have wiped it out. Prosanta Chakrabarty (Louisiana State University, USA)

Top ten species list says more about humans than cute and creepy critters

When I told my family that the top ten list of new species had been announced, the teenager asked, “Are we on it?” Although we’re not on the list, our fingerprints are all over it. Homo sapiens remains…
Hopes that UN agreements will save Borneo’s forests may be unrealistic. Hopes that UN agreements will save Borneo’s forests may be unrealistic. Flickr/Rainforest Action Network

Devastation and hope in Borneo: anthropologists' first-hand account

Tourists from all over the world head to Borneo for orangutans, unspoiled ancient rainforests and an insight into the traditional way of life of the Dayak people. This ecotourism is based on an idyllic…
REDD gives countries a reason to hang on to trees: let’s make it work. REDD gives countries a reason to hang on to trees: let’s make it work. AAP

Black and white and REDD all over: a plan to save the world’s forests

The world has been fiddling while the forests burn, or are otherwise lost. One proposal to keep what’s left intact is REDD – essentially, paying countries to conserve their forest carbon stocks. REDD (Reducing…
A missed opportunity to resuscitate our rivers. A missed opportunity to resuscitate our rivers. Flickr/wazzas world

A plea to think big: a vision for a budget beyond self-interest

A vision splendid of the sunlit plain extended? The federal budget acknowledges the profound impact of flood, fire and cyclones on our economy. It compensates, rebuilds and funds mental health programs…
When people want timber but animals need trees, how do we compromise? When people want timber but animals need trees, how do we compromise? AAP

Conservation vs communities: can’t we all get along?

In the developing world, there’s often a face-off between conservation needs and the needs of the community, with neither coming out all that well. Is it possible to “save more space for nature” without…
Informative labelling can put us on the road to ethical choices. Informative labelling can put us on the road to ethical choices. AAP

Want to avoid palm oil? You need a label

The most important factor determining whether consumers avoid purchasing a product containing palm oil is not how they feel about orangutans, the environment, or anything else for that matter. It’s whether…
The Tarkine is our largest cool temperate rainforest, but will that be enough to save it? The Tarkine is our largest cool temperate rainforest, but will that be enough to save it? Flickr/leonrw

Cynical politics condemns our national heritage

Once a place is heritage listed, it’s protected, right? Wrong. Politics and a flawed statutory regime are undermining the independence of the listing system, and threatening Australia’s national treasures…
Just how vulnerable and defenceless are whales? Just how vulnerable and defenceless are whales? Flickr/Guarda La

Whaling may be over, but don’t be smug

There are several reasons why Australians should welcome the imminent demise of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. But none of them relate to the triumphal claims recently expressed by the likes of…
Revered tradition or barbaric bloodsport? The waters are muddy. Revered tradition or barbaric bloodsport? The waters are muddy. peteSwede/flickr

Ducking and weaving: should we be hunting in Australia’s wetlands?

There are few issues as divisive in eastern Australia as duck hunting. And 2011 has been one of the most vitriolic seasons yet. The season opened in Victoria with news that a protester had been shot in…

Research and News (14)

Research Briefs (65)

Mathematical models outwit poachers

The protection of endangered plants and animals could be improved by using a new mathematical model designed by environmental…

Monitoring wildlife to extinction?

Many international wildlife programs may be monitoring endangered species to extinction, often without taking necessary action…

New giant clam species discovered

A new species of giant clam on reefs in the Solomon Islands and Ningaloo in Western Australia has been discovered. Researchers…

New slow loris found

Scientists working in Borneo have found a new species of slow loris (Nycticebus). Facial fur markings provided the clue that…

Monkeys threatened by deforestation

Proboscis monkeys could significantly decline if deforestation in Borneo increases. The monkeys live in swamp forests, mangrove…

Threatened species rely on agriculture

Farming sustains threatened species, according to new research from the University of East Anglia. Rather than using farmland…

Pikas holding their own

Though their numbers have been in decline, a new survey has found that American pikas have been holding their own in the…

Burning mountains saves lizards

Lizard populations have been brought back in America’s Ozark glades through the burning of entire mountains and valleys…

Concentration could save marine mammals

Preserving as little as 4% of the ocean could protect important habitat for marine mammal species. Researches overlaid maps…

Tiny Tanzanian toad thrives in lab

A species of tiny toads, that are extinct in the wild following their discovery in Tanzania, are thriving in a laboratory…

Beehive fences keep elephants at bay

The elephant population in Kenya has proved to be a serious problem for farmers. Luckily a new method of keep elephants away…

Suffering seagrass!

Ten of the 72 known seagrass species are at an elevated risk of extinction and three qualify as endangered, a study has found…