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The Phillip Island (Millowl) Wildlife Plan

On an almost daily basis we hear stories of threatened species, animals on the verge of extinction and the death and destruction wrought by introduced, invasive predators. It seems odd, therefore, to be discussing “over abundant native animals” but this is the issue that lies behind the formulation of the Phillip Island (Millowl) Wildlife Plan.

On Millowl active conservation measures, in particular the eradication of foxes, have benefitted numerous species and their population sizes are now stable or increasing. Unfortunately, for Cape Barren Geese, Swamp Wallabies and Brush-tailed Possums, their recovery is generating its own set of problems. The geese are increasingly coming into conflict with farmers and other community members while there is evidence that the wallabies and possums are damaging the habitat on which they depend. These browsers may be stopping forest regeneration.

One proposed solution to the goose problem is to encourage the harvesting of eggs by the Bunurong, the traditional owners of the land. However, this is unlikely to significantly reduce the number of geese, at least in the short term. Consequently, for all three species lethal control is proposed.

The Biosphere Foundation has paid close attention to the development of the plan and participated in the public consultation. We recognise that it makes more sense for an “Authority to Control Wildlife” to be granted at a scale relevant to the species, i.e. the island, as opposed to being given to individual landholders. We also respect the commitment to developing the plan collaboratively across agencies with transparent public consultation. Finally, we acknowledge the science. The data does show population growth, and experiments have been conducted to determine the most effective methods for managing the animals. We cannot, therefore, criticize either the rationale or conclusions of the plan. Nevertheless, we find it immensely regrettable that the recommendation is to kill native animals.


Australia Confirms Extinction of 13 More Species, Including First Reptile, Since Colonisation

Christmas Island forest skink and 12 mammals are on the list, which also includes the desert bettong, broad-cheeked hopping mouse and Nullarbor barred bandicoot.

The Christmas Island forest skink is the first reptile known to have gone extinct in Australia since European colonisation. More than 10% of the 320 land mammals known to have lived in Australia in 1788 are extinct. Photograph: Hal Cogger

 

 

The Australian government has officially acknowledged the extinction of 13 endemic species, including 12 mammals and the first reptile known to have been lost since European colonisation.

The addition of the dozen mammal species confirms Australia’s unenviable position as the world’s capital for mammal extinction, lifting the total number of mammals known to have died out to 34.

None of the 13 is a surprise.  All but one of the mammal extinctions is historic, with most having disappeared between the 1850s and 1950s.

But the list also includes two species lost in the past decade, both from Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

As Guardian Australia has reported, the last Christmas Island pipistrelle, a species of bat, died in 2009.  It was followed by the sole remaining Christmas Island forest skink – the first Australian reptile known to have become extinct – in 2014.  Both extinctions have previously been recorded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The now extinct Christmas Island pipistrelle. Photograph: Lindy Lumsden

 

The updated list means more than 10% of the 320 land mammals known to have lived in Australia in 1788 are extinct.

The Wilderness Society’s Suzanne Milthorpe said there was “not another country, rich or poor, that has anything like this record” in mammal extinction.  She said Haiti was next on the IUCN list for mammal extinctions with a total of nine.

Prof John Woinarski, a conservation biologist at Charles Darwin University who helped record the plight of many of the newly listed extinct species in two books, said the listings were “humbling and sobering”.

He said it was a reminder that extinction was a “likely event” after a species was listed as threatened if not enough was done to save it.  “It is important to acknowledge that the losses have occurred and it’s a reminder that if we don’t manage our threatened species then extinction is the end result,” he said.

The confirmed historic mammal extinctions are the desert bettong, the Nullarbor dwarf bettong, the Capricorn rabbit-rat, the broad-cheeked hopping mouse, the Liverpool Plains striped bandicoot, the marl, the south-eastern striped bandicoot, the Nullarbor barred bandicoot, the long-eared mouse, the blue-grey mouse and the Percy Island flying fox.

Woinarski said in almost all cases the most plausible explanation for their extinction was predation by feral cats, though introduced foxes, habitat destruction and fire may have played a role.  “No other country has suffered anywhere near that number of mammal species extinctions over the past 200 years,” he said.

He said as museums had few-to-no records of the species, recording the extinctions often relied on knowledge shared by Indigenous elders living in remote parts of the country who had experienced them first-hand.

About 100 endemic Australian species have been listed as extinct by the government or the IUCN, but Woinarski said the real number was likely to be more than 10 times that once extinct invertebrates were counted.  At least 50 invertebrate species on Christmas Island alone had not been seen for more than a century and were likely to be extinct, he said.

He said the first recorded modern extinction of an Australian reptile was “obviously a really lamentable landmark”.  The Christmas Island forest skink was almost certainly killed by the accidental introduction of a predator from Asia, the wolf snake, in the 1970s.

He said the Christmas Island pipistrelle’s extinction was a result of a lack of government action, as it had been clear it was in rapid decline for two decades before it went extinct and the response was insufficient.  There had never been an inquest or inquiry to find out what went wrong, he said.  “That was one we really should have been able to save,” he said.

Milthorpe, the Wilderness Society’s national environment laws campaign manager, said the updated list was a “devastating reality check on Australia’s environmental performance”.  “It cements our reputation as the global leader in mammal extinctions,” she said.

She said it should drive the environment minister, Sussan Ley, to make a stronger response than what it has offered since a review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act by the competition watchdog Graeme Samuel.

Samuel found the environment was in an unsustainable state of decline and the EPBC was ineffective and needed an overhaul, including some urgent changes.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a full response to the review from the Morrison government yet, only a disjointed attempt to devolve their environmental responsibilities to the states,” Milthorpe said.  “Without the full package [of recommendations], Samuel made clear that extinction and a decline of our iconic natural areas will continue.”
Ley’s spokesperson said the minister had overseen a comprehensive review of the historical extinction list to accurately reflect the state of Australia’s mammals and provide an important record that could help improve the management of native plants and animals.
They said the government had “mobilised” more than $535m for projects to support threatened species and ecological communities since 2014, was preparing a 10-year threatened species strategy and introducing new predator-free safe havens.
“We are working to manage threats to native animals and plants on Christmas Island and across the rest of Australia, including supporting the recovery from the catastrophic black summer bushfires,” the spokesperson said.

Labor’s environment spokeswoman, Terri Butler, said the Coalition was presiding over an “accelerating and disastrous extinction crisis”, and had slashed environment department funding since coming to power.  “They have no solutions to this crisis and they just don’t care,” she said.

A groundbreaking study by 38 scientists working across Australia and Antarctica last week found 19 ecosystems were collapsing due to the impact of humans and warned urgent action was required to prevent their complete loss.

Article courtesy The Guardian


Dynamic Shorelines

Sea level rise and associated changes in storm behaviour will directly affect Victorian shorelines, including those of Western Port.

Our team from Monash University, the University of Wollongong, Macquarie University and the University of Melbourne is developing a coastal hazard framework for Western Port which is funded by DELWP. We will do this by studying how sediments move around Western Port, the sources of the sediments, where the shoreline is eroding or expanding, the geochemical composition of these sediments and the interaction with the vegetation and waves.

The shorelines are not static features and have shifted over time, in terms of both longer term geological change through to more recent shifts affected by human impacts.  We are studying how these shorelines change over a range of time scales to help us understand the different environmental processes that contribute.  These dynamic shorelines are not only important as habitat for coastal species, but also to protect coastal townships and infrastructure.

Restrictions related to COVID-19 slowed data collection, but the team and projects is now back in full swing.

Professor Vanessa Wong, Monash University

 


Local Hydrogen Project could play a role in the Energy Transition to Lower Emissions

The world-first Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) Project aims to produce and transport clean liquid hydrogen from Australia’s Latrobe Valley to Kobe in Japan.

To combat climate change, a range of clean energy options must be pursued.  Hydrogen is a fuel of the future that, when used as a fuel for cars, heavy transport, power generation and industry, produces only water as an emission.

The HESC Project places Victoria at the forefront of the global energy transition to lower emissions via hydrogen.  It is being developed in two phases — a pilot which is currently in progress and a commercial phase.

Key elements of the pilot supply chain include:

The current HESC Pilot Project is creating approximately 400 jobs across the Victorian supply chain.  The decision to progress to a commercialisation phase, which will produce clean hydrogen from Latrobe Valley coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS), will be made after the pilot project is completed.  The port location for a commercial phase will be determined after the pilot.

If the commercialisation phase progresses in the 2030s, the HESC Project could produce 225,000 tonnes of clean hydrogen each year.  Using CSIRO data, it is estimated this could reduce global CO2 emissions by 1.8 million tonnes per year, equivalent to taking 350,000 petrol engine cars off the road.

This pioneering pilot project is delivered by a partnership between Japanese and Australian experienced industry partners and supported by the Victorian, Australian and Japanese Governments.  The Project Partners continue to consult with the community in and around Hastings and welcome any questions or feedback.  Learn more and get in touch by visiting Hydrogenenergysupplychain.com.

Article supplied by the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain Project

HESC Hastings liquefaction plant. Copyright of HESC.

 

Just as we were going to print, the following update arrived on our desk:

On Friday, we announced commencement of operations at both Victorian sites of the HESC Pilot Project.

HESC Project Partners wish to share this news with you, as it is a significant milestone for the pilot.

The commencement of the Australian arm of operations, using Latrobe Valley coal to produce hydrogen, is a world first and a great leap forward for the country’s ambition to be a key player in the emerging global hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen gas will soon be transported by truck to Australia’s first hydrogen liquefaction facility in Hastings, which is also operational.

Subsequent development will be the first shipment of hydrogen between Australia and Japan, aboard the world’s first purpose-built liquefied hydrogen carrier, the Suiso Frontier.

Thank you for the curiosity you have shown in the project to date.  Without the support of the Hastings and wider Mornington Peninsula community, this project would not be possible.

You can read more about this latest development here or by watching this video.  And as always, you can keep up-to-date on project news by subscribing to the HESC e-newsletter.

Finally, we are here to listen and answer your questions, please reach out by calling us on 1800 875 251 or via info@hydrogenenergysupplychain.com

 

Liquefaction storage and loading facility, Hastings

 

Gasification and gas refining facility, Latrobe Valley

 


Frankston High School’s Eco Team

A recent interviewee in the Connector (Issue #27) was Michaela Goggin, a Year 12 student at Frankston High School and 2020 Frankston’s Young Citizen of the Year. Michaela also conducts her own interviews for the Eco Team’s YouTube channel and has recently recorded several with high profile Climate Change Scientists.

The Eco Team’s YouTube channel has many interviews over the past year or so and is well worth checking out.

Professor Mark Howden: https://youtu.be/gvHObs_6fFo – Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

Dr. Joel Pedro: https://youtu.be/kLe1a4-lFoI – Lead Project Scientist on the Million Year Ice Core Project.

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki:  https://youtu.be/YjkjbVccaLg – Science communicator and commentator on Australian radio and television.

David Cross, Chair, Frankston Environmental Friends Network
Director, Western Port Biosphere Foundation


Federal Government’s Support for a Global Plastics Agreement is a “Breakthrough”

Australia’s support for a new global agreement to address marine plastic pollution is a breakthrough, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia.

A Lionfish with a plastic bag in the ocean (Shutterstock / Rich Carey / WWF)

 

The Federal Government recently released its National Plastics Plan containing 38 actions to tackle plastic pollution and increase plastic recycling in Australia.

These include a requirement that every new washing machine be fitted with a microfibre filter, action on cigarette butt litter, the banning of polystyrene packaging and foodware and support for a global agreement to tackle marine plastic pollution.

“Today, the Australian Government stood up for our oceans and joined the growing international community recognising the global threat plastic poses to the natural world,” said WWF-Australia No Plastics in Nature Policy Manager Katinka Day.

A WWF petition calling for a global agreement to tackle plastic pollution has gained more than two million signatures – the largest response ever for a WWF worldwide petition.

“It’s fantastic to see the Government recognise that plastic pollution is a global, transboundary problem which cannot be solved through national or regional initiatives alone,” Ms Day said.

“Australia now joins 68 countries which have expressed strong support for a global agreement, as well as nearly 50 corporations”.

Ms Day said other actions in the National Plastics Plan were also a big step forward.

“The Federal Government’s requirement for microfibre filters on new washing machines is a significant pollution busting measure.

“A single wash of a common laundry load of polyester clothing may release up to 6,000,000 microfibres.  They are being ingested by marine life everywhere with a fibre even found inside a new species of crustacean (Eurythenes plasticus) discovered nearly seven kilometres below the ocean surface.

MicroCT scan of Eurythenes plasticus (WWF-Germany)

 

“Washing machine filters can stop this pollution at the source, and prevent huge amounts of micro-plastics from entering our ocean.”

Cigarette butts were also identified for action via a commitment for a product stewardship taskforce to reduce cigarette butt litter in Australia.

“Cigarette butts are consistently the most littered item in Australia.  Of the 24 billion cigarettes smoked each year, a staggering 8 billion end up as litter,” Ms Day said.

“Making tobacco companies responsible for the waste their product creates is the right thing to do and we’re incredibly pleased the Government is acting on this issue.”

“While WWF-Australia commends action on microfibres and cigarette butts, we are disappointed the Government’s plan does not mandate Australia’s packaging targets.

“While the Plan will review progress of the 2025 packaging targets in 2022, this is not enough to keep pressure on industry.  Only mandatory targets will ensure these packaging commitments are actually met.”

The Plastic Plan follows a WWF survey which found that 80% of surveyed food products feature packaging that cannot be put into home recycling bins.

“We still need stronger rules to stop unnecessary plastic packaging and ensure that packaging is recyclable and is actually recycled.”

“To tackle our plastic crisis, we cannot leave it to industry alone.  We need our governments to take the lead,” Ms Day said.


New Regenerative Agriculture Video Series

Have you heard people talking about regenerative agriculture, and wondered exactly what it is, and whether it could work on your farm?

A series of eight short videos on the key principles of regenerative agriculture have just been released by three local Landcare networks (Bass Coast, South Gippsland and Western Port Catchment) and the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.

Hosted by certified professional soil scientist (CPSS) Declan McDonald, the videos explain what regenerative agriculture is and how the principles can be applied on all farm types and landscapes within our region including; beef, dairy, sheep, chickens, horticulture and vineyards.

Topics covered include: introducing regenerative agriculture, minimising soil disturbance, maximising crop diversity, keeping soil covered, maintaining living roots systems year round, integrating livestock and trees, and how farmers can transition to regenerative agriculture.

“If you’re curious but don’t know where to start, the videos are a great introduction to the key principles of regenerative agriculture, and how they might apply to your farm” says Declan.

You will see some local examples of how farmers are regenerating their soils for improved plant and animal health and productivity.

Click here to view the videos


In The Spotlight: Kate Gorringe-Smith

www.theoverwinteringproject.com
www.kategorringesmith.com.au

Role(s)
I am a Melbourne-based printmaker.  I work as an artist, curator and writer, I run workshops for adults and children, and I also act as a scientific communicator.

What makes Kate tick?  What is important to you (professionally)?
Like so many of us, I’m very concerned about the state of the global environment.  Climate change, city planning, plastics, orangutans, the obliteration of wetlands, forests, rainforests, grasslands – the list seems endless.  Rather than sink into a mire of despair, I try to stay hopeful by putting my worldly trust in the brilliant minds and unquenchable energy of those who are fighting to save the planet, and my personal energy into observing and celebrating my local environment and sharing that love with others through my art practice.  Professionally I am on a mission to enlist artists to help scientists and citizen scientists raise awareness for migratory shorebirds, the small inconspicuous birds that connect us globally and represent our global ecology.  I do this through group art projects, including the current Overwintering Project, which aims to connect artists and audiences with their local migratory shorebirds and migratory shorebird habitat.

Tell us a bit about your working background
I started off as an editor, and have worked for organisations such as BirdLife Australia and the Print Council of Australia.  I studied English, Zoology and printmaking over two different degrees.  I have also worked as a writer, curator and workshop facilitator.  I have worked in schools, including at Woodleigh in Baxter on a number of occasions, and in 2019 I received a Creative Victoria grant to be artist in residence at Point Cook College.

What led you to link up with the Biosphere?
When the current project that is on at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, the Overwintering Project: Westernport, was in its early stages, I was introduced to Greg by a mutual friend at World Wetlands Day in Hobson’s Bay.  Turned out that I was about to start organising an exhibition focussing on the Western Port ecology, focussing on migratory shorebirds, and Greg had recently come to the conclusion that migratory shorebirds would be a great way to link the Biospheres, and art would be a great way to do that!  So I kept Greg in the picture throughout the creation of the exhibition and in turn he provided support to the project in many ways, including helping me to connect with numerous experts on the Biosphere ecology whose knowledge helped inform my artists.

What would you like to achieve in your association with the Biosphere?
I’d like to help support the Biosphere’s great work in helping people connect with the wonders of Western Port so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Make sure you take up your invitation and check out the exhibition, Overwintering Project: Westernport.


State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams

Whale Citizen Science Project

My name is Kasey Stamation and I’m a researcher with the Arthur Rylah Institute.  Together with my colleague Mandy Watson we’ve worked with communities across Victoria to build a 30 year database of whale sightings to help us learn more about them.

I’m reaching out to you in the hope you might be able to connect your community with our whale citizen science project.

You may have been lucky enough to see whales along your coastline in recent weeks.  During May-October each year Southern Right Whales use the southern Australian coastline for breeding and nursing their calves.  You may also see Humpback Whales passing through as they head further north to their breeding grounds.  Every sighting is valuable and helps us better understand where whales are moving and how we can best protect them.

With the new citizen science portal, anyone can help us monitor whales along the Victorian coastline.  All they need to do is submit their sightings and photos to https://www.swifft.net.au/srwsmp/

All whale sightings are welcomed, but we are particularly interested in the critically endangered Southern Right Whale.  Our recent population estimate shows less than 300 individuals make up the south-eastern Australian population (you can read our paper on that here).

Southern Right Whales have white patches on their heads called callosities.  The pattern of these are unique and help us to identify individuals.  You can find out more on the photo-id project here.

Currently there is only one established nursery ground for this population (Logans Beach, Warrnambool), but during pre-whaling times Southern Right Whales were using many areas along the coast for breeding.  In order for us to monitor their current usage patterns and improve management for their recovery, we need to collect more data.  So we would like to call on people in your community to join our team of citizen scientist.  They can do this by registering on SWIFFT.  They do not need to have a sighting to register.  Registered users will be kept up to date with our research and provided with periodic summaries of sightings.  All data that comes in goes into our research databases and sighting data is submitted to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas (VBA) where it is publicly accessible and used for planning and decision making.

During Covid times, we are conscious that people need to follow the restrictions in their area.  We are not asking people to go out with the purpose of finding whales, but rather asking people if they do spot whales while out, could they please let us know by logging their sighting and uploading any photos of whales that they may have seen.

Please let us know if you have any ideas on how we can extend our reach in your community and raise awareness of this important species.  If you could put us in touch with your local engagement officers, we would be happy to send out some fridge magnets (picture above) that could be distributed to interested people.  We would also be happy if you could point us to active council and community-run facebook pages where we might be able to post some information too.

If you need any further information please don’t hesitate to contact me Kasey.Stamation@delwp.vic.gov.au or my colleague Mandy.Waston@delwp.vic.gov.au

Dr. Kasey Stamation| Scientist | Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research
Environment and Climate Change | Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
123 Brown Street, Heidelberg, Victoria 3084
T: 03 9450 8761| M: 0403 267 503 | E: kasey.stamation@delwp.vic.gov.au
www.delwp.vic.gov.au


The Cat Problem

In February this year, the Commonwealth Government released the report from the Parliamentary inquiry into feral and domestic cats.  Controversially titled “Tackling the feral cat pandemic”, the 130 page report contained some alarming statistics and six broad recommendations.

Perhaps the most shocking statistic and the one which really laid the foundation for all that followed is “predation by cats is responsible for the loss of 1.6 billion native animals every year” (reported by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service).  1.6 billion animals!  We are told “on average a single feral cat in the bush kills about 370 invertebrates, 44 frogs, 225 reptiles, 130 birds and 390 mammals per year.”  Given those figures, there can be no denying the size of the problem.

The most concrete of the recommendations was similarly straight-forward: an expansion of Australia’s network of predator-free safe-haven enclosures and feral cat-free islands.  The Biosphere Foundation obviously supports this and recently worked with local partners on a proposal to create a fenced safe-haven around the Tootgarook Swamps and surrounding woodlands.  Our colleagues at the Port Phillip and Western Port CMA have also launched a program to eradicate feral cats from French Island.

Another statement that caught our attention was:  “Domestic cats are one of the most popular pets in Australia.  Approximately 27% of households have a cat.”  It is reasonable to conclude that at least a majority of those 27% of households will love and value their cats.  Unfortunately, as long as there are domestic cats it will be exceptionally hard to eradicate them from the bush if they become feral.  However, the views of the millions of people who appreciate cats do have to be taken into account.  Recognising this, Recommendation 5 focussed on strategies for the management of stray and domestic cats.

It is too early to say what will become “best practice”, but one point is already clear, given the mix of bushland, rural and urban areas which make up the Biosphere Reserve, the Foundation’s attention will be on both ends of the problem, creating safe havens and working with our communities on responsible cat ownership.  It is encouraging “89% of pet cats are desexed.”  We need to find the other 11%.

Stephen Brend, Project Officer, Western Port Biosphere Foundation