September 25 - October 1, 2022: Issue 556

100 Trees For 100 Years Of Avalon Beach

Above are some of the 100 trees that have been planted in and around the Avalon Beach village centre over the past few months to celebrate the Avalon Beach Centenary

An Avalon 100 Centenary wildlife talk is scheduled for Sunday 16th October at 11am in the Avalon RSL. 

Roger Treagus of the Avalon 100 Committee states;

''One of the important features of Avalon life is its wildlife. We will have three speakers at the event - John Dengate will talk about the general scene and is keen to answer lots of questions that residents may have. Then Andrew Gregory, famed wildlife photographer will show his stunning pictures of the powerful owl. Finally we have Merinda Air from WIRES to explain what to do when encountering injured wildlife.''

Australian water dragon, Intellagama lesueurii, catching some afternoon sun at Careel Creek, Avalon Beach. Photos: A J Guesdon

Watch out - shorebirds about

Spring is here so watch your step because beach-nesting and estuary-nesting birds have started setting up home on our shores.
Did you know that Careel Bay and other spots throughout our area are part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP)?

This flyway, and all of the stopping points along its way, are vital to ensure the survival of these Spring and Summer visitors. This is where they rest and feed on their journeys.  For example, did you know that the bar-tailed godwit flies for 239 hours for 8,108 miles from Alaska to Australia?

Not only that, Shorebirds such as endangered oystercatchers and little terns lay their eggs in shallow scraped-out nests in the sand, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Threatened Species officer Ms Katherine Howard has said.
Even our regular residents such as seagulls are currently nesting to bear young.

What can you do to help them?
Known nest sites may be indicated by fencing or signs. The whole community can help protect shorebirds by keeping out of nesting areas marked by signs or fences and only taking your dog to designated dog offleash area. 

Just remember WE are visitors to these areas. These birds LIVE there. This is their home.

Four simple steps to help keep beach-nesting birds safe:
1. Look out for bird nesting signs or fenced-off nesting areas on the beach, stay well clear of these areas and give the parent birds plenty of space.
2. Walk your dogs in designated dog-friendly areas only and always keep them on a leash over summer.
3. Stay out of nesting areas and follow all local rules.
4. Chicks are mobile and don't necessarily stay within fenced nesting areas. When you're near a nesting area, stick to the wet sand to avoid accidentally stepping on a chick.

West Head Lookout upgrade

Residents have raised several concerns regarding the current proposal for  a  West Head Lookout upgrade.

Concerns relate to the update and design, specifically:
  1. The area of outlook unencumbered by fencing has been substantially reduced yet the information email highlights a cross section through this area. In fact most of the site will be affected by a crude metal perimeter fence similar to a pool fence - see red highlight on plan below.
  2. The scheme is represented as a concept design whereas it is in fact part of a tender set presumably advanced to call tenders for construction. This is a barrier to addressing any design concerns raised.
  3. The site is widely recognised as an exceptional example of landscape architecture within a national park. The National Trust is similarly concerned with developments proposed for this location.
  4. It appears the concerns originally raised by so many in the community either have not been heard or appreciated. These relate to the lookout serving as a place where the public have been able to enjoy unimpeded views over Pittwater and North to Bouddhi. The lookout has been a quiet place of contemplation as well as a place for small numbers of people to stop for impromptu picnics. The imposition of a 1200 high crude metal fence will impact the enjoyment currently experienced. The proposal as it stands is a regressive step and detracts from the experience of visiting this exceptional site. 
Residents are asking the project team to revisit the extent and style of fencing and to seriously engage with the original designer to get the best possible outcome for this exceptional location so that the current amenity is not lost.

These resident 'Friends' of the park ask that all in Pittwater stand up for this site and make their views known - at:
The new designs are available for feedback until 10 October 2022.

Over A Hectare of Crown Land at Belrose to be Sold: Transferred Public Lands

Residents have contacted Pittwater Online regarding the transfer of over one hectare of Crown Land at Blackbutts road Belrose to Aruma (formerly House With No Steps). 

The land  was put up for sale on Monday, September 19th.  

No one received notice that this formerly public land had been transferred or that it would be sold.

The property dates to 1965 when Lionel Watts, the founder of the disability service provider House with No Steps, lobbied the New South Wales Government for a land grant in the Belrose area to grow his organisation.

For almost 60 years it has housed several services and the head office, however now it is stated the current organisation has outgrown the site and the buildings are no longer fit for purpose. The site has been vacant since April this year.

Under the agreement, Aruma will reinvest the proceeds in services that further their purposes, benefitting more people with a disability in NSW. 

The future of the site will be determined by the new landowner who will be required to meet planning requirements; the sales 'spiel' states this will make an ideal site for a Seniors living development.

Projections are that the sale could net Aruma 20 million for the sale of the Crown Land site transferred to them.

No Notice of when or why this land was transferred to the organisation is readily available in NSW Crown Lands (

The property is already advertised for sale at: with expressions of interest closing on October 20th.

Aruma is the new name for the former  House with No Steps and The Tipping Foundation – which merged in 2018. Aruma is a disability service provider. 

The website states they are;

'the helper, mentor and coach and the trusted partner of around 5000 people with a disability throughout the east coast of Australia.'

'Aruma is here for the new age, the new world of disability support – the NDIS world.'

Information about the sale of the former public lands is available at:

Scotland Island Spring Garden Festival

When: Sunday, October 16, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Where: Scotland Island Community Hall
Details:  Come and celebrate Spring with us! There are kids’ activities, open garden visits, workshops, plant sales and talks. And the café is open from 10 am to 2 pm, selling coffee, cakes and yummy food.

Weed Alert: Corky passionflower at Mona Vale + Narrabeen Creek

Corky Passionflower Passiflora suberosa, native to South America, is becoming common around Mona Vale and along Narrabeen Creek.  This is an aggressive invader. It is usually most successful in the sub-canopy, where it smothers small trees, shrubs and even the ground cover species. Corky passionflower has been observed smothering upper canopy species in some locations. 

Corky passionflower is recorded as a weed in a number of countries throughout the Pacific region.

Corky passionflower is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants under their control.

Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws.
Corky passionflower is a perennial vine with extensive, twining tendrils. Stems are commonly purplish in colour. Leaves are dark green and may be three-lobed (with the centre lobe the largest) or entire in shape. They are generally 4–8 cm long, with a leaf stalk up to 2.5 cm long. Flowers are up to 2.5 cm wide and appear in solitary arrangement in leaf axils. They are free of petals, but they possess ‘sepals’ that are yellow-green in colour, with a purple inner fringe. Fruits are purple and are readily eaten by birds, aiding in considerable seed dispersal.

The most reliable method of control for corky passionflower is hand pulling when the soil is moist. Care must be taken not to break the stem above the roots, or the plant will regenerate. The above-ground vegetative parts of the weed can be removed using a brush hook or similar tool. 

This should be recognised as an emerging weed in our area that needs to be controlled. Please report to NBC if you see it, with a photo and location. 

Corky bark on lower stems, leaves rather like Ivy, clusters of flowers and berries. Photos: Wikipedia

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Clontarf September 25

Come and join us for our September clean up at Clontarf. We'll meet in the grass area at Clontarf reserve at 10am - see map in our event - we're meeting at the red pin. We have gloves, bags and buckets. We'll clean up this area to try and catch all the litter before it enters the ocean. We're trying to remove as much plastic and rubbish as possible - this may be a fairly clean area but there are lots of small pieces and during our scouting of the area we found fishing lines, bread tags, Styrofoam,soyfish etc so there will be stuff for sure! 

Some of us can focus on the picnic are in the park and others can walk along the beach. We will clean up until around 11.20 and after that we will sort and count the rubbish, so we can contribute to research by entering it to a marine debris data base. The sorting and finishing, is normally finished around noon and we'll often go for lunch together at our own expense. 

We understand if you cannot stay for this part, but are grateful if you can. We appreciate any help we can get, no matter how small or big. We're a friendly group of people and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event. It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time. 

There is a carpark, but it can be busy on Sundays, so check streets close by as well if it's full. Message us on our social media if you are lost - closest street is Sandy Bay Road and we are meeting in Clontarf Reserve, not far from the toilet block. All welcome - the more the merrier. Please invite your friends too.

Want noisy miners to be less despotic? Think twice before filling your garden with nectar-rich flowers

Photo by Vlad Kutepov/Pexels, CC BY
Jade Fountain, University of Adelaide and Paul McDonald, University of New England

Noisy miners are complicated creatures. These Australian native honeyeaters live in large cooperative groups, use alarm calls to target specific predators, and sometimes help raise the young of other miners. But they’re perhaps best known for their aggressive and coordinated attacks on other birds – a behaviour known as “mobbing”.

We conducted a study investigating some of the possible factors that influence mobbing. We were interested in whether access to human food left on plates at cafes, or a high nectar supply thanks to planted gardens, might give urban miners extra energy and time to mob other species more often. We also examined whether miners were more aggressive towards some species over others.

Our study, published in the journal Emu - Austral Ornithology, found it wasn’t cafes with access to sugar-rich food that led to more miner aggression. In fact, gardens were where we recorded the highest amount of aggressive behaviour.

Understanding mobbing is important, because this behaviour can drive out other birds and reduce diversity. Smaller birds with a similar diet to noisy miners are particularly vulnerable.

A noisy miner sits on a plant with bright red flowers.
Noisy miners can drive out other birds and reduce diversity. Photo by Mark Broadhurst/Pexels, CC BY

What we did

The noisy miner’s preferred habitat is along the edges of open eucalypt forest, including cleared land and urban fringes. Their numbers have grown in recent decades, presenting a significant conservation problem.

We know from previous research that urban noisy miners tend to be more aggressive compared with rural populations.

But to examine mobbing behaviour more closely, we placed museum taxidermies (stuffed animals) of different species of birds in three different types of habitat around Canberra:

  • urban cafes with lots of food leftovers

  • urban gardens that had higher-than-usual supplies of nectar

  • bush areas more typical of “natural” miner habitat.

For each habitat, we then presented the resident noisy miners with three different types of museum taxidermy models of birds:

  • food competitors with a similar diet to miners, both of the same size (musk lorikeets) and a much smaller species (spotted pardalote)

  • potential predators, including a dangerous species that preys on miners (brown goshawk) and a species that robs nests but poses less of a risk to adult miners (pied currawong)

  • neutral species, meaning a bird that does not prey upon nor compete with miners for food (in our study, we used a model of an eastern rosella).

We wanted to see how miners responded to these “intruders” in various settings. We also set up a speaker nearby to broadcast alarm calls, to see how miners reacted.

Two noisy miners mob a magpie.
Noisy miners are known for their aggressive and coordinated attacks on other birds – a behaviour known as ‘mobbing’. Shutterstock

What we found

We found interesting differences in how miners responded to our taxidermy models and the broadcasted alarm calls.

Noisy miners exhibited aggressive behaviours for a much longer time in gardens and cafés in comparison to natural bush areas.

Surprisingly, however, access to sugar-rich food from cafes didn’t yield the most aggressive behaviour. Rather, we recorded the highest levels of aggressive behaviour near garden sites.

Nectar-rich plants (such as grevilleas and bottlebrushes) are attractive to birds with a sweet tooth, and miners are no exception. Newer cultivars flower for longer, meaning miners living in our gardens may have access to an almost year-round source of food.

Ready access to these flowering shrubs may affect aggression by providing more time, energy or reward to noisy miners defending these uber-rich resources.

The type of model presented also impacted miner response.

More miners were attracted to an area and mobbed the subject for longer when the model was of a predator.

Miners showed even greater aggression to food competitor models, however. They were more likely to physically strike food competitor models with a peck or swoop compared to predator models.

Noisy miners are often drawn to cafes. Jade Fountain

What can gardeners do with these findings?

Our research shows the importance of considering how gardens – whether in back yards, in parks or new housing estates – can affect local ecosystems, including bird behaviour. Previous studies have drawn a link between the types of plants humans choose to plant and the local mix of bird species.

Grevilleas look lovely but how does their presence affect miner behaviour? Shutterstock

To reduce the risk of creating a perfect habitat for despotic miners in your garden, aim to:

  • plant multi-layered levels in your garden – that means including ground cover, small shrubs, medium shrubs and trees to provide shelter at different heights for various birds and animals

  • consider planting plenty of dense shrubs with small flowers to attract insects and provide shelter for small birds

  • use a mix of nectar-rich and non-flowering shrubs and grasses (instead of focusing too heavily on flowering plants)

  • try to avoid planting too many exotic species; opt instead for native plants local to your area and suited to the climate, as these benefit native plants and animals whilst minimising benefits to aggressive noisy miners.The Conversation

Jade Fountain, PhD Student, University of Adelaide and Paul McDonald, Professor of Animal Behaviour, University of New England

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

sydney Pig and cattle feed check helps protect livestock industries 

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is leading a campaign to support livestock industries by visiting properties in Sydney and providing vital information about feed which could endanger animal health.   
NSW DPI regulatory operations manager, Mark Mackie, said staff are checking in with people who have recorded they have pigs and cattle to help protect them from emergency animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever. 
“Biosecurity staff review the animals’ diets to ensure they are being fed foods that do not compromise their health or result in an emergency animal disease,” Mr Mackie said. 
“Livestock should never be fed food scraps which may contain contaminants. Food scraps, known as prohibited pig feed or swill and restricted animal material (RAM) for cattle, can make livestock sick and spread disease. 
“Unsafe for pigs and cattle, swill and RAM may contain meat, meat products or other food scraps which have come into contact with meat or a meat product. 
“Under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015, it is illegal to feed or allow livestock access to swill or RAM. This legislation aims to protect our livestock industries and pets.”  
NSW DPI is leading the campaign in partnership with Greater Sydney Local Land Services and plans to visit up to 100 properties during August and September. 
More information about protecting pigs from emergency animal diseases and what you can and can’t feed pigs and cattle is available here from the NSW DPI website.  

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Greater Sydney Local Land Services are visiting Sydney properties and providing vital information about feed to protect livestock and pets from emergency animal diseases.

Hunter residents encouraged to be on the lookout for toxic cane toads

September 21, 2022
NSW biosecurity specialists have this week been called to a property at Mandalong, west of Lake Macquarie, following the detection of a colony of cane toads that were found under a sheet of tin.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is working with the property owner, local community, Local Land Services, local councils, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the University of Newcastle to assess and eradicate the infestation.

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said the community now has a critical role to play in stopping these pests from spreading across the region and broader NSW.

“Community members must be diligent in keeping an eye out for and reporting any rogue toads, because the size of this colony indicates there could be many more in the area,” Mr Saunders said.

“Residents can support DPI’s surveillance efforts by checking their yards, looking under and around items on the ground, such as wood piles, pots and metal sheeting, where it’s safe to do so.

“Now is not the time for complacency – cane toads pose a significant risk to our domestic and native fauna and it is critical we keep them out of NSW.”

DPI’s Vertebrate Pest Biosecurity Manager, Quentin Hart said 17 cane toads have been captured during the ongoing surveillance operation at Mandalong.

“Time is on our side as cane toads are unlikely to be very active until the weather warms, which gives us the opportunity to find them before they leave their hiding places to breed,” Mr Hart said.

“We’re asking for people who can confidently handle toads to safely capture them, place them in a high-sided container and contact NSW DPI. Wear protective clothing, disposable gloves, long sleeves and eye protection if you do handle a cane toad, as they can release toxic ooze from the glands behind their head.”

NSW DPI advises people not to harm animals that they think may be cane toads, as it may be a native frog, but to contact a biosecurity authority who will be able to identify the species.

Residents can report cane toad sightings by calling DPI’s Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244, their local council or via an online form at

Residents are also encouraged to use the free ToadScan app

Cane toads are a serious biosecurity threat which can have devastating impacts on communities, pets, native wildlife and ecosystems due to their ability to spread to new areas.

Cane toads are found throughout much of Queensland, the wet–dry tropics of the Northern Territory and parts of Western Australia.

More information about cane toads and the cane toad biosecurity zone is available here on the DPI website.

Local Land Services staff member Laurie Mullen, with one of the 17 toads found during the surveillance operation at Mandalong.

New research facilities to put NSW seafood industry in box seat

September 23, 2022
NSW will benefit from the production of more local seafood, thanks to a multi-million dollar upgrade to one of Australia’s largest specialised fisheries and aquaculture research facilities.

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said the $5.7 million investment in the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute includes a new Marine Fish Hatchery and major upgrades to the Fisheries Nutrition research facility and Mollusc Hatchery, forming part of the NSW Government’s $100 million research infrastructure package to support our world-class food and fibre industries.

“This investment in aquaculture research helps our industry put more NSW-grown seafood on Australian plates,” Mr Saunders said.

“Investing in research and the necessary infrastructure to undertake industry-specific research projects is one of the most effective ways to ensure our seafood producers have profitable and sustainable businesses.

“The Institute conducts marine and freshwater ecosystems research, aquaculture research, threatened species research, fisheries resource assessments and aquatic biosecurity and aquatic environment protection and management.

“Previously, fisheries and aquaculture research and development took place in ageing infrastructure, so this investment has been welcomed by seafood producers locally and across NSW.”

Research at the improved facilities is anticipated to:
  • Double marine finfish fingerling production capacity over the next five years;
  • Support the oyster industry with continued selective breeding, while assisting the emergence of new industries based on seaweeds and microalgae;
  • Attract an additional three new research partnerships in the next three years; and,
  • Ensure the continuity of spat and fingerling supply for existing and developing aquaculture, and for marine fish stocking exercises, including Mulloway and Dusky Flathead.
Investments under this program will help deliver a new generation of scientific breakthroughs like drought-tolerant crop varieties, data-driven on-farm decision making, fast-tracked genetic improvements in cattle and sheep and improved biological control of pests.

Katandra Bushland Sanctuary Open

Katandra is open to visitors 10am to 4pm every Sunday from July to October (inclusive). Group visits can be organised at alternative times.
NB: NO dogs - this is a wildlife sanctuary.

Ku-ring-gai Sculpture Trail for 2022 Eco Festival

Ku-ring-gai’s Sculpture Trail celebrates sustainable art in the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden.

Visit the Wildflower Garden to see an array of recyclable sculptures made by members of the community and professional artists.

The sculpture trail guide and maps will be available digitally once at the venue so remember to bring your smart phone or tablets.

The sculptures will be on display from 3 September to 3 October at the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden, open daily from 9am - 4pm. We encourage everyone to go visit and check them out!

When: Saturday, 03 September 2022 | 09:00 AM - Monday, 03 October 2022 | 04:00 PM
Location: Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden, 420 Mona Vale Road, St Ives

Photos: Pittwater Creator Bea Pierce (Jellybeaps)has her Possum, Kangaroo and Quoll now installed at Ku-ring-gai Wild Flower Garden for the Ku-ring-gai Sculpture Trail. Bea's sculptures are #30, in Lamberts Clearing.

Dust off your picnic blankets for the first ever statewide Picnic for Nature

The NSW Nature Conservation Council have a bold plan. They are bringing people together to celebrate our great outdoors in a statewide Picnic for Nature—and we want you to be a part of it. 
On Sunday, October 16, the Nature Conservation Council are holding their first Picnic for Nature, where communities will come together in our great outdoors to celebrate everything we love about nature.  

If you are like many of us, you probably don’t get into nature as much was you would like to.  Our lives are over-scheduled, with work, school, shopping and dashing about to kid’s sport. Sometimes, it feels like if you don’t schedule time for nature, it just doesn’t happen.  

That’s why the Nature Conservation Council are organising this statewide Picnic for Nature, to give people the excuse they need to get outdoors to reconnect with nature, family, friends and the neighbours they probably should get to know. 

Taking time out to sit in the shade of a tree, share food, and appreciate the natural beauty of our surroundings is something we don’t do often enough.  

So why not take advantage of the warmer weather and unroll your picnic blanket to spend some quality time with family, friends and neighbours at your local park, beach or beauty spot. 
Every picnic will be unique, and some groups have even organised activities, games for the kids, and music.  

Already, people have registered 36 picnics around the state, from Albury to the Tweed and Broken Hill to Sydney, including two local picnics

Check out Nature Conservation Council's interactive map of picnics to see if there is an event in your town or suburb. If there’s not, why not organise one? 
Anyone can co-host a picnic, all you need is some food, a public space, and some friends. Picnics can be as big or as small as you like, with activities and games, or just some blankets and sunscreen. The Nature Conservation Council  can provide resources and materials like marketing templates, posters, and stickers  as well as the RSVP page and some marketing.  

Whether you’re hosting or attending, with your help we can help people reconnect with nature and each other. 

RSVP or Register for your local picnic at:

Narrabeen Picnic for Nature: Sun 16 Oct 2022 at 12:00 AM at Surfrider Gardens, 73 Ocean St, Narrabeen, RSVP:
Co-hosted by: the Surfrider Foundation

Manly Picnic for Nature: Sun 16 Oct 2022 at 12:00 AM, Manly, RSVP:
Co-hosted by: Save Northern Beaches Bushland, Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee, Seas of Change

Echidna 'Love Train' Season Commences

This echidna, photographed at Mona Vale a few years back by Alex Tyrell, is after foods; ants - however, local wildlife carers and rescuers are reminding us that now is the time of year when these other little residents go in search of love and making little echidnas. Please slow down and be extra cautious on our roads around these weeks as we head into Spring - there's already that Spring Thing happening out there.

EPA releases Climate Change Policy and Action Plan

September 8, 2022

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is taking action to protect the environment and community from the impacts of climate change, today releasing its new draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan which works with industry, experts and the community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support resilience.

NSW EPA Chief Executive Officer Tony Chappel said the EPA has proposed a set of robust actions to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 (from 2005 levels), ensure net zero emissions by 2050, and improve resilience to climate change impacts.

“NSW has ambitious targets that align with the world’s best scientific advice and the Paris commitments, to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees in order to avoid severe impacts on ecosystems,” Mr Chappel said.

“Over the past few years we have seen first-hand just how destructive the impacts of climate change are becoming, not only for our environment, but for NSW communities too.

“We know the EPA has a critical role to play in achieving the NSW Government’s net-zero targets and responding to the increasing threat of climate change induced weather events.

“Equally, acting on climate presents major economic opportunities for NSW in new industries such as clean energy, hydrogen, green metals, circular manufacturing, natural capital and regenerative agriculture.

“This draft Policy sends a clear signal to regulated industries that we will be working with them to support and drive cost-effective decarbonisation while implementing adaptation initiatives that build resilience to climate change risks.

“Our draft plan proposes a staged approach that ensures the actions the EPA takes are deliberate, well informed and complement government and industry actions on climate change. These actions will support industry and allow reasonable time for businesses to plan for and meet any new targets or requirements.

“Climate change is an issue that we all face so it’s important that we take this journey together and all play our part in protecting our environment and communities for generations to come.”

Actions include:

  • working with industry, government and experts to improve the evidence base on climate change
  • supporting licensees prepare, implement and report on climate change mitigation and adaptation plans
  • partnering with NSW Government agencies to address climate change during the planning and assessment process for activities the EPA regulates
  • establishing cost-effective emission reduction targets for key industry sectors
  • providing industry best-practice guidelines to support them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions
  • phasing in the introduction of greenhouse gas emission limits on environment protection licences for key industry sectors
  • developing and implementing resilience programs, best-practice adaptation guidance and harnessing citizen science and education programs
  • working with EPA Aboriginal and Youth Advisory Committees to improve the EPA’s evolving climate change response

EPA Acting Chair Carolyn Walsh said the EPA is a partner in supporting and building on the NSW Government’s work to address climate change for the people of NSW.

“The draft Policy and Action Plan adopts, supports and builds on the strong foundations that have been set by the NSW Government through the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework, Net Zero Plan and Climate Change Adaptation Strategy,” Ms Walsh said.

The EPA will work with stakeholders, including licensees, councils, other government agencies, and the community to help implement the actions.

The draft EPA Climate Change Policy and Action Plan is available at and comments are open until 3 November 2022.

Wanted: Photos Of Flies Feeding On Frogs (For Frog Conservation)

Do you have any photos of frogs being bitten by flies? Submit them to our study to help in frog conservation.

By sampling the blood of flies that bite frogs, researchers can determine the (sometimes difficult to spot) frogs in an environment. Common mist frog being fed on by a Sycorax fly. Photo: Jakub Hodáň

UNSW Science and the Australian Museum want your photos of frogs, specifically those being bitten by flies, for a new (and inventive) technique to detect and protect our threatened frog species.

You might not guess it, but biting flies – such as midges and mosquitoes – are excellent tools for science. The blood ‘sampled’ by these parasites contains precious genetic data about the animals they feed on (such as frogs), but first, researchers need to know which parasitic flies are biting which frogs. And this is why they need you to submit your photos.

“Rare frogs can be very hard to find during traditional scientific expeditions,” says PhD student Timothy Cutajar, leading the project. “Species that are rare or cryptic [inconspicuous] can be easily missed, so it turns out the best way to detect some species might be through their parasites.”

The technique is called ‘iDNA’, short for invertebrate-derived DNA, and researchers Mr Cutajar and Dr Jodi Rowley from UNSW Science and the Australian Museum were the first to harness its potential for detecting cryptic or threatened species of frogs.

The team first deployed this technique in 2018 by capturing frog-biting flies in habitats shared with frogs. Not unlike the premise of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, where the DNA of blood-meals past is contained in the bellies of the flies, Mr Cutajar was able to extract the drawn blood (and therefore DNA) and identify the species of amphibian the flies had recently fed on.

These initial trials uncovered the presence of rare frogs that traditional searching methods had missed.

“iDNA has the potential to become a standard frog survey technique,” says Mr Cutajar. “[It could help] in the discovery of new species or even the rediscovery of species thought to be extinct, so I want to continue developing techniques for frog iDNA surveys. However, there is still so much we don’t yet know about how frogs and flies interact.”

In a bid to understand the varieties of parasites that feed on frogs – so Mr Cutajar and colleagues might lure and catch those most informative and prolific species – the team are looking to the public for their frog photos.

“If you’ve photographed frogs in Australia, I’d love for you to closely examine your pictures, looking for any frogs that have flies, midges or mosquitoes sitting on them. If you find flies, midges or mosquitoes in direct contact with frogs in any of your photos, please share them.”

The submitted photos will be analysed for the frog and parasite species they contain, helping inform future iDNA research. Mountain Stream Tree Frog (Litoria barringtonensis) being bitten by Sycorax. Photo: Tim Cutajar/Australian Museum

“We’ll be combing through photographs of frogs submitted through our survey,” says Mr Cutajar, “homing in on the characteristics that make a frog species a likely target for frog-biting flies.

“It’s unlikely that all frogs are equally parasitised. Some frogs have natural insect repellents, while others can swat flies away. The flies themselves can be choosy about the types of sounds they’re attracted to, and probably aren’t evenly abundant everywhere.”

Already the new iDNA technique, championed in herpetology by Mr Cutajar, has shown great promise, and by refining its methodology with data submitted by the public – citizen scientists – our understanding of frog ecology and biodiversity can be broadened yet further.

“The power of collective action can be amazing for science,” says Mr Cutajar, “and with your help, we can kickstart a new era of improved detection, and therefore conservation, of our amazing amphibian diversity.”

Possums In Your Roof?: do the right thing

Possums in your roof? Please do the right thing 
On the weekend, one of our volunteers noticed a driver pull up, get out of their vehicle, open the boot, remove a trap and attempt to dump a possum on a bush track. Fortunately, our member intervened and saved the beautiful female brushtail and the baby in her pouch from certain death. 

It is illegal to relocate a trapped possum more than 150 metres from the point of capture and substantial penalties apply.  Urbanised possums are highly territorial and do not fare well in unfamiliar bushland. In fact, they may starve to death or be taken by predators.

While Sydney Wildlife Rescue does not provide a service to remove possums from your roof, we do offer this advice:

✅ Call us on (02) 9413 4300 and we will refer you to a reliable and trusted licenced contractor in the Sydney metropolitan area. For a small fee they will remove the possum, seal the entry to your roof and provide a suitable home for the possum - a box for a brushtail or drey for a ringtail.
✅ Do-it-yourself by following this advice from the Department of Planning and Environment: 

❌ Do not under any circumstances relocate a possum more than 150 metres from the capture site.
Thank you for caring and doing the right thing.

Sydney Wildlife photos

Local wildlife rescuers and carers state that ongoing heavy rains are tough for us but can be tougher for our wildlife:

  • Birds and possums can be washed out of trees, or the tree comes down, nests can disintegrate or hollows fill with water
  • Ground dwelling animals can be flooded out of their burrows or hiding places and they need to seek higher ground
  • They are at risk crossing roads as people can't see them and sudden braking causes accidents
  • The food may disappear - insects, seeds and pollens are washed away, nectar is diluted and animals can be starving
  • They are vulnerable in open areas to predators, including our pets
  • They can't dry out and may get hypothermia or pneumonia
  • Animals may seek shelter in your home or garage. 

You can help by:

  • Keeping your pets indoors
  • Assessing for wounds or parasites
  • Putting out towels or shelters like boxes to provide a place to hide
  • Drive to conditions and call a rescue group if you see an animal hit (or do a pouch check or get to a vet if you can stop)
  • If you are concerned take a photo and talk to a rescue group or wildlife carer

There are 2 rescue groups in the Northern Beaches:

Sydney Wildlife: 9413 4300

WIRES: 1300 094 737

Please be patient as there could be a few enquiries regarding the wildlife. 

Generally Sydney Wildlife do not recommend offering food but it may help in some cases. Please ensure you know what they generally eat and any offerings will not make them sick. You can read more on feeding wildlife here 

Information courtesy Ed Laginestra, Sydney Wildlife volunteer. Photo: Warriewood Wetlands Wallaby by Kevin Murray, March 2022.

Aviaries + Possum Release Sites Needed

Pittwater Online News has interviewed Lynette Millett OAM (WIRES Northern Beaches Branch) needs more bird cages of all sizes for keeping the current huge amount of baby wildlife in care safe or 'homed' while they are healed/allowed to grow bigger to the point where they may be released back into their own home. 

If you have an aviary or large bird cage you are getting rid of or don't need anymore, please email via the link provided above. There is also a pressing need for release sites for brushtail possums - a species that is very territorial and where release into a site already lived in by one possum can result in serious problems and injury. 

If you have a decent backyard and can help out, Lyn and husband Dave can supply you with a simple drey for a nest and food for their first weeks of adjustment.

sydney wildlife rescue: helpers needed

Bushcare in Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                 3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                            8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                        9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                       8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                    8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday +3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                          9 - 12noon

Gardens and Environment Groups and Organisations in Pittwater

Sneezing with hay fever? Native plants aren’t usually the culprit

John Dearnaley, University of Southern Queensland

Hay fever is a downside of springtime around the world. As temperatures increase, plant growth resumes and flowers start appearing.

But while native flowering plants such as wattle often get the blame when the seasonal sneezes strike, hay fever in Australia is typically caused by introduced plant species often pollinated by the wind.

A closer look at pollen

Pollen grains are the tiny reproductive structures that move genetic material between flower parts, individual flowers on the same plant or a nearby member of the same species. They are typically lightweight structures easily carried on wind currents or are sticky and picked up in clumps on the feathers of a honeyeater or the fur of a fruit bat or possum.

Hay fever is when the human immune system overreacts to allergens in the air. It is not only caused by pollen grains but fungal spores, non-flowering plant spores, mites and even pet hair.

The classic symptoms of hay fever are sneezing, runny noses, red, itchy, and watery eyes, swelling around the eyes and scratchy ears and throat.

The problem with pollen grains is when they land on the skin around our eyes, in our nose and mouth, the proteins found in the wall of these tiny structures leak out and are recognised as foreign by the body and trigger a reaction from the immune system.

So what plants are the worst culprits for causing hay fever?

Grasses, trees, and herbaceous weeds such as plantain are the main problem species as their pollen is usually scattered by wind. In Australia, the main grass offenders are exotic species including rye grass and couch grass (a commonly used lawn species).

Weed species that cause hay fever problems include introduced ragweed, Paterson’s curse, parthenium weed and plantain. The problematic tree species are also exotic in origin and include liquid amber, Chinese elm, maple, cypress, ash, birch, poplar, and plane trees.

Although there are some native plants that have wind-spread pollen such as she-oaks and white cypress pine, and which can induce hay fever, these species are exceptional in the Australian flora. Many Australian plants are not wind pollinated and use animals to move their clumped pollen around.

For example, yellow-coloured flowers such as wattles and peas are pollinated by insect such as bees. Red- and orange-coloured flowers are usually visited by birds such as honeyeaters. Large, dull-coloured flowers with copious nectar (the reward for pollination) are visited by nocturnal mammals including bats and possums. Obviously Australian plant pollen can still potentially cause the immune system to overreact, but these structures are less likely to reach the mucous membranes of humans.

What can we do to prevent hay fever attacks at this time of the year?

With all of this in mind, here are some strategies to prevent the affects of hay fever:

  1. stay inside and keep the house closed up on warm, windy days when more pollen is in the air
  2. if you must go outside, wear sunglasses and a face mask
  3. when you return indoors gently rinse (and don’t rub) your eyes with running water, change your clothes and shower to remove pollen grains from hair and skin
  4. try to avoid mowing the lawn in spring particularly when grasses are in flower (the multi-pronged spiked flowers of couch grass are distinctive)
  5. when working in the garden, wear gloves and facial coverings particularly when handling flowers
  6. consider converting your garden to a native one. Grevilleas are a great alternative to rose bushes. Coastal rosemary are a fabulous native replacement for lavender. Why not replace your liquid amber tree with a fast growing, evergreen and low-allergenic lilly pilly tree?

If you do suffer a hay fever attack

Sometimes even with our best efforts, or if it’s not always possible to stay at home, hay fever can still creep up on us. If this happens:

  • antihistamines will reduce sneezing and itching symptoms
  • corticosteroid nasal sprays are very effective at reducing inflammation and clearing blocked noses
  • decongestants provide quick and temporary relief by drying runny noses but should not be used by those with high blood pressure
  • salt water is a good way to remove excessive mucous from the nasal passages.

Behavioural changes on warm, windy spring days are a good way of avoiding a hay fever attack.

An awareness of the plants around us and their basic reproductive biology is also useful in preventing our immune systems from overreacting to pollen proteins that they are not used to encountering.The Conversation

John Dearnaley, Associate Professor, University of Southern Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

UN Committee finds Australia violated Torres Strait Islanders’ rights to enjoy culture and family life: impacts of climate change

September 23, 2022
In a ground-breaking decision, the U.N. Human Rights Committee has found that Australia’s failure to adequately protect indigenous Torres Islanders against adverse impacts of climate change violated their rights to enjoy their culture and be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home.

The Committee today issued its Decision after examining a joint complaint filed by eight Australian nationals and six of their children. They are all indigenous inhabitants of Boigu, Poruma, Warraber and Masig, four small, low-lying islands in Australia’s Torres Strait region. The Islanders claimed their rights had been violated as Australia failed to adapt to climate change by, inter alia, upgrading seawalls on the islands and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“This decision marks a significant development as the Committee has created a pathway for individuals to assert claims where national systems have failed to take appropriate measures to protect those most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of their human rights,” Committee member Hélène Tigroudja said.

In their complaint brought to the Committee, the Islanders claimed that changes in weather patterns have direct harmful consequences on their livelihood, their culture and traditional way of life. The Islanders indicated that severe flooding caused by the tidal surge in recent years has destroyed family graves and left human remains scattered across their islands. They argued that maintaining ancestral graveyards and visiting and communicating with deceased relatives are at the heart of their cultures. In addition, the most important ceremonies, such as coming-of-age and initiation ceremonies, are only culturally meaningful if performed in the community's native lands.

The Islanders also argued that changes in climate with heavy rainfall and storms have degraded the land and trees and have consequently reduced the amount of food available from traditional fishing and farming. On Masig Island, for example, the rising sea level has caused saltwater to seep into the soil and coconut trees to become diseased, subsequently killing off the fruit, and its coconut water, which are part of the Islanders’ traditional diet.

The Committee took into account the Islanders’ close, spiritual connection with their traditional lands, and the dependence of their cultural integrity on the health of their surrounding ecosystems. It therefore found that Australia’s failure to take timely and adequate measures to protect the indigenous Islanders against adverse climate change impacts led to the violation of their rights to enjoy their own culture and to be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home.

“States that fail to protect individuals under their jurisdiction from the adverse effects of climate change may be violating their human rights under international law,” Tigroudja added.

In the same decision, the Committee indicated that despite Australia’s series of actions, such as the construction of new seawalls on the four islands that are expected to be completed by 2023, additional timely and appropriate measures were required to avert a risk to the Islanders’ lives, since without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change may expose individuals to a violation of their right to life under the Covenant.

As remedies, the Committee asked Australia to compensate the indigenous Islanders for the harm suffered, engage in meaningful consultations with their communities to assess their needs, and take measures to continue to secure the communities’ safe existence on their respective islands.

The 'Torres Strait Eight', a group of eight Torres Strait Islander people have made international legal history, after the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the Australian Government is violating its human rights obligations to them through climate change inaction.

The landmark decision delivered by the Committee today agreed with the complaint filed in 2019, obliging the Government to pay adequate compensation to the claimants and do whatever it takes to ensure the safe existence of the islands. 

The complaint is the first legal action brought by climate-vulnerable inhabitants of low-lying islands against a nation state, and the decision has set several ground-breaking precedents for international human rights law.

Yessie Mosby, a Kulkalgal man and Traditional Owner on the island of Masig and a claimant in the case, said:

“This morning when I woke up on Masig, I saw that the sky was full of frigate birds. In my culture, we take this as a sign from my ancestors that we would be hearing good news very soon about this case.

“I know that our ancestors are rejoicing knowing that Torres Strait Islander voices are being heard throughout the world through this landmark case. Climate change affects our way of life everyday. This win gives us hope that we can protect our island homes, culture and traditions for our kids and future generations to come.

In its decision the Committee agreed with the complaint stating that:
  • Climate change was indeed currently impacting the claimants’ daily lives;
  • To the extent that their rights are being violated; and,
  • That Australia was breaching its human rights obligations to the people of the Torres Strait by failing to cut its greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough.
The committee majority found that Australia’s poor climate record is a violation of their right to family life and right to culture under the global human rights treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A minority also found that the Government had violated their right to life.

The decision marks the first time an international tribunal has found a country has violated human rights law through inadequate climate policy; the first time a nation state has been found responsible for their greenhouse gas emissions under international human rights law; and, the first time that peoples’ right to culture has been found to be at risk from climate impacts.

Australian climate lawyer Sophie Marjanac, with environmental legal charity ClientEarth, acted for the claimants. Marjanac said:

“This is an historic victory for climate justice. It is a victory for all peoples who are the most vulnerable to runaway climate change. This case opens the door for further legal actions and compensation claims by other climate affected people, and will give hope to those fighting for loss and damage at this year’s international climate talks in Egypt.

“The Australian Government must act on this decision and take decisive steps to protect the islands of the Torres Strait and their ‘Ailan Kastom’. Australia must seriously invest in adaptation and also drastically reduce its national emissions. Nations can no longer hide behind the myth that climate change is a collective problem and that they are free of legal obligation. They must act, now.”

The public campaign led by the Torres Strait Eight, Our Islands Our Home, has vowed to build on this win by calling on the new Government to take urgent action to address the findings of the OHCHR. A petition with more than 47,000 signatures will be presented by Torres Strait Eight members to the Australian Government at Parliament House later this year.

Yessie added: “This is not the end – we must hold the Australian government accountable and keep fossil fuels in the ground to protect our island homes.”

Another claimant, Kabay Tamu, a  Warraberalgal man from the Kulkalgal nation said:

“I’m lost for words. I feel like a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders. I’m so proud and appreciative of everyone involved from the very start to now. This has given us Torres Strait Islanders more solid ground to stand on now. At this very moment I can’t think of anything to say but thank you and we Zenadh Kes thanks everyone involved and who supported us in any way. Mina koeyma eso.”

Claimant Nazareth Fauid said:

“This is a happy moment for me. I can feel the heartbeat of my people from the past, to the present and the future. Our stories are echoing across the world.

“This is about protecting our culture and identity. Our people living in the low-lying islands have been struggling and suffering because of climate change and the decisions of others.

“We are now celebrating history in the making. This is for future generations so that they won’t be disconnected from their island homes of the Torres Strait.”

The claim was supported by the Torres Strait’s leading land and sea council that represents the regions’ traditional owners, Gur A Baradharaw Kod (GBK). Lawyers with environmental law non-profit ClientEarth, represented the claimants, with support from barristers from 20 Essex Street Chambers in London and the Victorian Bar.

The "Torres Strait Eight", from left: Yessie Mosby, Kabay Tamu, Keith Pabai, Nazareth Warria, Stanley Marama, Ted Billy, Daniel Billy and Nazareth Fauid.(Supplied: ClientEarth)

Climate change threatens up to 100% of trees in Australian cities, and most urban species worldwide

Photo: Jaana Dielenberg, Author provided
Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez, Western Sydney University; Jaana Dielenberg, Charles Darwin University; Jonathan Lenoir, Université de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV); Mark G Tjoelker, Western Sydney University, and Rachael Gallagher, Western Sydney University

To anyone who has stepped off a hot pavement into a shady park, it will come as little surprise that trees (and shrubs) have a big cooling effect on cities.

Our study published today in Nature Climate Change found climate change will put 90-100% of the trees and shrubs planted in Australian capital cities at risk by 2050. Without action, two-thirds of trees and shrubs in cities worldwide will be at potential risk from climate change.

Increasing city temperatures mean their trees are becoming more important than ever. More than just shade umbrellas, the natural air-conditioning magic of trees happens as water moves up from the soil through their roots and evaporates out of their leaves into the air.

But how will the trees themselves cope with climate change as conditions shift beyond their natural tolerance limits for high temperatures or lack of water? Our team of scientists from Australia and France examined the impacts of temperature and rainfall changes projected for coming decades on 3,129 tree and shrub species planted in 164 cities across 78 countries.

About half of these urban tree and shrub species are already experiencing climate conditions beyond their natural tolerance limits.

These findings sound bleak – but read on. We have also identified steps people can take to help their local trees survive, thrive and keep on cooling.

people walking through a tree-lined public space in Barcelona
Imagine this public space in Barcelona without trees – it would be unbearably hot in the Spanish summer. Photo: Jorge Fernández Salas/Unsplash

Risks in Australia are higher

In Australia, reduced rainfall will be the most common stress on urban trees, but increasing temperatures will also be a major factor, especially in Darwin.

By 2050, the proportion of urban tree species that might be at risk of projected temperature increases in Australian cities is very high. Among the major cities with inventories of urban plantings, those with high percentages at risk include: Cairns 82%, Melbourne 93%, Perth 95%, Hobart 95%, Sydney 96%, Canberra 98% and Darwin 100%.

Common native species, including manna gum, swamp gum, yellow box, narrow-leaved peppermint, blackwood and brush box, and well-loved introduced species, such as jacaranda, oaks, elms, poplars and silver birch, are among the trees that could be at risk in Australia.

By at risk, we mean these species might be experiencing stressful climatic conditions that could affect their health and performance. However, we could buffer the risk for these species by providing water or creating other microclimate conditions. Also, urban trees may exhibit plasticity in traits that govern survival, growth and environmental tolerance, which can help them to adapt to local environmental conditions.

A green house surrounded by trees and shrubs
Houses surrounded by trees and shrubs stay cooler in warm weather. Photo: Jaana Dielenberg, Author provided

More than 1,000 tree species at risk globally

Worldwide, we found common species of cherry plums, oaks, maples, poplars, elms, pines, lindens, wattles, eucalypts and chestnuts are among more than 1,000 species that have been flagged at risk due to climate change in most cities where they occur.

Even more worryingly, the number of species affected, and the scale of the impacts, will increase markedly by 2050 as temperatures increase. These trends jeopardise the health and longevity of urban forests and the benefits they provide to society.

A shady street through a cemetery
Urban forests like these horse chesnut trees in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris are valuable for cooling cities and making them more liveable. Photo: Akvile Jureviciute-Lenoir, Author provided

The United Nations predicts the world’s population will grow to around 8.5 billion by 2030, with more than half of those people living in cities. Climate change will further heat up the urban heat islands created by millions of people, vehicles and industries generating heat that’s retained among buildings and other infrastructure.

Urban trees have a vital role to play in keeping cities liveable. As they cool their surroundings, they reduce our electricity use for air conditioning, while also absorbing carbon dioxide, purifying the air, reducing city noise and providing wildlife habitat. They are also inherently beautiful, living things that underpin much of the biodiversity on Earth.

Being around their natural greenness also improves our mental health and well-being. Trees have helped us through stressful times such as pandemics.

However, when climatic conditions exceed the natural tolerance of trees, not only can this lead to poor tree health and limited growth, but it can also reduce their cooling effect and eventually lead to tree dieback. During drought or heat stress, trees can stop releasing water vapour from their leaves or shed leaves to reduce tissue damage. This means that at a time when we most need their natural air conditioning, they are more likely to be switching off.

People enjoying trees in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: Rachael Gallagher

What can we do to protect our trees?

Increasing the number of trees and shrubs in our cities, collectively called urban forests, is a key climate change adaptation and liveability strategy being used around the world. Until now, though, little information was available on whether or not current climatic conditions exceed what urban forests can stand, or how these conditions compare with projected changes in temperature and precipitation (drought, rain and snow) around the world.

Our study provides guidance to urban forest managers in 164 cities about which species might be at risk and should be monitored. It also identifies which species are likely to be resilient to climate change and so suitable for future plantings.

The authors explain their findings and what they mean for trees and shrubs planted in our cities.

People can help urban forests to survive and keep providing their many benefits in a few simple ways:

1) reduced rainfall and soil moisture are a big threat to many species, so you can help rain soak into the ground to ensure precious water is not wasted down the drain – consider diverting water from your downpipe to a raingarden or a rainwater tank that trickle-feeds the garden (this also helps your local creek).

2) plant even more trees and shrubs, which helps to keep city temperatures comfortable for them and us – get advice from your local council or horticulturalists about suitable climate-resilient species for your area.

3) leave trees and shrubs in place – think twice before cutting down trees and shrubs, as they are providing you with more benefits than you realise.The Conversation

A scientist inspecting a young urban tree
Author Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez checks on a young tree – the more we plant, the more they can cool their surroundings and improve their odds of coping with climate change. Author provided

Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez, Lecturer and Research Fellow, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University; Jaana Dielenberg, University Fellow, Charles Darwin University; Jonathan Lenoir, Senior Researcher in Ecology & Biostatistics (CNRS), Université de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV); Mark G Tjoelker, Professor and Associate Director, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, and Rachael Gallagher, Associate Professor, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Half of Western Sydney foodbowl land may have been lost to development in just 10 years

Nicky Morrison, Western Sydney University and Awais Piracha, Western Sydney University

More and more farming land is being lost to other land uses such as housing on the outskirts of our cities. But how much land is being lost? And why does it matter?

Our newly published research used the Western Sydney region as a case study of land lost since the 2011 census, and newly released Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) data allowed us to update our findings. While changes in ABS land-use definitions make precise comparisons difficult, Western Sydney may have lost as much as 60% of its agricultural land over the past ten years.

The significance of these losses is that Western Sydney has long been seen as the foodbowl of Greater Sydney. It produces more than three-quarters of the total value of agricultural produce in the metropolitan region. The city relies heavily on Western Sydney for livestock, vegetables, eggs, grapes and nuts.

We also interviewed people from different tiers of government working in Western Sydney. Our study highlights growing tensions between the New South Wales government and its attempts to manage population growth and housing pressures, and local councils and their efforts to protect food production on the city outskirts. The loss of productive land around our major cities is an increasingly urgent issue for our food security.

Food systems under pressure

Like many cities, Sydney is being hit by many shocks and stresses – drought, bushfires, storms, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on supply chains. This rapid succession of shocks tests the resilience of local food security. Communities face soaring food prices as part of a broader surge in costs of living.

A lack of political will, short-term election cycles with shifting priorities, and low public awareness have meant the importance of retaining farming land close to the city isn’t well understood. Perishable foods grown close to urban markets not only reduce transport and energy costs, and emissions, but also improve a city’s food security.

Our study quantifies the loss of land categorised as agricultural or primary production in Western Sydney over time. Based on ABS data for land use by mesh blocks (the smallest geographic areas defined by the ABS), we estimate Western Sydney lost 9% of its primary production land from 2016 to 2021. The worst-affected council areas over this period, The Hills Shire, Blacktown, Camden and Campbelltown, lost 43%, 39%, 26% and 19% respectively.

Changes in ABS mesh block land-use definitions (from “agriculture” in 2011 to “primary production” in 2016 and 2021), as well as changes to mapping standards, make it difficult to accurately calculate the loss of land between 2011 and 2021. However, if these land-use categories in 2011, 2016 and 2021 are assumed to be broadly comparable, we can estimate that Western Sydney lost roughly 60% of its farming land over the past ten years.

Note: estimates of losses assume the land-use categories of ‘agricultural’ in 2011 and ‘primary production’ in 2016 and 2021 are comparable. The Conversation, CC BY-ND

The pressures of growth

The NSW government has historically looked to Western Sydney to accommodate Greater Sydney’s growing population.

The population in Western Sydney is estimated to increase from 2.4 million residents in 2016 to 4.1 million in 2041. The Department of Planning and Environment’s latest housing supply forecast predicts the region will supply roughly 60% of Greater Sydney’s new dwellings in the period 2021-2025.

Attempts have been made to concentrate new development in two designated growth areas – the North-West and South-West – from 2006 onwards. These locations used to contain swathes of undeveloped greenfield land. But local council policies to retain productive farmland have been put aside to accommodate state government growth plans.

Map showing location of Greater Sydney's North West and South West growth centres
Greater Sydney’s designated growth areas are to the north-west and south-west of the city. Lawton & Morrison 2022, Land Use Policy, CC BY

The Greater Sydney Commission (now the Greater Cities Commission) introduced the concept of Metropolitan Rural Areas (MRAs) to help preserve the remaining peri-urban rural land. The MRA is defined as the land uses outside the established and planned urban areas of Greater Sydney. It broadly comprises rural towns and villages, farmland, floodplains, defence land, national parks and wilderness areas.

Satellite imagery from our research reveals a slow but steady housing sprawl into surrounding rural land. Is the MRA concept too late to stem urban encroachment?

Why are farmers selling up?

Why is farming land disappearing? Part of the answer lies in the cost-price squeezes farmers face. Costs of farming inputs have risen, while farmgate prices have fallen because of pressure from major retailers and competition.

As the cost of land and farming costs increase, low returns mean many farmers consider selling up to capitalise on land speculation. We estimate price differences between rural and residential land plots of up to 200% in Western Sydney (using the NSW Valuer General online tools).

The potential value uplift is a big incentive for farmers to approach the council and seek land rezoning to convert their rural holdings to more profitable land uses, such as housing and other urban uses. It makes financial sense. Who can blame them?

Local food production has been undervalued

Our study suggests some questioning of a pro-urban growth agenda has begun. There is growing recognition of the importance of preserving agricultural and rural land on the outskirts of our major cities to help us withstand and recover from crises.

We are seeing shortages of essential items, supply-chain disruptions and rises in the prices of foods affected by climate-related events. These developments highlight the need to reduce dependence on distant food supplies.

Australian cities must find ways to maximise the sustainable use of available natural resources for more localised food production. We should also consider more carefully the role that farming land plays in other land-use functions, including flood mitigation.

Amy Lawton, consultant in the advisory team at the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at UTS, was a co-author of this article, and of the journal publication while at WESTIR Ltd.The Conversation

Nicky Morrison, Professor of Planning and Director of Urban Transformations Research Centre, Western Sydney University and Awais Piracha, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Director Academic Programs, Geography Tourism and Urban Planning, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We helped fill a major climate change knowledge gap, thanks to 130,000-year-old sediment in Sydney lakes

Lake Couridjah, Thirlmere Lakes National Park in New South Wales. Shutterstock
Alexander Francke, University of Adelaide; Anthony Dosseto, University of Wollongong; Haidee Cadd, University of Wollongong, and Tim Cohen, University of Wollongong

Plants capture around half the carbon we emit by burning fossil fuels, making them a crucial part of mitigating climate change. But carbon is often released back into the atmosphere when plants die, decompose and eventually turn into dirt.

Carbon is only permanently removed from the atmosphere if it’s stored in sediments that accumulate at the bottom of oceans, lakes, reservoirs, or in peat bogs.

Our latest research on the Thirlmere Lakes near Sydney aimed to find out how trees, shrubs and soils in Australia’s eastern tablelands responded to climate changes over the last 130,000 years. The key question we sought to answer was whether carbon stored in Australia’s trees, shrubs, and soils contribute to the pool of carbon stored safely in lake sediment.

The answer, we determined, depends on a number of crucial factors, and erosion plays an essential, previously neglected, part.

Erosion is like a conveyer belt for carbon – it transports carbon to the lake from nearby hills where plants die. We found when the climate near Sydney was warm and wet, then trees and shrubs flourished and erosion was reduced. So while more carbon was stored in plants, it took longer for carbon in soil to be safely buried in the lake.

Previous research has shown ignoring the impact of erosion on carbon burial has caused Australia to overestimate the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere over the last 50 years, by a staggering 40%.

The cycle of carbon

Plants capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, and store carbon in their tissue. So what happens when plants die?

The equation is easier for the oceans: dead phytoplankton (tiny algae floating close to the surface) sinks to seafloor, where most of its captured carbon is stored safely far away from the atmosphere. On land things are more complex.

When trees and shrubs die, they cover the surface, decompose and become part of the soil. In fact, 80% of carbon on land is stored in soils. Decomposition releases some of the captured carbon back into the atmosphere, unless they’re buried deep.

In Australia, much more carbon is stored when weather conditions are wetter. During the strong La Niña event of 2010-2012, large areas of the Australia’s dry interior and temperate landscape experienced significant “greening”.

Research shows 20% more carbon was captured from the Earth’s atmosphere during this La-Niña event due to increasing plant growth. Australia contributed more than half of this.

The Thirlmere Lakes during dry conditions. Timothy J. Cohen, Author provided

The last 130,000 years

The story is even more dramatic if you look back at the last 130,000 years. During this time, the planet experienced cycles of two climate phenomena: glacial periods and interglacial periods.

A “glacial” period is characterised by much colder and drier conditions, when wide parts of northern Europe, Eurasia, and America were covered by ice kilometres thick. The last time it peaked was around 21,000 years ago.

Australia endured warmer and wetter conditions during “interglacial” periods, which peaked around 125,000 years ago and again over the last 11,600 years.

For our research, we drilled deep into Sydney’s Thirlmere Lake mud, and pulled up long columns of sediment containing traces of vegetation, climate, and erosion from the last 130,000 years. We observed significant changes in the types of vegetation growing in the catchment over this time.

Shrubs and large trees such as eucalypts flourished during warmer and wetter interglacial periods. They were less abundant when it was colder and dry during glacial periods, when grass and herbs became more common.

Large trees capture more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than grasses and herbs. And this captured carbon then accumulates in the surface of soils when the plant dies.

But how is the soil-carbon transported from the slopes where the trees and shrubs grow, to the bottom of the lake?

Extracting sediment cores from a lake. Fabian Boesl, Author provided

Soil erosion

Erosion – whether gravity, water or wind - forms our landscape and is essential for the accumulation of soil carbon in lakes, reservoirs and the oceans.

The deeper the carbon is buried in the sediments of these reservoirs, the more efficiently it is locked away from the atmosphere. In contrast, the longer it remains on the slopes and in soils close to the surface, the more it decomposes, and carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere.

For the wider Sydney region, more plant growth occurred during the interglacial period, which take up vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But this may be offset by decreased erosion. And indeed, our data suggests decreased erosion during interglacial periods.

This decreased erosion is because of the protection of trees which, for example, stabilise the soil with their roots. Indeed, we found tree cover slows the rate that soil carbon moves from slope to lake by nearly 10 times.

This means there’s much more time for soils to decompose on the slope, and to release carbon back into the atmosphere.

Nevertheless, we still recorded significantly higher carbon storage in lake sediments during warmer and wetter periods, thanks largely to the greater growth of trees and shrubs compared to grasses, which are more abundant during interglacial periods. This compensates for the reduced erosion.

We also found the lake transformed into a productive wetland during warm periods. This means more carbon is also captured by plants growing in the lake.

What will happen under climate change?

The interplay between climate, vegetation, and erosion is difficult to quantify. Our research fills a critical gap in knowledge, as climate models currently don’t account for soil-carbon erosion.

Those models assume all soil-carbon is eventually emitted back into the atmosphere, introducing uncertainties into climate predictions.

The Thirlmere Lakes during wet conditions. Fabian Boesl, Author provided

Future climate change may raise the risk of the Thirlmere Lakes drying out, which means the sediments will be exposed, which promotes decomposition. This means the previously stored carbon will be emitted back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Extreme aridity may also reduce terrestrial plant growth, as it did during the millennium drought.

Further, destruction of vegetation by severe bushfires reduce biomass yield to the wetlands. Preserving Australia’s unique native terrestrial vegetation and wetlands is therefore essential to sustain the continent’s role in the global carbon cycle.The Conversation

Alexander Francke, Research Fellow, University of Adelaide; Anthony Dosseto, Professor, University of Wollongong; Haidee Cadd, Research associate, University of Wollongong, and Tim Cohen, Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow, University of Wollongong

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

In a win for Traditional Owners, Origin is walking away from the Beetaloo Basin. But the fight against fracking is not over

Lily O'Neill, The University of Melbourne and Ben Neville, The University of Melbourne

What a difference six months makes. Before the federal election, the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory was to have spearheaded Australia’s “gas-led recovery”. But Origin Energy this week announced it would sell its share of the basin project ahead of a wider exit from new gas ventures.

The Beetaloo Basin holds a truly enormous amount of fossil carbon – prompting Greens leader Adam Bandt to describe it as a “climate bomb”.

Origin’s exit is not a killing blow to the controversial project. But it shows increasing corporate jitters about investing in gas. And the announcement came as major iron miner Fortescue announced plans to eliminate fossil fuel use within eight years.

Origin’s exit is a major win for the region’s Traditional Owners, many of whom feared the fracking would cause large-scale environmental damage, as well as harming the climate. But Origin has sold its rights to frack Beetaloo – so the fight is far from over.

fracking protests origin energy
Traditional Owner activists targeted Origin over its fracking plans, as in this 2019 protest outside Origin’s offices. Shutterstock

What is this basin and why does it matter?

Oil and gas are usually found in geological basins – large, low-lying areas filled with rocks and sediment. The Beetaloo Basin covers 28,000 square kilometres and lies around 500 kilometres south-east of Darwin. Origin’s former exploration area lies near the town of Daly Waters.

Fracking the basin has been planned since 2004. The former Morrison Coalition government planned a so-called “gas led recovery” to accelerate its development, fuelled by large amounts of taxpayer money to encourage the fossil fuel industry to frack the remote area.

The move was unpopular with the region’s Traditional Owners, with fracking described by Traditional Owner Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves as “digging up my body, breaking my Tjukurpa (Dreaming)” in a government inquiry.

Local Traditional Owners formed the Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation to fight fracking, in partnership with local pastoralists.

Origin’s statement makes no mention of these tensions in its decision. Indeed, it talks of “strong support” from the local community, including native title holders.

Despite this rhetoric, the work by Traditional Owners and pastoralists created enormous pressure for Origin to back out of the project.

This win demonstrates yet again how Indigenous people around the world are playing a key role in warding off the worst of the climate crisis.

This occurs not only when Indigenous people oppose fossil fuel projects on their land, but through their management of 38 million square kilometres of land across 87 countries.

This is an enormous estate – one quarter of the Earth’s land surface – and often covers land rich in biodiversity.

Australia’s First Nations peoples hold rights and interests in land covering about 40% of the continent, again land that has been sustainably managed by First Nations peoples for thousands of years and is therefore highly environmentally valuable.

Land management is central to combating climate change, through nature-based solutions such as storing carbon in trees, soils and mangroves and seagrass meadows. First Nations communities have at least 60,000 years of knowledge of how to care for Country in ways which can aid climate adaptation, mitigation and repair.

What next?

Origin has sold its rights to a company half-owned by Tamboran Resources Limited.

Under the previous Coalition government, Tamboran subsidiary Sweetpea Petroleum received A$7.5 million of public money to drill exploration wells in the Beetaloo. Tamboran and Sweetpea refused to appear at a 2021 Senate inquiry into oil and gas activities in the Beetaloo Basin – a move the Senate committee declared was “unacceptable”.

Tamboran is now trying to raise $133 million to pay Origin for the rights and invest the rest in developing the project.

As the International Energy Agency has warned, we cannot open new fossil fuel projects if we hope to limit global temperature rise to the crucial 1.5℃ threshold.

For more than a decade, climate activists have called on institutions to divest themselves of their fossil fuel holdings. Origin has divested itself of Beetaloo and BHP is divesting its oil and gas portfolio.

But these are not true victories for the climate if the fossil fuel assets are sold to be extracted and burned by another company.

Keeping it in the ground

If we are serious about saving our planet we need to legislate to close down fossil fuel assets and force shareholders and investors to cop the losses.

In selling its share, Origin has taken an estimated loss of up to $90 million. But the fight against fracking in the Beetaloo is not over.

Still, it’s important to recognise what’s been achieved. As Johnny Wilson, Chair of Nurrdalinji Corporation said:

We hope this is the start of more companies turning their back on gas production where we live. Fracking is not what we want … The government should give up backing the industry with taxpayers’ money and invest in health, education and clean energy from the sun because that’s what will keep our future strong.The Conversation

Lily O'Neill, Senior Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne and Ben Neville, A/Prof and Deputy Director of Melbourne Climate Futures, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Dugongs and turtles are starving to death in Queensland seas – and La Niña’s floods are to blame

Kathy Ann Townsend, University of the Sunshine Coast

To rescue a turtle, University of the Sunshine Coast PhD candidate Caitlin Smith half-swam, half-crawled across mud on an inner tube. She tied a harness around its chest and front flippers, so the rest of the team could carefully pull it to safety. It was just one of 15 sick green turtles our team discovered in recent weeks in the Great Sandy Strait near Queensland’s Hervey Bay.

It’s not just turtles struggling at the moment. A dead dugong was found nearby, while another emaciated dugong was found still alive up the Noosa River.

They’re starving. Huge rains and floods have washed large quantities of sediment out to sea, where it smothers the seagrass these marine creatures rely on. There’s no relief in sight, as we enter our third wet year of La Niña.

This is the rescued green sea turtle, showing signs of poor health linked to the flooding. It was taken to a wildlife hospital. Caitlin Smith/Author supplied

Why is this happening?

Most of the sick sea turtles we found – as well as those found by Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science team – showed signs of starvation and illness, including the newly identified soft shell disease.

What lies behind these deaths are the rains and floods brought by La Nina.

Like much of New South Wales and Queensland, the Great Sandy Strait has been heavily hit by flooding this year, with three major floods engorging the Mary River. Floodwaters have carried huge amounts of sediment into Hervey Bay, reducing the water quality and flushing pollutants into sea turtle and dugong habitat.

In normal years, sediment from rivers brings a flush of nutrients, which can actually cause a seagrass boom once the water quality improves. The problem is, there’s been just too much sediment. With one La Niña after another, it’s been harder for seagrass to recover or regrow.

As sediment from the floods spread out over the shallow seas, it made the water murkier. Soon, sunlight couldn’t penetrate the gloom to reach the seagrass meadows. Worse, floods release a cocktail of chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides, unintentionally washed down from farms and inundated townships.

The result has been widespread devastation in the Great Sandy Straits region. In May this year, a James Cook University team surveyed 2,300 square kilometres across the region and found almost no seagrass left in waters ranging from 1 metre to 17 metres.

dead dugong
This dead dugong was found in Hervey Bay - a likely casualty of the floods. Ali Hammond, Author provided

Green sea turtles and dugongs are the grazers of the Australian seas and rely heavily on seagrass. In good years, they drift over these lush meadows of seagrass – which resemble grassy fields on land – eating as they go.

Summers are when our seagrass meadows usually flourish, letting turtles and dugong fatten up for the winter. During winter, seagrass naturally dies back. This year, local sea turtles and dugongs went into winter in poor condition, having missed out on fattening up during the summer season.

That’s why we’re seeing so many sick or dying animals. From January 1 to August 31 this year, volunteers from Turtles in Trouble Rescue have taken 91 sea turtles from the region to the nearest wildlife hospital, 300 kilometres away. By contrast, in 2019, before the La Niña cycle began, the group had only 12 transports.

Is there nowhere else they can get food from?

In flood-affected areas, turtles and dugongs have only two choices: move away, or try eating something else.

During the large 2010 floods, dugongs from Hervey Bay were found more than 200 kilometres south in Moreton Bay, offshore from Brisbane. Unfortunately, their migration didn’t leave them much better off – the seagrass in Moreton Bay had been hit by Brisbane River sediment. But we do know some survived.

Others were found dead, washed up 900 kilometres south after trying to find food and failing. Turtles can migrate too, but they’re often so weak from starvation that disease and parasites that they die before finding an alternative food source.

Mangrove leaves are acting as alternative food sources for desperate sea turtles. Photo by Kathy Townsend

What about finding something else to eat? When our team analysed the stomachs of dead sea turtles from the Hervey Bay region, we found many were full of mangrove leaves.

Unfortunately, these trees have a range of natural toxins designed to stop animals eating them, such as the toxic sap of the milky mangrove. Worse, as the “kidneys of the coast”, mangroves use their leaves to store concentrated salt and toxins such as heavy metals. In short, this diet is no substitute.

Is this part of a natural cycle of boom and bust?

While turtles and dugongs do have natural variation in their populations over time – and often due to food availability – there are limits. Turtles and dugongs cannot respond to climate-induced pressures the same way fast-breeding mice can.

Female green sea turtles have to be 30 to 40 years old before they can begin to reproduce. They only undertake their long migrations to breed every three to eight years. They lay over 1,000 eggs in the hope just one hatchling will survive the perilous seas long enough to hit reproductive age.

Dugongs, meanwhile, only raise a single calf every three to seven years. These reproductive strategies make it very difficult to respond to fast changes to their environments.

Successive lean years caused by back-to-back La Niña events will hit both the survival rate and reproductive ability of these animals.

Sea turtles in poor condition will not be able to migrate successfully, which means they’re heading for a poor nesting season. Dugongs, too, will struggle. Without stores of fat, the females won’t be able to support their calves through to weaning stage. That will make it harder to replenish the population and recover from losses from starvation or relocation. We won’t know the full impact of this event until years from now.

More volunteers have put up their hand to help the stranded sea turtles. Kathy Townsend

In response to the crisis, local volunteers have stepped up. The Turtles in Trouble Rescue group has gone from five to 50 trained members, and are working with the University of the Sunshine Coast to create a sea turtle rehabilitation centre in the area. We’ll be better prepared for the next flooding event. The Conversation

Kathy Ann Townsend, Senior Lecturer in Animal Ecology, University of the Sunshine Coast

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Young cold-blooded animals are suffering the most as Earth heats up, research finds

Patrice Pottier, UNSW Sydney

Climate change is making heatwaves worse. Many people have already noticed the difference – and so too have other animals.

Sadly, research by myself and colleagues has found young animals, in particular, are struggling to keep up with rising temperatures, likely making them more vulnerable to climate change than adults of their species.

The study focused on “ectotherms”, or cold-blooded animals, which comprise more than 99% of animals on Earth. They include fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects. The body temperature of these animals reflects outside temperatures – so they can get dangerously hot during heat waves.

In a warming world, a species’ ability to adapt or acclimatise to temperatures is crucial. Our study found that young ectotherms, in particular, can struggle to handle more heat as their habitat warms up. That may have dramatic consequences for biodiversity as climate change worsens.

Our findings are yet more evidence of the need to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent catastrophic global heating. Humans must also provide and retain cool spaces to help animals navigate a warmer future.

large and small beetles move across a log
A species’ ability to adapt or acclimatise to higher temperatures is crucial. Shutterstock

Tolerating heat in a changing climate

The body temperature of ectotherms is extremely variable. As they move through their habitat, their body temperature varies according to the outside conditions.

However, there’s only so much heat these animals can tolerate. Heat tolerance is defined as the maximum body temperature ectotherms can handle before they lose functions such as the ability to walk or swim. During heat waves, their body temperature gets so high they can die.

Species, including ectotherms, can adapt to challenges in their environment over time by evolving across generations. But the rate at which global temperatures are rising means in many cases, this adaptation is not happening fast enough. That’s why we need to understand how animals acclimatise to rising temperatures within a single lifetime.

Unfortunately, some young animals have little to no ability to move and seek cooler temperatures. For example, baby lizards inside eggs cannot move elsewhere. And owing to their small size, juvenile ectotherms cannot move great distances.

This suggests young animals may be particularly vulnerable during intense heat waves. But we know very little about how young animals acclimatise to high temperatures. Our research sought to find out more.

snakes hatching from eggs
Ectotherms cannot escape their eggs to avoid a heatwave. Shutterstock

Young animals at risk

Our study drew on 60 years of research into 138 ectotherm species from around the world.

Overall, we found the heat tolerance of embryos and juvenile ectotherms increased very little in response to rising temperatures. For each degree of warming, the heat tolerance of young ectotherms only increased by an average 0.13℃.

The physiology of heat acclimatisation in animals is very complex and poorly understood. It appears linked to a number of factors such as metabolic activity and proteins produced by cells in response to stress.

Our research showed young land-based animals were worse at acclimatising to heat than aquatic animals. This may be because moving to a cooler temperature on land is easier than in an aquatic environment, so land-based animals may not have developed the same ability to acclimatise to heat.

Large striped fish swimming with smaller fish
Aquatic animals appear better able to acclimatise to warmer conditions than land-based animals. Shutterstock

Heat tolerance can vary within a species. It can depend on what temperatures an animal has experienced during its lifetime and, as such, the extent to which it has acclimatised. But surprisingly, our research found past exposure to high temperatures does not necessarily help a young animal withstand future high temperatures.

Take, for example, Lesueur’s velvet gecko which is found mostly along Australia’s east coast. Research shows juveniles from eggs incubated in cooler nests (23.2℃) tolerated temperatures up to 40.2℃. In contrast, juveniles from warmer nests (27℃) only tolerated temperatures up to 38.7℃.

Those patterns can persist through adulthood. For example, adult male mosquito fish from eggs incubated to 32℃ were less tolerant to heat than adult males that experienced 26℃ during incubation.

These results show embryos are especially vulnerable to extreme heat. Instead of getting better at handling heat, warmer eggs tend to produce juveniles and adults less capable of withstanding a warmer future.

Overall, our findings suggest young cold-blooded animals are already struggling to cope with rising temperatures – and conditions during early life can have lifelong consequences.

baby turtles moving across sand
Young cold-blooded animals are already struggling to cope with higher temperatures. Shutterstock

What’s next?

To date, most studies on the impacts of climate change have focused on adults. Our research suggests animals may be harmed by heatwaves long before they reach adulthood – perhaps even before they’re born.

Alarmingly, this means we may have underestimated the damage climate change will cause to biodiversity.

Clearly, it’s vitally important to limit global greenhouse gas emissions to the extent required by the Paris Agreement.

But we can also act to protect species at a finer scale – by conserving habitats that allow animals to find shade and shelter during heatwaves. Such habitats include trees, shrubs, burrows, ponds, caves, logs and rocks. These places must be created, restored and preserved to help animals prosper in a warming world.The Conversation

Patrice Pottier, PhD Candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UNSW Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Pando in pieces: Understanding the new breach in the world's largest living thing

September 19, 2022
It's ancient, it's massive, and it is faltering. The gargantuan aspen stand dubbed 'Pando,' located in south-central Utah, is more than 100 acres of quivering, genetically identical plant life, thought to be the largest living organism on earth (based on dry weight mass, 13 million pounds). What looks like a shimmering panorama of individual trees is actually a group of genetically identical stems with an immense shared root system.

Now, after a lifetime that may have stretched across millennia, the 'trembling giant' is beginning to break up, according to new research.

Paul Rogers, adjunct professor of ecology in the Quinney College of Natural Resources and director of the Western Aspen Alliance, completed the first comprehensive evaluation of Pando five years ago. It showed that browsing deer (and to a lesser degree cattle) were harming the stand -- limiting growth of new aspen suckers and putting an effective expiration date on the colossal plant. As older trees aged-out, new aspen sprouts weren't surviving voracious browsers to replace them. Pando was slowly dying.

In response to the threat, managers erected fencing around a section of the stand to keep grazing animals out, creating an experiment of sorts. Rogers recently returned to evaluate the strategy, and to do a well-check on the overall health of Pando. He reported his findings in the journal Conservation Science and Practice.

Pando seems to be taking three disparate ecological paths based on how the segments are managed, according to the research. Around 16 percent of the stand is adequately fenced to keep out browsing animals; new aspen suckers surviving those first tender years to establish into new trees. But across more than a third of the stand, fencing had fallen into disrepair and was only lately reinforced. Past browsing still has adverse impacts in this section; old and dying trees still outnumbering the young.

And the areas that remain unfenced (approximately 50 percent of the stand) continue to have concentrated levels of deer and cattle consuming the bulk of young sprouts. These hard-hit zones are now shifting ecologically in distinct ways, said Rogers. Mature aspen stems die without being replaced, opening the overstory and allowing more sunlight to consistently reach the forest floor, which alters plant composition. These unfenced areas are experiencing the most rapid aspen decline, while the other fenced areas are taking their own unique courses -- in effect, breaking up this unique, historically uniform, forest.

The solution to Pando's survival, said Rogers, might not be just more fencing. While unfenced areas are rapidly dying off, fencing alone is encouraging single-aged regeneration in a forest that has sustained itself over the centuries by varying growth. While this may not seem critical, aspen and understory growth patterns at odds from the past are already occurring, said Rogers.

In Utah and across the West, Pando is iconic, and something of a canary in the coal mine. As a keystone species, aspen forests support high levels of biodiversity -- from chickadees to thimbleberry. As aspen ecosystems flourish or diminish, myriad dependent species follow suit. Long-term failure for new recruitment in aspen systems may have cascading effects on hundreds of species dependent on them.

Additionally, there are aesthetic and philosophical problems with a fencing strategy, said Rogers.

"I think that if we try to save the organism with fences alone, we'll find ourselves trying to create something like a zoo in the wild," said Rogers. "Although the fencing strategy is well-intentioned, we'll ultimately need to address the underlying problems of too many browsing deer and cattle on this landscape."

Pando is a paradox. It is reputed to be the earth's largest organism, but it is comparatively small in the big-picture of conservation challenges across the globe -- or even just in Utah, he said. But as a symbol, it speaks to the fate of aspen diversity and healthy human interactions with the earth at-large. Lessons learned while protecting Pando also offer perspective on struggling aspen forests spanning the earth's northern hemisphere.

Paul C. Rogers. Pando's pulse: Vital signs signal need for course correction at world‐renowned aspen forest. Conservation Science and Practice, 2022; DOI: 10.1111/csp2.12804

Field Technicians Rebekah Adams and Etta Crowley take vegetation measurement under Pando, the world's largest living organism. A recent evaluation of the massive aspen stand in south-central Utah found that Pando seems to be taking three disparate ecological paths based on how the different segments are managed.

From crumbling rock art to exposed ancestral remains, climate change is ravaging our precious Indigenous heritage

Jarrad Kowlessar/courtesy of Gumurr Marthakal Indigenous Rangers
Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Flinders University; Enid Tom, Indigenous Knowledge; Marcus Lacey, Indigenous Knowledge, and Shawnee Gorringe, Indigenous Knowledge

Climate change is rapidly intensifying. Amid the chaos and damage it wreaks, many precious Indigenous heritage sites in Australia and around the world are being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Sea-level rise, flooding, worsening bushfires and other human-caused climate events put many archaeological and heritage sites at risk. Already, culturally significant Indigenous sites have been lost or are gravely threatened.

For example, in Northern Australia, rock art tens of thousands of years old has been destroyed by cyclones, bushfires and other extreme weather events.

And as we outline below, ancestral remains in the Torres Strait were last year almost washed away by king tides and storm surge.

These examples of loss are just the beginning, unless we act. By combining Indigenous Traditional Knowledge with Western scientific approaches, communities can prioritise what heritage to save.

rocky landscape and blue sky
Australia’s ancient landscapes are a treasure trove of Indigenous heritage. Pictured: Mithaka Country in remote Queensland. Shawnee Gorringe/courtesy of Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation

Indigenous heritage on the brink

Indigenous Australians are one of the longest living cultures on Earth. They have maintained their cultural and sacred sites for millennia.

In July, Traditional Owners from across Australia attended a workshop on disaster risk management at Flinders University. The participants, who work on Country as cultural heritage managers and rangers, hailed from as far afield as the Torres Strait Islands and Tasmania.

Here, three of these Traditional Owners describe cultural heritage losses they’ve witnessed, or fear will occur in the near future.

- Enid Tom, Kaurareg Elder and a director of Kaurareg Native Title Aboriginal Corporation:

Coastal erosion and seawater inundation have long threatened the Torres Strait. But now efforts to deal with the problem have taken on new urgency.

In February last year, king tides and a storm surge eroded parts of a beach on Muralug (or Prince of Wales) Island. Aboriginal custodians and archaeologists rushed to one site where a female ancestor was buried. They excavated the skeletal remains and reburied them at a safe location.

It was the first time such a site had been excavated at the island. Kaurareg Elders now worry coastal erosion will uncover and potentially destroy more burial sites.

Excavations of an ancestral burial eroded by king tides in the Torres Strait. Michael Westaway, UQ/ courtesy of Kaurareg Native Title Aboriginal Corporation

- Marcus Lacey, Senior Gumurr Marthakal Indigenous Ranger:

The Marthakal Indigenous Protected Area covers remote islands and coastal mainland areas in the Northern Territory’s North Eastern Arnhem Land. It has an average elevation of just one metre above sea level, and is highly vulnerable to climate change-related hazards such as severe tropical cyclones and sea level rise.

The area is the last remnant of the ancient land bridge joining Australia with Southeast Asia. As such, it can provide valuable information about the first colonisation of Australia by First Nations people.

It is also an important place for understanding contact history between Aboriginal Australians and the Indonesian Maccassans, dating back some 400 years.

What’s more, the area provides insights into Australia’s colonial history, such as Indigenous rock art depicting the ships of British navigator Matthew Flinders. Sea level rise and king tides mean this valuable piece of Australia’s history is now being eroded.

rocky coastal area from above
The coastal area has an average elevation of just one metre above sea level. Jarrad Kowlessar, Flinders University/courtesy of Gumurr Marthakal Indigenous Rangers
flat piece of rock partially buried in sand
Slabs of rock containing ancient Indigenous art have fallen into the sand. Jarrad Kowlessar, Flinders University/courtesy of Gumurr Marthakal Indigenous Rangers

- Shawnee Gorringe, operations administrator at Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation:

rubble on dry earth
Remains of a traditional Indigenous fireplace currently at risk of destruction. Shawnee Gorringe/courtesy of Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation

On Mithaka land, in remote Queensland, lie important Indigenous heritage sites such as stone circles, fireplaces and examples of traditional First Nations water management infrastructure.

But repeated drought risks destroying these sites – a threat compounded by erosion from over-grazing.

To help solve these issues, we desperately need Indigenous leadership and participation in decision-making at local, state and federal levels. This is the only way to achieve a sustainable future for environmental and heritage protection.

Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation general manager Joshua Gorringe has been invited to the United Nations’ COP27 climate conference in Egypt in November. This is a step in the right direction.

So what now?

The loss of Indigenous heritage to climate change requires immediate action. This should involve rigorous assessment of threatened sites, prioritising those most at risk, and taking steps to mitigate damage.

This work should be undertaken not only by scientists, engineers and heritage workers, but first and foremost by the Indigenous communities themselves, using Traditional Knowledge.

Last year’s COP26 global climate conference included a climate heritage agenda. This allowed global Indigenous voices to be heard. But unfortunately, Indigenous heritage is often excluded from discussions about climate change.

Addressing this requires doing away with the usual “top down” Western, neo-colonial approach which many Indigenous communities see as exclusive and ineffective. Instead, a “bottom up” approach should be adopted through inclusive and long-term initiatives such as Caring for Country.

This approach should draw on Indigenous knowledge – often passed down orally – of how to manage risk. This should be combined with Western climate science, as well as the expertise of governments and other organisations.

Incorporating Indigenous knowledge into cultural heritage policies and procedures will not just improve heritage protection. It would empower Indigenous communities in the face of the growing climate emergency.The Conversation

Anna M. Kotarba-Morley, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Flinders University; Enid Tom, Kaurareg Elder and director of Kaurareg Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, Indigenous Knowledge; Marcus Lacey, Senior Gumurr Marthakal Indigenous ranger, Indigenous Knowledge, and Shawnee Gorringe, Manager at Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation, Indigenous Knowledge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What if carbon border taxes applied to all carbon – fossil fuels, too?

Most national carbon border adjustments being considered target only manufactured goods. Thatree Thitivongvaroon via Getty Images
Joonha Kim, Rice University and Mark Finley, Rice University

The European Union is embarking on an experiment that will expand its climate policies to imports for the first time. It’s called a carbon border adjustment, and it aims to level the playing field for the EU’s domestic producers by taxing energy-intensive imports like steel and cement that are high in greenhouse gas emissions but aren’t already covered by climate policies in their home countries.

If the border adjustment works as planned, it could encourage the spread of climate policies around the world. But the EU plan, as well as most attempts to evaluate the impact of such policies, is missing an important source of cross-border carbon flows: trade in fossil fuels themselves.

As energy analysts, we decided to take a closer look at what including fossil fuels would mean.

In a newly released paper, we analyzed the impact and found that including fossil fuels in carbon border adjustments would significantly alter the balance of cross-border carbon flows.

For example, China is a major exporter of carbon-intensive manufactured goods, and its industries will face higher costs under the EU border adjustment if China doesn’t set sufficient climate policies for those industries. But when fossil fuels are considered, China becomes a net carbon importer, so setting its own comprehensive border adjustment could be to its energy producers’ benefit.

The U.S., on the other hand, could see harm to its domestic fuel producers if other countries imposed carbon border adjustments on fossil fuels. But the U.S. would still be a net carbon importer, and adding a border adjustment could help its domestic manufacturers.

What is a carbon border adjustment?

Carbon border adjustments are trade policies designed to avoid “carbon leakage” – the phenomenon in which manufacturers relocate their production to other countries to get around environmental regulations.

The idea is to impose a carbon “tax” on imports that is commensurate with the costs domestic companies face related to a country’s climate policy. The carbon border adjustment is imposed on imports from countries that do not have similar climate policies. In addition, countries can give rebates to exports to ensure domestic manufacturers remain competitive in the global market.

This is all still in the future. The EU plan phases in starting in 2023 but currently isn’t scheduled to fully go into effect until 2026. However, other countries are closely watching as they consider their own policies, including some members of the U.S. Congress who are considering carbon border adjustment legislation.

Capturing all cross-border carbon flows

One issue is that current discussions of carbon border taxes focus on “embodied” carbon – the carbon associated with the production of a good. For example, the EU proposal covers cement, aluminum, fertilizers, power generation, iron and steel.

But a comprehensive border adjustment, in theory, should seek to address all cross-border carbon flows. All the major analyses to date, however, leave out the carbon content of fossil fuels trade, which we refer to as “explicit” carbon.

In our analysis, we show that when only manufactured goods are considered, the U.S. and EU are portrayed as carbon importers because of their “embodied” carbon balance – they import a lot of high-carbon manufactured goods – while China is portrayed as a carbon exporter. That changes when fossil fuels are included.

The impact of including fossil fuels

By assessing the impact of a carbon border adjustment based only on embodied carbon flows, those involving manufactured goods, policymakers are missing a significant part of total carbon traded across their borders – in many cases, the largest part.

In the EU, our findings largely reinforce the current motivation behind a carbon border adjustment, since the bloc is an importer of both explicit carbon and embodied carbon.

For the U.S., however, the results are mixed. A carbon border adjustment could protect domestic manufacturers but harm the international competitiveness of domestic fossil fuels, and at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is placing renewed importance on the U.S. as a global energy supplier.

The Chinese economy, as an exporter of embodied carbon in manufactured goods, would suffer if its trading partners imposed a carbon border adjustment on China’s products. On the other hand, a Chinese domestic border adjustment could benefit Chinese domestic energy producers at the expense of foreign competitors who fail to adopt similar policies.

Interestingly, our analysis suggests that, by including explicit carbon flows, the U.S., EU and China are all net importers of carbon. All three key players could be on the same side of the discussion, which could improve the prospects for future climate negotiations – if all parties recognize their common interests.The Conversation

Joonha Kim, Graduate fellow, Baker Institute, Rice University and Mark Finley, Fellow in Energy and Global Oil, Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How you can help protect sharks – and what doesn’t work

Whitetip sharks amid a school of anthias near Jarvis island in the South Pacific. Kelvin Gorospe, NOAA/NMFS/Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Blog/Flickr, CC BY
David Shiffman, Arizona State University

Sharks are some of the most ecologically important and most threatened animals on Earth. Recent reports show that up to one-third of all known species of sharks and their relatives, rays, are threatened with extinction. Unsustainable overfishing is the biggest threat by far.

Losing sharks can disrupt coastal food webs that billions of people depend on for food. When food chains lose their top predators, the rest can unravel as smaller prey species multiply.

In my years of talking with the public about sharks and ocean conservation, I’ve found that many people care about sharks and want to help but don’t know how. The solutions can be quite technical, and it’s challenging to understand and appreciate the scale and scope of some of the threats.

At the same time, there is an enormous amount of oversimplification and even misinformation about these important topics, which can lead well-intentioned people to support policies that experts know won’t work.

I am a marine conservation biologist and have sought to improve this situation by surveying shark researchers and helping scientists identify research topics that can advance conservation. I’ve also written a book, “Why Sharks Matter: A Deep Dive With the World’s Most Misunderstood Predator.” Here are three ways that anyone can make a difference for sharks and avoid taking steps that are ineffective or even harmful.

A 2020 study that surveyed 371 reefs found that sharks had virtually disappeared from about 20% of them.

Don’t eat unsustainable seafood

The No. 1 threat to sharks and rays – and arguably, to marine biodiversity in general – is unsustainable overfishing. Some fishing methods are incredibly destructive to marine life and habitats.

They can also produce high rates of bycatch – the unintended catch of nontarget species. For example, fishermen pursuing tuna may accidentally catch sea turtles or sharks swimming near the tuna.

The single most effective thing that individual consumers can do is to avoid seafood produced using these harmful methods. This does not mean completely avoiding seafood, as some advocates urge. Seafood is healthy, delicious and culturally important, and there are environmentally friendly ways of catching it sustainably. There are even sustainable fisheries for sharks.

Reputable organizations such as California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium publish sustainable seafood guides that rate different types of seafood based on how they are caught or raised. While experts may quibble over details of some of these rankings, consumers can follow these guidelines and know that they are helping to protect sharks and ocean life in general.

Support reputable environmental nonprofits, not harmful extremists

Lots of great environmental nonprofit organizations work on shark issues and offer opportunities to get involved, such as donating money and communicating with elected officials and other decision-makers. In my book, I describe the work of many of these groups, including my favorite, Shark Advocates International.

Unfortunately, some organizations promote pseudoscience that doesn’t help anyone or anything. In a 2021 study, colleagues and I surveyed employees of 78 nonprofits that work on shark conservation issues to understand whether and how these organizations engaged with the science of shark conservation.

We found that a small but vocal minority had never read scientific reports or spoken with scientists, and held blatantly incorrect and harmful views that cannot help sharks. For example, some organizations are trying to get certain airlines to stop carrying shark products like dried fins, without acknowledging that well over 95% of fins are shipped by sea or that sustainable sources of these fins exist.

One of my particular pet peeves is amateur online petitions that may not reflect actual conditions. For example, in the spring of 2022, some 60,000 people signed a petition calling for Florida to ban the practice of shark finning – without recognizing that Florida had banned shark finning in the early 1990s. As I explain in my book, it is essential to identify organizations that use science in support of worthwhile conservation goals and avoid promoting others that do not.

Look to experts

Many ocean science, management and conservation experts are active on social media. Following them is a great way to learn about fascinating new scientific discoveries and conservation issues.

Unfortunately, sharks also get a lot of sensational coverage in the media, and well-intentioned but uninformed people often spread misinformation on social media. For example, you may have seen posts celebrating Hawaii for banning shark fishing in its waters – but these posts don’t note that about 99% of fishing in Hawaii occurs in federal waters.

Don’t take the bait. By getting your information from reliable sources, you can help other people learn more about these fascinating, ecologically important animals, why they need humans’ help and the most effective steps to take.The Conversation

David Shiffman, Post-Doctoral and Research Scholar in Marine Biology, Arizona State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Patagonia’s founder has given his company away to fight climate change and advance conservation: 5 questions answered

The company’s profits will sustain these efforts in perpetuity. Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Ash Enrici, Indiana University

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, his wife and their two adult children have irrevocably transferred their ownership of the outdoor apparel company to a set of trusts and nonprofit organizations.

From now on, the corporation’s profits will fund efforts to deal with climate change, as well as protect wilderness areas. It will, however, remain a privately held enterprise. According to initial reports about this unusual approach to philanthropy that ran on Sept. 14, 2022, Patagonia is worth about US$3 billion and its profits that will be donated in perpetuity could total $100 million every year.

The Conversation U.S. asked Indiana University’s Ash Enrici – a scholar who studies how philanthropy affects the environment – to explain why this arrangement is so significant.

1. Is this move part of a trend?

The biggest donors, those giving away billions of dollars, are increasingly making climate change a priority. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for example, announced in 2020 that he was putting $10 billion into his Earth Fund, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, said in 2021 that she would devote $3.5 billion of her fortune to fighting climate change.

Likewise, big donors are increasing their funding of conservation efforts.

In September 2021, the Earth Fund joined with eight other philanthropic powerhouses to pledge $5 billion to “support the creation, expansion, management and monitoring of protected and conserved areas of land, inland water and sea” around the world. This initiative aims to conserve 30% of Earth by 2030.

Within days of Chouinard’s announcement, another splashy climate gift emerged, setting a similar precedent. Filmmaker Adam McKay said he will donate $4 million he made from the movie “Don’t Look Up,” which he wrote, co-produced and directed. Those proceeds from his satirical film, which was a metaphor regarding climate inaction, will fund a climate activism group.

No matter how frequently these donations occur, it’s important to keep in mind that the cost of meeting the world’s environmental challenges is enormous and will cost trillions of dollars. So while all of these gifts are certainly significant in their scale, donors and governments will need to do and spend much more.

2. What makes it stand out?

What’s unusual about Chouinard’s climate-change gift is its structure. By giving away his company and directing that the profits be spent fighting climate change in the long term in the form of regular installments, he is creating a new model for large-scale donations.

It also sets a notable precedent. Chouinard and his family are giving away the source of their wealth and setting things up in a way that is going to result in a predictable form of support for work on climate issues – an estimated $100 million each year from Patagonia’s profits.

I think it’s a great example for other business owners and very wealthy people to follow.

Man in a casual button-down shirt surrounded by outdoor apparel
Patagonia owner Yvon Chouinard, seen in one of his shops in 1993, is now a leading climate donor. Jean-Marc Giboux/Liaison Agency via Getty Images

3. How are conservation and climate change efforts connected?

Journalists, scholars and the public often treat addressing climate change and conserving ecosystems as being two distinct priorities. But they are instead closely related. Having ecosystems thrive in a way that protects biodiversity is a way to slow the pace of climate change.

Climate change itself will harm ecosystems and contribute to the loss of biodiversity through, for example, raising temperatures in large bodies of water to the point where established marine ecosystems become so disrupted that many species die off.

And the flip side of that is that maintaining healthy ecosystems can help counter climate change. For example, mangroves are often cut down for shrimp farming and other industries. But protecting them offers the potential to retain as much, or more, carbon as tropical rain forests, while also safeguarding the animals and plants on the land and in the water.

Mangrove forest, with long spindly roots showing.
Most human activity is restricted in this mangrove forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lexis Huguet/AFP via Getty Images, CC BY-NC-ND

4. What do you think this money should fund?

To me, how they – the newly minted Patagonia Purpose Trust, which will own and run the company, and the Holdfast Collective, the nonprofit funded by Patagonia’s profits – operate will be just as important as what they fund.

Based on research I’m engaged in, I believe that they can do more good by reflecting on how they work, hopefully in ways that are both equitable and effective. For example, they can consider highly collaborative approaches, incorporate flexibility for adapting circumstances and long-term funding to match ecological timescales. It’s also essential that indigenous people living in the places affected by environmental work have a say and are heard.

Because the Holdfast Collective is a social welfare group, rather than a charity, it will be free to emphasize policy reform – which I think should be a major priority.

Government and international aid agencies are often too constrained by bureaucracy to be able to adapt and adjust their practices in a way that might be needed to address urgent environmental challenges.

Philanthropists are more free in terms of how they work. That means funders like Patagonia’s trust can provide seed money to jump-start new initiatives that later may be more heavily funded and scaled up by governments.

5. Why are many people troubled by gifts like this?

In recent years, scrutiny of philanthropy of all kinds has been on the rise. Some of the criticism takes aim at big donors, like Bezos, whose sources of wealth contribute to the problems their gifts are supposed to be solving.

Concerns about how philanthropy can perpetuate or excuse discrimination and oppression are also growing, leading to calls for its “decolonization.”

Even avid environmentalists are expressing deep concerns about the potential downsides of this new model. They’re asking whether it might be used to fund causes championed by other wealthy donors with starkly different agendas.

Regardless of what concerns you may have about what the Chouinard family decided to do, or regarding other billion-dollar donations that take aim at climate change, one thing is for sure: The cost of doing nothing at all will surely be much higher than taking action, however imperfectly.The Conversation

Ash Enrici, Assistant Professor of Philanthropic Studies, Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Desalinating seawater sounds easy, but there are cheaper and more sustainable ways to meet people’s water needs

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant in Southern California is the largest such plant in the Western Hemisphere, providing 50 million gallons of desalinated seawater per day.​ Reed Kaestner via Getty Images
Gregory Pierce, University of California, Los Angeles

Coastal urban centers around the world are urgently looking for new, sustainable water sources as their local supplies become less reliable. In the U.S., the issue is especially pressing in California, which is coping with a record-setting, multidecadal drought.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently released a US$8 billion plan for coping with a shrinking water supply. Along with water conservation, storage and recycling, it includes desalination of more seawater.

Ocean desalination, which turns salt water into fresh, clean water, has an intuitive appeal as a water supply strategy for coastal cities. The raw supply of salt water is virtually unlimited and reliable.

Ocean desalination is already a major water source in Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Cities in the Middle East, Australia, Mediterranean Europe, the U.S. Southwest and Australia also rely on it. There are more than 20 ocean desalination plants operating in California, plus a few in Florida. Many more plants across the U.S. remove salt from brackish (salty) water sources such as groundwater inland, especially in Texas.

Nearly 97% of the water on Earth’s surface is in the oceans – but turning seawater into fresh water is costly and energy-intensive, and it can harm marine life.

Nonetheless, current evidence shows that even in coastal cities, ocean desalination may not be the best or even among the best options to address water shortfalls. Here are the main issues that communities evaluating this option should consider.

Killing aquatic life

Scalable technologies for removing salt from water have improved steadily over the past few decades. This is especially true for treating brackish groundwater, which is less salty than seawater.

But desalination still can have major environmental impacts. Fish can be killed when they are trapped against screens that protect desalination plants’ intake valves, and small organisms such as bacteria and plankton can be sucked into the plants and killed when they pass through the treatment system. In May 2022, the California Coastal Commission unanimously rejected a proposed $1.4 billion ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach, partly because of its potential effect on sea life.

Desalination plants discharge brine and wastewater, which can also kill nearby aquatic life if the process is not done properly. And generating the large quantity of energy that the plants consume has its own environmental impacts until it can be done carbon-free, which is still years off in most cases.

Unaffordable water from costly plants

Cost is another major hurdle. In most areas, the cost of ocean desalination is projected to remain considerably higher than the cost of feasible alternatives such as conservation for the next several decades – the timeline that utilities use when planning new investments. My colleagues and I found this in our research comparing water supply alternatives for Huntington Beach, even though we made favorable assumptions about ocean desalination costs.

Cost breakthroughs on major, market-ready technology in the near to medium term are unlikely. And desalination costs may increase in response to rising energy prices, which represent up to half the cost of removing salt from water.

Moreover, capital cost projections for desalination plants often greatly understate these facilities’ true cost. For example, the final cost ($1 billion) to build the ocean desalination plant in Carlsbad, California, which opened in late 2015, was four times higher than the original projection.

Our center has also explored whether piping in desalinated ocean water is a viable option for small, typically rural areas with public water systems or private wells that have run dry or are close to giving out. In diverse parts of California where this has happened, such as Porterville in the Central Valley and Montecito along the coast, the state is paying over $1 per gallon to truck in small supplies of bottled and vended water. That’s much higher than even the most expensive desalinated seawater.

Map showing drought conditions across the continental U.S.
As of Sept. 13, 2022, much of the U.S. West was in drought and projected to remain dry through at least the end of the year. U.S. Drought Monitor

In these cases, we have found that the relative economics and even the environmental impact may pencil out, but the politics and management of new pipelines do not. This is because water supply is typically governed locally, and many local areas beyond those benefiting would need to agree to a new pipeline from the coast.

More broadly, we find that proponents of these projects do not proactively pursue strategies that would make water access more equitable, such as designing utility rate structures that shield low-income households from higher costs, providing financial aid to small communities or consolidating water systems.

Better options: Conservation, reuse, storage and trading

In most places, several other supply options can and should be pursued in tandem before ocean desalination. All of these steps will provide more water at a lower cost.

The first and relatively cheapest way to address water shortages is by using less. Finding ways to get people to use less water could reduce existing demand by 30%-50% in many urban areas that have already begun conservation efforts.

A man in a blue uniform stoops at the end of a driveway observing water flowing into the street.
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power conservation specialist Damon Ayala inspects a sprinkler system operating in violation of a local water-saving ordinance, July 27, 2022. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Second, recycling or reusing treated wastewater is often less expensive than desalination. Technology and regulations in this area are advancing, and this is already making large investments in recycling possible in many arid regions.

Third, storage capacity for enhanced capture of stormwater – even in areas where it rains infrequently – can be doubled or quadrupled in regions like Los Angeles and parts of Australia, at one-third to one-half of the cost per unit of desalinated water.

Even cleaning up polluted local groundwater supplies and purchasing water from nearby agricultural users, although these are costly and politically difficult strategies, may be prudent to consider before ocean desalination.

The feasibility of desalination as a local supply option will hopefully change by midcentury as water scarcity problems mount because of climate change. For the medium term, however, ocean desalination is still likely to play a small role if it figures at all in holistic water strategies for coastal urban areas.The Conversation

Gregory Pierce, Co-Director, Luskin Center for Innovation, University of California, Los Angeles

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Thwaites Glacier: the melting, Antarctic monster of sea level rise – podcast

The edge of the Thwaites Glacier extends into the Amundsen Sea in western Antarctica. NASA
Daniel Merino, The Conversation and Gemma Ware, The Conversation

This episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast is about the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. Thwaites is among the largest glaciers on Earth and one of the single most important factors for future global sea level rise. We talk to three experts about what makes Thwaites so uniquely significant, why it’s melting and the creative techniques scientists are using to study it.

Thanks to climate change, ice all over the world is melting. Greenland, the Arctic the Himalayas and Antarctica are all experiencing the fastest melting in recorded history.

As ice that is currently sitting on land melts, it flows downhill and eventually reaches the ocean. If the ice melts faster than snow replenishes the glaciers, sea level rises.

The Thwaites Glacier is one of many bodies of ice that are melting, but this massive, Antarctic glacier is uniquely important when it comes to sea level rise. “We’re talking about an area that’s the size of the island of Great Britain,” says Ted Scambos, a glacier scientist at the University of Colorado in the US and the principal investigator of the Science Coordination Office of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration.

If – or when – the entire Thwaites Glacier melts, Scambos says it will result in around 0.6 meters of sea level rise. But the interior section of Thwaites is surrounded by other massive ice sheets that cover west Antarctica. And since Thwaites sits in a giant, low elevation basin, if it melts, the rest of the ice will flow into the basin and melt, too. Add all that ice up and you get more than three meters of sea level rise.

What makes Thwaites such a significant contributor to sea level rise is where it sits on the continent of Antarctica. It’s shaped sort of like a lollipop with the candy part sitting in a giant basin and the stick extending out from the continent to the ocean. And that stick is melting quickly.

Yixi Zheng is an oceanographer at the University of East Anglia in England and has recently been down to Antarctica to study how Thwaites is melting. She describes the scene in visceral terms. “You can really see the icebergs and the glaciers and they are melting. You can see the water dripping from the glaciers,” she tells us. “We get really emotional. They were pretty much crying.”

Paul Holland, an ocean and ice scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, has been looking at why the ice is melting, focusing on changes to the winds that bring warmer water down to the Amundsen Sea next to Thwaites. “The question is, if we reverse these greenhouse gas induced wind changes, what effect does that have? What’s going to happen to the ice sheet? Will it regrow or will it take many centuries to stabilise and then it might regrow?” says Holland. Thanks to his work and the work of researchers like Zheng and Scambos, scientists are starting to find the answers.

Listen to the full episode to hear how Thwaites’ unique shape makes it so scary, what researchers know about why it’s melting now and how seals are helping collect data on the glacier in places no human could ever go.

This episode was produced by Mend Mariwany, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. The executive producer was Gemma Ware. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. Sound of seals snoring in this episode from Nick Roden, and ice cubes from Idalize via Freesound.

You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also sign up to The Conversation’s free daily email here. A transcript of this episode will be available shortly.

You can listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed, or find out how else to listen here.The Conversation

Daniel Merino, Assistant Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation and Gemma Ware, Editor and Co-Host, The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Net zero: Copenhagen’s failure to meet its 2025 target casts doubt on other major climate plans

Michele Ursi/Shutterstock
Kirstine Lund Christiansen, University of Copenhagen and Inge-Merete Hougaard, Lund University

The city of Copenhagen, often celebrated as one of the world’s greenest for its cycling culture and other initiatives, recently defaulted on its pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2025. This early failure in the global race to net zero emissions (a balance between CO₂ emitted and absorbed) may foreshadow backtracking by other target-setters, indicating that pledges to cease contributing to climate change demand greater scrutiny.

Since 2012, when Copenhagen launched its plan to become the first carbon-neutral city in the world by 2025, the city has enjoyed international recognition and a significant branding boost. It expects to reduce emissions by 80% by, for instance, switching its power and district heating systems to biomass, wind and solar, renovating buildings to make them energy efficient and improving public transport.

The remaining emissions were supposed to be mopped up by installing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at the local waste-to-energy plant. This would remove CO₂ from the smokestack before it is emitted to the atmosphere, isolating it for later underground storage.

But at the beginning of August 2022, the semi-public utility Amager Resource Center (ARC) which manages the plant announced it was ineligible for national CCS funding. This funding, it argued, would otherwise have enabled them to capture CO₂ generated by burning the city’s waste. And so, Copenhagen has given up on its pledge.

Stepped rows of apartments on a hill with vegetation growing on their roofs.
A housing estate in Copenhagen with green roofs. PHG Pictures/Shutterstock

Cities such as Glasgow and Helsinki, countries like Sweden and the UK, and companies including IKEA and Apple have made similar pledges to be net zero by 2030, 2045 or 2050. This gives the impression that sufficient measures to address climate change are in the pipeline.

Yet various reports and studies suggest that these pledges often skimp on important details, by failing to include progress reports or specify the emissions they target. Critics have warned that the idea of net zero may only serve to greenwash reputations and diminish the urgency around decarbonisation.

Copenhagen is unlikely to be the last to renege on its net zero pledge. The city’s example of relying on immature technology and external funding indicates how similar climate plans might disintegrate in future.

Faith in technology

Copenhagen’s experience highlights two problems which could scupper other net zero strategies. First, the city’s reliance on immature technology.

Copenhagen’s plan to reach net zero emissions did not always include CCS. When the city announced its 2025 goal in 2012, the Danish parliament had just rejected an application from Swedish energy company Vattenfall to deploy CCS at its coal power plant in northern Jutland. Danish politicians wanted to monitor experiences with CCS abroad before allowing it in Denmark.

Instead, in 2012 Copenhagen’s net zero plan relied on the expectation of reducing the energy-to-waste plant’s emissions by recycling more plastic waste and increasing the ratio of organic waste (since it would count as carbon neutral). But when the third and final road map for Copenhagen’s transition was presented in 2021, it included a shortfall of 430,000 tonnes of CO₂.

Alongside other measures, CCS was – in line with new national policy – supposed to be installed at the plant to bridge the gap by cutting 390,000 tonnes of CO₂. The utility managing the plant suggested the technology could capture up to 500,000 tonnes.

A sloped building with two chimneys.
The Amager Bakke plant generates heat and electricity from burning waste. Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

Copenhagen is not alone in including CCS in its climate strategy. Neighbouring capitals Oslo and Stockholm expect to reach net zero with it too. Denmark’s national climate strategy expects CCS to cut between 3.5 million tonnes and 8 million tonnes of CO₂ by 2030.

Despite the faith invested in it, carbon capture technology has a poor track record. A new study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis think tank found that CCS projects tend to underperform on their emission reduction targets.

Dedicated investment in carbon storage technology has been sluggish too. As a result, CCS is largely used to extend the shelf life of fossil fuels, as captured CO₂ can be injected into oil wells to extract additional oil. These and other issues were reported to municipal leaders in Copenhagen as substantial risks to the 2025 goal.

Lack of accountability

The second problem concerns the question of accountability. Who is ultimately responsible for Copenhagen’s failure to meet its net zero target? When the utility ARC first announced its plan to deploy CCS at its waste-to-energy plant in 2021, it counted on external funding and a supportive policy framework to do so.

Now, the head of the city’s technology and environment committee criticises national politicians for knowingly setting financial criteria which the utility cannot meet, hindering the city’s road to climate neutrality. And so, the baton of responsibility is passed.

Emissions targets must be based on credible measures which are within the powers of those pledging them. There must be clear ways to assign accountability if those plans fail. When organisations boast of pledges which ultimately depend on the actions of others to succeed, the public is right to question their validity.

Copenhagen’s mayor suggested the city may still reach climate neutrality in 2026, 2027 or 2028. Yet this case shows how easily net zero plans can fall apart.

It reveals the dangers of the current uncoordinated approach to reaching net zero, in which every organisation is free to set its own eye-catching pledge without fully accounting for its success. What we need is for political and corporate decision-makers to present credible plans for the necessary deep decarbonisation of society.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation’s environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 10,000+ readers who’ve subscribed so far.The Conversation

Kirstine Lund Christiansen, PhD Fellow, Political Ecology, University of Copenhagen and Inge-Merete Hougaard, Postdoctoral Fellow in Political Ecology, Lund University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A dam built in the Amazon created thousands of ‘forest islands’ but they are too small to sustain most species

The Balbina Dam (bottom right) created thousands of small islands. Google Earth, CC BY-SA
Ana Filipa Palmeirim, Universidade do Porto; Carine Emer, Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden Research Institute, and Carlos Peres, University of East Anglia

Built in the 1980s, the Balbina Dam is one of dozens of large dams across rivers in the Amazon Basin. Such dams might leave behind seemingly green patches of forest, but our new research has shown these disconnected patches of forest are no longer able to support thriving ecosystems.

The dam created one of the largest reservoirs in South America which stretches for almost 100km northwards through largely undisturbed rainforest. As this is a relatively hilly part of the Amazon basin, more than 3,500 islands formed as the reservoir filled up. What were once ridges or hilltops became insular forest patches.

For rainforest ecologists like us, the new landscape was an astonishing living lab – a way to test theories of what happens when a forest and its many animals are increasingly restricted to smaller and smaller patches.

We know that one of the main drivers of the ongoing biodiversity crisis is the loss of habitat and the fragmentation of the remaining areas. And we know that hydroelectric dams are one of the primary ways humans are disturbing these habitats, and that many developing countries (including those in the Amazon) are due to build many more dams.

Satellite view of forest island
The dam fragmented a huge area of forest into lots of tiny disconnected islands. Google Earth, CC BY-SA

In the new landscape created after a dam fragments the forest, we expect species to disappear faster from smaller islands that simply can’t sustain viable populations. And we expect other factors to play a role, such as whether a species is resilient and can cope with its habitat being transformed.

That’s the theory, at least. And the Balbina Dam gave us a perfect chance to see it in practice.

22 forest islands, 608 species

Over the past decade or so, scientists from many different institutions have made huge efforts to investigate which species are vanishing and which are persisting in the Balbina reservoir. In this study, we were able to compile those efforts.

In particular, we studied 22 forest islands of varying sizes. We also looked at three nearby sites that were connected to the main forest and weren’t islands, which we considered as a baseline reflecting the scenario before damming. We recorded 608 species representing eight biological groups: medium and large mammals, small mammals (excluding bats), diurnal lizards (active during the daytime), understorey birds, frogs, dung beetles, orchid bees and trees.

Our results are now published in Science Advances. We found that just a few larger islands held most of the diversity and had complete or nearly complete species assemblages. Meanwhile, smaller islands suffered. There, only more adaptable species like armadillos or rodent acouchis were able to survive for over three decades. These medium-sized animals can occupy relatively small areas. In contrast, bigger mammals such as tapirs and jaguars need more space, and might have vanished even from mid-size islands.

Rodent sits on forest floor
Adaptable acouchi. Martin Leber / shutterstock

We also found widespread and non-random cases of species going extinct on individual islands. Bigger species were generally more likely to go extinct, but this varied across different groups of plants, vertebrates and invertebrates. For instance, the largest species of orchid bees Eulaema bombiformis or Eulaema meriana were also widely distributed across the landscapes. This was also the case for large understorey bird species, whereas the pattern was opposite for frogs, with the smallest species being more widely distributed.

Tapir mother and baby stand in shallow water
Tapirs: too big to survive on the smallest islands. Lucas Leuzinger / shutterstock

Most of the islands created by Balbina Dam, like those in other reservoirs containing forest islands elsewhere in lowland tropical forests, are relatively small. Indeed, 95% are smaller than a square kilometre. These islands proved able to sustain low levels of biodiversity, which further has major implications for ecosystem functioning.

People in canoe
One of the authors and her team in Balbina. Ana Filipa Palmeirim, Author provided

While the Amazon is famous for its extraordinary diversity, when we actually visited these islands we were struck by how they were dominated by species of animals and plants that were generalists and can be found elsewhere, with the forest-dependent specialist species found on the mainland and in the large islands almost nowhere to be seen.

Plans to develop hydropower across lowland tropical forests mean we expect this process to happen more and more in the aftermath of river damming. With this in mind, we recommend future hydroelectric projects should avoid flooding large expanses of forest and creating lots of small islands. This would minimise biodiversity loss and help ecosystems to keep functioning. Finally, biodiversity loss should be weighed alongside other environmental costs in future assessments of whether damming the world’s mega-diverse tropical rivers is really worth it.The Conversation

Ana Filipa Palmeirim, Postdoctoral Researcher, TROPIBIO Project, Universidade do Porto; Carine Emer, Associated Researcher, Biology, Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden Research Institute, and Carlos Peres, Professor of Tropical Conservation Ecology, University of East Anglia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Pittwater Reserves: histories + Notes + Pictorial Walks

A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
America Bay Track Walk - photos by Joe Mills
An Aquatic June: North Narrabeen - Turimetta - Collaroy photos by Joe Mills 
Angophora Reserve  Angophora Reserve Flowers Grand Old Tree Of Angophora Reserve Falls Back To The Earth - History page
Annie Wyatt Reserve - A  Pictorial
Avalon's Village Green: Avalon Park Becomes Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Bairne Walking Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP by Kevin Murray
Bangalley Headland  Bangalley Mid Winter
Banksias of Pittwater
Barrenjoey Boathouse In Governor Phillip Park  Part Of Our Community For 75 Years: Photos From The Collection Of Russell Walton, Son Of Victor Walton
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers 
Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bayview Baths
Bayview Wetlands
Beeby Park
Bilgola Beach
Botham Beach by Barbara Davies
Bungan Beach Bush Care
Careel Bay Saltmarsh plants 
Careel Bay Birds  
Careel Bay Clean Up day
Careel Bay Playing Fields History and Current
Careel Creek 
Careel Creek - If you rebuild it they will come
Centre trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Chiltern Track- Ingleside by Marita Macrae
Clareville Beach
Clareville/Long Beach Reserve + some History
Coastal Stability Series: Cabbage Tree Bay To Barrenjoey To Observation Point by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, and Dr. Peter Mitchell OAM
Cowan Track by Kevin Murray
Curl Curl To Freshwater Walk: October 2021 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Currawong and Palm Beach Views - Winter 2018
Currawong-Mackerel-The Basin A Stroll In Early November 2021 - photos by Selena Griffith
Currawong State Park Currawong Beach +  Currawong Creek
Deep Creek To Warriewood Walk photos by Joe Mills
Drone Gives A New View On Coastal Stability; Bungan: Bungan Headland To Newport Beach + Bilgola: North Newport Beach To Avalon + Bangalley: Avalon Headland To Palm Beach
Duck Holes: McCarrs Creek by Joe Mills
Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Dundundra Falls Reserve: August 2020 photos by Selena Griffith - Listed in 1935
Elsie Track, Scotland Island
Elvina Track in Late Winter 2019 by Penny Gleen
Elvina Bay Walking Track: Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills 
Elvina Bay-Lovett Bay Loop Spring 2020 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Fern Creek - Ingleside Escarpment To Warriewood Walk + Some History photos by Joe Mills
Iluka Park, Woorak Park, Pittwater Park, Sand Point Reserve, Snapperman Beach Reserve - Palm Beach: Some History
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
Lucinda Park, Palm Beach: Some History + 2022 Pictures
McCarrs Creek
McCarr's Creek to Church Point to Bayview Waterfront Path
McKay Reserve
Mona Vale Beach - A Stroll Along, Spring 2021 by Kevin Murray
Mona Vale Headland, Basin and Beach Restoration
Mount Murray Anderson Walking Track by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Mullet Creek
Narrabeen Creek
Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Past Notes Present Photos by Margaret Woods
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park Expansion
Narrabeen Rockshelf Aquatic Reserve
Nerang Track, Terrey Hills by Bea Pierce
Newport Bushlink - the Crown of the Hill Linked Reserves
Newport Community Garden - Woolcott Reserve
Newport to Bilgola Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths:  Founded In 1956 - A Tip and Quarry Becomes Green Space For People and Wildlife 
Pittwater spring: waterbirds return to Wetlands
Pittwater's Lone Rangers - 120 Years of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and the Men of Flowers Inspired by Eccleston Du Faur 
Pittwater's Parallel Estuary - The Cowan 'Creek
Resolute Track at West Head by Kevin Murray
Resolute Track Stroll by Joe Mills
Riddle Reserve, Bayview
Salvation Loop Trail, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park- Spring 2020 - by Selena Griffith
Seagull Pair At Turimetta Beach: Spring Is In The Air!
Stapleton Reserve
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
Stony Range Regional Botanical Garden: Some History On How A Reserve Became An Australian Plant Park
The Chiltern Track
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Topham Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP,  August 2022 by Joe Mills and Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Tranquil Turimetta Beach, April 2022 by Joe Mills
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Turimetta Headland
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Wilshire Park Palm Beach: Some History + Photos From May 2022
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:
Photo: Bronwyn Gould

New Shorebirds WingThing  For Youngsters Available To Download

A Shorebirds WingThing educational brochure for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey. The 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available now. You can download a file copy here.

If you would like a free print copy of this brochure, please send a self-addressed envelope with A$1.10 postage (or larger if you would like it unfolded) affixed to: BirdLife Australia, Shorebird WingThing Request, 2-05Shorebird WingThing/60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053.

Shorebird Identification Booklet

The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities. 

The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format:

Paper copies can be ordered as well, see for details.

Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife

Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat.  The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.

Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.

What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia. 

This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia. 

The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds. 

In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats. 

In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely. 

The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population. 

Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations. 

BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.

To find out more visit:

Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points

Collecting bread tags enables us to provide wheelchairs that change the life of disabled people in need, as well as keeping the tags out of landfill to help to preserve the environment. 

Bread Tags for Wheelchairs was started in South Africa in 2006 by Mary Honeybun. It is a community program where individuals and organisations collect bread tags, which are sold to recyclers. The money raised pays for wheelchairs for the less fortunate which are purchased through a local pharmacy. Currently about 500kg of bread tags are collected a month in South Africa, funding 2-3 wheelchairs.

We have been collecting bread tags nationally in Australia since September 2018 and now have more than 100 collection points across the country. In February 2019 we started local recycling through Transmutation - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in Robe, SA, where our tags are recycled into products such as door knobs and bowls. Tags from some states are still sent to South Africa where a plastics company called Zibo recycles them into seedling trays.

These humble bits of polystyrene can make a real difference so get your friends, family, school, workplace and church involved. Ask school tuck shops and boarding school kitchens, child care centres, aged care facilities, hospitals, cafes and fast food outlets to collect for you - they get through a lot of bread!

All the information and signage for collecting or setting up a public collection point is on our website.

Local Collectors
Lesley Flood
Please email for address -
Jodie Streckeisen
Please email for the address -

Surfers for Climate

A sea-roots movement dedicated to mobilising and empowering surfers for continuous and positive climate action.

Surfers for Climate are coming together in lineups around the world to be the change we want to see.

With roughly 35 million surfers across the globe, our united tribe has a powerful voice. 

Add yours to the conversation by signing up here.

Surfers for Climate will keep you informed, involved and active on both the local and global issues and solutions around the climate crisis via our allies hub. 

Help us prevent our favourite spots from becoming fading stories of waves we used to surf.

Together we can protect our oceans and keep them thriving for future generations to create lifelong memories of their own.


Green Team Beach Cleans 

Hosted by The Green Team
It has been estimated that we will have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050...These beach cleans are aimed at reducing the vast amounts of plastic from entering our oceans before they harm marine life. 

Anyone and everyone is welcome! If you would like to come along, please bring a bucket, gloves and hat. Kids of all ages are also welcome! 

The Green Team is a Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative from Avalon, Sydney. Keeping our area green and clean.

Create a Habitat Stepping Stone!

Over 50 Pittwater households have already pledged to make a difference for our local wildlife, and you can too! Create a habitat stepping stone to help our wildlife out. It’s easy - just add a few beautiful habitat elements to your backyard or balcony to create a valuable wildlife-friendly stopover.

How it works

1) Discover: Visit the website below to find dozens of beautiful plants, nest boxes and water elements you can add to your backyard or balcony to help our local wildlife.

2) Pledge: Select three or more elements to add to your place. You can even show you care by choosing to have a bird appear on our online map.

3) Share: Join the Habitat Stepping Stones Facebook community to find out what’s happening in the natural world, and share your pics, tips and stories.

What you get                                  

• Enjoy the wonders of nature, right outside your window. • Free and discounted plants for your garden. • A Habitat Stepping Stone plaque for your front fence. • Local wildlife news and tips. • Become part of the Pittwater Habitat Stepping Stones community.

Get the kids involved and excited about helping out!

No computer? No problem -Just write to the address below and we’ll mail you everything you need. Habitat Stepping Stones, Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University NSW 2109. This project is assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust

Newport Community Gardens

Anyone interested in joining our community garden group please feel free to come and visit us on Sunday at 10am at the Woolcott Reserve in Newport!

Keep in Touch with what's happening on Newport Garden's Facebook:

Avalon Preservation Association

The Avalon Preservation Association, also known as Avalon Preservation Trust. We are a not for profit volunteer community group incorporated under the NSW Associations Act, established 50 years ago. We are committed to protecting your interests – to keeping guard over our natural and built environment throughout the Avalon area.

Membership of the association is open to all those residents and/or ratepayers of Avalon Beach and adjacent areas who support the aims and objectives of our Association.

Report illegal dumping

NSW Government

The RIDonline website lets you report the types of waste being dumped and its GPS location. Photos of the waste can also be added to the report.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA), councils and Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) squads will use this information to investigate and, if appropriate, issue a fine or clean-up notice. Penalties for illegal dumping can be up to $15,000 and potential jail time for anybody caught illegally dumping within five years of a prior illegal dumping conviction.

The Green Team

This Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative has been attracting high praise from the founders of Living Ocean as much as other local environment groups recently. 
Creating Beach Cleans events, starting their own, sustainability days - ‘action speaks louder than words’ ethos is at the core of this group. 

Australian Native Foods website:

Avalon Boomerang Bags

Avalon Boomerang Bags was introduced to us by Surfrider Foundation and Living Ocean, they both helped organise with the support of Pittwater Council the Recreational room at Avalon Community Centre which we worked from each Tuesday. This is the Hub of what is a Community initiative to help free Avalon of single use plastic bags and to generally spread the word of the overuse of plastic. 

Find out more and get involved.

Avalon Community Garden

Community Gardens bring people together and enrich communities. They build a sense of place and shared connection.


Avalon Community Garden is a community led initiative to create accessible food gardens in public places throughout the Pittwater area. Our aim is to share skills and knowledge in creating fabulous local, organic food. But it's not just about great food. We also aim to foster community connection, stimulate creative ideas for community resilience and celebrate our abundance. Open to all ages and skills, our first garden is on the grounds of Barrenjoey High School (off Tasman Road)Become part of this exciting initiative to change the world locally. 

Avalon Community Garden
2 Tasman Road
North Avalon

Wildlife Carers and Organisations in Pittwater:

Sydney Wildlife rescues, rehabilitates and releases sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife. From penguins, to possums and parrots, native wildlife of all descriptions passes through the caring hands of Sydney Wildlife rescuers and carers on a daily basis. We provide a genuine 24 hour, 7 day per week emergency advice, rescue and care service.

As well as caring for sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife, Sydney Wildlife is also involved in educating the community about native wildlife and its habitat. We provide educational talks to a wide range of groups and audiences including kindergartens, scouts, guides, a wide range of special interest groups and retirement villages. Talks are tailored to meet the needs and requirements of each group. 


Found an injured native animal? We're here to help.

Keep the animal contained, warm, quiet and undisturbed. Do not offer any food or water. Call Sydney Wildlife immediately on 9413 4300, or take the animal to your nearest vet. Generally there is no charge. Find out more at:

Southern Cross Wildlife Care was launched over 6 years ago. It is the brainchild of Dr Howard Ralph, the founder and chief veterinarian. SCWC was established solely for the purpose of treating injured, sick and orphaned wildlife. No wild creature in need that passes through our doors is ever rejected. 


People can assist SCWC by volunteering their skills ie: veterinary; medical; experienced wildlife carers; fundraising; "IT" skills; media; admin; website etc. We are always having to address the issue of finances as we are a non commercial veterinary service for wildlife in need, who obviously don't have cheque books in their pouches. It is a constant concern and struggle of ours when we are pre-occupied with the care and treatment of the escalating amount of wildlife that we have to deal with. Just becoming a member of SCWC for $45 a year would be a great help. Regular monthly donations however small, would be a wonderful gift and we could plan ahead knowing that we had x amount of funds that we could count on. Our small team of volunteers are all unpaid even our amazing vet Howard, so all funds raised go directly towards our precious wildlife. SCWC is TAX DEDUCTIBLE.

Find out more at:

"I bind myself today to the power of Heaven, the light of the sun, the brightness of the moon, the splendour of fire, the flashing of lightning, the swiftness of wind, the depth of the sea, the stability of the earth, the compactness of rocks." -  from the Prayer of Saint Patrick

Newport Community Garden: Working Bee Second Sunday of the month

Newport Community Gardens Inc. is a not for profit incorporated association. The garden is in Woolcott Reserve.

Local Northern Beaches residents creating sustainable gardens in public spaces
Strengthening the local community, improving health and reconnecting with nature
To establish ecologically sustainable gardens for the production of vegetables, herbs, fruit and companion plants within Pittwater area 
To enjoy and forge friendships through shared gardening.
Membership is open to all Community members willing to participate in establishing gardens and growing sustainable food.
Subscription based paid membership.
We meet at the garden between 9am – 12 noon
New members welcome

For enquiries contact

Living Ocean

Living Ocean was born in Whale Beach, on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, surrounded by water and set in an area of incredible beauty.
Living Ocean is a charity that promotes the awareness of human impact on the ocean, through research, education, creative activity in the community, and support of others who sustain ocean health and integrity.

And always celebrating and honouring the natural environment and the lifestyle that the ocean offers us.

Our whale research program builds on research that has been conducted off our coastline by our experts over many years and our Centre for Marine Studies enables students and others to become directly involved.

Through partnerships with individuals and organizations, we conceive, create and coordinate campaigns that educate all layers of our community – from our ‘No Plastic Please’ campaign, which is delivered in partnership with local schools, to film nights and lectures, aimed at the wider community.

Additionally, we raise funds for ocean-oriented conservation groups such as Sea Shepherd.

Donations are tax-deductable 

Bushcare in Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                 3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                            8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                        9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                       8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                    8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday+3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                          9 - 12noon
Permaculture Northern Beaches

Want to know where your food is coming from? 

Do you like to enrich the earth as much as benefit from it?

Find out more here:


What Does PNHA do?


About Pittwater Natural Heritage Association (PNHA)
With urbanisation, there are continuing pressures that threaten the beautiful natural environment of the Pittwater area. Some impacts are immediate and apparent, others are more gradual and less obvious. The Pittwater Natural Heritage Association has been formed to act to protect and preserve the Pittwater areas major and most valuable asset - its natural heritage. PNHA is an incorporated association seeking broad based community membership and support to enable it to have an effective and authoritative voice speaking out for the preservation of Pittwater's natural heritage. Please contact us for further information.

Our Aims
  • To raise public awareness of the conservation value of the natural heritage of the Pittwater area: its landforms, watercourses, soils and local native vegetation and fauna.
  • To raise public awareness of the threats to the long-term sustainability of Pittwater's natural heritage.
  • To foster individual and community responsibility for caring for this natural heritage.
  • To encourage Council and the NSW Government to adopt and implement policies and works which will conserve, sustain and enhance the natural heritage of Pittwater.
Act to Preserve and Protect!
If you would like to join us, please fill out the Membership Application Form ($20.00 annually - $10 concession)

Email: Or click on Logo to visit website.

Think before you print ; A kilo of recycled paper creates around 1.8 kilograms of carbon emissions, without taking into account the emissions produced from transporting the paper. So, before you send a document to print, think about how many kilograms of carbon emissions you could save by reading it on screen.

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Bush Regeneration - Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment  
This is a wonderful way to become connected to nature and contribute to the health of the environment.  Over the weeks and months you can see positive changes as you give native species a better chance to thrive.  Wildlife appreciate the improvement in their habitat.

Belrose area - Thursday mornings 
Belrose area - Weekend mornings by arrangement
Contact: Phone or text Conny Harris on 0432 643 295

Wheeler Creek - Wednesday mornings 9-11am
Contact: Phone or text Judith Bennett on 0402 974 105
Or email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment :

Pittwater's Environmental Foundation

Pittwater Environmental Foundation was established in 2006 to conserve and enhance the natural environment of the Pittwater local government area through the application of tax deductible donations, gifts and bequests. The Directors were appointed by Pittwater Council. 


About 33% (about 1600 ha excluding National Parks) of the original pre-European bushland in Pittwater remains in a reasonably natural or undisturbed condition. Of this, only about 400ha remains in public ownership. All remaining natural bushland is subject to encroachment, illegal clearing, weed invasion, feral animals, altered drainage, bushfire hazard reduction requirements and other edge effects. Within Pittwater 38 species of plants or animals are listed as endangered or threatened under the Threatened Species Act. There are two endangered populations (Koala and Squirrel Glider) and eight endangered ecological communities or types of bushland. To visit their site please click on logo above.