Tuesday 20 January 2015, 9:00 am

Conservation Science in the Asia-Pacific

Dr Erik Meijaard, People and Nature Consulting International

Nowhere else in the world are conservation problems as pressing as in the Asia-Pacific region. This tropical and subtropical region combines extremely high levels of terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity with rapid, but poorly planned economic growth. It also houses half the world's human population, of which 900 million poor, on 30% of the world's landmass. All this is leading to rapid loss of natural habitats for native species and a breakdown of functional environmental service flows. As a result, 45 per cent of the world’s natural disasters occurred in Asia-Pacific in the last three decades.

Worryingly, the region is relatively understudied. Compared to the African and American tropics, relatively little good environmental and conservation science is conducted in the Asia-Pacific, with most of it by non-native scientists. There is an urgent need to boost the indigenous scientific capacity in the region. Erik Meijaard is a conservation scientist and journalist who has worked in Asia-Pacific conservation since the early 1990s. In his provocative talk, he will share his concerns about biodiversity conservation and about conservation science, and propose new ways to strengthen these fields in the Asia-Pacific region.


Wednesday 21 January 2015, 9:00 am

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway: waterbirds in trouble

Prof Lei Cao, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Waterbird species face acute problems in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) as result of rapid development pressures affecting their habitat, especially in the area from Amur – Heilong River Basin to the middle and lower Yangtze River floodplain and particularly amongst long distance migratory waterfowl (Anatidae) and shorebirds (Charadriiformes) which contribute 60% of the populations. Specialist tuber-feeding and grazing wintering Anatidae species suffer particularly from trophic changes in Yangtze River wetland systems, brought about through habitat loss, eutrophication, water abstraction, aquaculture, changes in grazing and many other pressures. Whilst all Anatidae species are threatened by rapid environmental degradation and habitat loss, some, such as Baer’s Pochard, lie on the verge of global extinction. Lack of knowledge inhibits our ability to protect some threatened or endangered species, such as the Scaly-sided Merganser. Such changes in waterbird communities are important indicators of ecosystem services and general biological diversity. The most serious problem facing shorebirds in the East Asian Flyway is the massive and rapid habitat loss occurring due to land claim of intertidal areas along the eastern China coast, especially in the Yellow Sea, which are critical staging and refueling areas for a range of species. As intertidal specialists, shorebirds are most vulnerable to loss of such critical feeding areas, which have either concentrated in smaller areas or dramatically declined in numbers. Urgent action is required to identify and protect key waterbird habitats, and to understand the influences of habitat loss and degradation on different species and populations throughout the flyway.


Thursday 22 January 2015, 9:00 am

Optimal monitoring for nature conservation

Prof Hugh Possingham, University of Queensland

Conservation science is booming but how rigorously are we making our decisions?  In this talk I will discuss how our group has been using decision theory tools to pose and solve a variety of real world conservation problems.  More specifically this talk will focus on our work on optimal monitoring.  Forget everything you learnt about statistics and monitoring for pure ecology, and think about questions of how much data do we need to make decisions?  Is monitoring sometimes too expensive?  Do null hypotheses have any place in applied ecology?  I conclude that applied monitoring is first and foremost an optimization problem.