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      Opportunities to improve the future of South Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity

      Rethinking Ecology

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          It is unequivocal that the poor condition of South Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity is continuing to decline overall – much like elsewhere in Australia. This decline is mainly due to the legacy of vegetation clearing and habitat modification since European colonisation, the destructive influence of invasive species (especially predators like cats and foxes) on its native fauna and flora, and impotent or broken legislation to prevent further damage. The struggle to maintain our remaining biodiversity, and our intentions to restore once-healthy ecosystems, are rendered even more difficult by the added influence of rapid climate disruption. Despite the pessimistic outlook, South Australians have successfully employed several effective conservation mechanisms, including increasing the coverage of our network of protected areas, doing ecological restoration projects, reducing the densities of feral animals across landscapes, encouraging private landholders to protect their biodiversity assets, releasing environmental water flows to rivers and wetlands, and bringing more people in touch with nature. While these strategies are certainly stepping in the right direction, our policies and conservation targets have been hampered by arbitrary baselines, a lack of cohesion among projects and associated legislation, unrepresentative protected areas, and inappropriate spatial and time scales of intervention. While the challenges are many, there are several tractable and affordable actions that can be taken immediately to improve the prospect of the State’s biodiversity into the near future. These include coordinating existing and promoting broader-scale ecological restoration projects, establishing strategic and evidence-based control of invasive species, planning more representative protected-area networks that are managed effectively for conservation outcomes, fixing broken environmental legislation, avoiding or severely limiting biodiversity-offset incentives, expanding conservation covenants on private land, coordinating a state-wide monitoring network and protocol that tells the South Australian community how effective we are with our policies and actions, expanding existing conservation investment and tapping into different funding schemes, and coordinating better communication and interaction among government and non-governmental environment agencies. Having a more transparent and defensible link between specific conservation actions and targeted outcomes will also likely improve confidence that conservation investments are well-spent. With just a little more effort, coordination, funding, and foresight, South Australia has the opportunity to become a pillar of biodiversity conservation.

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          Most cited references 86

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          Reconciling food production and biodiversity conservation: land sharing and land sparing compared.

          The question of how to meet rising food demand at the least cost to biodiversity requires the evaluation of two contrasting alternatives: land sharing, which integrates both objectives on the same land; and land sparing, in which high-yield farming is combined with protecting natural habitats from conversion to agriculture. To test these alternatives, we compared crop yields and densities of bird and tree species across gradients of agricultural intensity in southwest Ghana and northern India. More species were negatively affected by agriculture than benefited from it, particularly among species with small global ranges. For both taxa in both countries, land sparing is a more promising strategy for minimizing negative impacts of food production, at both current and anticipated future levels of production.
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            Predator interactions, mesopredator release and biodiversity conservation.

            There is growing recognition of the important roles played by predators in regulating ecosystems and sustaining biodiversity. Much attention has focused on the consequences of predator-regulation of herbivore populations, and associated trophic cascades. However apex predators may also control smaller 'mesopredators' through intraguild interactions. Removal of apex predators can result in changes to intraguild interactions and outbreaks of mesopredators ('mesopredator release'), leading in turn to increased predation on smaller prey. Here we provide a review and synthesis of studies of predator interactions, mesopredator release and their impacts on biodiversity. Mesopredator suppression by apex predators is widespread geographically and taxonomically. Apex predators suppress mesopredators both by killing them, or instilling fear, which motivates changes in behaviour and habitat use that limit mesopredator distribution and abundance. Changes in the abundance of apex predators may have disproportionate (up to fourfold) effects on mesopredator abundance. Outcomes of interactions between predators may however vary with resource availability, habitat complexity and the complexity of predator communities. There is potential for the restoration of apex predators to have benefits for biodiversity conservation through moderation of the impacts of mesopredators on their prey, but this requires a whole-ecosystem view to avoid unforeseen negative effects. 'Nothing has changed since I began. My eye has permitted no change. I am going to keep things like this.' From 'Hawk Roosting', by Ted Hughes.
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              Large-Scale Management Experiments and Learning by Doing

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Rethinking Ecology
                ReEco
                Pensoft Publishers
                2534-9260
                April 09 2019
                April 09 2019
                : 4
                : 45-77
                Article
                10.3897/rethinkingecology.4.32570
                © 2019

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