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Analysis and Comment (96)

A dead coral reef in the Caribbean. Coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification. A dead coral reef in the Caribbean. Coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification. superqq/Flickr

In Conversation with environment journalist Elizabeth Kolbert

Scientists are coming to the conclusion that we are on the brink of a mass extinction — the sixth known in the history of the Earth, and the latest since an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs 65 million…
A handful of soil needs vital micro-organisms to grow the food we eat. A handful of soil needs vital micro-organisms to grow the food we eat. Flickr/Pat Dumas

Don’t overlook what’s underfoot – save the bugs and germs

One of the biggest problems for conservation today is that it ignores 95% of all known species on Earth. Could a company ignore that proportion of its clients or a government so many of its voters? So…
New research shows golden orb weaving spiders are larger in cities compared to their relatives in the bush. New research shows golden orb weaving spiders are larger in cities compared to their relatives in the bush. Lizzy Lowe

City spiders are getting bigger — but that’s a good thing

Find yourself thinking that the spider living in your garden is the biggest you’ve ever seen? You could be right. New research shows some spiders are getting larger and even doing better in cities than…
Like many animals in the tropics, tree kangaroos are facing threats to their survival in the wild. Like many animals in the tropics, tree kangaroos are facing threats to their survival in the wild. Mark Ziembicki/markzphoto.com

Wild creatures of the tropics are being lost before they’re found

Our Tropical Future: A new report on the State of the Tropics has revealed rapid changes in human and environmental health in the Earth’s tropical regions. This is the third in a four-part series about…
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…
Not all that which is greening is green. Not all that which is greening is green. André Künzelmann/UFZ

The ‘greening’ of Europe’s farms has been a failure

The European policies designed to encourage a more biodiverse environment that is better able to support wildlife and plants are failing. In fact, our analysis of the reforms designed to “green” the EU…
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…
Water management in the Murray-Darling may be inadvertently helping the common carp at the expense of native fish. Water management in the Murray-Darling may be inadvertently helping the common carp at the expense of native fish. Tom Rayner

Alien fish boom shows difficulty of replenishing Murray-Darling

Wetlands and rivers need water – not least in the case of Australia’s biggest river system, the Murray-Darling Basin, which has been the target of an “environmental watering” plan designed to preserve…
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…
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…
A baby northern quoll. The native mammal is having a hard time across northern Australia, battling for survival against cane toads and feral predators such as cats. A baby northern quoll. The native mammal is having a hard time across northern Australia, battling for survival against cane toads and feral predators such as cats. Parks Australia/Flickr

Cape York’s wildlife ignored in the rush to develop the north

The future of Cape York Peninsula – home to many of Australia’s unique birds, mammals, frogs and reptiles – is currently under review. Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently launched the first stage of a…
No matter how well a country like New Zealand protects its borders, introduced species will sneak in. No matter how well a country like New Zealand protects its borders, introduced species will sneak in. Queensland University of Technology

A hitchhiker’s ride to New Zealand: alien voyages by sea and air

Historically, geographically, culturally – there are many points of comparison between Australia and its neighbour to the east, New Zealand. But there are notable differences. This week, The Conversation…
Greater diversity of insects, you say? Sounds like lunch. Greater diversity of insects, you say? Sounds like lunch. Ariefrahman

Organic farming benefits go beyond the food, into the field

Organic farming is a trade off: it prohibits the use of certain chemicals and inorganic fertilisers, which usually results in lower yields, and hence higher prices. With arguments about health benefits…
Unlocking the code for global solutions. Unlocking the code for global solutions. ricricciardi

Genetics may be key to climate change solutions

As the effects of climate change rapidly alter communities, economies and natural systems, the need to advance new solutions to what may be the most pressing biological challenge of our time has never…
A pair of lesser flamingos in Mumbai’s busy port area. A pair of lesser flamingos in Mumbai’s busy port area. Madhusudan Katti

Biodiversity can flourish on an urban planet

Mention the word biodiversity to a city dweller and images of remote natural beauty will probably come to mind – not an empty car park around the corner. Wildlife, we think, should be found in wild places…
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…
As the trees go, so do the microbes. As the trees go, so do the microbes. Jorge Rodrigues

Lost microbes are eroding Amazon’s ability to capture carbon

Beneath the lush forests of the Amazon is a whole different level of diversity that new research says may be one of the keys to understanding how to stem the global impacts of deforestation. The Amazon…
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…
The jungles of Papua New Guinea: exotic, remote, and full of frogs. The jungles of Papua New Guinea: exotic, remote, and full of frogs. Euan Ritchie

Hunting tree kangaroos in the mountains of Papua New Guinea

I have just returned from the jungles of Papua New Guinea, where for two weeks a team of us have set camera traps that will collect vital information about the biodiversity of this remote region. It’s…
Why has biodiversity been forgotten in climate negotiations? Why has biodiversity been forgotten in climate negotiations? Flickr/Dom Dada

Global climate game abandons biodiversity

The latest climate talks in Warsaw may have achieved little in the way of action on climate change, but they were even worse for biodiversity. In fact, since early climate talks in the 1990s, biodiversity…
Spain and the Mediterranean bear the brunt of tourism’s damage. Spain and the Mediterranean bear the brunt of tourism’s damage. Mark Ballantyne

European holidays are pushing wild plants towards extinction

Holidaying in Europe has never been more popular, with the increase in tourism driven by budget airline competition, rising incomes and relaxed visa requirements over the past 50 years. Last year Europe…
Dusty museum collections' evidence of the past hold clues to the future. Dusty museum collections' evidence of the past hold clues to the future. Heather Kharouba

A century of museum records reveal species' changing lives

Natural history museum records are most often associated with preserved specimens, kept with information about the place and time of collection. From these we can generate a record of a species' geographical…
Profits drive the industry, not sustainability. Profits drive the industry, not sustainability. naturalengland

Pitting profits and food supply against the natural world

The arguments for increasing food demand are well publicised and well understood. By the middle of this century, the planet’s population will top nine billion, presenting a third more mouths to feed. Much…
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…
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…
Programme makers are wary of turning off viewers with climate change. Programme makers are wary of turning off viewers with climate change. Till Krech

We’ve woken up to climate change but we’re not tuning in

A report from the International Broadcasting Trust has argued that more investment should be made to get environmental issues covered on television. Environment on TV is based on interviews with people…
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…
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…
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…
The path to climate change resilience is better land management. The path to climate change resilience is better land management. Flickr/jennifrog

The key to fighting climate change is in the land

Australia could lead the world in combating climate change. Wouldn’t you like to believe this was true? Actually though, Australia has a world-beating model to deal with climate change. But I’m not talking…
This rare white lemuroid possum is just one of the species that will see dramatic effects of climate change. This rare white lemuroid possum is just one of the species that will see dramatic effects of climate change. Mike Trennery

As climate changes, animals move fast to escape the heat

Australia is already feeling the effects of climate change, with record-breaking temperatures not just over summer, but over the past 12 months as well. Research suggests that such events are many times…
“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…
Will new Victorian land clearing rules clear up confusion, or just create more? Will new Victorian land clearing rules clear up confusion, or just create more? www.shutterstock.com/123250027

Hidden flaws in Victoria’s new native vegetation clearing rules

The Victorian government is overhauling its rules on native vegetation clearing, the first major change in this area for more than a decade. Vegetation management policy rarely makes it into the news…
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…
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…
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…
Climate change means some mountain species are just clinging on, but can they adapt? Climate change means some mountain species are just clinging on, but can they adapt? Australian Alps/Flickr

What can history tell us about species coping with climate change?

In work we published in Science today we look at two conflicting ideas on whether species can adapt to climate change. Are our ideas about extinction too catastrophic, or do we actually need to do more…
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…
The finer points of Abenomics are not lost on this guy. The finer points of Abenomics are not lost on this guy. ippei-janine

Japan’s PM has frog in throat as ecological crisis looms

Japanese PM Shinzō Abe has a problem, and he might end up killing an awful lot of frogs to solve it. Shares are up in Japan, but everything else has flatlined: kick-starting the stubbornly moribund economy…
What’s out there? We know next to nothing about the amazing chemistry and compounds produced in the deep sea. What’s out there? We know next to nothing about the amazing chemistry and compounds produced in the deep sea. Tim Donnelly

Sea of miracles: industrial uses for ocean biodiversity

The seafloor is our planet’s most biodiverse realm. It is in the sea that life on earth began over 3.5 billion years ago. It is in the sea where 34 of the 36 known phyla of animals remain to this day…
Australia is already clearing land at world-leading rates. Australia is already clearing land at world-leading rates. Ray Christie/Indigo Skies Photography

Clearing more land: we all lose

Last week the Queensland parliament passed laws relaxing land clearing and opening up national parks to cattle grazing. Victoria has proposed similar clearing changes. It’s no surprise more clearing is…
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…
Isolated and remote, the Kimberley could be home to untold numbers of new and endemic insects. Isolated and remote, the Kimberley could be home to untold numbers of new and endemic insects. Bruce Webber

Two million species and counting: completing the catalogue of life

We have just returned from a month collecting insects in the National Heritage-listed Kimberley region of Western Australia. Together with the Wunambal Gaambera and Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporations…
Western Australia’s State Barrier Fence is designed to keep emus out of farms - but at what cost? Western Australia’s State Barrier Fence is designed to keep emus out of farms - but at what cost? Graeme Chapman.

All cost, little benefit: WA’s barrier fence is bad news for biodiversity

Every five or ten years Western Australia’s emus undertake mass migrations in search of food. On the way they encounter the 1,170km State Barrier Fence, which seeks to stop dingos, emus and kangaroos entering…
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…
Four major hydroelectric projects are planned for the upper Yangtze River valley. Four major hydroelectric projects are planned for the upper Yangtze River valley. Steb Fisher

Birds, dams and people: biodiversity in China

The 2012 China Ecological Footprint Report has highlighted the cost to biodiversity of China’s rapid economic development. Biodiversity in China is under pressure because of loss of habitat. In our study…
There are roughly 5 million species on earth. Most are insects. There are roughly 5 million species on earth. Most are insects. Roger Smith

We can name all of Earth’s species, but we may have to hurry

There has been enormous uncertainty amongst the scientific community on just how many species there are on Earth and how rapidly we are losing them through extinction. Given that taxonomists have described…
Spotted handfish. Spotted handfish. Bruce Miller/AAP

Australia’s unusual species

Australia has some of the world’s most unusual biological specimens. We have plants that look like animals, animals that look like plants, a fish that looks like a frog, a mole that does not dig tunnels…
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…
A high level of coral cover doesn’t always mean a high level of species diversity; and diversity is important. A high level of coral cover doesn’t always mean a high level of species diversity; and diversity is important. Maria Beger

A lot of coral doesn’t always mean high biodiversity

The health and productivity of coral reefs is rapidly declining. Hard corals are the principal builders of coral reef ecosystems; however they are struggling to survive due to pollution, catchment clearing…
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…
There are sound ecological reasons for introducing grazing animals to some wild areas, but this shouldn’t act as a cover for non-scientific grazing. There are sound ecological reasons for introducing grazing animals to some wild areas, but this shouldn’t act as a cover for non-scientific grazing. Richard Lehnert

Can livestock grazing benefit biodiversity?

Grazing by livestock (mainly sheep and cattle) has irreversibly degraded many natural ecosystems in Australia. Consequently, stock are usually removed from public land when new conservation reserves are…
Ants might be a pain … but they play a vital role in maintaining the variety of plant life we see around us. Ants might be a pain … but they play a vital role in maintaining the variety of plant life we see around us. mraandrews

In defence of the humble ant, champion of biodiversity

You’d be hard pressed to find many people who hold ants in high regard. That might be due to their destructive behaviour towards lawns, their ability to infest your house in no time at all, or a willingness…
It appears that biodiversity increases during warmer periods in Earth’s history. It appears that biodiversity increases during warmer periods in Earth’s history. Dom Dada/Flickr

Competition: warming and its effect on biodiversity

In 2008, I and my colleagues published a study which appeared to confirm that current global warming could cause large losses of species and a loss of biodiversity. Four years later and a new approach…
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…
Australia’s ecological footprint has been downsized slightly, but the devil is in the details. Australia’s ecological footprint has been downsized slightly, but the devil is in the details. Flickr/-AX-

Give up or gird the loins? Australia’s ecological footprint

Amidst all the heat and noise of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the release of WWF’s Ecological Footprint analysis for Australia in May went largely unheralded in the general media…
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…
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…
Tangled up in ourselves: facing up to the fundamental shortcomings of our intellect and science is necessary if we are to limit the damage we do. Tangled up in ourselves: facing up to the fundamental shortcomings of our intellect and science is necessary if we are to limit the damage we do. Flickr/sergiohs391

Ecology is failing and needs to be freed from our limitations

The splendour of nature diminishes day by day despite the strenuous efforts of ecologists and all manner of scientific understandings and interventions. Biodiversity is in decline, and crucial resources…
Hard numbers: less than 1% of the world’s oceans are protected but marine scientists think 20% should be off-limits to fishing. Hard numbers: less than 1% of the world’s oceans are protected but marine scientists think 20% should be off-limits to fishing. AAP/Lloyd Jones

Marine parks: cause for optimism, but devilish details

As a marine scientist, I welcome Senator Burke’s brave decision today to roll out Australia’s marine park system. This puts us on a par with other leading nations like the US and UK who have established…
Darkness visible: we’re driving animals to extinction, burning through resources, and throwing out natural balances, yet consumption still reigns. Darkness visible: we’re driving animals to extinction, burning through resources, and throwing out natural balances, yet consumption still reigns. Flickr/NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

State of the future: challenge one; sustainable development and climate change

State of the Future 2012, a quick introduction What is the “state of the future”? How successfully are we tackling global challenges threatening our collective future? These questions are asked annually…
Back, sperm, back: a human egg on the tip of a pin. Back, sperm, back: a human egg on the tip of a pin. Flickr/wellcome images

Squaring up to difficult truths: how to reduce the population

Elephants in the room, part two For all our schemes and mantras about making our lives environmentally “sustainable”, humanity’s assault on the planet not only continues but expands. What are the deep…
Given our neo-Platonic visions of universal ecologies, when it comes to restoring waterways we’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Given our neo-Platonic visions of universal ecologies, when it comes to restoring waterways we’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Flickr/Annadriel

Science’s stagnant thinking: our rivers need a revolution

I’ve been away in the UK for a few years – and what do I find when I come back? In the Murray Darling we are still arguing over inputs (the amount of water to be returned to the river) instead of focusing…
Biodiversity and farming are uneasy bedfellows: a lonely tree in a canola field in Western Australia. Biodiversity and farming are uneasy bedfellows: a lonely tree in a canola field in Western Australia. Flickr/augustusoz

Biodiversity and farming: finding ways to co-exist

Biodiversity and farming go head to head in two R&D projects that I have a hand in. The struggles to both feed the swelling ranks of humanity and save our continent’s natural splendour are so often…
Our thinly spread efforts to prop up the environment are failing and it is time for tough decisions about what we can realistically preserve. Our thinly spread efforts to prop up the environment are failing and it is time for tough decisions about what we can realistically preserve. Flickr/rexboggs5

Farms versus nature: how do we decide what to protect?

Australian farmers take pride in their efficient and productive farming systems, competing in the global economy and without many of the large subsidies given to their counterparts in Europe and North…
Our teeming attack on the natural world threatens to turn the wilderness into a fetish item. Our teeming attack on the natural world threatens to turn the wilderness into a fetish item. AAP/The Wilderness Society

Squaring up to difficult truths: population and the environment

Elephants in the room, part one For all our schemes and mantras about making this or that part of our lives environmentally “sustainable”, humanity’s assault on the planet not only continues but expands…
A proposed United Nations panel could give biodiversity the same profile as climate change. A proposed United Nations panel could give biodiversity the same profile as climate change. Dano/Flickr

We need an international approach to biodiversity (but local action)

It’s looking increasingly likely that this will be the year the United Nations introduces an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) - a group similar to the IPCC, but…
Just because an idea seems ridiculous, doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing. Just because an idea seems ridiculous, doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing. moirabot/Flickr

Elephants on grass: only lively debate can save Australia’s environment

Last week I published an opinion piece in Nature attempting to crystallise debate on a number of issues in Australian environmental management: bushfires, weeds, feral animals, management of Aboriginal…
Without monitoring and evaluation, the Biodiversity Fund will be another missed opportunity. Without monitoring and evaluation, the Biodiversity Fund will be another missed opportunity. Omega Man/Flickr

The Biodiversity Fund – another missed opportunity?

Australia’s Biodiversity Fund was announced in July 2011 as part of the “Clean Energy Future” package. We welcome the expenditure of almost a billion dollars over the next six years on biodiversity conservation…
The pika is one species struggling to evolve fast enough to keep up with climate change. The pika is one species struggling to evolve fast enough to keep up with climate change. http://www.itsnature.org/ground/pika/

Could evolution help to protect biodiversity?

We currently face a biodiversity and extinction crisis as human population pressures and climate change combine to push our natural environments to the limit. Because our urban and agricultural activities…
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…
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…
Is this the place for an antimony mine? I guess that depends what an antimony mine is… Is this the place for an antimony mine? I guess that depends what an antimony mine is… Karl Vernes

Rain, runoff and rare metals – the toxic threat to the Dorrigo Plateau

Hands up those who’ve heard of antimony. Now, keep them up if you can name its chemical symbol, list the world’s leading producers, or even name a single commercial product that contains the element. Most…
Can we continue to grow while still protecting our natural heritage? Can we continue to grow while still protecting our natural heritage? jayspost

A tree for a tree: can biodiversity offsets balance destruction and restoration?

When my children are my age they will be living in a country with an economy that’s three times larger, and a population that’s twice as large as today. And, on current trends, my children will be living…
It’s a bleak picture, but there’s hope on the horizon. It’s a bleak picture, but there’s hope on the horizon. Bill Laurance

Clearing Indonesia: is there hope for the world’s biggest logger?

What comes to mind when you think of Indonesia? For biologists like myself, Australia’s northern neighbour provokes visions of ancient rainforests being razed by slash-and-burn farmers, and endangered…
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…
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…
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…
Ocean acidification is most acute in the polar regions. Ocean acidification is most acute in the polar regions. Enzofloyd/flickr

Explainer: why ocean acidification is the ‘evil twin’ of climate change

Ocean acidification is often referred to as the “evil twin” of climate change. Greenhouse gasses are doing more than just warming the globe. Increasing C0₂ levels are also changing the chemical make-up…
The plan provides nearly $100 million for our unique biodoversity. The plan provides nearly $100 million for our unique biodoversity. pierre pouliquin/flickr

What does the carbon price package mean for biodiversity?

How effective will the carbon tax package’s biodiversity measures be in conserving Australia’s ecosystems? The carbon price package’s biodiversity measures are a pleasant surprise. To the extent that the…
The legal system says that no one lives in Australia’s vegetation. The legal system says that no one lives in Australia’s vegetation. John Hadley

Want to stop biodiversity loss? Give animals property rights

The destruction or modification of habitat is the leading cause of biodiversity loss in Australia and around the world. Letting animals have rights over their habitat could be the answer. Despite 40 years…
The hairy-nosed wombat is just one of the species at Australia’s “frozen zoo”. The hairy-nosed wombat is just one of the species at Australia’s “frozen zoo”. Fleshpiston/Flickr

Australia’s “frozen zoo” and the risk of extinction

Let’s be clear: the world’s animal resources are rapidly declining. Globally, more than 5,000 wildlife species are threatened with extinction. Some 25% are mammals, and 11% birds. Of the reptile, amphibian…

Research and News (12)

Research Briefs (27)

Galápagos hawks inherit parasites

When Galápagos hawks diverge into distinct populations, so too do the lice that call their feathers home. A field study led…

Scuba divers assist in worldwide marine study

A team of “citizen scientists”, including more than 100 recreational scuba divers, have helped researchers identify new habitats…

Fracking harms biodiversity

Fracking has a range of negative impacts on biodiversity, research has found. Erik Kiviat from Bard College found that fracking…

Waratahs adapt to clime change

A study of the waratah has demonstrated its ability to live through long-term climatic fluctuations. The study also highlights…