Birds, bees and bugs: your garden is an ecosystem, and it needs looking after

Image 20160921 29729 1bbmwd
Native bees are just some of the wildlife found in your backyard. MirandaKate/Flickr, CC BY-NC
Manu Saunders, Charles Sturt University

As the weather warms and days lengthen, your attention may be turning to that forgotten patch of your backyard. This week we’ve asked our experts to share the science behind gardening. So grab a trowel and your green thumbs, and dig in.

Whether you live in an urban apartment or a rural homestead, your outdoor area is more than just a private space. Ecologically, a garden is another jigsaw piece in the landscape.

Whatever their size, gardens can contribute to natural functions and processes in the local area, such as regulating water drainage, buffering the damaging effects of strong winds, or providing food and shelter for native wildlife.

Many wildlife species survive in urban areas, but their presence and persistence depend on how specific their food and shelter needs are, how they respond to disturbances, and the quality and quantity of other green spaces in the landscape.

For larger animals, such as birds and mammals, a home garden could become a stepping stone across an otherwise hostile urban landscape. For smaller animals, such as insects, it could be the centre of their home range.

In urban areas, where space is often limited, gardening with pollinators in mind is a simple way to encourage biodiversity in the backyard. And, depending on the surrounding landscape, habitat for pollinators will also be habitat for other animals.

Butterflies are important pollinators in backyards. John Tann/Flickr, CC BY

Flowers are just the first step

Flowers produce sugar (nectar) and protein (pollen), the main diet for many adult insects and birds. Unlike other insect groups, native bee larvae develop almost exclusively on pollen collected by their parents, so flowers are essential to grow native bee populations.

There is no single best combination of flowers for wild bees. Many “plants for pollinators” lists available online are based on local experiences and rarely apply to all geographic regions. A general rule of thumb for a pollinator garden is one that produces flowers for most of the year and is built on diversity – monocultures of any single flower type or colour will suit only a very small number of generalist species.

Native plants are an ideal option for attracting native pollinator insects and birds, but many garden exotics, especially herbs, fruit and vegetable plants, are just as popular. Modern hybrid varieties should be chosen carefully, as some are bred for commercial fruit or flower traits (like size or colour), but the flowers lack the nectar or scent cues that attract pollinators looking for food.

Native plants can attract birds, such as this New Holland honeyeater. Cazz/Flickr

Build it and they will come

The structure and design of a garden can determine what wildlife species will visit or make a home. Vertical structure, built from multiple layers of different plant heights, provides more spaces for wildlife to co-exist. Small plants and shrubs provide good shelter for insects and very small birds, while larger trees will attract visits from more mobile birds and mammals.

Large trees with rough or shedding bark that creates lots of cracks and crevices are excellent shelter for insects and small lizards. Trees that produce resins and sap flows, such as conifers, acacias and eucalypts, are also useful for some native bee and wasp species that use resin to seal their nest cells.

Insect hotels can provide homes for insects that usually nest in dead wood. But only a small proportion of the world’s bee species are wood-nesters. About 75% of bee species dig their nests into the ground, usually in sandy, uncompacted soil, preferably on a slope that won’t get waterlogged.

Insect hotels attract wood-nesting insects. Insect hotel image from

It can be difficult to build all of this into small gardens, but many pollinator insects will have home ranges of a few hundred metres, while birds and mammals can travel much further. So landscape composition can also influence the wildlife potential of an individual garden. A high proportion of paved areas can reduce the number of wild bees or native birds in the neighbourhood. Highly manicured green spaces can also have a negative effect on wild bee species.

Disrupting the food chain

Like any ecosystem, gardens involve an intricate web of life, from the soil microbes underground to the birds in the trees. It’s easy to grab the spray bottle to kill off the dandelions and blow down the flies, but what are the knock-on effects?

Many of the animals and plants we think of as a backyard nuisance often provide services we don’t see. For example, many native wasp and fly species (even blowflies!) are pollinators as adults. And as larvae, they control many of the insect pests we see on our plants, or decompose organic wastes. Small reptiles, like geckoes and skinks, mostly feed on small insects that annoy us, like mosquitoes and midges.

Plants we think of as lawn weeds, particularly dandelions and clover, are a favourite food source for native bees and hoverflies. Aphids and scale insects also produce a sugary substance called honeydew as they suck on plants, which is an important sugar source for some beneficial insects like wasps, bees, ants and hoverflies.

Aphids produce sugars which are an important food source for other insects. ron_n_beths pics/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Limiting synthetic chemical use is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enhance wildlife in gardens. Insecticides can kill beneficial insects, or affect them indirectly by disrupting their metabolism or reproductive cycles. Overuse of herbicides removes important food resources, like dandelions, that pollinators rely on if other flowers are scarce.

There is also the potential for chemicals to work in combination and have a greater impact.

Managing gardens as ecosystems

Many wildlife don’t like regular disturbances, which is why urban areas can be intimidating environments for animals. It can be hard to balance human needs with the habitat needs of wildlife. Many actions that minimise risks for humans can have the opposite effect for wildlife.

For example, pollinators generally prefer open grassy areas to dark forested areas. In urban environments, grassed areas are often mown regularly for human recreational and safety needs. This affects the availability of flowers for pollinators and also affects the persistence of these plant species. Mowing less often and outside peak flowering times can make a big difference for plants and pollinators.

Leaving a few weeds in the lawn can be a good thing for pollinators. tuchodi/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Similarly, large old trees are homes to myriad animals. Unless they pose a very real risk of danger to human lives, pruning overhanging branches can be better for the local ecosystem than removing the whole tree.

The ConversationWildlife are rarely deterred by fences, so it is likely that most of the animals you see in your yard are also using your neighbours’ yards. Managing gardens as a collective landscape, rather than individual gardens, can keep wildlife happy while also enhancing neighbourhood communication.

Manu Saunders, Post-doctoral Research Fellow (Ecology), Charles Sturt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Go native: why we need ‘wildlife allotments’ to bring species back to the ‘burbs

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Native plants don’t need much space really. Simon Pawley/Sustainable Outdoors, Author provided
Lizzy Lowe and Margaret Stanley

As urban populations around the globe skyrocket and the demand for housing grows, space is increasingly at a premium in cities. Unfortunately, despite some notable efforts to include green space in cities, native wildlife is not often a priority for urban planners, despite research showing the benefits it brings to both people and ecosystems.

It may seem that bringing biodiversity back into cities would require large areas of land set aside for habitat restoration. But it is possible to use relatively small spaces such as transport corridors, verges and the edges of sporting grounds. Think of it as “land sharing” rather than “land sparing”“.

The idea of transforming public areas in cities into green space is not a new one. Allotment vegetable gardens, which have long been a staple of British suburban life, are enjoying a revival, as are community gardens in Australia.

These gardens are obviously great for sustainable food production and community engagement. But we think similar efforts should be directed towards creating green spaces filled with native vegetation, so that local wildlife might thrive too.

Benefits for biodiversity

Cities can be hostile environments for wildlife, and although some rare species are still present in some cities, the destruction of habitats and growth of built-up areas has led to many localised extinctions. Often, species are left clinging on in particular reserves or habitat remnants. "Green corridors” through the built environment can link these habitat fragments together and help stop urban species from being marooned in small patches – and this is where native gardens can help.

Cities are often built in fertile areas on coasts, and because of their fertility are often home to large numbers of species, which means that planting native vegetation in public spaces can potentially help a wide range of different species.

A study in Melbourne found that native vegetation in urban green space is essential for conservation of native pollinators, as introduced plants only benefit introduced bees. But with the right habitat, even small mammals such as bandicoots can survive in urban areas.

Benefits for people

Native green space in cities can also be used to educate communities about their wildlife. Community gardens can be a very effective way to bring people together and create a sense of identity and cohesion within a community.

Native landscaping in playgrounds. Simon Pawley, Sustainable Outdoors

Many people in cities have little or no contact with nature, and this “extinction of experience” can make them feel apathetic about conservation. Green space lets city dwellers connect with nature, and if these spaces contain native rather than introduced plants, they have the added benefit of familiarising people with their native flora, creating a stronger sense of cultural identity.

Where to share

There are many places in urban areas that can be tinkered with to encourage native species, with little or no disruption to their intended use. Picture the typical Australian park, for example: large expanses of grass and some isolated gum trees. Biodiverse systems are more complex, featuring tall trees, smaller ones, shrubs, herbs and grasses, which together create diverse habitat for a range of species. So by building native garden beds around single trees, at the park’s edges, or within designated areas (even among playgrounds!), we can gain complex layers of habitats for our native animals without losing too much picnic space.

We think of verges as places to park our cars or wheelie bins, but these grass borders are another underused area where we could plant native gardens. This not only improves the aesthetics of the streetscape but also reduces water use and the need to mow.

Verge gardens. Simon Pawley, Sustainable Outdoors

Australia is a sporting nation and our sports grounds are cherished features of the urban landscape, yet there are plenty of opportunities here for native vegetation. The average golf course, for instance, only uses two-thirds of its area for actual golf (unless you’re a very bad shot). The out-of-bounds areas nestled between the fairways offer plenty of space for native biodiversity. Likewise, the boundaries of sporting ovals are ideal locations for native vegetation borders.

Even infrastructure corridors such as train lines, electricity corridors, and the edges of highways have the potential to contribute to the functioning of local ecosystems.

Making it happen

As the existence of community gardens and Landcare groups shows, there is already a drive within local communities to make these ideas a reality. In fact, some groups of “guerrilla gardeners” are so passionate about urban greening that they dedicate their own time and resources towards creating green public space, often without permission.

But urban gardening doesn’t need to be illegal. Many councils in Australia have policies that encourage the planting of native plants in private gardens, with some even offering rebates for native landscaping projects.

The ConversationUltimately we need to both share and spare urban landscapes. By conserving habitat fragments and planting native gardens to connect these patches, we can bring native plants and animals back into our cities.

Lizzy Lowe, Postdoctoral fellow and Margaret Stanley, Senior Lecturer in Ecology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

George Vancouver

Captain George Vancouver (22 June 1757 – 10 May 1798) was a British officer of the Royal Navy, best known for his 1791–95 expedition, which explored and charted North America's northwestern Pacific Coastregions, including the coasts of contemporary AlaskaBritish ColumbiaWashington, and Oregon. He also explored the Hawaiian Islands and the southwest coast of Australia.

 Source: Public Domain

Source: Public Domain

In Canada, Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver are named after him, as are Vancouver, Washington, in the United States, Mount Vancouver on the Yukon/Alaska border, and New Zealand's sixth highest mountain.

George Vancouver was born in King's Lynn on 22 June 1757 as the sixth, and youngest, child of John Jasper Vancouver, a Deputy Collector of Customs, and Bridget Berners.

In 1771, at the age of 13, George Vancouver entered the Royal Navy as a "young gentleman", a future candidate for midshipman. He was selected to serve as a midshipman aboard HMS Resolution, on James Cook's second voyage (1772–1775) searching for Terra Australis. He also accompanied Cook's third voyage (1776–1780), this time aboard Resolution's sister ship, Discovery, and was present during the first European sighting and exploration of the Hawaiian Islands. Upon his return to Britain in October 1780, Vancouver was commissioned as a lieutenant and posted aboard the sloop Martin initially on escort and patrol duty in the English Channel and North Sea. He accompanied the ship when it left Plymouth on 11 February 1782 for the West Indies. On 7 May 1782 he was appointed fourth Lieutenant of the HMS Fame which was at the time part of the British West Indies Fleet and assigned to patrolling the French-held Leeward Islands. Vancouver returned to England in June 1783.

In the late 1780s the Spanish Empire commissioned an expedition to the Pacific Northwest. However, the 1789 Nootka Crisis intervened. Spain and Britain came close to war over ownership of the Nootka Sound on contemporary Vancouver Island, and of greater importance, the right to colonize and settle the Pacific Northwest coastHenry Roberts and Vancouver joined Britain's more warlike vessels. Vancouver went with Joseph Whidbey to HMS Courageux. When the first Nootka Convention ended the crisis in 1790, Vancouver was given command of Discovery to take possession of Nootka Sound and to survey the coasts.

Departing England with two ships on 1 April 1791, Vancouver commanded an expedition charged with exploring the Pacific region. In its first year the expedition travelled to Cape Town, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii, collecting botanical samples and surveying coastlines along the way. On 29 September they landed in Australia, at what Vancouver promptly named King George the Third's Sound.  He formally claimed at Possession Point, King George Sound Western Australia, now the town of Albany, Western Australia for the British.
The Vancouver Expedition (1791–1795) was a four-and-a-half-year voyage of exploration and diplomacy, commanded by Captain George Vancouver. The expedition circumnavigated the globe and touched all five continents.

Vancouver, one of Britain's greatest explorers and navigators, died in obscurity on 10 May 1798 at the age of 40, less than three years after completing his voyages and expeditionsNo official cause of death was stated, as the medical records pertaining to Vancouver were destroyed; one doctor named John Naish claimed Vancouver died from kidney failure, while others believed it was a hyperthyroid condition. His grave is in the churchyard of St Peter's Church, Petersham, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, England. The Hudson's Bay Company placed a memorial plaque in the church in 1841. His grave in Portland stone, renovated in the 1960s, is now Grade II listed in view of its historical associations.


Source - Wikipedia Free Encylopedia.  Public domain

Albany's Ship Wreck - Lady Lyttleton

Lady Lyttleton was a barque that sunk in the Emu Point Channel in Oyster Harbour. (A barque is a type of sailing ship from the age of sail and is first mentioned in the 15th century. To be classified as a barque, a ship must have a particular arrangement of masts and sails. Barques have at least three masts and square sails on all masts, except the aft, or mizzen mast, and possibly the foremast)

 Barques have at least three masts and square sails on all masts  Imagae Credit: WiseGeek

Barques have at least three masts and square sails on all masts  Imagae Credit: WiseGeek

The ship was built as Sultan, with a female figurehead and a single deck. It was registered in Sydney in 1861 by the owners Alex Young and John Howard. To date endeavours to find when and where it was built have proved unsuccessful

In 1866 the vessel was sold to Harold Selwyn Smith in Melbourne and registered at the port there.

On the ship's final voyage, in the command of John McArthur it departed Adelaideon 29 May 1867 with three passengers Mrs Hogan and Mr and Mrs Carmody, and a cargo of 18 tons of bran, 10 tons of pollard, 443 tons of barley and other goods, such as tobacco, stationery, hardware, drapery, dried fruit, oatmeal. It entered King George Sound on 16 June and was leaking badly. The crew had already jettisoned part of the cargo with the rest being unloaded in Albany before it sailed to Emu Point for repairs.

Lady Lyttleton was hove down to the shore by tackles from the masthead but the ship slipped and then foundered and sank on 17 July 1867. It was later abandoned. The wreck was rediscovered by divers in 1971.The Western Australian Museum surveyed and partially excavated the site in 1978 and in 1990 with several artefacts being retrieved, including an anchor, the rudder and pintles and an extremely corroded sextant.


Source Wikipedia Free Encyclopdeia 

King George Sound - Albany

King George Sound is the name of a sound on the south coast of Western Australia. Originally named King George the Third's Sound, it was referred to as King George's Sound from 1826. The name "King George Sound" gradually came into use from about 1934, prompted by new Admiralty charts supporting the intention to eliminate the possessive 's' from geographical names.

 Image - Bjørn Christian Tørrissen [CC BY-SA 3.0

Image - Bjørn Christian Tørrissen [CC BY-SA 3.0

The sound covers an area of 110 square kilometres (42 sq mi) and varies in depth from 10 m (33 ft) to 35 m (115 ft). and is the site of the city of Albany. The sound is bordered by the mainland to the north, by Vancouver Peninsula on the west, and by Bald Head and Flinders Peninsula to the south. Although the sound is open water to the east, the waters are partially protected by Breaksea Island and Michaelmas Island. There are two harbours located within the sound, Princess Royal Harbour and Oyster Harbour. Each receives excellent protection from winds and heavy seas. Princess Royal Harbour was Western Australia's only deep-water port for around 70 years until the Fremantle Inner Harbour was opened in 1897.

The first reported visit to King George Sound by a European was in 1791 by the English explorer Captain George Vancouver. Vancouver named it King George the Third's Sound after the reigning monarch

The next Europeans to visit the sound were Captain Dennis of the Kingston, and Captain Dixson of the ElligoodKingston and Elligood were whalers and while there caught three whales. Dixson left an inscribed piece copper plate behind.

Matthew Flinders anchored in the sound from 8 December 1801 to 5 January 1802 and explored the area. While he was there, his men found the copper plate Dixson had left. During this time Robert Brown (ship's botanist) and Peter Good (ship's gardener) collected samples of over 500 plant species.

Nicolas Baudin arrived in the sound in February 1803 aboard Le Geographe to rendezvous with Louis de Freycinet aboard the Casuarina before doing further exploration of the Western Australian coastline.During the course of their stay the ship's naturalist François Péron, collected 1060 new species of shellfish and a large number of starfish from the sound.

Phillip Parker King visited the sound in 1818 aboard the cutter HMS Mermaid while en route to conduct a nautical survey of the North West Cape, and Frenchman Dumont d'Urville visited it in 1826 aboard the Astrolabe.

On 25 December 1826, the New South Wales colonial government brig Amity, under the command of Major Edmund Lockyer, arrived at King George Sound to establish a possessory military settlement.Lockyer named his settlement Fredrick Townafter George III's second son, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, but this name never gained wide acceptance. Instead the settlement and surrounding locality were usually referred to as King George's Sound. In 1832, Governor of Western Australia Captain (later Admiral) James Stirling declared the settlement a town and renamed it Albany, but the broader locality continued to be referred to as King George's Sound for many years.

In 1834 Robert Dale published in London a panorama print of the view from Mount Clarence accompanied by a pamphlet describing the sound and the geography, geology, flora, fauna and native inhabitants of the immediate region.

On 8 March 1836, King George Sound was visited by HMS Beagle, which anchored there for eight days. On board was the young naturalist Charles Darwin, who collected specimens on shore. HMS Beagle was on the homeward leg of its celebrated circumnavigation of the world, having already stopped off at Sydney.

Until the construction of Fremantle Harbour in 1897, King George Sound contained the only deepwater port in Western Australia, and so was the favoured location for delivery of mail and supplies from abroad to Western Australia. These were then transported to Perth and Fremantle by road or coastal shipping until the early 1890s, when the completion of the Great Southern Railway provided a quicker service.

Albany Port is located on the north shore of Princess Royal Harbour adjacent to the city of Albany. The port was first established in 1826 and has been expanded regularly since. The port now has five berths able to cater to panamax class vessels. The port typically caters for loading of about 120 vessels per annum.

In 1914, King George Sound was the last Australian anchorage for the fleet taking the first Australian and New Zealand soldiers, later to become known as Anzacs, to Egypt. A memorial to the Anzacs of the Desert Mounted Corpshas been established on top of Mount Clarence. Albany was where the first commemorative dawn service was held on Anzac Day, 25 April 1923. The contribution of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, president of Turkey from 1923 until 1938 is recognised by naming the entrance into Princess Royal Harbour as Atatürk Entrance

The Cheyne Beach Whaling Company began operating out of Frenchman Bay, located within the sound, in 1952 with a small quota of 50 humpback whales that was eventually increased to 175 At the peak of the whaling activity in the sound the company was taking between 900 and 1100 sperm and humpback whales in a year. Humpback whaling was banned in 1963 which in turn decreased the viability of the operation.

In 1978 the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company closed down after increasing environmental lobby group pressure. It was Australia's last coastal whaling company.

Installation of a shark barrier was commenced and completed in March 2016 at Middleton Beach[24] at the north western end of the sound.


Dense seagrass beds still exist in King George Sound, although they have been adversely affected by increased nutrient levels and industry in the area. Some of the seagrasses present in the sound include Posidonia australis, Posidonia robertsoneae, Posidonia kirkmanii, Posidonia sinuosa, Posidonia denhartogii, Posidonia ostenfeldiiAmphibolis antarcticaAmphibolis griffithiiHalophila australisHalophila ovalisRuppia megacarpa and Heterozostera tasmanica.

The fringing vegetation around the sound includes both the saltmarshes of Oyster Harbour and Princess Royal Harbour, and the sandy beach vegetation. Saltmarshes contain a variety of species including samphireseabliteastarteawattle, greenbush, shore rush, twig rush and saltwater paperbark Freshwater species also occur in areas where substantial freshwater seepage occurs. Sandy beach areas contain a mix of shrubs and sedges such as the grey white cushion bush, coast sword sedge, knotted club rush, sea rocket, pigface and false caper.


The sound comprises a wide variety of habitats that supports an abundance of marine life. Many species of corals are present including Turbinaria frondens, Turbinaria mesenterina and Turbinaria renformis which cover an extensive area. Other coral species that can be found include Scolymia australis, Plesiastrea versipora, Coscinaraea mcneilli and Coscinaraea marshae.

A large, wild mussel population was known to exist in the sound, and now commercial mussel farms operate within the area that grow and harvest Blue mussels.

It is estimated that 203 species of fish inhabit the Oyster Harbour, Princess Royal Harbour and King George Sound, with Australian pilchards Sardinops sagax neopilchardus making up 97% of the total fish catch. Other species that are commonly found include Australian herring, leatherjackets, cobbler, King George whiting, tailor, Australian anchovy, garfish, sand trevally, tarwhine, flathead, tuna, snapper, Australian salmon, yellowtail scad, sea mullet, striped trumpeter, long-toothed flounder, dusky morwong and long-finned goby.

Seals are known to inhabit the sound in various locations along the coast and on the islands. The species that are sighted most often are the Australian sea lion and the New Zealand fur seal. Species that have been sighted, but are considered to be occasional visitors, include the subantarctic fur seal and the leopard seal

Dolphins are also found in the area, and are occasionally caught and drowned in fishing nets or stranded. The common dolphin Delphinus delphis and the bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncates have both been recorded in the area.

Southern right whales and humpback whales frequent the area between July and October when they congregate to mate and calve in the protected waters of the sound. Other whales that have been spotted in the area include minke whalesblue whalesshort-finned pilot whalesfalse killer whales and killer whalesSperm whales were known to visit the sound during the whaling era but none have been sighted recently, although a pod was detected further out in the Southern Ocean in 2002.

The sound becomes a perfect habitat for migratory wading birds during the summer, when an estimated 2,000-3,000 birds flock to the area to feed in the shallow mudflats of the harbours. Some of the species that can be found during the summer months include the red-necked stint and the red knot as well as sandpipersgrey ploversred capped ploverslesser sand ploversgrey-tailed tattlerswhimbrelscommon greenshanksyellow-billed spoonbillwhite-faced heron and stilts. Other birds that are commonly seen around the sound include cormorantspied oystercatcherssooty oystercatchersPacific gullsCaspian ternspelicansospreys and white-bellied sea eagles.


The Western Australian south coast is formed along the edge of the southern margin of the Yilgarn craton and is fringed with prominent headlands composed of granite and gneisses formed during Proterozoic tectonic activity. Arcuate Bays that contain beaches backed by holocene dunes are found between the headlands.

King George Sound includes many islands and some islets, all comprising granitoid rocks with accumulations of soil on most.

Islands of note include Breaksea IslandMichaelmas IslandSeal IslandMistaken Island, and Green Island. .


The tidal range in King George Sound (including Princess Royal Harbour and Oyster Harbour) is 0.4 metres (1 ft)with spring tidal range of 1.1 metres (4 ft)Tidal levels can remain static for periods of time. Semi-diurnal tides are frequent and diurnal tides are occasional.

The temperature of the water in the sound is slightly different from that of the open sea.

The salinity level within the Sound remains relatively constant ranging between 34.8 and 35.5 '',the lower levels occurring during heavy winter rain events when large volumes of freshwater enter the sound from the King and Kalgan rivers.

The Leeuwin Current exerts some influence in the sound as it flows eastwards along the continental shelf in the main part of the sound.


Many wrecks exist within King George Sound. The most recent and best known is the 133 metres (436 ft) guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth, which was scuttled in 2001 in 35 metres (115 ft) of water off Seal Island, to be used as a dive-site.

The former whale chaser Cheynes was sold for scrap in 1961 and was subsequently sunk between Michaelmas Island and the northern shoreline of the sound. Another chaser in the fleet, Cheynes II, was blown ashore on Geak Point near Quaranup in Princess Royal Harbour in 1990 and is still there, approximately 290 metres (951 ft) off-shore.

The Lady Lyttleton sank in the Emu Point channel when repairs were attempted in 1867.

A wooden barque, the Fanny Nicholson was being used as a whaling vessel when it ran ashore during a gale in 1872. The remains can still be seen in shallow water in Frenchman Bay. Another whaling barque, the Runnymede, met a similar fate when it ran aground during a storm in 1881.

Two wrecks within the sound are protected under the federal Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. These are the wooden barque Athena that sank in 1908, and the wooden boat Elvie that sank in 1923.

In 1868, Northumberland, a wooden barque laden with 2000 tonnes of coal, grounded on a reef off Bald Head near the entrance to King George Sound. The ship was freed and sailed into the sound with a broken rudder, the crew eventually abandoned ship and took to the life boats. Northumberland foundered and sank between Cape Vancouver and Breaksea Island.


Source Wikipedia Commons Library

Edmund Lockyer

Edmund Lockyer, (21 January 1784 – 10 June 1860) was a British soldier and explorer of Australia.

Edmund Lockyer - Albany

Born in PlymouthDevon, Lockyer was son of Thomas Lockyer, a sailmaker, and his wife Ann, née Grose. Lockyer began his army career as an ensign in the 19th Regiment in June 1803, was promoted lieutenant in early 1805 and made captain in August 1805. Lockyer was promoted to major in August 1819 and in August 1824 transferred to the 57th Regiment. Lockyer arrived at Sydney, capital of the British Colony of New South Wales, aboard the Royal Charlotte in April 1825 with men from the 57th; also with him were his wife and ten children.

In August 1825, Lockyer was asked to lead an expedition to explore the upper reaches of the Brisbane River, which had only recently been settled by Europeans. On 2 September, Lockyer sailed from Sydney in the cutter Mermaid, arriving at the settlement of Brisbane on 7 September. Leaving the Mermaid at Brisbane, he travelled in a small boat up the river. Lockyer saw coal in deposits on the banks, becoming the first person to identify coal in Queensland. Lockyer arrived back in Sydney on 16 October 1825, and made a report to Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane.

In late 1826, Lockyer led an expedition to claim Western Australia for Britain. He sailed on the brig Amity, arriving at King George Sound on 25 December, with twenty troops and twenty three convicts. This was the beginning of the first European settlement in Western Australia. On 21 January 1827, as instructed by the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies Earl Bathurst, the Union Jack was raised and a feu de joie fired by the troops, formally annexing the territory, in assertion of the first official claim by the Imperial Government to British possession over the whole continent of Australia.

The military base established by Lockyer was named Frederick Town, later renamed Albany, and would become an important deep water port. His interview with two sealers, arrested for crimes against local people, revealed intelligence of Dumont D'Urville's survey of King George Sound. Lockyer had planned an overland journey to the Swan River region in February, but learned that James Stirling had already examined the area. Lockyer was to remain in the settlement until command could be given to Captain Joseph Wakefield. Lockyer returned to Sydney on 3 April 1827, sold his army commission and settled in Sydney.

In 1852 Lockyer was appointed serjeant-at-arms to the New South Wales Legislative Council and on 16 May 1856 he became the Council's first Usher of the Black Rod In September 1854 he was commissioned a captain on the formation of the Sydney Volunteer Rifle Corps, a citizens' militia force.

On 18 November 1854, Lockyer married Elizabeth Colston. Elizabeth Colston is related to Mal Colston, a Queensland Senator.

Lockyer died from the effects of influenza on 10 June 1860 at his home in Bay Street, Woolloomooloo and was buried in Camperdown Cemetery, Sydney

The Sydney suburb of Ermington is named after Lockyer's residence, "Ermington House". A suburb of Albany, Western Australia, commemorates the city's founder. Lockyer CreekLockyer Valley and Lockyer Valley Regional Council in Queensland were named after Major Lockyer. His name and image were utilized in the Centenary of Albany, Western Australia and the booklet published at that time.


Source Wikipedia Free Source Library

Frederick Town = Albany

Albany was founded on 26 December 1826 as a military outpost of New South Wales as part of a plan to forestall French ambitions in the region. To that end, on 21 January 1827 the commander of the outpost, Major Edmund Lockyer, formally took possession of the western third of the continent for the British Crown

The area was initially named Frederick Town in honour of Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. In 1831, the settlement was transferred to the control of the Swan River Colony and renamed Albany by Lieutenant-Governor James Stirling.

 Image: Joshua Reynolds [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image: Joshua Reynolds [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Prince Frederick, Duke of York and AlbanyKGGMBGCH (Frederick Augustus; 16 August 1763 – 5 January 1827), a member of the House of Hanover, was the second son and child of King George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover. A soldier by profession, from 1764 to 1803 he was Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück, and from the death of his father in 1820 until his own death in 1827 he was the heir presumptive to his elder brother, King George IV, both to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Kingdom of Hanover. However, he died before his brother.

Frederick was thrust into the British Army at a very early age and was appointed to high command at the age of thirty, when he was given command of a notoriously ineffectual campaign during the War of the First Coalition, a continental war following the French Revolution. Later, as Commander-in-Chief during the Napoleonic Wars, he oversaw the reorganisation of the British Army, establishing vital structural, administrative and recruiting reforms for which he is credited with having done "more for the army than any one man has done for it in the whole of its history.

Prince Frederick Augustus, or the Duke of York as he became in later life, belonged to the House of Hanover. He was born on 16 August 1763, at St. James's PalaceLondon.[3] His father was the reigning British monarch, King George III. His mother was Queen Charlotte (née Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz).He was christened on 14 September 1763 at St James's, by the Archbishop of CanterburyThomas Secker — his godparents were his great-uncle the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (for whom the Earl GowerLord Chamberlain, stood proxy), his uncle the Duke of York (for whom the Earl of HuntingdonGroom of the Stool, stood proxy) and his great-aunt the Princess Amelia.

On 27 February 1764, when Prince Frederick was six months old, his father secured his election as Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück in today's Lower Saxony He received this title because his father, as Elector of Hanover, was entitled to select every other holder of this (in alternation with a Roman Catholic prelate).He was invested as Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath on 30 December 1767 and as a Knight of the Order of the Garter on 19 June 1771.

Military career

The Duke of York in 1790.

George III decided that his second son would pursue an army career and had him gazetted colonel on 4 November 1780. From 1781 to 1787, Prince Frederick lived in Hanover, where he studied (along with his younger brothers, Prince EdwardPrince ErnestPrince Augustus and Prince Adolphus) at the University of Göttingen. He was appointed colonel of the 2nd Horse Grenadier Guards (now 2nd Life Guards) on 26 March 1782 before being promoted to major-general on 20 November 1782.[3] Promoted to lieutenant general on 27 October 1784, he was appointed colonel of the Coldstream Guards on 28 October 1784

He was created Duke of York and Albany and Earl of Ulster on 27 November 1784[13] and became a member of the Privy Council. He retained the bishopric of Osnabrück until 1803, when, in the course of the secularisation preceding the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the bishopric was incorporated into Prussia.[6] On his return to Great Britain, the Duke took his seat in the House of Lords, where, on 15 December 1788 during the Regency crisis, he opposed William Pitt's Regency Bill in a speech which was supposed to have been influenced by the Prince of Wales.[6] On 26 May 1789 he took part in a duel with Colonel Charles Lennox, who had insulted him; Lennox missed, and Prince Frederick refused to return fire.[6]


Main article: Flanders Campaign

On 12 April 1793 Frederick was promoted to full general.[14] That year, he was sent to Flanders in command of the British contingent of Coburg's army destined for the invasion of France.[14] Frederick and his command fought in the Flanders Campaign under extremely trying conditions. He won several notable engagements, such as the Siege of Valenciennes in July 1793,[15] but was defeated at the Battle of Hondschoote in September 1793.[14] In the 1794 campaign he was successful at the Battle of Willems in May but was defeated at the Battle of Tourcoing later that month.[14] The British army was evacuated through Bremen in April 1795.[14]


After his return to Britain, his father George III promoted him to the rank of field marshal on 18 February 1795.[14] On 3 April 1795, George appointed him effective Commander-in-Chief in succession to Lord Amherst[16]although the title was not confirmed until three years later.[17] He was also colonel of the 60th Regiment of Foot from 19 August 1797.[18]

On appointment as Commander-in-Chief he immediately declared, reflecting on the Flanders Campaign of 1793–94,

"...that no officer should ever be subject to the same disadvantages under which he had laboured".[16]

His second field command was with the army sent for the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland in August 1799. On 7 September 1799, he was given the honorary title of Captain-General.[19] Sir Ralph Abercromby and Admiral Sir Charles Mitchell, in charge of the vanguard, had succeeded in capturing some Dutch warships in Den Helder. However, following the Duke's arrival with the main body of the army, a number of disasters befell the allied forces, including shortage of supplies.[20] On 17 October 1799, the Duke signed the Convention of Alkmaar, by which the allied expedition withdrew after giving up its prisoners.[20] 1799 also saw Fort Frederick in South Africa named after him.[21]

Frederick's military setbacks of 1799 were inevitable given his lack of moral seniority as a field commander, the poor state of the British army at the time, and conflicting military objectives of the protagonists. After this ineffectual campaign, Frederick was mocked, perhaps unfairly, in the rhyme "The Grand Old Duke of York":

The grand old Duke of York,

He had ten thousand men.

He marched them up to the top of the hill

And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up.

And when they were down, they were down.

And when they were only halfway up,

They were neither up nor down

"The modern Circe or a sequel to the petticoat", caricature of Frederick's lover, Mary Anne Clarke by Isaac Cruikshank, 15 March 1809. The prince resigned as head of the British army ten days after the caricature's publication.

Frederick's experience in the Dutch campaign made a strong impression on him. That campaign, and the Flanders campaign, had demonstrated the numerous weaknesses of the British army after years of neglect. Frederick as Commander-in-Chief of the British army carried through a massive programme of reform.He was the person most responsible for the reforms that created the force which served in the Peninsular War. He was also in charge of the preparations against Napoleon's planned invasion of the United Kingdom in 1803. In the opinion of Sir John Fortescue, Frederick did "more for the army than any one man has done for it in the whole of its history."

In 1801 Frederick actively supported the foundation of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, which promoted the professional, merit-based training of future commissioned officers.

On 14 September 1805 he was given the honorary title of Warden of Windsor Forest.

Frederick resigned as Commander-in-Chief on 25 March 1809, as the result of a scandal caused by the activities of his latest mistress, Mary Anne Clarke.[20] Clarke was accused of illicitly selling army commissions under Frederick's aegis.[20] A select committee of the House of Commons enquired into the matter. Parliament eventually acquitted Frederick of receiving bribes by 278 votes to 196. He nevertheless resigned because of the high tally against him.[20] Two years later, it was revealed that Clarke had received payment from Frederick's disgraced chief accuser, Gwyllym Wardle and the Prince Regent reappointed the exonerated Frederick as Commander-in-Chief on 29 May 1811.

Frederick maintained a country residence at Oatlands near WeybridgeSurrey but he was seldom there, preferring to immerse himself in his administrative work at Horse Guards (the British army's headquarters) and, after hours, in London's high life, with its gaming tables: Frederick was perpetually in debt because of his excessive gambling on cards and racehorses. Following the unexpected death of his niece, Princess Charlotte of Wales, in 1817, Frederick became second in line to the throne, with a serious chance of inheriting it.In 1820, he became heir presumptive with the death of his father, George III


Frederick died of dropsy and apparent cardio-vascular disease at the home of the Duke of Rutland on Arlington Street, London, in 1827.[20] After lying in state in London, Frederick's remains were interred in St. George's Chapel, at Windsor.[6]


On 29 September 1791 at Charlottenburg, Berlin, and again on 23 November 1791 at Buckingham Palace, Frederick married his cousin Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, the daughter of King  and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg.The marriage was not a happy one and the couple soon separated. Frederica retired to Oatlands, where she lived until her death in 1820.


Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 16 August 1763 – 27 November 1784His Royal Highness The Prince Frederick
  • 27 November 1784 – 5 January 1827His Royal Highness The Duke of York and Albany

His full style, recited at his funeral, was "Most High, Most Mighty, and Illustrious Prince, Frederick Duke of York and of Albany, Earl of Ulster, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order".[27]


His honours were as follows:


As a son of the sovereign, Frederick was granted use of the arms of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points, the centre point bearing a cross gules. The quarter/inescutcheon of Hanover had an inescutcheon argent charged with a wheel of six spokes gules for the Bishopric of Osnabrück.


Fredericton, the capital of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, was named after Prince Frederick. The city was originally named "Frederick's Town"

Also in CanadaDuke of York Bay was named in his honour, since it was discovered on his birthday, 16 August.

In Western AustraliaYork County and the towns of York and Albany were named after Prince Frederick Albany was originally named "Frederick Town"

The towering Duke of York Column on Waterloo Place, just off The Mall, London was completed in 1834 as a memorial to Prince Frederick.

The 72nd Regiment of Foot was given the title Duke of Albany's Own Highlanders in 1823 and, in 1881, became 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders (Ross–shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany's).

The first British fortification in southern Africa, Fort Frederick, Port Elizabeth, a city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, was built in 1799 to prevent French assistance for rebellious Boers in the short-lived republic of Graaff-Reinet.

10 tips for eating local

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Farmers markets are one way to find local produce. Farmers market image from
Karen Charlton, University of Wollongong and Amy Carrad, University of Wollongong

Being a “locavore” means choosing food that is grown locally, and is one way that you can help ensure there is more food to go around.

To feed the predicted nine billion people in the world in 2050, the world will need to produce 70-100% more food. This unprecedented increase in food production will require substantial changes in soil management, land cultivation, and crop production.

This cannot be achieved without technological advances that increase crop yield and reduce the need to use nitrogen-based fertilisers. The question is how this can be achieved sustainably, while also tackling climate change.

This is where “eating local” comes in.

What is eating local?

The primary reason why eating local is good for the planet is the reduction in energy resources required for transport and storage. Generally, the further a food has travelled from “paddock to plate”, the greater its impact on the environment. This is because of fuel used in transport and increased greenhouse gas emissions used for refrigerated storage.

The mode of transport matters too. Transporting food by air generates 177 times more greenhouse gases than shipping it.

The global food system lets us eat food from all over the world, all year round. But food miles impact adversely on the nutritional quality of fresh foods, and on the environment.

Yet while eating foods grown close to where we live makes planetary sense, farmers markets and foods grown more sustainably (organically) often carry a price premium, and seem to be targeted to a trendy and wealthy demographic.

The lack of a definition of “eating locally” also raises questions of how to incorporate organic and fair trade produce within the larger sustainability movement, and how to support developing nations.

Global supply chains place great demands on ecosystems and natural resources, and large distances between where food is produced and consumed is often seen as evidence of an unsustainable food system. However, this is not always as straightforward as it appears.

10 tips for eating local

1: Become familiar with foods that are grown or produced locally and what time of the year they are available. Seasonal food guides are available from some fruit markets and online such as one developed for south-east Queensland.

2: Look for local farmers markets, community gardens, food co-operatives and community supported agriculture schemes. Green Connect is one example of a community-supported agriculture scheme operating in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. In some states such as Tasmania, a thriving food tourism culture may encourage consumers to eat locally but this concept has not been replicated in other parts of the country.

3: Grow your own fruit and vegetables and keep chickens in your own backyard, or get involved in your local community garden, and trade produce with neighbours.

4: Read the labels of packaged foods. The new “Made in Australia” labelling on foods makes it easier to determine where the food (and its individual components) has been grown, processed and packaged.

Australia’s origin labelling can help choose food produced closer to home. Australia government

5: Choose less processed foods. Generally, the more processed a food is, the more energy and water it requires in the production process. Replace junk food with fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables.

6: Take the Eco Friendly Food Challenge and get some friends to join you.

7: Cook meals using fresh ingredients rather than purchasing ready-made meals.

8: Ask your food retailers and manufacturers about the origin of the food you are buying. Locate fruit and vegetable retailers, who sell food produced locally.

9: Limit your intake of alcohol and purchase locally-grown alcohol with the lowest food miles possible. If you enjoy a particular beer or wine, contact the manufacturer to learn about their environmental policies and to advocate for more environmentally friendly production methods.

10: The Fair Food Forager app allows you to search for food outlets that adhere to fair and sustainable practices.

The ConversationCreating consumer demand for more locally and sustainably produced food is being led not only by food champion Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, but also by our very own Australian Youth Food Movement, whose organisers are passionate about improving the food supply for future generations.

Karen Charlton, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong and Amy Carrad, PhD Candidate - Public Health, University of Wollongong

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Prepare for a healthy holiday with this A-to-E guide

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Most ill health can be avoided on family holidays through research and planning in advance, plus smart packing. from
Irani Thevarajan, University of Melbourne

So your well-earned holiday is finally here. But before you pack your swim gear, magazines and camera, take a moment to think about your health.

Experiencing an illness in a foreign destination can be very challenging. Obviously it will reduce the quality of your trip, but it can also leave travellers with unexpected costs and exposed to a foreign medical system. On occasion, serious complications can follow.

More than nine million Australians travel internationally per year, with most trips undertaken by people between the ages of 25 and 55. The top ten most popular destinations for Australians are New Zealand, Indonesia, the USA, UK, Thailand, China, Singapore, Japan, Fiji and India.

A range of new health problems can be encountered during travel, and existing health problems can be exacerbated. Staying healthy is all about being informed, prepared and sensible.

The leading causes of infection-related illness during travel are travellers’ diarrhoea, respiratory infections and infections transmitted by mosquitoes.

Minimise your chances of experiencing these by following a simple ABCDE.

A: Allow time to prepare

Around popular holiday periods, it pays to allow plenty of time to book an appointment at a travel clinic, or a local medical clinic that offers travel vaccinations.

Some vaccinations have two or three doses and may need four weeks for the course to be completed. Examples include vaccines for Japanese encephalitis and rabies.

If travelling as a family, several visits may be required for preparing children for travel certain destinations.

Indonesia is a popular holiday destination for Australians. rueful/flickr, CC BY

Keep in mind that your travel medicine practitioner may need detailed information about your exact itinerary, your past childhood vaccinations, your medical history and medications. If you have all this information readily available, you can get the most out of your travel consultation.

If you have an existing medical condition, get checked out to make sure it’s being managed as expected. For example, blood pressure medications may need to be adjusted if your blood pressure is either too high or too low.

Yellow fever immunisations and other live vaccines – those that contain active components – should be avoided if you are on medications that reduce your immunity, such as steroids like prednisolone. You may need alterations to immunosuppressive medications some weeks before you travel, or an official letter exempting you from a vaccine that is necessary for entry into certain countries (as is the case with yellow fever vaccine).

B: Behaviour - think about it

Holiday makers often seek to get out of their comfort zones. But it’s worth avoiding the temptation to completely let your hair down: behaviours you would never entertain in the home setting should be avoided in a foreign setting as well. You may also need to alter some of your daily living behaviours.

Traveller’s diarrhoea can largely be avoided by using bottled water in any setting that you consume water, including staying hydrated, brushing your teeth, washing fruit and salads, and making ice blocks and other drinks.

Eat food from venues that appear to adhere to good food hygiene standards – although this can be difficult to judge. Avoid hawker food or street food where items may have been left for long periods at temperatures where bacteria can multiply. When uncertain of hygiene standards, selecting packaged food is the safest choice.

Respiratory infections are common in travellers. If you find yourself in a crowded setting where someone appears unwell and is coughing, create a distance to reduce the risk of being infected. Alcohol-based hand gels are useful to maintain hand hygiene and may protect you from infection due to common colds and other viruses that linger on surfaces.

Smart packing is also important. You should travel with sunscreen and clothes that protect you from sun exposure, and repellent that has an active component to repel insects if travelling to an area where mosquitoes can transmit infections such as dengue, Zika and malaria.

Dengue is a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. echbirmingham/flickr, CC BY

Avoid acquiring a sexually transmitted infection by using barrier protection (condoms) for sexual intercourse.

C: Check safety, and have a check up

Review travel warnings at a reputable website, such as SmartTraveller.

A general check up is advised to ensure your health is stable. Health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes or a lowered immune system may put you at greater risk of travellers’ diarrhoea. Cancer or recent operations can increase risk of developing a blood clot.

Check ups are also a good opportunity to ensure that your vaccinations are up-to-date (see below).

D: Drugs (medications) and vaccines are vital

Medications that can reduce the time or severity of travellers’ diarrhoea are recommended for almost any destination, but particularly when travelling to developing countries where food hygiene standards can be variable. Examples include antibiotics such as azithromycin that treat bacterial causes of diarrhoea, and drugs such as tinidazole to treat parasitic causes of diarrhoea.

Medications such as doxycycline or malarone that protect against being infected with malaria are recommended in some regions within Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific.

Zika virus infection generally causes a mild illness or no symptoms at all. Pregnant female travellers are advised to avoid travel to a Zika endemic area. Couples planning a pregnancy in the near future should seek advice from a health professional if travelling to a Zika endemic country.

Sunburn can easily be prevented with appropriate clothing, hats and sunscreen. nicksie2008/flickr, CC BY

If you’re travelling to destinations that are above 2500 metres (such Cusco in Peru), talk to your doctor about medications that help prevent or manage altitude sickness.

The normal schedule of vaccinations provided to Australians may not cover you for illnesses found in your holiday destination. Extra vaccinations are necessary for certain destinations.

For example, yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause anything from mild fevers to a severe illness involving multiple organs. Vaccination against yellow fever is required for entry into countries with known yellow fever transmission, and for returning back to Australia if visiting an area of known transmission.

Australians may consider vaccinations against the following diseases before travel to popular holiday destinations:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Influenza
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Rabies
  • Tuberculosis
  • Typhoid
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Yellow fever
  • Cholera
  • Measles
  • Polio
  • Tetanus

A full list of countries and recommended vaccinations has been compiled by the USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ConversationEven if you’re previously been vaccinated for some of these conditions, as time passes you may require boosters to strengthen your immunity.

E: Enjoy your trip!

Relax, you’ve earned a break. from

Irani Thevarajan, Honorary Fellow Nossal Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases Physician, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Can you be a sustainable tourist without giving up flying?

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It should be possible to enjoy your holiday and give the planet a break. lazyllama/Shutterstock
Morgan Saletta, University of Melbourne

Australians love to travel. About 9 million Australians travelled overseas in 2013, 60% of them on holiday. For most tourists, sustainable developmenimate change were probably not high on their list of concerns. But increasing numbers of travellers are concerned about these issues.

Is sustainable tourism possible when tourism accounts for about 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions? If the tourism sector were a country, it would be the fifth-largest greenhouse emitter in the world.

By far the largest source of these emissions is transport, particularly air travel. If the current growth trend continues, these emissions could triple within 30 years.

On the other hand, tourism is incredibly important for local development. Indeed, it offers the only sustainable means of economic development for many developing countries. The UN World Tourism Organization says that tourism will be important in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, which include ensuring environmental sustainability and eliminating extreme poverty.

Exactly how the tourism industry can best help to meet these goals is a matter of debate. However, it seems clear that tourism can make a positive contribution to conservation efforts around the world as well as boosting local economies, although you do have to pump out greenhouse gases to get there.

To travel or not to travel, that is the question

What options does the environmentally concerned tourist have? Is the only responsible action to restrict holidays to places that can be reached by foot, bike, or train? This is certainly not impossible, but it seems unlikely that enough people would be willing to do it to deliver much of an impact. And even if they did, they would deprive many developing countries of the economic and environmental benefits of tourism.

As the UN Environment Programme points out, tourism is one of the main ways to pay for nature conservation and protection. For example, the Orangutan Foundation project in Indonesia’s Tanjung Puting National Park receives US$45,000 (A$51,000) every year from wildlife travel agency Steppes Discovery, a member of the Tour Operators Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development. This money pays for rangers, the care of orphaned orangutans, and helps fund the park.

So is it possible to enjoy an overseas holiday without contributing to catastrophic climate change? Will our enjoyment of a remote tropical beach literally submerge it under rising sea levels? Is there a balance between the environmental costs of tourism and its benefits? Sustainable tourism arguably means working out what this balance is, and then ensuring we stay on the right side of it.

Carbon offsets: atoning for sins of emission?

Reducing emissions growth projected in a “business as usual” scenario requires changes both in consumer behaviour and in the way the tourism industry is structured.

Carbon-offset schemes are not universally supported, and can be confusingly complex. It is important to understand that there are uncertainties involved in such offset schemes. Because they aim merely to offset emissions rather than reduce them, some people reject these schemes altogether as an option. Some even portray the notion of offsetting as a modern-day indulgence for climate sins.

Some of the criticisms are valid. But purists miss an important point: many activities that are vital to global development goals are unlikely ever to be emissions-free. Tourism is one such activity.

Carbon-offset schemes and the standards by which they are accredited certainly need monitoring and regulation. Ultimately this will need to be done within the framework of a global climate treaty. They are, however, a positive example of business opportunities generated by the demand for low-carbon tourism options.

For the individual tourist, offsetting is increasingly easy and cheap. According to the Qantas calculator, offsetting a round-trip from Melbourne to Los Angeles only costs about A$25 at present. Flights within Australia can be offset for as little as the price of a cup of coffee.

Other tourism activities can be offset too – rental car firm Europcar, for instance, offers offsets purchased though carbon forestry company Greenfleet.

Other companies offering offsets in Australia include Climate Friendly, Carbon Planet, and Carbon Neutral. These firms engage in many types of offset projects including forestry, wind power, and others. Our Planet Travel recommends that consumers look into the types of projects an offset scheme uses, to ensure it is one they support.

Forestry projects, in particular have attracted a lot of attention. It is generally accepted that forest growth can store carbon dioxide, and an analysis of forest carbon sink projects found that this approach can be useful in meeting emissions-reduction targets. However, these projects come with inherent uncertainties: if a forest burns, for example, the stored carbon is re-emitted.

Of course, climate change itself may exacerbate the risk of such fires. On the other hand, timber harvested from forestry projects is safe from bushfires and could still be counted towards the offset total, because it still contains much of the carbon from the tree. All of these different factors will need to be studied carefully, preferably at an international level as part of an agreed climate treaty.

A guilt-free pleasure?

Given that offsets seem to be a way of having one’s cake and eating it too, these schemes should appeal to tourists. By offsetting, they can enjoy their holiday and contribute to global development while at the same time atoning for their sins of emission. Unfortunately, according to Qantas, only 5% of air travellers currently choose to offset.

Sadly, this is an area where consumer choice may not be best and responsible governments as well as corporations need to take the lead. Ecotours, for example, often bundle carbon offsets into their price. It can only be hoped that airlines will follow suit.

The ConversationUltimately, however, what’s required is a clear global framework for reducing emissions, in which offsets can play a part. We need, in other words, an international climate agreement. The devil, as always, will be in the details.

Morgan Saletta, Doctoral Candidate and Graduate TA in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

‘Sustainable tourism’ is not working – here’s how we can change that

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Trips to Antartica are part of the ‘last chance’ tourism to environmentally fragile places. Shutterstock
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, University of South Australia

This year is the United Nations’ International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. UN World Tourism Organisation Secretary-General Taleb Rifai declared it gave:

… a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued.

Sustainable tourism comes from the concept of sustainable development, as set out in the 1987 Brundtland report. Sustainable development is:

… development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

British environmental activist George Monbiot argued that, over the years, sustainable development has morphed into sustained growth. The essence of his argument is that little resolve exists to go beyond rhetoric. This is because environmental crises require we limit the demands we place on it, but our economies require endless growth.

At the moment, economic growth trumps environmental limits, so sustainability remains elusive.

What is sustainable tourism?

Tourism is important to our efforts to achieve sustainable development. It is a massive industry, and many countries rely on it for their economies.

In 2016, more than 1.2 billion people travelled as tourists internationally, and another 6 billion people travelled domestically.

According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, sustainable tourism is:

… tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

Following on from Monbiot’s criticism, we might ask if efforts are directed at “sustaining tourism”, or instead harnessing tourism for wider sustainable development goals.

No place is off the tourism circuit

Looking at some of the tourism trouble spots, complacency is not called for.

Venice residents have accused tourists of “destroying their city”. Barcelona’s government has passed legislation to limit new tourist accommodation. The Galapagos sees mass tourism’s arrival threatening the iconic wildlife that attracts visitors.

No place is off the tourism circuit, so tourism grows with few limits. Ironically, tourists even want to tour Antarctica to see its pristine environment before it disappears (“last-chance tourism”). This is despite their impacts contributing to global warming and threatening this last wild place.

It is difficult to get a complete picture of the impacts of tourism because no-one is working to build a comprehensive view. So, insights are fragmented.

While we might be sceptical that UN “years” are often more rhetoric than real, we can nonetheless seize the opportunity to make tourism more sustainable.

How can tourism be made more sustainable?

Tourism can be made more sustainable through several achievable measures. Some look to technological solutions so we can continue business as usual. Others highlight conscious consumerism and ideas like slow travel.

But in a world in which growing populations with endless consumer demands are pitted against a fragile environment, we require more concerted effort.

1) Governments must implement policies that foster sustainable development by overcoming the growth fetish. Tourism then should be developed only within sustainable development parameters. Governments must tackle the environmental limits to growth and climate change challenges we confront. Tourism development requires integrated planning. So, we need the government tourism authorities – such as Tourism Australia or state tourism commissions – focused equally on integrated planning as the marketing they currently emphasise.

2) Consumers should be educated for responsible travel choices. For example, few realise that all-inclusive resorts result in economic benefits from tourism leaking out of the host economy back to the home economies of the big multinationals and corporations that often own such resorts (think Club Med). Civics education in schools could educate for responsible travel.

3) Local communities, often treated as only as one stakeholder among the many, must have a right to participate in tourism decision-making and have a say on if and how their communities become tourism destinations.

4) Workers of tourism must have their rights respected and given decent conditions. Tourism should not be allowed to continue as a low-wage and precarious source of employment.

5) The tourism industry needs to assume greater responsibility, submitting to local tax regimes and regulations so its presence builds thriving communities, rather than undermining them. This is increasingly essential as a social license to operate. The industry should also educate its clients on responsible tourism.

6) Non-governmental organisations are essential for reporting on the abuses of tourism, including land grabs, human rights abuses, community opposition and corruption.

The ConversationHarnessing these essential stakeholders in a rigorous agenda for sustainable development, rather than sustaining tourism, would make the UN’s “year” more meaningful.

Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, Senior Lecturer in Tourism, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How changing your diet could save animals from extinction

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Nearly one-third of tropical animal species face extinction if humans do not curb our growing appetites for beef, pork and other land-intensive meats. The Panamanian golden frog bred by the Vancouver Aquarium in this 2014 file photo may be extinct in its natural habitat. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Laura Kehoe, University of Victoria

Transforming large swaths of the tropics into farmland could render almost one-third of wildlife there extinct, new research suggests.

From the Amazon rain forests to the Zambezi floodplains, intensive monoculture farming could have a severe adverse impact on wildlife around the world.

Wildlife would disappear most dramatically in the remaining forests and grasslands of Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. The greatest species loss would occur in the Peruvian Amazon basin where as many as 317 species could vanish as a result of agricultural development.

As a doctoral researcher at Humboldt University Berlin, I studied human food consumption, land use and how they affect wildlife. Our research was published July 17 in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

While human population has doubled since 1970, the number of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians have dropped by more than half. At its root, this widespread environmental destruction is a result of our growth as a species and increasing food consumption to sustain ourselves.

Although climate change casts a shadow over future conservation efforts, farming is the No. 1 threat to wildlife. We have already altered some 75 per cent of the ice-free land on this planet. If we continue along our current course, we will need to double our crop production to feed a growing world population that demands more resource-intensive foods such as meat and dairy.

Africa at risk

Our research shows that Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly at risk of harmful agricultural development. This region is at the crossroads of economic, demographic and agricultural growth, and minimizing potential effects of agricultural change there is an urgent challenge.

The potential biodiversity loss due to agricultural expansion and intensification worldwide could be as high as 317 species in some locales (left), reaching 31 per cent of known vertebrate animals (right). (Laura Kehoe), Author provided

This becomes more worrying when considering the percentage of land that is currently at risk (i.e. natural but arable) and not protected against future development. Four-fifths of the regions we identify at risk of farmland expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa are unprotected. This is less than half of the 43 per cent protected in Latin America.

Some may mistakenly believe that protecting land from farming is about preserving wildlife habitat while local people go hungry. But it’s not a binary choice. Instead, the goal is to ensure an ample supply of nutritious food while at the same time conserving the most biodiverse and unique places on Earth. This is possible if we try. Knowing in advance what areas are most at risk allows us to better plan for a more sustainable future.

Aside from protecting land, food can be grown at little to no cost to biodiversity. For example, small-holder agro-ecological farming, which uses diverse cropping techniques along with fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides, can produce large quantities of nutritious food at little to no cost to wildlife.

We need to increase awareness of agro-ecological farming methods and secure local people’s land-holder rights — a crucial step to preventing large foreign corporations from buying up land for monoculture farming.

Communities adopting agro-ecological techniques is a win-win solution that goes a long way towards sustainably feeding the world without pushing wildlife towards extinction.

What can policy makers do?

Current large-scale conservation schemes are based on factors that include past habitat loss and the threatened status of species, but none include the potential for future land-use change. We need to do a better job of predicting future pressures on wildlife habitat, especially because timely conservation action is cheaper and more effective than trying to fix the damage caused by farming. Our research takes a step in this direction.

We also show which countries could do with more support for conservation initiatives to protect land and find ways to sustainably grow food. Suriname, Guyana and the Republic of the Congo are just a few examples, as well as a number of countries in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa that are at the centre of high agricultural growth, low conservation investment and very high numbers of species that could be lost due to agricultural development.

Since most agricultural demand comes from richer nations, those countries should provide education and support for sustainable farming methods and locally led conservation efforts.

Map shows countries at risk of high species loss from agricultural development (yellow, bear icon), rapid agricultural growth 2009 to 2013 (orange, tractor symbol), and differing levels of conservation spending. Red represents low spending, high growth, and high species loss. Purple shows high spending, high growth, and low species loss. Green is high spending, low growth, and high species loss. Low values for all three factors are in grey. White represents no data. Dollar figures per square kilometre. Laura Kehoe, Author provided

What can you do?

All of this raises the question: How can we eat well without harming wildlife? One simple step we can all take right now that would have a far greater impact than any other (aside from having fewer children): Cut out the grain-fed beef.

The inefficiency of feeding livestock grain to turn them into meals for humans makes a diet heavy in animals particularly harsh on the Earth’s resources. For example, in the United States, it takes 25 kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef. Pigs have a grain-to-meat-ratio of 9:1, and chickens are 3:1.

Imagine throwing away 25 plates of perfectly good food to get one plate of beef — the idea is absurd and would likely be news if done en masse. But that is precisely what we are all unknowingly doing by eating resource-intensive meat. Articles on food waste seem half-baked when keeping in mind the bizarre grain-to-meat ratio of many of our most popular meats.

There are ways in which farmers can raise livestock with little to no environmental damage, particularly when land is not overgrazed and trees remain on the landscape. Indeed, in some remote areas grazing cattle are a crucial source of food and nourishment. Unfortunately, the industrialized feedlot model that relies heavily on grain makes up the overwhelming majority of the meat in your supermarket. That is the kind of farming that our research investigates.

Livestock and deforestation

To make matters worse, the grain we feed animals is the leading driver of deforestation in the tropics. And it’s a hungry beast: our cows, pigs, and poultry devour over one-third of all crops we grow. Indeed, the grain we feed to animals in the U.S. alone could feed an additional 800 million people if it were eaten by us directly — more than the number of people currently living in hunger.

Livestock quietly causes 10 times more deforestation than the palm oil industry but seems to get about 10 times less media attention. While it’s certainly true that avoiding unsustainable palm oil is a good idea, avoiding eating animals that were raised on grain is an even more effective conservation tactic.

Feeding the world without damaging nature is one of the greatest challenges humanity faces. But with a little foresight, better land governance and some simple meal changes, many of the solutions are at arm’s length.

The ConversationFor wildlife’s sake, go forth and enjoy your veggie burgers.

Laura Kehoe, Researcher in Conservation Decision Science and Land Use, University of Victoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Hugs, drugs and choices: helping traumatised animals

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Interspecies relationships can help traumatised animals form healthy attachments. Sugarshine animal sactuary, CC BY-SA
David John Roland, University of Sydney

Rosie, like a real-life Babe, ran away from an organic piggery when she was only a few days old. She was found wandering in a car park, highly agitated, by a family who took her home and made her their live-in pet. However, after three months they could no longer keep her.

She was relocated to the Sugarshine animal sanctuary, outside Lismore in New South Wales. Kelly Nelder, Sugarshine’s founder and a mental health nurse, described her as “highly strung” and “needy”. It’s not surprising that Rosie, after the loss of two primary care attachments, was unable to bond with the other pigs; she was traumatised.

I met Rosie when I visited Sugarshine, investigating the similarities between human and animal trauma. I spent 20 years as a clinical and forensic psychologist, but as an undergraduate I studied zoology.

My zoology lecturers told us not to anthropomorphise – that is, not to project human qualities, intentions and emotions onto the animals we studied. But now there is a growing recognition of animals’ inner life and their experience of psychopathology, including trauma.

At Sugarshine, traumatised animals are given freedom to find solitude or company as they wish. Interspecies relationships are encouraged, like a baby goat being cared for by a male adult pig, or a rooster who sleeps alongside a goat.

Rosie has been at Sugarshine for a few months now and is more settled, roaming its gullies, farmyards and shelters, although according to Kelly she’s still anxious. She prefers the company of the bobby calves, wedging herself between them as they lie on the ground, getting skin-to-skin contact, falling asleep, and beginning the reattachment process.

Rosie the anxious pig likes to sleep with bobby calves at Sugarshine animal sanctuary. Sugarshine animal sanctuary, CC BY

Understanding trauma in animals

I first made the connection between human and animal trauma on a visit to Possumwood Wildlife, a centre outside Canberra that rehabilitates injured kangaroos and abandoned joeys, wallabies and wombats. There I met its founders, economics professor Steve Garlick and his partner Dr Rosemary Austen, a GP.

When joeys were first brought into their care, Steve told me, they were “inconsolable” and “dying in our arms”, even while physically unharmed, with food and shelter available to them.

But this response made sense once they recognised the joey’s symptoms as reminiscent of post-traumatic stress disorder in humans: intrusive symptoms, avoidant behaviour, disturbed emotional states, heightened anxiety and hypervigilance.

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have developed non-invasive means for measuring stress and mood in animals and are now working with sheep farmers to improve the well-being of their animals. PTSD has been identified in elephants, dogs, chimpanzees and baboons, for example.

Safe, calm and caring

To rehabilitate from trauma, humans and animals need to feel safe and away from cues that trigger the individual’s threat response, deactivating the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-flight response). They also need a means of self-soothing, or to gain soothing from another, activating the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest, digest and calm response).

Progress, from then on, requires the development of a secure relationship with at least one other accepting and caring person or animal. Often, this “other” is someone new. In mammals, including us, this activates our affiliative system: our strong desire for close interpersonal relationships for safety, soothing and stability. We enter a calmer, receptive state of being so that the reattachment process can begin.

Possumwood uses three stages for trauma rehabilitation. Young animals are first kept in a dark, quiet environment indoors to reduce noises or sounds that might trigger their fight-flight response. Here they have the opportunity to develop new kin friendships of their own choosing.

Sedatives (Diazepam and Fluphenazine) are judiciously used in the early stages. Then, the principal carer spends as much time as possible feeding and caressing them to build a new bond.

Kangaroos are social animals, unable to survive in the wild unless part of a mob. So joeys are moved next to a large garage, and then finally to an outdoor yard, gradually being exposed to more kangaroos and creating social bonds. Once a mob grows to 30 or so healthy animals, they are released into the wild together.

The fundamentals are the same

The similarity between animal and human trauma is not surprising. Mammalian brains (birds also appear to experience trauma) share the principal architecture involved in experiencing trauma. The primates, and certainly humans, have a greater capacity for cognitive reflection, which in my clinical experience can be both a help and a hindrance.

My observations of trauma rehabilitation at Sugarshine and Possumwood emphasises the universal fundamentals:

  • A sense of agency (freedom and control over their choices)
  • To feel safe
  • To develop a trusting, caring bond with at least one other creature
  • Reintegration into the community at the trauma sufferer’s own discretion.

The ConversationFor those experiencing social isolation and shame around their trauma – such as returned soldiers or the victims of domestic violence – these principles could not be more pertinent. And for our non-human cousins, like Rosie, we would do well to remember that they do feel, and they do hurt.

David John Roland, Honorary Associate with the School of Medicine, University of Sydney, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

In defence of bats: beautifully designed mammals that should be left in peace

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USFWS Pacific/flickr, CC BY
Daniel Horton, University of Surrey

As a wildlife veterinarian, I often get asked about bats. I like bats, and I am always eager to talk about how interesting they are. Unfortunately the question is often not about biology but instead “what should I do about the ones in my roof?”.

With some unique talents and remarkable sex lives, bats are actually one of the most interesting, diverse and misunderstood groups of animals. Contrary to popular belief, they are beautiful creatures. Not necessarily in the cuddly, human-like sense – although some fruit bats with doey brown eyes and button noses could be considered so – but they are beautifully designed.

A flying fox shows off its 50 million-year-old wing design. Duncan PJ, CC BY-SA

Soon afterwards, fossils record another game-changing adaptation in the evolution of most bats, and that is the ability to accurately locate prey using sound (what we call echolocation). These two adaptations early in their history gave bats an evolutionary edge compared to some other mammals, and allowed them to diversify into almost all habitats, on every continent except Antarctica.

Some bats are tiny. Gillles San Martin, CC BY-SA

There are now more than 1,300 different species, divided among 26 different families (compared to fewer than 500 primate species). Indonesia alone has 219 different bat species.

It is not just a quantity though – the variety is astonishing. The thumb-sized bumblebee bat of Thailand is the smallest species, weighing just two grammes. And like other insectivorous bats, it can eat its own body weight in insects every night. At the other end of the scale, some large flying foxes have wingspans of well over a metre and, having lost the ability to echolocate, eat fruit and nectar.

The eerily pale ‘ghost bat’ roosts in the back of caves and will even eat other smaller bats. quollism, CC BY

Everyone knows that some bats feed on blood, but despite the “vampire” myth, only three species actually feed on blood. And these haematophagous bats are only found in parts of South America. They also definitely don’t get tangled in your hair. Bats are far too good at flying.

If thus far I haven’t persuaded you to like bats, you must admit that they are useful. Bats defecate while regularly flying very long distances (up to 350km in one night), making them extremely effective at dispersing seeds. Add to that the fact that some fruit bats live in colonies up to 1m strong, and you can start to imagine their impact. So much so, they have been proven key in reforestation.

Another unappreciated and major role is as pest controllers. The sheer volume of insects that some bats species can eat makes them very effective at suppressing pest insects. Bats reduce the nuisance and disease threat of mosquitoes, and it has been estimated they save the US economy at least $3.7 billion every year through increased crop productivity and reduction of pesticide usage.

A Mauritian Tomb Bat with her pup. Frank.Vassen/flickr, CC BY

Despite their ancient design, they show some remarkable talents. One of these is shared only by several select animals. Bats are vocal learners – able to learn and then imitate sounds even in adulthood. This is likely important for the development of the complex social organisation seen in many bat species. Most surprising of all is the recent revelation that they are also members of an even more exclusive and less salubrious club: animals known to partake in fellatio during copulation.

Bats have had some bad press recently due to their association with infectious diseases, from rabies to Ebola. And they appear able to tolerate some viruses fatal to other species. If anything, that illustrates again why they should be respected, especially as various bat species are also endangered and therefore protected by law in many regions.

The ConversationSo my response to those interested in what to do about the bats in their roof? Leave them alone.

Daniel Horton, Lecturer in Veterinary Virology, University of Surrey

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Should we move species threatened by climate change?

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New Zealand’s ancient tuatara might need a helping hand to cope with climate change. Flickr/Sheep"R"Us
Tracy Rout, University of Melbourne; Doug Armstrong, Massey University; Eve McDonald-Madden, CSIRO; Hugh Possingham, The University of Queensland; Nicola Mitchell, University of Western Australia, and Tara Martin, CSIRO

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 change is not so much that climate is changing, but that it is changing faster than species can move or adapt.

One of the solutions is to move species to places with a more suitable climate. But the idea of introducing species to areas where they have never occurred before is controversial, because species introduced to somewhere they’ve never lived could have devastating consequences for the species already there. Just think of foxes, lantana, cane toads and other invasive species in Australia.

So how do we weigh up the costs and benefits? In a new study published today in journal PLOS ONE, we developed a way of finding the answer.

Australia’s species at risk

Moving species threatened by climate change isn’t a new idea. In fact we’ve already moved some, while others are being considered.

One of them is the critically endangered Western Swamp Tortoise from Perth in Western Australia - Australia’s rarest reptile. It currently faces extinction thanks to declining seasonal rainfall, which is drying up the swamps the tortoise calls home. To stop the tortoise becoming extinct, scientists have considered potential new sites far to the south of its home range.

Another species facing climate extinction is the Mountain Pygmy-possum, a tiny mammal that currently resides on three snowy mountain tops in Victoria and New South Wales. As temperatures warm the possum is running out of room to move upwards. Snow cover, and the length of time snow stays on the ground, is decreasing rapidly.

This means the possums come out of winter hibernation earlier, and can’t find enough food. The mountains have also seen an influx of feral predators, which previously found the area inaccessible thanks to snow cover.

Weighing up the costs

It’s far from clear cut which species might benefit from this drastic action, and for which it would be a costly and risky mistake. How should wildlife managers approach the decision of whether to move animals into new areas, or leave them in places that may become uninhabitable for them?

In our study we outlined a framework that can quantify whether the benefit of moving a species outweighs the ecological cost.

The benefit of moving a species is based on the likelihood it will go extinct in its original habitat as the local climate becomes hostile, the likelihood that a breeding population can be established at a new site, and the value or importance of the species.

The ecological cost depends on the potential for the species to adversely affect the ecosystem at the new site. Species are considered candidates for re-location only if the benefit of doing so is greater than the ecological cost.

This decision involves both scientific predictions (what’s the likelihood the species will go extinct in its current range?) and subjective judgements (how do we value the conservation of this species compared to species already living at the introduction site?). Our framework separates these questions out.

The framework is intended to support the revised “IUCN guidelines for re-introductions and other conservation translocations”, which explicitly calls for structured decision-making frameworks for conservation introductions.

Testing on tuatara

We test drove our new framework using the hypothetical case of the New Zealand tuatara which is being considered for relocation from its home on a number of small offshore islands in the north of NZ to the South Island, outside of its current range. The tuatara is the country’s largest reptile and the only surviving representative of an ancient lineage.

The tuatara faces a peculiar threat from climate change. Like many reptiles, the sex of a tuatara is determined by incubation temperature, with higher temperatures giving rise to males and lower temperatures to females. The population from North Brother Island in New Zealand’s Cook Strait is already showing signs of too many males. This is expected to worsen as temperatures increase, putting the population at risk of extinction.

We considered an introduction from the North Brother Island population to a hypothetical mainland sanctuary on New Zealand’s South Island. We used a previously published population model to predict the effect of climate change on the North Brother Island population, and estimated that the current population of 550 tuatara has a 0.43 chance of persisting in 150 years time. If we remove animals to introduce them elsewhere, this slightly decreases the probability to 0.42.

We found that the chance of successfully establishing a new population was good, and that the chance that the new population will impact negatively on the ecosystem was low.

The ConversationTuatara show why it’s essential to have a rigorous framework like this to take the gut instinct and guesswork out of the decision, so we can make smarter choices for conserving species under climate change.

Tracy Rout, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Melbourne; Doug Armstrong, Professor of Conservation Biology, Massey University; Eve McDonald-Madden, Postdoctoral Fellow, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences., CSIRO; Hugh Possingham, Director ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, The University of Queensland; Nicola Mitchell, Associate Professor in Conservation Physiology, University of Western Australia, and Tara Martin, Senior Research Scientist, Ecosystem Sciences, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australian endangered species: Mountain Pygmy-possum

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The Mountain Pygmy-possum is clinging to existence in its alpine refuges. Hayley Bates
Hayley Bates, UNSW and Haijing Shi, UNSW

The Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) is one of five living species of pygmy-possum, all of which are classified within a single family. It is the largest of the pygmy-possums, and can be easily distinguished from other members of the family by its distinctive “buzz saw” premolar teeth.

Unlike most other possums, it is mainly ground-dwelling, inhabiting alpine and subalpine boulderfields and rocky scree in south-eastern Australia. Males and females spend most of the year separately. Females and their young occupy the best quality habitat.

The Mountain Pygmy-possum is also the only Australian marsupial that hibernates for long periods during the winter. Mating begins in early spring when the possums emerge from their winter sleep.

Mountain Pygmy-possums are the only marsupials that hibernate during the winter. Hayley Bates

Up to four young are born. The young grow quickly and are weaned 9-10 weeks after conception. They leave the nest a month later. Most pygmy-possums live for only 1-3 years, however males can live to five years, and females to 12.


The Mountain Pygmy-possum is remarkable in that it was first described from a Pleistocene fossil by Robert Broom in 1896. At the time it was thought to be extinct.

In 1966 a living specimen was discovered in a Ski Club Lodge on Mount Hotham in Victoria. With evidence of only one living animal in existence, the Guinness Book of Records of 1967 recorded the Mountain Pygmy-possum as the rarest animal on Earth.

Surveys later found a number of colonies across the New South Wales and Victorian Alps ranging in elevation from 1200m-2228m above sea level.

Today there are only three known populations: Mount Higginbotham and Mount Buller in Victoria, and Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales. The total population size is estimated to be less than 2600 adults, restricted to a total range less than 10 square kilometres. It is the only mammal that is entirely restricted to the alpine and subalpine regions of south-eastern Australia.


Only small patches of suitable pygmy-possum habitat remain. Degradation, fragmentation and loss of these remaining refuges are among the immediate threat to the continuing viability of the species. Up to a third of the best breeding habitat has been lost at Mount Buller alone, due to ski resort developments.

How this remaining habitat is connected is essential. Males need to be able to migrate safely to females during the breeding season. Connectivity also maintains the large-scale structure of the population and genetic diversity. However, road and ski slopes have fragmented the landscape.

Hayley Bates

Climate change poses the greatest ongoing threat to the Mountain Pygmy-possum.

Increases in temperature will cause significant changes in alpine areas. Specifically higher temperatures will reduce snow depth and the time snow remains on the ground. These processes have a cascade of ecological consequences

Bogong moths are a vital food source for Mountain Pygmy-possums when they awake from hibernation. These moths migrate to the mountains every summer to escape lowland heat. If snow melts early, possums awake from hibernation before the moths arrive in the mountains. The possums then have to compete with other small mammals - such as antechinus and rodents - living in the same habitat. They are forced to leave the boulderfields for other sources of food, exposing them to cats and foxes.

Warming also gives invasive predators a chance to move into areas previously inaccessible. Once the extreme cold kept them out.


A national recovery plan was drafted in 2010 to ensure Mountain Pygmy-possums persist across their range and maintain their potential to evolve in the wild.

Healesville Sanctuary has successfully launched a captive breeding program for the Mountain Pygmy-possum in Victoria. This facility maximises genetic diversity within the populations by carefully selecting mating pairs.

Pygmy-possums occasionally climb around in the boulderfields instead of researchers’ hands. A Meyers

A second captive breeding facility is to be established in Lithgow for the New South Wales population as part of the Burramys Project. The captive population is an insurance policy against natural disaster.

The project aims to gain a greater understanding of how Mountain Pygmy-possums will adapt to climate change by looking to the fossil record. The pygymy-possum family has been found in fossils dating to 24 million years ago.


Although the Mountain Pygmy-possum is highly vulnerable to extinction, it can be saved.

After ten years of severe drought and a drastic decline in possum numbers, rain finally arrived in 2010. Over the last three years we have seen a rise in Mountain Pygmy-possums across New South Wales and Victoria. This growth is attributed to a number of factors including more food and water, genetic diversity through translocations, and pest management.

Here, have another possum. Hayley Bates

Recently a critically important discovery was made of a new population of Mountain Pygmy-possums in Kosciuszko National Park. These possums live below the tree line, in an area that receives little snow fall. They may play a key role in understanding how this species will adapt to future challenges.

The ConversationThe Conversation is running a series on Australian endangered species. See it here.

Hayley Bates, PhD Candidate, UNSW and Haijing Shi, Research Associate, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How the warming world could turn many plants and animals into climate refugees

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The Flinders Ranges were once a refuge from a changing climate. Shutterstock
Matt Christmas, University of Adelaide

Finding the optimum environment and avoiding uninhabitable conditions has been a challenge faced by species throughout the history of life on Earth. But as the climate changes, many plants and animals are likely to find their favoured home much less hospitable.

In the short term, animals can react by seeking shelter, whereas plants can avoid drying out by closing the small pores on their leaves. Over longer periods, however, these behavioural responses are often not enough. Species may need to migrate to more suitable habitats to escape harsh environments.

During glacial times, for instance, large swathes of Earth’s surface became inhospitable to many plants and animals as ice sheets expanded. This resulted in populations migrating away from or dying off in parts of their ranges. To persist through these times of harsh climatic conditions and avoid extinction, many populations would migrate to areas where the local conditions remained more accommodating.

These areas have been termed “refugia” and their presence has been essential to the persistence of many species, and could be again. But the rapid rate of global temperature increases, combined with recent human activity, may make this much harder.

Finding the refugia

Evidence for the presence of historic climate refugia can often be found within a species’ genome. The size of populations expanding from a refugium will generally be smaller than the parent population within them. Thus, the expanding populations will generally lose genetic diversity, through processes such as genetic drift and inbreeding. By sequencing the genomes of multiple individuals within different populations of a species, we can identify where the hotbeds of genetic diversity lie, thus pinpointing potential past refugia.

My colleagues and I recently investigated population genetic diversity in the narrow-leaf hopbush, a native Australian plant that got its common name from its use in beer-making by early European Australians. The hopbush has a range of habitats, from woodlands to rocky outcrops on mountain ranges, and has a wide distribution across southern and central Australia. It is a very hardy species with a strong tolerance for drought.

We found that populations in the Flinders Ranges have more genetic diversity than those to the east of the ranges, suggesting that these populations are the remnants of an historic refugium. Mountain ranges can provide ideal refuge, with species only needing to migrate short distances up or down the slope to remain within their optimal climatic conditions.

In Australia, the peak of the last ice age led to dryer conditions, particularly in the centre. As a result, many plant and animal species gradually migrated across the landscape to southern refugial regions that remained more moist. Within the south-central region, an area known as the Adelaide Geosyncline has been recognised as an important historic refugium for several animal and plant species. This area encompasses two significant mountain ranges: the Mount Lofty and Flinders ranges.

Refugia of the future

In times of increased temperatures (in contrast to the lower temperatures experienced during the ice age) retreats to refugia at higher elevations or towards the poles can provide respite from unfavourably hot and dry conditions. We are already seeing these shifts in species distributions.

But migrating up a mountain can lead to a literal dead end, as species ultimately reach the top and have nowhere else to go. This is the case for the American Pika, a cold-adapted relative of rabbits that lives in mountainous regions in North America. It has disappeared from more than one-third of its previously known range as conditions have become too warm in many of the alpine regions it once inhabited.

Further, the almost unprecedented rate of global temperature increase means that species need to migrate at rapid rates. Couple this with the destructive effects of agriculture and urbanisation, leading to the fragmentation and disconnection of natural habitats, and migration to suitable refugia may no longer be possible for many species.

While evidence for the combined effects of habitat fragmentation and climate change is currently scarce, and the full effects are yet to be realised, the predictions are dire. For example, modelling the twin impact of climate change and habitat fragmentation on drought sensitive butterflies in Britain led to predictions of widespread population extinctions by 2050.

Within the Adelaide Geosyncline, the focal area of our study, the landscape has been left massively fragmented since European settlement, with estimates of only 10% of native woodlands remaining in some areas. The small pockets of remaining native vegetation are therefore left quite disconnected. Migration and gene flow between these pockets will be limited, reducing the survival chances of species like the hopbush.

The ConversationSo while refugia have saved species in the past, and poleward and up-slope shifts may provide temporary refuge for some, if global temperatures continue to rise, more and more species will be pushed beyond their limits.

Matt Christmas, ARC Research Associate, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Fair winds and following seas: yes, a spider could migrate across an ocean

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Hang on, is that a spider floating this way? Andrea Izzotti/shutterstock
Ceridwen Fraser, Australian National University

Today a new paper proposes trapdoor spiders arrived on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, after drifting across the sea from Africa.

Molecular analyses of spiders from Kangaroo Island, other parts of Australia, and Africa show that the Kangaroo Island’s spiders are much more closely related to African species than to other Australian ones. Rough dating of divergences – that is, how long ago different species or groups split apart – suggests that the Kangaroo Island spiders were separated from African relatives long after the breakup of Gondwana (the southern supercontinent), but arrived on Kangaroo Island at least a couple of million years ago (well before humans).

The authors conclude that the spiders must have come to Australia by crossing the Indian Ocean.

So can a spider travel over thousands of kilometres of open ocean? Sure!

There is a lot of evidence that plants and animals can reach new lands by travelling long distances. This usually happens either by drifting across oceans (for example by “rafting” – hitching a ride on floating objects such as uprooted trees or seaweed clumps) or via air travel (blown by strong winds or carried by birds). The evidence has mostly come from genetic studies like the new spider study.

Read more: Antarctica may not be as isolated as we thought

When populations of species on either side of an ocean are genetically very similar, it is reasonable to conclude that there has been some recent movement between them. That’s because DNA changes over time: each time DNA is copied (which happens every time a new cell forms) there is a chance that copying errors will occur. If these errors – known as mutations – are not harmful, they can be copied into later generations. In this way, populations that are not interbreeding gradually drift apart genetically. The result is that populations that have been separated for a long time will be very distinct, whereas those that have been recently connected will be genetically similar.

Dispersal of organisms can happen via wind, oceanic rafting and the movement of animals. For example, migrating birds can carry seeds, insects and other small organisms long distances, generally moving north-south or vice versa. Terrestrial or shallow water marine organisms can raft across oceans on buoyant objects such as kelp, wood and pumice, generally following the paths of ocean currents. Strong winds, such as the easterly equatorial winds and the westerly mid-latitude winds, can transport small organisms aerially or influence rafting events at sea. Photographs: albatross and drift kelp: C. Fraser; Caribbean iguana: Atsme (Wikimedia Commons). Ceridwen Fraser, Author provided

Genetic and observational studies give us strong evidence that long-distance voyages have happened. It might seem incredible that a plant or animal could survive a long trip at sea, or be blown to a new land by a storm, but it only has to succeed every now and then for dispersal to play a big role in shaping global biodiversity.

For example:

  • Ferns probably reached the young Hawaiian islands as spores carried by strong winds. Some spiders are also thought to have blown over to the islands.

  • Many birds migrate long distances each year, and can carry barbed or sticky plant seeds attached to feathers or feet – this mechanism is thought to explain how many plant species reached remote islands.

  • A few years ago, seaweed swarming with living invertebrate animals washed up on a beach in southern New Zealand, and DNA tests of the kelp and the animals showed the voyagers had drifted in ocean currents from islands hundreds of kilometres away.

  • In the 1990s, just after a hurricane, iguanas were found sitting on driftwood on beaches on a Caribbean island that had never before had iguanas on it.

  • Many spiders can travel long distances through the air by “ballooning” – using fine silk threads like a kite or balloon, to catch rides with air currents.

Of course, many plants and animals have remained perched, sedately, on their tectonic plates as they slowly move around the world – not all species have crossed oceans.

Read more: How a warming world turns plants and animals into refugees

Nonetheless, we now know that intercontinental travel is not something that only those that can fly, swim or build canoes can do – and a good thing, too! Rapid environmental change will force many plants and animals to move to new places. Many species are moving toward the poles, or up mountains, as the climate warms.

Being able to move to a new habitat is a survival skill.

The ConversationThe ability to travel is, and has always been, an important part of long-term survival and evolution. But it’s risky, too. Many long-distance trips fail, and the voyagers often perish before finding a new home. These intrepid trapdoor spiders just got very lucky!

Ceridwen Fraser, Senior lecturer, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.