WHAT’S NEW

Biome5 Environment & Biocarbon Specialists

Recent research and other activities

At Biome5, we try to stay on top on new developments in environmental research. Make sure you check back here regularly to avoid missing a thing.

Ecosystem Services of Cape York, Feral animal radio interview, weeds and Carbon.

Cape York Peninsula is an extraordinary and beautiful place and is home to the richest fauna and flora of any region in Australia. It is also the home to lots of people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, many living off the land. So how do people make money without destroying the land they (and we) depend on? We looked closely at the benefits derived from good land management and published our findings.

Title
Preece, L.D., van Oosterzee, P., Dungey, K., Standley, P.-M., Preece, N.D., 2016. Ecosystem service valuation reinforces world class value of Cape York Peninsula's ecosystems but environment and indigenous people lose out. Ecosystem Services 18, 154-164.

Abstract
Cape York Peninsula's iconic status relies on its world-class landscapes and continuity of Indigenous occupation. Contests between economic, environmental, cultural and social interests have not considered valuations of ecosystem services. This first valuation of Cape York's ecosystem services asks the question: who is winning and where? The total ecosystem services value of Cape York is estimated conservatively to be AUD $130 billion per year. The value for each biome ranges from $0 ha−1 y−1 in ‘non-remnant’ areas, to $602,000 ha−1 y−1 for coral reefs. Ecosystem services value is comparable to the region's largest industry, bauxite mining. Mining has produced great benefits to the economy, but local communities remain disadvantaged, receiving a fraction of the ecosystem services value, estimated to be worth $120 M. The productivity of grazing lands is $18 ha−1 y−1, compared to the ecosystem services value of at least $3,300 ha−1 y−1. We argue that the high ecosystem services value of Cape York is because of Indigenous land management over millennia. Since the disenfranchisement of Indigenous people, ecosystems of northern Australia have suffered significant land degradation. A policy framework is required that acknowledges the value of ecosystem services and also incentivizes the cultural ecosystem services of Cape York.

Ferals and weeds
Noel has worked for decades on feral animals and weeds, and was recently interviewed on ABC radio about the history, impacts and future of feral animals (and plants) across Australia. The interview is available as a podcast. Here’s the podcast:
http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/overnights/feral-animals/7916106

Weeds also feature in an article published with colleagues - Strawberry Guava - lovely fruit -  has become a serious problem in the wet tropics. We published an article about the impacts.

Tng, D.Y.P., Goosem, M.W., Paz, C.P., Preece, N.D., Goosem, S., Fensham, R.J., Laurance, S.G.W., 2016. Characteristics of the Psidium cattleianum invasion of secondary rainforests. Austral Ecology 41, 350-360.

Abstract
Strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) is a shade-tolerant shrub or small tree invader in tropical and subtropical regions and is considered among the world's top 100 worst invasive species. Studies from affected regions report deleterious effects of strawberry guava invasion on native vegetation. Here we examine the life history demographics and environmental determinants of strawberry guava invasions to inform effective weed management in affected rainforest regions. We surveyed the vegetation of 8 mature rainforest and 33 successional sites at various stages of regeneration in the Australian Wet Tropics and found that strawberry guava invasion was largely restricted to successional forests. Strawberry guava exhibited high stem and seedling densities, represented approximately 8% of all individual stems recorded and 20% of all seedlings recorded. The species also had the highest basal area among all the non-native woody species measured. We compared environmental and community level effects between strawberry guava-invaded and non-invaded sites, and modelled how the species basal area and recruitment patterns respond to these effects. Invaded sites differed from non-invaded sites in several environmental features such as aspect, distance from intact forest blocks, as well as supported higher grass and herb stem densities. Our analysis showed that invasion is currently ongoing in secondary forests, and also that strawberry guava is able to establish and persist under closed canopies. If left unchecked, strawberry guava invasion will have deleterious consequences for native regenerating forest in the Australian Wet Tropics.

Carbon sequestration has become an alternative farm income for some. But how do farmers optimize their carbon plantings with their other farm income? We investigated.

Paul, K.I., Cunningham, S.C., England, J.R., Roxburgh, S.H., Preece, N.D., Lewis, T., Brooksbank, K., Crawford, D.F., Polglase, P.J., 2016. Managing reforestation to sequester carbon, increase biodiversity potential and minimize loss of agricultural land. Land Use Policy 51, 135-149.
Abstract
Reforestation will have important consequences for the global challenges of mitigating climate change, arresting habitat decline and ensuring food security. We examined field-scale trade-offs between carbon sequestration of tree plantings and biodiversity potential and loss of agricultural land. Extensive surveys of reforestation across temperate and tropical Australia (N = 1491 plantings) were used to determine how planting width and species mix affect carbon sequestration during early development (<15 years). Carbon accumulation per area increased significantly with decreasing planting width and with increasing proportion of eucalypts (the predominant over-storey genus). Highest biodiversity potential was achieved through block plantings (width ~ 40 m) with about 25% of planted individuals being eucalypts. Carbon and biodiversity goals were balanced in mixed-species plantings by establishing narrow belts (width~ 20 m) with a high proportion (&gt;75%) of eucalypts, and in monocultures of mallee eucalypt plantings by using the widest belts (ca. 6–20 m). Impacts on agriculture were minimized by planting narrow belts (ca. 4 m) of mallee eucalypt monocultures, which had the highest carbon sequestering efficiency. A plausible scenario where only 5% of highly-cleared areas (~30% native vegetation cover remaining) of temperate Australia are reforested showed substantial mitigation potential. Total carbon sequestration after 15 years was up to 25 Mt CO2-e year−1 when carbon and biodiversity goals were balanced and 13 Mt CO2-e year−1 if block plantings of highest biodiversity potential were established. Even when reforestation was restricted to marginal agricultural land ($2000 ha−1 land value, 28% of the land under agriculture in Australia), total mitigation potential after 15 years was 17–26 Mt CO2-e year−1 using narrow belts of mallee plantings. This work provides guidance on land use to governments and planners. We show that the multiple benefits of young tree plantings can be balanced by manipulating planting width and species choice at establishment. In highly-cleared areas, such plantings can sequester substantial biomass carbon while improving biodiversity and causing negligible loss of agricultural land.

Early Growth of Carbon Plantings is Vital For Cost-Recovery

  • A new allometric model for planted saplings in the wet tropical biome of Australia
  • revised biomass expansion factors for young trees
  • rare estimates of wood & bark density for young trees in the region
  • rare estimates of root:shoot ratios for young trees in the region
  • contribution to carbon accounting for wet tropics
Preece, N.D., Lawes, M.J., Rossman, A.K., Curran, T.J., van Oosterzee, P., 2015. Modelling the growth of young rainforest trees for biomass estimates and carbon sequestration accounting. Forest Ecology and Management.

Few measurements for carbon sequestration, ratio of above-ground to below-ground biomass and wood density exist for young trees. Current allometric models are mostly for mature trees, and few consider trees at the sapling stage. Over four years we monitored the growth rates, from seedling to the sapling stage, of 490 trees (five native species) in environmental plantings, in the Wet Tropics of north-eastern Australia.

Our biomass estimates were greater by several orders of magnitude in the first year (6 × 10−3 Mg ha−1 cf. 4 × 10−6 Mg ha−1), and two orders of magnitude less at four years than those derived from the national carbon accounting model (5 × 10−1 Mg ha−1 cf. 13 Mg ha−1). We destructively sampled 37 young trees to accurately estimate the variation in below-ground and above-ground biomass (AGB) with stem size, and to derive a best fit model for predicting sapling biomass: ln AGB = −5.092 + 0.786 ln (Diam.base)2Height.

Biomass expansion factors for young tree species ranged from 1.71 to 2.44, higher than average for tropical forests. Root:shoot ratios are consistent with mean estimates for mature rainforest. Stem wood densities ranged from 0.444 to 0.683 Mg m−3 for the five species measured, which was 6.5% lower than published estimates for three of the species, and 12% and 27% higher for two species. Relative growth rates were faster for species with lower wood density in the first four years, but these species also had the lowest survival over the same period. The findings are significant for a number of reasons.

Ecologically, they indicate that young rainforest trees invest more in leaves and branches than in stem growth. From a survival perspective, in the context of rainforest restoration, it is best to invest in species with higher wood densities.

From a carbon accounting point of view, refinements to the models used for national carbon accounting are required that include the contribution of the sapling stage. Sapling growth rates were significantly different from those assumed in the national model, requiring growth rates to be increased after four years (as opposed to after 2 years in the national model) before reaching an asymptote at some time in the future. This adjustment is essential to enable carbon farmers to judge the time it takes to receive returns from investment. Policies that encourage carbon plantings should take into account that young plantings grow slower than predicted by current national carbon accounting models.



Crashing Population of Native Small Mammal Alarm Scientists in Northern Australia

Scientists in northern Australia have reported severe and rapid decline of some native mammal species, despite small human population size, limited habitat loss, substantial reservation extent, that should provide relative conservation security. All mammal groups in northern Australia have some species for which the conservation status has been assessed as threatened, with 53% of dasyurid, 46% of macropod and potoroid, 33% of bandicoot and bilby, 33% of possum, 31% of rodent, and 24% of bat species being assessed as extinct, threatened or Near Threatened.

This paper reviews disparate recent and ongoing studies that provide information on population trends across a broader geographic scope than the previously reported sites, and provides some information on the conservation status and trends for mammal groups (bats, larger macropods) not well sampled in previous monitoring studies. It describes some diverse approaches of studies seeking to document conservation status and trends, and of the factors that may be contributing to observed patterns of decline. The studies reported provide some compelling evidence that predation by feral cats is implicated in the observed decline, with those impacts likely to be exacerbated by prevailing fire regimes (frequent, extensive and intense fire), by reduction in ground vegetation cover due to livestock and, in some areas, by ‘control’ of dingoes. However the impacts of dingoes may be complex, and are not yet well resolved in this area.

The relative impacts of these individual factors vary spatially (with most severe impacts in lower rainfall and less topographically rugged areas) and between different mammal species, with some species responding idiosyncratically: the most notable example is the rapid decline of the northern quoll Dasyurus hallucatus due to poisoning by the introduced cane toad Rhinella marina, which continues to spread extensively across northern Australia. The impact of disease, if any, remains unresolved. Recovery of the native mammal fauna may be impossible in some areas. However, there are now examples of rapid recovery following threat management. Priority conservation actions include: enhanced biosecurity for important islands, establishment of a network of substantial predator exclosures, intensive fire management (aimed at increasing the extent of longer-unburnt habitat and in delivering fine scale patch burning), reduction in feral stock in conservation reserves, and acquisition for conservation purposes of some pastoral lands in areas that are significant for mammal conservation.

For a copy of the paper, click here:

Stemming the tide: progress towards resolving the causes of decline and implementing management responses for the disappearing mammal fauna of northern Australia. Ziembicki, M.R., Woinarski, J.C.Z., Jonathan K. Webb, E.V., Katherine Tuft, James Smith, Euan G. Ritchie, Terry B. Reardon, Ian J. Radford, Noel Preece, Justin Perry, Brett P. Murphy, Hugh McGregor, Sarah Legge, Lily Leahy, Michael J. Lawes, John Kanowski, Chris N. Johnson, Alex James, Anthony D. Griffiths, Graeme Gillespie, Anke S.K. Frank, Alaric Fisher, Andrew A. Burbidge. (2015) Therya 6, 169-225.

Thiaki Student Awarded High Distinction

Ecuadorian student Gabriela Hidrobo Unda, who studied her Master of Science degree at James Cook University, has been awarded a High Distinction for her Master's dissertation: Quantifying carbon sequestration using two Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies: a case study from the Atherton Tablelands, Australia. Gabriela's breakthrough research showed that the national carbon accounting model does not reflect the reality on the ground, and that field survey methods are required to more accurately assess carbon stocks. There is a need to review the dynamics of growth and age across multiple categories of plantings, and adjust modelling tools to site specific conditions. We hope that Gabriela will return to do her PhD!

A Natural History and Field Guide to Australia’s Top End

It's out! The first natural history and field guide for the north of Australia's Northern Territory. Years of work went into this spectacular new book. A must for every traveller to the Top End. You can order the book through Andrew Isles.
A Natural History and Field Guide to Australia’s Top End

Lumholtz Tree-Kangaroo Project

Thiaki rainforest lies at the core of one of the most enigmatic mammals in Australia, Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo. Its range is restricted and lots of its original habitat has been cleared. Yet there is little known about the population and health of the Lumholtz Tree kangaroo. We are working with Amy Shima DVM and Roger Martin MSc on studying Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo to resolve some of these questions. Amy is undertaking a PhD study through James Cook University, and is keenly interested in studying the diseases and parasites which affect them. Roger is undertaking demographic studies to assess their movements and populations. They are working under all the necessary permits from the Queensland government.
View of the animal in the forest
They need your help.
If you find a dead tree-kangaroo, call Amy Shima on 0499 180 961, or email her

Important information that will be needed is the location of the animal (crossroads, address, landmark or GPS coordinates - your smart phone can possibly tell you where you are!). Amy and Roger will attempt to retrieve the body (so your call as soon as you find a dead animal will be much appreciated) for post-mortem examination.

If you find an injured Tree-kangaroo, contact Amy or Roger, or for more help, go to the Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group website: http://www.tree-kangaroo.net.

Our Latest Publications

Please email us for full copies of the articles listed below.
  • Preece, L.D., van Oosterzee, P., Dungey, K., Standley, P.-M., Preece, N.D., 2016. Ecosystem service valuation reinforces world class value of Cape York Peninsula's ecosystems but environment and indigenous people lose out. Ecosystem Services 18, 154-164.
  • Ziembicki, M.R., Woinarski, J.C.Z., Jonathan K. Webb, E.V., Katherine Tuft, James Smith, Euan G. Ritchie, Terry B. Reardon, Ian J. Radford, Noel Preece, Justin Perry, Brett P. Murphy, Hugh McGregor, Sarah Legge, Lily Leahy, Michael J. Lawes, John Kanowski, Chris N. Johnson, Alex James, Anthony D. Griffiths, Graeme Gillespie, Anke S.K. Frank, Alaric Fisher, Andrew A. Burbidge, 2015. Stemming the tide: progress towards resolving the causes of decline and implementing management responses for the disappearing mammal fauna of northern Australia. Therya 6, 169-225.
  • Preece, N.D., Lawes, M.J., Rossman, A.K., Curran, T.J., van Oosterzee, P., 2015. Modelling the growth of young rainforest trees for biomass estimates and carbon sequestration accounting. Forest Ecology and Management 351, 57-66.
  • Paul, K.I., Roxburgh, S.H., England, J.R., de Ligt, R., Larmour, J.S., Brooksbank, K., Murphy, S., Ritson, P., Hobbs, T., Lewis, T., Preece, N.D., Cunningham, S.C., Read, Z., Clifford, D., John Raison, R., 2015. Improved models for estimating temporal changes in carbon sequestration in above-ground biomass of mixed-species environmental plantings. Forest Ecology and Management 338, 208-218.
  • van Oosterzee, P., Morris, I., Lucas, D., Preece, N.D., 2014. A Natural History and Field Guide to Australia's Top End. Gecko Books, Marleston, South Australia.
  • Whitehead, T., Goosem, M., Preece, N.D. 2014. Use by small mammals of a chronosequence of tropical rainforest revegetation. Wildlife Research 41, 233-242.
  • Franklin, D.C., Preece, N.D., 2014. The Eucalypts of Northern Australia: An Assessment of the Conservation Status of Taxa and Communities. A report to Kimberley to Cape and the Environment Centre NT, p. 98.
  • Paul, K., Roxburgh, S., Raison, J., Larmour, J., England, J., Murphy, S., Norris, J., Ritson, P., Brooksbank, K., Hobbs, T., Neumann, C., Lewis, T., Read, Z., Clifford, D., Rooney, M., Freudenberger, D., Jonson, J., Peck, A., Bartle, J., McAurthur, G., Wildy, D., Lindsay, A., Preece, N., Cunningham, S., Powe, T., Carter, J., Bennett, R., Mendham, D., Sudmeyer, R., Rose, B., Butler, D., Cohen, L., Fairman, T., Law, R., Finn, B., Brammar, M., Minchin, G., van Oosterzee, P., Lothian, A., 2013. Improved estimation of biomass accumulation by environmental planting and mallee plantings using FullCAM. In, Report for Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagships Canberra, p. 98.
  • Starr, C., Waller, N., Preece, N., Leung, L., 2014. Are small to medium sized mammals declining in the Northern Gulf? (Poster). In, 60th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Mammal Society Melbourne.
  • van Oosterzee, P., Dale, A., Preece, N.D. (2014) Integrating agriculture and climate change mitigation at landscape scale: Implications from an Australian case study. Global Environmental Change, 29, 306-317.
  • Preece, N., van Oosterzee, P., Dale, A., Eberhard, R., Armstrong, G., Vella, K., and Sweatman, C., (2013) Resilience and Opportunity: Regions and the Roll-out of Australia􀂶s Greenhouse Gas Abatement Programs A Manual for Queensland's NRM Regions. 1st Edition., National Environmental Research Program Project 12.4. National Environmental Research Program Tropical Ecosystems Hub, Australian Government Department of the Environment, Reef & Rainforest Research Centre., pp. 81.
  • Preece, N.D., van Oosterzee, P., Lawes, M.J. (2013) Planting methods matter for cost-effective rainforest restoration. Ecological Management & Restoration 14, 63-66.
  • Preece, N.D. (2013) Tangible Evidence of Historic Australian Indigenous Savanna Management. Austral Ecology 38, 241-250.
  • van Oosterzee, P., Blignaut, J., Bradshaw, C.J.A. (2012) iREDD hedges against avoided deforestation's unholy trinity of leakage, permanence and additionality. Conservation Letters 5, 266-273.
  • van Oosterzee, P. (2012) The integration of biodiversity and climate change: A contextual assessment of the carbon farming initiative. Ecological Management & Restoration 13, 238-244.
  • Preece, N. D., G. M. Crowley, M. J. Lawes, and P. van Oosterzee. 2012. Comparing aboveground biomass among forest types in the Wet Tropics: small stems and plantation types matter in carbon accounting. Forest Ecology and Management 264:228-237.
  • Preece, N. 2011. Book Review: Tropical Forest Community Ecology, WP Carson & SA Schintzer. Austral Ecology 36:e48-e49.
  • van Oosterzee, P, Preece, N, Dale, A. (2011) 'An Australian landscape-based approach: AFOLU mitigation for smallholders'. In: Wollenberg, E, Tapio-Bistrom, ML, and Grieg-Gran, M, Nihart, A, eds, Climate Change Mitigation and Agriculture. Earthscan, London. UK.
  • Preece N. & van Oosterzee P. (2010) Continuing loss of tropical forests on agricultural land could be reversed by carbon credit trading. In: ESA10: Ecological Society of Australia, 2010 Conference; Sustaining Biodiversity - the next 50 years, Canberra.
  • Preece N., van Oosterzee P. & Preece L. (2010) Improving estimates of above-ground biomass in tropical forest using modified transect methods. In: ESA10: Ecological Society of Australia, 2010 Conference; Sustaining Biodiversity - the next 50 years, Canberra.
  • Preece N., van Oosterzee P., Mayfield M. & Erskine P. (2010) Cost-effective tree-planting to reforest the tropical landscape. In: ESA10: Ecological Society of Australia, 2010 Conference; Sustaining Biodiversity - the next 50 years, Canberra.
  • Preece N., Harvey K., Hempel C. & Z.Woinarski J. C. (2010) Uneven distribution of weeds along extensive transects in Australia’s Northern Territory points to management solutions. Ecological Management & Restoration 11: 127-134.
  • van Oosterzee, Penny, Noel Preece, Allan Dale (2010) Catching the baby: accounting for biodiversity and the ecosystem sector in emissions trading.in Conservation Letters 3:83-90 at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118902559/home
  • Preece N. (2010) Norman River floods of 2009 devastated grass, cattle and native fauna. Australian Rangeland Society http://www.austrangesoc.com.au/site/memb_newsletter.php?id=10#article_50 11 April 2010
  • Mayfield M. M., Bradshaw C. J. A., Chittleborough D. J., Erskine P. D., Gardner T. A., Lawes M. J., Menendez R., Preece N. D. & van Oosterzee P. (2009) Identifying cost-effective reforestation approaches for biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration in the Australian tropics. In: 10th International Congress of Ecology (INTECOL), 16 – 21 August 2009, Brisbane, Australia.
  • van Oosterzee P., Preece N., Dale A. & Kay G. (2009) Lessons from doing - Implementing a regional scale biocarbon & GHG abatement project with multiple benefits. In: 10th International Congress of Ecology (INTECOL), 16 – 21 August 2009, Brisbane, Australia.
  • Preece N. D. (2009) Historic Australian indigenous savanna management is relevant for contemporary ecosystem management. In: 10th International Congress of Ecology (INTECOL), 16 – 21 August 2009, Brisbane, Australia.
  • van Oosterzee P. & Garnett S. T. (2008) Seeing REDD: Issues, principles and possible opportunities in Northern Australia. Public Administration and Development 28: 386-392.
Share by: