February 18 - 24, 2024: Issue 614

Narrabeen Lagoon entrance (closed again): Council's Update 

Thursday, 15 February 2024
In August 2022 the elected Council, following extensive community consultation, approved a comprehensive entrance management strategy for Narrabeen Lagoon which included more frequent sand excavations to reduce the risk of flooding. 

In keeping with this strategy, last year 25,000 cubic metres (around 45,000-50,000 tonnes) of sand was extracted from the lagoon entrance ahead of the busy summer swimming season. 

Despite these significant works, the entrance closed in early February when a four-metre swell washed sand into the entrance, compounded by a high degree of clockwise beach rotation in the Collaroy Narrabeen embayment. 

Beach rotation relates to the width of sand on the beach near the entrance, and North Narrabeen Beach is currently the widest it has been in decades due to large volumes of sand moving northwards up the beach. With sand moving northward, natural closure of the entrance is accelerated and difficult to prevent, especially when the wave and tidal conditions are right. 

Although the entrance has closed, the flood risk to the low‐lying area surrounding Narrabeen Lagoon remains lower than usual as a result of the recent clearance works. 

The works intentionally dredged a higher volume of sand from the west of the Ocean St bridge compared to past clearances in accordance with expert advice. While the area closer to the beach fills up with sand from the ocean, the deeper area to the west will allow for faster flow of water out of the lagoon should heavy rainfall raise the water level to allow an emergency opening at the entrance, thus reducing the risk of flooding. 

Once reopened, the works will also significantly increase the chance of the lagoon remaining open for a longer period. 

Council’s coast and flood engineers will continue to closely monitor weather forecasts, lagoon water levels and the state of the entrance and be ready to open it mechanically when lagoon water levels rise and weather, tide and swell conditions allow for a successful opening. 


from Issue 613: Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance Blocked Again

Narrabeen lagoon entrance is blocked again, after recent storm swells, and Council spending $1.5. million on moving the sand south to Collaroy for weeks.

Council announced on Tuesday, 12 September 2023 work to clear Narrabeen Lagoon entrance to reduce the risk of flooding to local homes and businesses.

''Council contractors will excavate more than 20,000 cubic metres (40,000 tonnes) of sand – equivalent to the weight of 100 jumbo jets – to the east and west of Ocean Street Bridge.'' it was stated

The sand is to be deposited at Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach between Goodwin and Stuart Streets.

Works were expected to start in the coming weeks, although the above photo shows they were commenced immediately, and were completed in time for the Summer school holidays, which commenced on December 19 2023. This means the lagoon entrance was open for around 6.5 weeks prior to the big seas which moved so much sand over the past few days of weather conditions as the tail end of Cyclone Kirrily moved south.

After impacting Queensland, ex-Tropical Cyclone Kirrily crossed the border into western NSW on Monday afternoon, February 5, bringing heavy rainfall and flash flooding to inland communities, before reaching Sydney early the next day bringing 21mm of rain and localised flash flooding, along with strong winds.

This had preceded by swell set to peak at 4 to 4.5 metres in Sydney over the weekend of February 3-4.

However, at high tide about 6 inches of water still goes over the top of the entrance and into the lagoon. Joe Mills' (Turimetta Moods) sent in pictures this week (week ending Friday February 9 2024) of Pelicans standing in the shallow overflow at high tide - see below.  

Joe said; ''They are waiting (with the Cormorants and Seagulls as well) for the small fish brought in by the waves.''

sidney the seal: Middle Harbour Yacht Club

Flora of coastal New South Wales: 1920 to 1944

Plectranthus parviflorus, Gomphocarpus fruticosus (Narrow-leaf cotton bush), Pultenaea ferruguiea var. deanei (Bush Pea), Palm Beach, New South Wales, January 1922 [picture]

Part of the collection: Flora of coastal New South Wales, 1920-1944.
Author: Gostelow, E. E. (Ebenezer Edward), 1866-1944
Source of Acquisition: Donated by Mr. C.G. Gostelow, 1969.
Online Version: National Library of Australia digitised item; Gostelow, E. E. (1922). 
Plectranthus parviflorus, Gomphocarpus fruticosus (Narrow-leaf cotton bush), Pultenaea ferruguiea var. deanei (Bush Pea), Palm Beach, New South Wales, 1922 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135337857

Ebenezer Edward Gostelow (1866 - 1944)

Born 18 Dec 1866, Sydney, NSW, died 9 May 1944, Burwood, NSW
Ebenezer Edward Gostelow was the eldest of eight children. His parents were Ebenezer Edward Gostelow, a building foreman with the NSW Department of Education, and his second wife Martha Taylor. Ebenezer "Gosterlow" senior had migrated from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England to Sydney, NSW aged 6, with his parents and siblings in 1848, on board the "Equestrian". The birth of Ebenezer junior was indexed under the name "Gostklow" (NSW 1867 registration number 168).

Mr. Gostelow was a country school teacher at Broken Hill and Harden in NSW, having started as an teacher's assistant in 1883. He was later the headmaster of the Alma Public School in South Broken Hill. 

Roaming the state of New South Wales he soon acquired a keen interest in all forms of nature study and, while imparting his love of bird life to his classes with coloured chalk on the blackboard, discovered his natural gift as an artist. Without formal training, Gostelow embarked on a project to paint as many wild flowers and birds as he could.

In 1890, Gostelow married Ada Mary Finney with whom he had three sons and a daughter. His youngest son, Clifford, shared his father's passion for nature study and on his father's death he inherited the collection of native flora paintings.

In September 1920 the Barrier Field Naturalists Club held a wildflower show in the technical college. One of its purposes was to promote the study and protection of the area's wildflowers. On display were wildflowers collected by school children in the surrounding hills, as well as 150 botanical paintings by E.E. Gostelow. These 150 paintings were the highlight of the show.

On his retirement from teaching, Gostelow completed a task which he had begun earlier of painting all the known species of Australian Birds, each within its own habitat. He also started painting butterflies. 

His skill and integrity were well known and respected to the extent that the Australian Museum, amongst other institutions, loaned him stuffed birds from which he worked. His completed collection of 730 mostly life size paintings, illustrating the male and the female of each species with the flora native to their habitat also contained the museum's registration number and explanatory notes.

The complete collection of over 800 flora and fauna paintings is now held in the Pictures Collection, National Library of Australia, Canberra. The bird paintings were bequeathed to the Library on Gostelow's death. Clifford Gostelow donated his inherited collection of flora paintings to the Library in 1969. The collection is represented in the book For the Love of Nature: E.E. Gostelow's Birds and Flowers (NLA 2010).

Gostelow, E. E. (1931). The flame robin (Petroica phoenicea) Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-134853409

The collection is now, like the Flora of Broken Hill, in the National Library of Australia. Many of Mr. Gostelow's images have been digitised by the National Library. A number of his bird pictures have also been included in two National Library poetry publications. Twelve Gostelow paintings are used to illustrate a revised version of Judith Wright's Birds (2003).

This Issue a few examples of his works from the Flora of coastal New South Wales ... run below - which poses the question; how many can we still spot in their season in these places? How many are listed as Endangered, how many are listed as Critically Endangered?

Ebenezer Edward Gostelow died suddenly on May 9 1944 (aged 77 years) at Burwood, NSW, before he could complete his next project of painting all of Australia's butterflies. His death is indexed in 1944 under "Gastelow".

GOSTELOW.-In fond memory of Ebenezer Edward Gostelow. who passed away May 9, 1944. Inserted by his loving wife and children. Family Notices (1945, May 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 18. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27934426

  1. Australian National Herbarium Biography
  2. Main text extracted from: Jennifer Phipps (1986) Artists' Gardens - Flowers and Gardens in Australian Art 1780s-1980s, Bay Books, Sydney. [consult for source references]

Gostelow, E. E. (1921). Boronia pinnata (Pinnate Boronia), Daviesia ulicifolia (Gorse Bitter Pea), Podolobium ilicifolium (Prickly Shaggy Pea), Sydney Region, August 1921, Long Bay, Concord West and Homebush Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135344575

Gostelow, E. E. (1921). Blandfordia grandiflora (Christmas bell), Grevillea sericea (Pink spider flower), Sydney Region, New South Wales, November and December 1921; Hawkesbury River and Campbell's Hill, Cooks River Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135339295

Gostelow, E. E. (1922). Cryptostylis longifolia (Duck orchid), Lomatia ilicifolia (Native holly), Cryptostylis erecta (Hooded orchid) December 1922 Jervis Bay. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135337216

Gostelow, E. E. (1923). Cassytha glabella (Devils twine), Caladenia carnea (Pink orchid), Eucalyptus corymbosa (Bloodwood), Sydney Region, New South Wales, Feb to March to Sept; Rhodes, Cronulla and Hornsby. 1923 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135337376

Gostelow, E. E. (1923). Eucalyptus longifolia (Woolly butt), Myrtaceae, Strathfield, March 1923 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135335878

Gostelow, E. E. (1923). Caleana major (Cockatoo orchid), Pultenaea elliptica, Viminaria denudata, October 1923 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135337538

Gostelow, E. E. (1924). Doryanthes excelsa (Gigantic lily), Amaryllideae, Sutherland, September 1924 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135336035

Gostelow, E. E. (1940). Angophora intermedia DC syn. Angophora floribunda (Sm.) Sweet, Myrtaceae, Lindfield, New South Wales, Lindfield November 1940 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135345001

Gostelow, E. E. (1941). Banksia ericifolia (Heath-leaved banksia) Proteaceae, Lindfield, June 1941 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135338499

Gostelow, E. E. (1942). Banksia serrata (Large honeysuckle), Proteaceae, Lindfield, January 1942 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135343774

New logging rules in NSW put the greater glider closer to extinction. When will we start protecting these amazing animals?

David Lindenmayer, Australian National University and Kita Ashman, Charles Sturt University

Forty years ago when my colleagues and I did spotlighting surveys, the southern greater glider was the most common animal we’d see. Now, this amazing species is endangered. In many areas it is hard to find; in others it has been lost altogether.

Australia has a disproportionately large number of in-danger species, and their decline follows a well-trodden path. Common species become uncommon, then uncommon species become rare. Rare species become threatened or endangered. Then tragically, endangered species go extinct.

Australia leads the world in native mammal extinctions – roughly 10% have become extinct since British invasion. The southern greater glider is heading towards this fate.

That’s why ecologists were shocked by a recent announcement by New South Wales environment authorities that we believe loosens protections for southern greater gliders in logging areas.

A marsupial to cherish

The southern greater glider is an iconic marsupial. It’s one of three species of greater gliders found in eastern Australia. It was listed as vulnerable to extinction under national environment law in 2016, then uplisted to endangered in 2022.

Greater gliders are amazing animals. Their diet is low on nutrients, comprised almost entirely of eucalypt leaves and buds. Yet they are the world’s largest gliding marsupial, weighing up to 1.3 kg and capable of gliding up to 100m through a forest.

Southern greater gliders have white bellies and thick back fur that ranges from pure white to jet black.

The species is highly dependent on forest habitat and, in particular, large trees with hollows where they shelter and breed. But sadly, extensive glider habitat has been burnt, logged or both. Climate change poses a further risk.

We have long been concerned for the southern greater glider. In the wet forests of Victoria, for example, their numbers have declined by 80% since 1997. In 2007, the species became regionally extinct at Booderee National Park, south of Sydney.

When the southern greater glider was upgraded to endangered, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the new listing would “ensure prioritisation of recovery actions to protect this iconic species”. She noted that habitat protection and land clearing were “primarily the responsibility of state governments”.

You might think, then, that state governments would now be working harder to protect greater glider habitat. But a recent decision in NSW suggests little has changed.

What the changes mean

The NSW Environment Protection Authority this month announced changes to rules in logging operations. It claims the amendments constitute “new protections” for greater gliders. But many ecologists, us included, believe the changes are designed to make logging easier and will leave the species at greater risk.

At present, Forestry Corporation staff undertake pre-logging habitat searches for trees that might contain hollows. They must retain eight of these trees per hectare but can log right up to the tree base. The staff must also look for den trees (where an animal is actually seen entering or leaving a tree hollow) – although this is problematic as gliders are active at night and the surveys take place during the day. If a den tree is found, it must be protected and a 50m area around it retained.

Under the proposed new rules, Forestry Corporation will have to keep more large hollow-bearing trees per hectare – 14 instead of the current eight in high-density glider areas, and 12 instead of the current eight in low-density areas. A 50m exclusion zone will remain around known recorded locations of greater glider dens, but there will no longer be a requirement to specifically find or protect den trees.

This means actual habitat where greater gliders currently occur, and occupy den trees, may not be protected. We believe this will increase the gliders’ rate of decline and fast-track it towards extinction.

The new rules were due to begin on February 9, but were postponed by a week. In a statement, the authority said it was “consulting with stakeholders and considering their feedback to ensure we find the most appropriate way to address concerns while achieving long-term protections for this endangered species”.

If the authority is serious about protecting greater gliders, it will move to strengthen not weaken protections for greater glider habitat.

Logging glider habitat is nonsensical

Since the southern greater glider was listed as vulnerable in 2016, its habitat continued to be destroyed. This is poor management for many reasons:

  • gliders often die on site when their habitat is disturbed

  • young forests recovering after disturbances tend to be hotter and drier, which is bad for gliders because they are heat-sensitive

  • removing hollow-bearing trees not only destroys a key part of glider habitat immediately, but it can take decades (if not centuries) for forest to become suitable again

  • logging makes forests more flammable and gliders are particularly sensitive to fire

  • logging can change the composition of tree species in a forest, reducing the availability of quality food for gliders.

The choice is ours

Human activity has left few remaining refuges for the southern greater glider. Any remaining habitat should be subject to the highest protections.

Logging those refuges is nonsensical given the large body of scientific work demonstrating its negative effects. And tinkering around the edge of logging rules will have limited benefits.

Australia has already lost so many wonderful mammal species. Do we want the southern greater glider to suffer the same fate? If not, let’s stop destroying the forests our species need to survive.The Conversation

David Lindenmayer, Professor, The Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University and Kita Ashman, Adjunct research associate, Charles Sturt University

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

Greater Glider. Photo: Josh Bowell of WWF 

Further fish deaths at Menindee

February 12, 2024
NSW Fisheries is investigating reports of fish deaths in the Menindee Weir pool in the Darling River. Around 30 golden perch were found dead by locals on the weekend of February 10 to 11.

The NSW Government says it’s been advised oxygen levels are at a good level, and a lack of oxygen is not believed to be a contributing factor.
There have been several mass fish deaths in the river over the last few years.

Water NSW says flows from Lake Menindee will remain at fifty megalitres a day.

Photos: Menindee NSW Outback Photography by Geoff Looney
Geoff says:
''It's sad to see dead fish (Golden Perch) in the Darling again at Menindee. From what I observed today at Crick Park there were several dead  Golden Perch and they look like they have been dead for a while.  

The river itself does not look to bad so I don't know why they have died.  There was not a lot of activity on the surface like when they were short of oxygen in the past. ''
Photos taken 12.2.2024.

Golden perch or ‘yellowbelly’ are one of the main large-bodied native fish that are of high cultural importance for many First Nations.

In 2016, natural floods in Queensland and northern NSW, along with water for the environment triggered a large spawning of golden perch. The fish larvae drifted down the Darling River and ended up in the Menindee Lakes. Some larvae kept traveling down into the Lower Darling.

Menindee Lakes are a known nursery for yellowbelly, where baby fish get fattened up in the highly productive water. These lake fish are bigger and fatter than their river counterparts.

Golden perch that spawn in the Darling are really important to the whole of the southern Basin. Science—measuring fish ear bones—has shown that golden perch which spawn in the Darling often make up a large percentage of the total golden perch population in the River Murray. In fact, golden perch from the Darling also migrate upstream to the Edward-Wakool (NSW) and Goulburn Rivers (Vic).

The story is not so good further downstream. Over the past nine years, CEWO’s monitoring program has found very little evidence of golden perch recruitment—fish spawning that results in new individuals in the population—in the South Australian Lower Murray. This highlights the importance of using environmental water to support golden perch spawning events in the Darling River.

Duffys Forest Residents Assoc.: Waratah park bushcare

SUNDAY February 18th 2024
Please join us to support the restoration and revegetation of the Park. Tube stock in planting areas are growing well but need volunteers to help suppress the weeds.
Date & Time- 9am -1pm February 18th
Lunch and morning tea provided

Location- 13 Namba Road Duffys Forest. Drive through the main gates and meet at the picnic area near Rangers building to sign on.
What to bring- Protective clothing is a must. Long sleeved shirts and pants, protective footwear, sunhat, gardening gloves, water.

For more information please visit our website: https://duffysforest.com/

Harvest Seeds & Native Plants: Education Sessions 2024 -  "The Harvest Huddle"

281 Mona Vale rd , Terrey Hills
Phone: (02) 9450 2699
Open 9am - 4pm, 7 days

Introducing "The Harvest Huddle"! Harvest Seeds and Native Plants are putting on some educational sessions through 2024. These will be run by their incredible and knowledgeable staff who have decades of combined experience in horticulture, garden design, soil science and ecology. Please see the image below for session dates and times.
The Harvest Huddle Sessions run from 4.30 pm to around 5.30pm

Harvest Seeds and Native Plants are: Specialists in Native Plants and Seeds of the Sydney Basin, Central Coast, South Coast and surrounds. For all your projects big or small. Horticulturists on site to help with your queries. 

Weeds a problem? On February 29 4.30pm PNHA will help! 

Notice of 1080 Baiting: February 1 - July 31 2024

Please note the following notification of continuous and ongoing fox control using 1080 POISON with ground baits and canid pest ejectors (CPE’s) in Sydney Harbour National Park, Garigal National Park, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, and Lane Cove National Park. As part of this program, baiting also occurs on North Head Sanctuary managed by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and the Australian Institute of Police Management facility at North Head.

This provides notification for the 6 monthly period of 1 February 2024 – 31 July 2024. 

Warning signs are displayed at park entrances and other entrances to the baiting location to inform the public of 1080 baiting.

1080 Poison for fox control is used in these reserves in a continuous and ongoing manner. This means that baits and ejectors (CPE’s) remain in the reserves and are checked/replaced every 6 – 8 weeks.

1080 use at these locations is in accordance with NSW pesticides legislation, relevant 1080 Pesticide Control Orders and the NPWS Vertebrate Pesticides Standard Operating Procedures.

A series of public notifications occur on a 6 monthly basis including; alerts on the NPWS website, public notices in local papers, Area pesticide use notification registers and to the NPWS call centre.

If you have any further general enquiries about 1080, or for specific program enquiries please contact the local NPWS Area office:

For further information please call the local NPWS office on:

NPWS Sydney North (Middle Head) Area office: 9960 6266

NPWS Sydney North (Forestville) Area office: 9451 3479

NPWS North West Sydney (Lane Cove NP) Area office: 8448 0400

NPWS after-hours Duty officer service: 1300 056 294

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust: 8969 2128

Pittwater Natural Heritage Association: second PNHA Nature event 2024

This littoral rainforest is rich in Coachwoods, Swamp Mahoganies, ferns and wonderful birds, including Eastern Whipbirds and Lyrebirds if we are lucky. Learn some birdcalls.
TIME: 8.30 to about 10.30
MEET: western end of Irrawong Rd North Narrabeen
BRING: Water, binoculars if possible, insect repellent
RECEIVE: a free copy of PNHA’s Introductory Field Guide to the birds of this area.
Email us pnhainfo@gmail.com if you’d like to join us.

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Bilgola Beach Clean - February 25

Want to do something for our local community, getting to know friendly people of all ages and backgrounds, and making a difference at the same time?
Come and join us for our family-friendly February clean up, at Bilgola Beach on the 25th at 10am. We are meeting close to Bilgola Surf Life Saving Club. If driving put that in the GPS. See map below for our meeting point, where the red pin is. 

We have gloves, bags, and buckets, and grabbers. We're trying to remove as much plastic and rubbish as possible before it enters the ocean. Some of us can focus on the bush area and sandy/rocky areas, and others can walk along the edges and even clean up in the water (at own risk). We will clean up until around 12.00 and after that, we will take a group photo, bag the rubbish and head for lunch together (at own cost). 

No booking required - just show up on the day - we will be there no matter what weather. 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. For everyone to feel welcome, please leave political and religious messages at home - this includes t-shirts with political campaign messages, and we don't allow people handing out flyers at our events.

There is a council carpark, check streets close by as well if it's full or please consider using public transport.

Message us on our social media or send us an email if you are lost. 
All welcome - the more the merrier. 
Please invite your friends too!

Clean Up Australia Day 2024 registrations are now open

The call out for our community, schools and businesses to volunteer for Clean Up Australia Day to help keep our neighbourhood pristine has begun.  Now is the time to register for this year’s Clean Up Australia event, happening on Sunday 3 March 2024.

Registrations are now open to register a site or volunteer at a registered site near you.

Businesses are encouraged to join the Business Clean Up Day on Tuesday 27 February and young people can get involved in the School Clean Up Day on Friday 1 March 2024 or as a youth group on Sunday 3 March 2024.  

Since Clean Up Australia was created in 1990, more than 21 million volunteers have helped clean up Australia.

To register to volunteer, visit cleanup.org.au

Photo: Pip Kiernan – Chair, Clean Up Australia

After the death of her father Ian Kiernan AO in 2018, Pip was appointed Chair of Clean Up Australia, the iconic Australian charity he founded over 30 years earlier.  Having grown up with Clean Up Australia, Pip is deeply committed to honouring and growing the organisation which is now recognised as one of the country’s most credible and trusted environmental organisations. Image supplied

NEW at Eco House & Garden(at kimbriki): 'Supporting School & Community Composts Workshop' 

Where you can become part of the (waste) solution in our 3-hour workshop. 

See below for more details and for bookings go to 👉https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/1162545

Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre: Early Childhood Educators Professional Development Day 

As part of Kimbriki's 2024 Eco House & Garden Educational Calendar, this year we introduce the Early Childhood Educators Professional Development Day on Friday 22nd March. For more details and bookings 👉 https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/1162305

Upcoming events at Permaculture Northern Beaches

Build a Swale and plant a Food Forest workshop
When - Sunday February 25th 9am - 2:30pm
Where - Allambie Heights

Come along to learn the fundamentals of suburban swale construction and planting out a productive, low-maintenance food forest. 

At this Permaculture Northern Beaches workshop, you will learn how to set out and dig suburban-size contour swales in preparation for a food forest. Swales are a very effective way of slowing and catching water in the landscape so that it can soak into the soil instead of running off into drains and other areas. They are very effective tree-growing systems that will need little maintenance once established. Food forests are human-engineered ecosystems that contain many layered species of edible perennial plants.

Workshop cost is $40 for PNB members and $50 for non-members. Book here

Hurry! Spaces for this great workshop are limited to 20 participants. All welcome!

Bring along:
  • - Sunscreen
  • - Hat
  • - Water bottle
  • - Lunch (or there are shops and eateries nearby) Morning tea will be provided by us.
The workshop will be hosted by Kyle Taylor of Tierra Projects. Tierra projects are rooted in permaculture ethics and help homeowners, businesses, and community groups to achieve more self-sufficiency and sustainability. We hope you can join us for this great workshop.

For more info reach out to info@permaculturenorthernbeaches.org.au


When - February 29th 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Where - Narrabeen Tramshed Arts and Community Centre, Lakeview Room

Permaculture Northern Beaches is thrilled to host Ling Halbert, famous for her amazing Laotian cooking sessions with her absolute passion for sharing food and wisdom. Ling brings together interested people to share in the health-giving benefits of vegetarian food with classic Laotian ingredients.

Ling cooks with thought to tradition, taste, cost, medicinal/nutritional qualities and ethics in mind. Inspired by her Lao-Chinese heritage, Ling will teach us her cooking techniques, and you can sample some of her delicious food.

Bring a bowl and eating utensil to the night so you can enjoy the food! If you would like to add your own produce, such as eggs, pumpkin, onions, herbs, lemon, limes, chilies, cucumber, greens, capsicum or zucchini please do so as Ling can add it and cook with it on the night. Yum!

We will then enjoy the delicious food together and chat about Permaculture Northern Beaches’ exciting activities for 2024!

Entry is by donation ($10 recommended). All welcome and no booking necessary.

Organic teas and coffee will also be available on the night.

We hope you can join us for this yummy event!

For more info reach out to info@permaculturenorthernbeaches.org.au


When - March 28th 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Where - Narrabeen Tramshed Arts and Community Centre, Lakeview Room

Saving Our Seeds is a crucial part of our own food chain and it enables us to grow our own food and plants with no additional costs! The strongest seeds are locally grown over many generations and well adapted to local conditions - so your plants will thrive while you save on costs. Join us with seed-saving guest speakers Mylene Turban, and Elle Sheather to have an overview and to inspire you to get seed-saving!

We now have more reasons than ever to save seeds, with more government restrictions on seed imports, and multi-national companies buying up small seed companies, while during COVID the seed companies actually ran out of seeds!

Learn techniques to save dry seeds and wet seeds, starting small, storage, labelling, advantages of planting seeds over seedlings, biodiversity, plus why saving seeds is so important. You can also eat or sprout them as a nutritious source of food!

PNB is building our Seed Saving library and Seed Swaps. If you would like to be involved, join our team by emailing info@peramculturenorthernbeaches.org.au We are also working with community gardens on the Northern Beaches of Sydney to build up seed stocks and to swap seeds.

Organic teas and coffees will be available on the night as well as our own Seeds! All are welcome and no bookings necessary. Entry is by donation ($5 is recommended.)


Permaculture Northern Beaches (PNB) is an active local group on Sydney's Northern Beaches working for ecological integrity and assisting you on a pathway to sustainability.

PNB holds monthly permaculture-related public meetings on the last Thursday of each month at the Narrabeen Tramshed Community & Arts Centre, Lakeview Room, 1395A Pittwater Road, Narrabeen. Buses stop directly at the centre and there is also car parking nearby. Doors open at 7:15 pm and meetings take place monthly from February to November. 
Check out our events page for the next meeting. Everyone is welcome! 

We also hold a range of workshops, short courses, film and soup nights, practical garden tours, permabees (working bees), beehive installations, eco-product making sessions and much more.

We are an independent organisation registered as an Association in NSW, ABN Number 11486171929.

Join or Renew your annual membership with Permaculture Northern Beaches and check out the member benefits by following the link at PNB Membership.

Stony Range Nursery

Now that the weather is cooler, come and visit our well stocked plant nursery at Stony Range.
Run by volunteers and open on a Saturday 12pm - 4pm
Native tubestock, ferns and orchids for sale.
While you are visiting, take a walk through the rainforest or have a picnic in the BBQ Area.

Please note:  The volunteer run plant nursery at Stony Range is open from 2pm - 4pm on a Saturday

Stony Range Regional Botanic Garden
810 Pittwater Rd, Dee Why
Phone: (02) 8495 5009
Cost: Free
Opening hours
The garden is open every day of the year, including public holidays.
8am to 8.30pm - Daylight Saving Time (October to April)
8am to 5.30pm - Eastern Standard Time (April to September)

Stay Safe From Mosquitoes 

NSW Health is reminding people to protect themselves from mosquitoes when they are out and about this summer.

NSW Health’s Acting Director of Environmental Health, Paul Byleveld, said with more people spending time outdoors, it was important to take steps to reduce mosquito bite risk.

“Mosquitoes thrive in wet, warm conditions like those that much of NSW is experiencing,” Byleveld said.

“Mosquitoes in NSW can carry viruses such as Japanese encephalitis (JE), Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE), Kunjin, Ross River and Barmah Forest. The viruses may cause serious diseases with symptoms ranging from tiredness, rash, headache and sore and swollen joints to rare but severe symptoms of seizures and loss of consciousness.

“People should take extra care to protect themselves against mosquito bites and mosquito-borne disease, particularly after the detection of JE in a sentinel chicken in Far Western NSW.

The NSW Health sentinel chicken program provides early warning about the presence of serious mosquito borne diseases, like JE. Routine testing in late December revealed a positive result for JE in a sample from Menindee. 

A free vaccine to protect against JE infection is available to those at highest risk in NSW and people can check their eligibility at NSW Health.

People are encouraged to take actions to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of acquiring a mosquito-borne virus by:
  • Applying repellent to exposed skin. Use repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Check the label for reapplication times.
  • Re-applying repellent regularly, particularly after swimming. Be sure to apply sunscreen first and then apply repellent.
  • Wearing light, loose-fitting long-sleeve shirts, long pants and covered footwear and socks.
  • Avoiding going outdoors during peak mosquito times, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • Using insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units and mosquito coils to repel mosquitoes (mosquito coils should only be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas)
  • Covering windows and doors with insect screens and checking there are no gaps.
  • Removing items that may collect water such as old tyres and empty pots from around your home to reduce the places where mosquitoes can breed.
  • Using repellents that are safe for children. Most skin repellents are safe for use on children aged three months and older. Always check the label for instructions. Protecting infants aged less than three months by using an infant carrier draped with mosquito netting, secured along the edges.
  • While camping, use a tent that has fly screens to prevent mosquitoes entering or sleep under a mosquito net.
Remember, Spray Up – Cover Up – Screen Up to protect from mosquito bite. For more information go to NSW Health.

Mountain Bike Incidents On Public Land: Survey

This survey aims to document mountain bike related incidents on public land, available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/K88PSNP

Sent in by Pittwater resident Academic for future report- study. The survey will run for 12 months and close in November 2024.

Please look out for wildlife during heatwave events

New South Wales is experiencing significant heatwave conditions.

These prolonged weather conditions can cause native wildlife to become heat-stressed as they suffer from high temperatures; here is how you can identify a heat-stressed animal and how you can help.
Always remember:

If you find an injured, orphaned or sick native animal, call WIRES on 1300 094 737 or Sydney Wildlife Rescue on 9413 4300.

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: https://www.nwc.org.au/.../injured-wildlife-find-your-nearest-rescue-group  Photo: Bronwyn Gould

Palmgrove Park Avalon: New Bushcare Group 

Palmgrove Park Avalon is a remnant of the Spotted Gum forest that was once widespread on the lower slopes of the Pittwater peninsula. This bushland’s official name and forest type is Pittwater and Wagstaffe Endangered Ecological Community, endangered because so much has been cleared for suburban development. Canopy trees, smaller trees and shrubs, and ground layer plants make up this community. Though scattered remnant Spotted Gums remain on private land, there is little chance of seedlings surviving in gardens and lawns. More information HERE

A grant to PNHA from Council in 2021 funded revegetation of a section between Dress Circle Rd and Bellevue Rd. The tubestock planted there late in 2022 by students from Avalon Primary and bush regeneration contractors is flourishing.

More tubestock was planted on National Tree Day on July 30 2023.

A new Bushcare group will now be working there from Saturday, starting at 9am and working for up to three hours. Your help would be wonderful.

Contact Pittwater Natural Heritage Association on pnhainfo@gmail.com to find out more.

Report fox sightings

Fox sightings, signs of fox activity, den locations and attacks on native or domestic animals can be reported into FoxScan. FoxScan is a free resource for residents, community groups, local Councils, and other land managers to record and report fox sightings and control activities. 

Our Council's Invasive species Team receives an alert when an entry is made into FoxScan.  The information in FoxScan will assist with planning fox control activities and to notify the community when and where foxes are active.

marine wildlife rescue group on the Central Coast

A new wildlife group was launched on the Central Coast on Saturday, December 10, 2022.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast (MWRCC) had its official launch at The Entrance Boat Shed at 10am.

The group comprises current and former members of ASTR, ORRCA, Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, WIRES and Wildlife ARC, as well as vets, academics, and people from all walks of life.

Well known marine wildlife advocate and activist Cathy Gilmore is spearheading the organisation.

“We believe that it is time the Central Coast looked after its own marine wildlife, and not be under the control or directed by groups that aren’t based locally,” Gilmore said.

“We have the local knowledge and are set up to respond and help injured animals more quickly.

“This also means that donations and money fundraised will go directly into helping our local marine creatures, and not get tied up elsewhere in the state.”

The organisation plans to have rehabilitation facilities and rescue kits placed in strategic locations around the region.

MWRCC will also be in touch with Indigenous groups to learn the traditional importance of the local marine environment and its inhabitants.

“We want to work with these groups and share knowledge between us,” Gilmore said.

“This is an opportunity to help save and protect our local marine wildlife, so if you have passion and commitment, then you are more than welcome to join us.”

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast has a Facebook page where you may contact members. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100076317431064

Watch out - shorebirds about

Summer 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.

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

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.

Bushcare in Pittwater: where + when

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367 or visit Council's bushcare webpage to find out how you can get involved.

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 
Catalpa Reserve              4th Sunday of the month        8.30 – 11.30
Palmgrove Park              1st Saturday of the month        9.00 – 12 

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

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 : email@narrabeenlagoon.org.au

Gardens and Environment Groups and Organisations in Pittwater

Ringtail Posses 2023

More green space to enhance liveability in NSW communities: Metropolitan Greenspace Program + Community Gardens program grants now open

February 12, 2024
Communities across New South Wales will benefit from more green space in 2024 with $3.25 million in NSW Government grant funding now available to select councils.

Councils in Greater Sydney and the Central Coast can apply for their share of the money from the Metropolitan Greenspace Program (MGP) for open space projects to improve liveability.

Eligible projects include playgrounds, walking tracks, pedestrian and cycleways, bushland restoration and recreation facilities.

The Metropolitan Greenspace Program (MGP) has seen recent success through projects including water quality improvement and stormwater harvesting at Gannons Park in Georges River Council.

The upgrades were highly commended at the National Engineering Excellence Awards in 2022 and won the ‘Excellence in Integrated Stormwater Design’ Award at the Stormwater New South Wales 2021 Awards.

The MGP commenced, under the Wran Government in 1983, and since 1990, more than $56 million has been provided to more than 681 projects.

Further funding of $250,000 is also available to Greater Sydney councils as part of the Places to Roam Community Gardens program.

Applicants can access up to $75,000 for community gardens, bush care schemes and waterway enhancements to support health and wellbeing in areas with priority housing growth.

A recent recipient of the program is the Pemulwuy Community Garden, which opened late last year with wheelchair-friendly pathways and 16 raised garden beds for the planting of vegetables, fruits and flowers.

The new garden space has complemented Cumberland City Council’s three existing community gardens.

Small-scale projects are also encouraged with successful applications selected on merit, including how easily they can be delivered and community benefits.

An independent panel of experts will assess applications against each program’s key objectives.

For more information and program guidelines visit Metropolitan Greenspace Program or Places to Roam.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said:
“We already have some incredible accessible green and open spaces across Greater Sydney and the Central Coast but it’s vital that we keep investing in these great programs.

“Greater Sydney and the Central Coast is growing, and while we’re focused on making sure we provide enough of the right kind of housing to suit everybody’s needs, we need to compliment this with the right infrastructure including green, open public space.

“I’m excited to see fresh ideas and plans from councils to help connect residential areas with even more high-quality parklands and public spaces.”

Minister for the Central Coast David Harris said:
“We all know how important green space is for community health and wellbeing and I am pleased that the Central Coast will be able to access and benefit from this great program.

“Our unique environment and green space is one of the main reasons people love living on the Coast and we need to ensure it is protected and enhanced for our growing population.”

To find out more an apply visit:

NSW welcomes new national Varroa Mite management plan and funding to kick start industry implementation

February 13 2024
The NSW Government has today stated it welcomed the decision of the Varroa Mite National Management Group to approve the National Transition to Management Plan. The group, comprised of State and Federal governments, as well as beekeeping and pollination industry representatives have unanimously agreed to usher in a new phase for biosecurity management of Varroa mite.

The priority of the NSW Government moving forward will be to work with industry to ensure beekeepers understand how to best manage the pest in this new phase.

The aim of the Transition to Management Plan is to increase resilience and minimise ongoing impacts of Varroa mite for the bee industry and pollination reliant industries. This outcome will be achieved by slowing the spread, building industry resilience, providing management options and support for pollination security.

The Australian Government, state and territory governments and 16 industries have committed to share up to $100 million of the costs of the response to date and transition to management activities.

As a category 2 emergency plant pest the contributions are 40% (up to $40 million) from the Australian Government, 40% (up to $40 million) from state and territory governments and 20% (up to $20 million) shared across 16 industry groups.

The $100 million national program to date has helped minimise and mitigate financial impacts on Australia’s honey and pollination-dependent industries and protected thousands of jobs.

The NSW Government has prepared for this transition and can start immediately to upskill industry, with training modules already completed and ready to go.  The next step now is organising industry events, workshops, and placing materials online.

The recruitment process for new roles under the plan is currently underway and the NSW Government will immediately recruit Varroa Development Officers (VDOs) who work directly with beekeepers to increase their ability to manage Varroa.

Another critical role of the VDOs will be to develop, train and maintain a network of volunteer beekeepers who will monitor hives for the presence of Varroa and provide information on the spread of the mite.

Additionally, the response will employ a Pollination Industry Coordinator (PIC) to assist the pollination dependent industries to better understand and manage their needs.  This will be critical for smaller industries who have relied on wild bees for pollination and never engaged with pollination service providers.

The NMG made the decision in late 2023 that Varroa mite was no longer eradicable from Australia after commencing the national program for eradication in July 2022.

For the latest information head to www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/varroa

Latest mapping: screenshot taken February 16, 2024, shows the mite is now in our area

Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Tara Moriarty said:
“The NSW Government is prepared and will immediately roll out resources, information, support and training for our beekeepers and pollination reliant agriculture sectors to address this new biosecurity transition.

“We will work closely with industry at this critical time and deliver programs that enhance the health and robustness of NSW’s beekeeping industry.

“Australia is the last major honey producing country in the world to get Varroa mite, and we are using international experience and science in understanding how best to prepare beekeepers and the beekeeping and pollination reliant industries.

Australian Honey Bee Industry Council CEO Danny Le Feuvre said:
“The plan will see Varroa Development Officers employed nationally to help drive on the ground support for beekeepers dealing with this pest for the first time, which will be welcomed by all I am sure.

Almond Board of Australia CEO Tim Jackson said:
“Pollination reliant industries have a large stake in the transition to management as well as beekeepers.

“Experience from around the world shows that pollination reliant industries will need to work very closely with beekeepers to mitigate problems caused by the Varroa mite’s impact on wild European honeybee populations.”

Community Board for Central Coast Wetlands appointed

February 14, 2024
A new community board has been appointed to one of the region’s most important Crown land environmental and community assets, the Central Coast Wetlands – Pioneer Dairy. 

Crown Lands in the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure has appointed six new board members to manage the affairs of the wetlands for up to five years. 

The new board members are Jed Field, Samantha Willis, James Schmidt, Allan Benson, Megan Rice and an ex-officio member from Central Coast Council. Their appointments follow the process of an expression of interest seeking applicants.  

The appointees were selected due to their combinations of marketing, business and financial skills, along with environment consulting experience. 

Two appointees - Jed Field and Samantha Willis - are existing board members and will ensure continuity, experience and corporate knowledge are retained and available to the new board. 

The new board will manage the site on behalf of the NSW Government to help enhance the Crown reserve as an outstanding recreational, environmental and community parkland for the Central Coast.  

Future tasks for the board will including development and consultation on a masterplan, scoping of potential infrastructure upgrades, a sustainable business model for the reserve, and engaging and supporting volunteers in the ongoing maintenance and environmental management of the site. 

Minister for Lands and Property Steve Kamper said: 
“Crown land reserves are held in trust for communities and I thank the volunteer members for devoting their time and skills to help manage the Central Coast Wetlands-Pioneer Dairy. 

“This beautiful reserve is a natural paradise home to hundreds of bird species and enormous plant and animal biodiversity so we want to ensure it is preserved for both current and future generations.” 

Minister for the Central Coast David Harris said: 

“Central Coast Wetlands – Pioneer Dairy is an environmental and community gem that is home to important agricultural heritage and 155-hectares of woodland, wetland and open paddocks, making it the region’s biggest area of open space for public access. 

“The new board will help ensure the community helps drive the future of this important reserve so that it can continue to be a highly popular spot for families, nature lovers and community  groups.” 

Vandals destroy endangered trees in Jaaningga Nature Reserve

February 15, 2024
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is investigating the destruction of rare native trees in a nature reserve south of Bellingen.

Rangers found 13 Newry golden wattle trees rammed and uprooted along a 1.2 km span of fire trails within the reserve. Marks on the trees indicate they were destroyed by a vehicle with a bull bar.

Newry golden wattle (Acacia chrysotricha) is a nationally listed endangered plant species found only within a small area of remote eucalypt forest in the Kalang River Valley. The species is found nowhere else on the planet.

Jaaningga Nature Reserve, a local Gumbaynngirr word meaning 'green wattle, was declared in 1999 specifically to protect the habitat of this native tree.

NPWS staff and bush regeneration contractors discovered the destroyed trees while scoping areas where weed control work would assist the ongoing protection and growth of this endangered species.

NPWS is appealing to the public to help identify those responsible. Anyone with information is encouraged to call NPWS on 02 6652 0900.

NPWS Area Manager Glenn Storrie said:
''We are dismayed by such mindless vandalism of precious and endangered native species within a declared nature reserve.

We believe that between Friday 9 February and the morning of 12 February, someone has entered the reserve and mown down at least 20 native trees along fire trails within the nature reserve.

Unfortunately, most of the damaged trees were a rare and endangered native species found nowhere else on earth.

The foliage on these destroyed trees was still green and fresh, as were the tyre marks and wounds on the trunks.

The evidence available clearly indicates this damage is recent and deliberate.''

Image; NPWS Ranger Martin Smith with destroyed trees. Photo Credit: DCCEEW

2023 Annual Air Quality Statement

February 14, 2024
The 2019-20 bushfires in NSW brought the stark importance of air quality to the attention of all residents across the state. While Australia has some of the best air quality in the world, the NSW Government is committed to continually improving the state's air quality.
As part of that commitment, the 2023 Annual Air Quality Statement is being released today.

The Annual Air Quality Statement summarises data collected from the NSW Air Quality Monitoring Network each year and is a key component of the 2021–2030 NSW Clean Air Strategy.

The 2023 Statement shows that NSW experienced good air quality in 2023, despite warmer and drier conditions.

The report's key findings show:
  • Air quality in 2023 deteriorated marginally compared to 2022. However, 2022 was the state's best air quality on record due mainly to cooler, wetter weather which contributed to fewer bushfires, hazard reduction burns and windblown dust.
  • Four of the state's 16 air quality regions met national standards 100% of the time in 2023. These were: Central Coast, Lake Macquarie, Lower Hunter, and Southern Tablelands.
  • Air quality standards were met at least 96% of the time in all regions, except for Newcastle Local, which met standards 84% of the time, due to sea salt raising PM10 levels at Stockton.
  • Across the 16 regions, there were 47 days in 2023 when at least one national standard was not met. This compares with 19 days in 2022.
  • Particle pollution PM10 and PM2.5 continues to be the main source of air pollution mostly due to hazard reduction burns, bushfires, wood heater emissions, and dust. Particle concentrations increased by approximately 30% from 2022.
  • Of the gaseous pollutants, sulphur dioxide levels exceeded national standards on 2 days at Muswellbrook station in the Upper Hunter region, and Bradfield Highway roadside monitoring station did not meet the nitrogen dioxide annual standard in 2023. Ozone levels exceeded national standards on 3 days.
  • New South Wales experienced a warmer and drier year compared to 2022, but rainfall from late spring moderated the intensifying hot and dry conditions, and likely as a result the air quality.
  • Rural areas experienced fewer hours of dust on average, despite expanding drought conditions.
The NSW Government monitors air quality at 99 stations located in 19 regions. Near real time air quality information is available on the Air Quality NSW website, including hourly readings, air quality categories and the relevant health advice and the Sydney forecast.

Actions under the Clean Air Strategy focus on improving air quality and protecting people's health. The main achievements for 2023 included improved bushfire smoke forecasting and support for councils to use low-cost sensors.

Community members can subscribe to receive notifications on poor air quality days in their local area, including during air quality incidents such as bushfires, hazard reduction burns, dust storms and ozone events.

The 2023 Annual Air Quality Statement can be found here: NSW annual air quality statement 2023.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe said:

"The Annual Air Quality Statement is an important piece of information that guides how we continually try to improve air quality for everyone in New South Wales.

"One of the key actions we are taking is decarbonisation of our electricity system which will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also improve air quality for everyone."

Dubbo landholders protecting our environment

February 14, 2024
Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe has praised the efforts of locals in Dubbo who have protected threatened habitats and species under an agreement with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT).

Eighteen agreement holders across the Dubbo region are protecting 8,163 hectares under conservation agreements funded by the NSW Government, with 95% of the land protected forever.

Minister Sharpe said the private land conservation efforts of farmers and property owners across New South Wales are important to protecting threatened species.

“Dubbo landholders, and landholders across the Central West who have entered an agreement with the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust are an example of how we can continue to protect our environment and ensure the survival of threatened species,” Minister Sharpe said.

More than half the protected area in the Dubbo LGA is covered by funded agreements where landholders receive annual management payments in exchange for managing the conservation area.

The Trust’s annual management payments help level out the peaks and troughs in farm income which is increasingly important in a changing climate.

“For many, the added benefit of receiving annual management payments is on top of protecting the land for their family, and future generations”, Minister Sharpe said.

NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust Regional Manager Glenn Harpley said landholders across the Central West were seeing the benefit of managing a conservation site on their property.

“We work with landholders right across the region, assisting them to manage native vegetation and protect the habitats and native animals they take pride in having on their properties,” he said.

“Statewide, the private land conservation efforts of farmers and property owners protect more than 200 threatened species across almost 3% of New South Wales.”

Managing a conservation site under a NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust conservation agreement comes with the assistance and advice of ecologists and support staff. With further funded conservation agreement opportunities expected to open later this year, now is the time to learn more.

Landholders interested in private land conservation can visit www.bct.nsw.gov.au or phone 1300 992 688 for more information.

What is the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust?
The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust, or BCT, is the NSW Government agency tasked with protecting and enhancing biodiversity on private land across New South Wales. It was established under Part 10 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

What is private land conservation?
Private land conservation is the protection of native species and habitat on privately-owned land. Landholders enter into a long-term agreement to maintain and enhance biodiversity on their properties.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe. Photo: DCCEEW

State-of-the-art Platypus Rescue HQ opens in Dubbo

February 14, 2024
The world’s largest purpose-built platypus conservation centre, Platypus Rescue HQ, has been opened at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo on Wiradjuri Country, providing a world-class refuge for wild platypus.

The state-of-the-art centre can house up to 65 platypus during severe environmental events such as droughts, bushfires and floods.

The facility combines rescue and rehabilitation facilities, a research centre to study platypus behaviour and a pre-release area to prepare recovered platypus for return to the wild.

It also houses a public, purpose-built platypus habitat, where guests will be able to see and learn more about this cryptic monotreme for the first time at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. It will provide behind-the-scenes insight into modern conservation and research.

Construction of the new $12.1 million Platypus Rescue HQ facility has been jointly funded by the NSW Government, Taronga Conservation Society Australia and philanthropic donors.

The platypus is one of the world’s last remaining monotremes, and like many other Australian wildlife, is susceptible to the impacts of climate change and habitat loss. Platypus Rescue HQ will allow researchers and staff to refine the conservation strategy for platypus by filling knowledge gaps across the species’ breeding behaviour, biology and genetics.

The new centre will see cutting-edge research delivered in partnership with the University of NSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science thanks to support from San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and WIRES.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe said:
'It’s wonderful to see the doors officially open for a centre that is going to support the future of the platypus – a much-loved and iconic Australian animal.

'We’re committed to supporting the population of this species, protecting them from the impacts of climate change and habitat loss, and preserving their numbers in the wild for years to come.

'That’s why it’s important to have a facility like Platypus Rescue HQ, with the ability to research and rescue platypus and use features like a pre-release creek to help with their rehabilitation before they’re released back into the wild.'

Treasurer of NSW Daniel Mookhey said:
'The NSW Government is committed to supporting state-of-the-art preparedness facilities like this in our regions, that not only provide benefits to our native wildlife but also to our regional economies.

'The construction of Platypus Rescue HQ supported local and regional businesses and sub-contractors during the project, resulting in over 36,500 hours of work, including 8612 apprentice hours.

'78 percent of the overall build was completed by local or regionally based contractors, providing an economic boost to local businesses.'

Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty said:
'The opening of the Platypus Rescue HQ at Taronga Western Plains Zoo is an important day for regional NSW.

'We expect there will be an increase in visitors to the area to see this iconic species in a natural-like environment.

'The new centre has also created jobs for the region during the construction and will enable the zoo to bring on additional employees. Multiple graduate and post-graduate student projects will also be supported.'

Taronga Conservation Society Australia CEO Cameron Kerr AO said:
'Shy and enigmatic, platypus are the silent victims of climate change, with their decline largely hidden from public view.

'This new, purpose-built facility will bring together global experts, paving the way to truly understand this cryptic species and ensure our emblem species can not only survive, but thrive in the wild.

'We’re so grateful for the support of the NSW Government, as well as our generous donors including San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and WIRES, who have enabled this vision to become a reality and for our guests to come eye-to-eye with a platypus and see conservation in action.'

Record funding to support Landcare and deliver on-ground Landcare projects

February 9, 2024
The NSW Government has reached a major milestone on an election commitment, allocating funding for 83 full-time equivalent local and regional Landcare coordinators and support staff through its $59 million NSW Landcare Enabling Program 2023-2027.

Following a competitive grant and assessment process, 16 Landcare groups based across NSW were successful in receiving funding for coordinators and support staff.

The aim of the regional and local Landcare coordinators is to deliver and support on-ground projects specific to the needs of the local natural environmental and agricultural systems.

In addition to the delivery of on-ground projects, the local and regional coordinators will deliver on a number of other priorities, including:
  • Strengthening the capacity of Landcarers which will result in effective, efficient support to landcarer volunteers, farmers and the community ensuring effective collaboration and partnerships between Landcare groups, Local Land Services, other government agencies
  • Landcare NSW leveraging funding opportunities to maximise socio-economic and environmental outcomes.
As part of the funding, each local and regional coordinator can also access up to $5000 to undertake professional development over the course of the 4-year program.
Get more information about the current funding opportunity and the NSW Landcare Enabling Program.

Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty said:
It gives me great pleasure to announce the successful applicants from this major funding opportunity.

There was strong interest in the funding opportunity and the NSW Landcare Enabling Program more broadly, so it's great to have such engagement from our Landcare community.

I am also very pleased that the Landcare community have worked together on region wide applications in many cases. This will support better outcomes for the Landcare community.

By providing this funding, our coordinators will have more time to focus on improved facilitation and delivery of on-ground projects that care for our environment and boost agricultural productivity.

For the first time, support staff roles were also included and we know that was important to provide additional support with administrative tasks, allowing coordinators to focus on the delivery of on-ground projects.

Full list of grant recipients:
  • Central West Lachlan Landcare Inc.
  • North West Regional Landcarers Inc.            
  • South East Landcare Inc.                                     
  • Greater Sydney Landcare Network Incorporated.  
  • West Hume Landcare Inc.                    
  • Holbrook Landcare Group Ltd.           
  • Western Landcare NSW Inc.               
  • Western Murray Land Improvement Group.               
  • New England Landcare Network, Inc.                           
  • Corowa District Landcare Inc.                            
  • Mid Coast 2 Tops Landcare Connection Inc.              
  • Hunter Region Landcare Network Inc.          
  • Ricegrowers' Association Of Australia Inc.                
  • North Coast Regional Landcare Network (NSW).
  • Watershed Landcare Group Incorporated.                 
  • Murrumbidgee Landcare Association Incorporated.

QLD Government quietly signs off on vulcan south; a 770 hectares of koala habitat clearing/killing coal mine

The Queensland Government quietly approved a new coal mine in Central Queensland that will clear 770 hectares of koala habitat, without requiring an Environmental Impact Statement.

The Vulcan South coal mine in the Bowen Basin south west of Mackay is one of several new coal mine proposals in Queensland that the Miles Government is not requiring Environmental Impact Statements for, because they fall marginally short of the apparently arbitrary threshold that triggers the EIS process. 

It’s the first coal mine to be approved in Queensland since Steven Miles became premier. The decision (available here) was only emailed to people or groups who made submissions in response to the project - it has not yet been published online (as February 1, 20240.

Vitrinite plans to mine 13.5 million tonnes of coal over a nine year period at a rate of 1.95 million tonnes of coal each year, just below the two million tonnes per annum production rate that triggers the requirement for an EIS.

As well as clearing 770ha of endangered koala habitat, Vitrinite will also clear 39 ha of endangered greater glider habitat, 36 ha of vulnerable glossy black cockatoo habitat, and 1024 ha of vulnerable squatter pigeon habitat for this coal mine (See page 43 of Draft EA Permit).

Vulcan South is also just one part of a much larger coal project, which Vitrinite has split into three. Work is already underway on the nearby associated mine known as “Jupiter”, while the Independent Expert Scientific Committee recently criticised Vitrinite for failing to provide enough environmental data for the second component - a coal handling facility,  rail transportation and an additional pit.

Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland director Dr Coral Rowston said, “This is a terrible outcome for Queensland’s koalas and climate. The Queensland Government’s approval of the Vulcan South coal mine will fast track the decline of Central Queensland’s already struggling koala population and make climate change worse.  

“The large area of habitat to be lost to the coal project undermines efforts to protect koala habitat elsewhere and the project will exacerbate climate change, a key threat to the koala. 

“This coal mine will also place other threatened species who call the local area home, like the greater glider and glossy black cockatoo, under even more pressure.

“The approval of a climate wrecking coal mine that plans to wipe out more than 300 Gabba sized stadiums of koala habitat is an absolute disaster for Queensland’s iconic species."

Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Ellen Roberts said, “This is a reckless decision by the Queensland Government, but the Vulcan South coal mine still needs approvals under federal environment laws before it can proceed. We're calling on Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to make good on her commitment to no new extinctions. She can help protect the endangered koala and greater glider by refusing the Vulcan South coal mine and protecting this important area of Central Queensland habitat.”

Vulcan South is the first new coal mine to be approved since Steven Miles became premier, however it is unlikely to be the last, with Whitehaven’s Winchester South expected to be approved after it received the coordinator general’s go ahead last year.

Queensland government approval of Winchester South mega mine approval a loss for Queenslanders-koalas-climate: to clear/kill 2000+ Hectares of wildlife habitat

February 7, 2024
Lock the Gate Alliance condemns the Miles Government’s approval of a brand new coal mine that will be responsible for more than half a billion tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution.

While the approval is not available online, stakeholders have received verbal confirmation from the department that it has occurred today (Wednesday February 7).

The Miles Government today approved Whitehaven’s thermal and metallurgical Winchester South coal mine, despite the state’s coordinator general last year finding the project would “limit human rights” (PG 14) of children and the cultural rights of First Nations peoples. 

If Winchester South receives federal approval, Whitehaven will mine 17 million tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal each year for 28 years. The project will be responsible for 583 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution - more than the entire annual GHG emissions of Australia - including 14.2 million tonnes of on site, or scope 1, emissions.

The project’s direct impacts include:

  • Clearing at least 2000 hectares of habitat home to endangered and threatened species including koalas, the Australian painted snipe, the ornamental snake, and squatter pigeon. The coordinator general’s assessment identified more koala habitat than Whitehaven originally noted.
  • Draining 155 million litres of groundwater on average each year, with a potential maximum rate of 280 million litres each year, into the mine pits.
  • Leaving three un-rehabilitated pit voids (giant holes where mining has occurred) at the end of the mine's life. These pits will continue to drain water from the surrounding area and concentrate heavy metals and salts in the voids.
  • Dumping mine wastewater into the Isaac River. It is standard practice for Central QLD coal mines to release wastewater into nearby rivers, which ultimately flow into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.
Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland director Dr Coral Rowston said it was contradictory for the Queensland Government to approve a new greenfield coal mine so soon after announcing new carbon emission reduction targets.

“The Winchester South coal mine is completely contradictory to Queensland’s carbon emissions reduction target and the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. It also poses unacceptable threats to ecosystems and Queenslander’s human rights,” she said. 

“The Queensland Miles Government can reduce the state’s emissions, or it can have new coal mines. It can’t have both.

“Central Queensland can have healthy ecosystems home to much loved species like koalas, greater gliders, and the Australian Painted Snipe, or the government can allow new coal mines to clear their habitats. It can’t have both.

“Let’s hope Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek can fix the Miles Government's poor decision making, and reject this koala killing, climate destroying coal mine.”

Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Ellen Roberts said Whitehaven’s long list of criminal offences in its home state of NSW was extremely worrying.

“The Miles Government has just given a NSW coal company with a notoriously long list of environmental offences in its home state permission to trash Central Queensland,” she said.

“Whitehaven has an extremely poor track record and has been found guilty or investigated for environmental offences at least 35 times. 

“We know Whitehaven treats fines and penalties as just the cost of doing business in NSW and we have no reason to believe it will behave any differently in QLD.”

“The International Energy Agency says (Page 103) there is enough metallurgical coal already in production to meet demand, and that the world no longer needs new coal mines - neither for power generation nor steel making. Instead of digging in behind polluting technologies of the past, the Queensland Government should be putting all its energy into clean, renewable alternatives.”

While Queensland Resources Minister Scott Stewart has described Winchester South as a “metallurgical coal mine”, 42 per cent of the coal will in fact be thermal coal used for power generation.

Whitehaven has previously greatly overestimated metallurgical coal production at its existing Maules Creek and Tarrawonga mines.

Page 103 of the IEA report “Net Zero by 2050” states:  “No new coal mines or extensions of existing ones are needed in the NZE as coal demand declines precipitously. Demand for coking coal falls at a slightly slower rate than for steam coal, but existing sources of production are sufficient to cover demand through to 2050.” 

Government must get tougher on unfit mining companies after Russell Vale debacle

February 6, 2024
The closure of the polluting and dangerous Russell Vale colliery in the Sydney-Illawarra drinking water catchment demonstrates why the NSW Government needs to get tougher on companies who are clearly unfit to operate a coal mine, says Lock the Gate Alliance.

The Alliance made detailed submissions to the State Government before the Russell Vale coal mine expansion was approved in 2020, arguing the company was unfit to operate the mine under NSW laws.  

Those concerns have now been validated, after the NSW Resources Regulator issued a notice preventing the mine from operating this week.

Allowing unfit companies to operate puts workers’ safety and the environment at risk, and can then lead to unplanned closures, as has happened this week at Russell Vale. 

Lock the Gate is now calling for the NSW Minns Government to ensure Wollongong Coal rehabilitates Russell Vale to the highest standards and for jobs in rehabilitation to be provided to affected workers.

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator Nic Clyde said the Minns Government must not allow Wollongong Coal to offload Russell Vale to another “two-bit basket case mining minnow” but should ensure the mine is rehabilitated and closed permanently.

“The local community has known for years that Wollongong Coal was unfit to operate a coal mine, particularly one located in an area as sensitive as the drinking water catchment,” he said.

“Illawarra residents have seen coal sludge from Russell Vale turn Bellambi Creek black too many times.

“The Resources Regulator has done the right thing by stepping up and protecting workers from this dangerous mine. 

“We’re calling on Wollongong Coal to now do the right thing by its workers and redeploy them into rehabilitation roles so this sorry mine can finally be cleaned up, and the cost of doing so doesn’t fall to the NSW taxpayer.

“The water catchment is both an environmentally sensitive area, and an incredibly important resource for the future of Sydney and the Illawarra’s drinking water. Coal mines should never have been dug beneath it.

“Underground mines like Russell Vale are also extremely gassy, and we don’t want to see this mine left to belch greenhouse gases into the atmosphere indefinitely.

“We’re asking for clarity from the government today as to what resources Wollongong Coal has available to rehabilitate the site, given the company stated in 2019 that it did not have enough cash to fully rehabilitate. This is what happens when governments give unfit companies permission to mine in NSW.

"The NSW government set up the Royalties or Rejuvenation fund and an Illawarra expert panel to support communities through the transition, but to date, there's no evidence of any concrete projects proposed or funded. This fund now has $75M."

Despite Wollongong Coal’s dire financial situation, and environmental issues at Russell Vale, the NSW Government approved the mine’s expansion in 2020. Then Environment Minister Sussan Ley gave the company federal permission to expand Russell Vale the following year.

Wollongong Coal has faced multiple investigations, issued with Development Control Orders, Prohibition Notices, Enforceable Undertakings, stop work orders and has been found in breach of specific legislation on multiple occasions. 

The company has been reprimanded for:
  • failure to maintain and operate pollution control equipment leading to pollution of Bellambi Gully
  • illegal storage of waste
  • repeat breaches of mine procedures leading to shut down of the Wongawilli mine over serious safety issues in accordance with section 51 of the Work Health and Safety (Mines and Petroleum Sites) Act 2013
  • failure to pay rents and levies
  • failure to undertake works in accordance with the conditions of approval
  • failure to hold community consultative committee meetings
  • failure to comply with a Development Control Order (DCO) issued by the NSW Planning Minister at the Russell Vale Coal Mine.
A detailed summary of issues supporting the claim that this company was unfit to mine underneath a Special Area of the drinking water catchment is available on Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining’s website here.

Hundreds of dead fish and a four day delay: Beetaloo fish kill exposes inability of NT Government to respond to environmental incidents

February 4, 2024
The Northern Territory Government regulator's ability to respond to environmental disasters is in doubt after it took four days for NT officers to respond to a mass fish kill downstream of numerous fracking sites during recent flooding events.

Northern Territory EPA staff were notified of hundreds of small, dead and dying fish at Newcastle Creek at Marlinja on January 15, however they didn’t attend the site until January 19. 

By the time Northern Territory officers arrived on the scene, a significant flood event was underway, and it's understood all dead fish had been washed downstream. 

However it is understood the Federal Government was able to establish a disease investigation, samples were collected, with analysis now underway.

Early results have indicated the presence of heavy metals in water samples taken within the first 48 hours. These are at levels that may cause fish distress. While there are many possible sources, heavy metals being brought to the surface by fracking operations has always been a concern to people in the region.

Images and videos from the scene show the fish with red lesions on their bodies. The event does not appear typical of a lack of oxygen event that sometimes occurs with first big rains as there were no fish gasping at the surface for air, and small fish species were dying in larger numbers than large fish. 

Mr Dixon, 57, has lived at Marlinja all his life, and said he had never seen anything like the fish kill.

“I’ve never come across that kind of thing happening on Country, in this creek,” he said.

“Other family members found it and when I went down there I was shocked. It’s sad. It’s an emotional thing, a spiritual thing, we live on Country because we want to protect Country. 

For thousands of years my ancestors lived here. That creek was our main source of water food - we ate kangaroo and turkey too, but that creek is where we got our fish and freshwater mussels from. That’s how my ancestors survived here for thousands of years.

The first thing it makes you think of is, did fracking cause this? We’re not 100% sure, but seeing it, and knowing fracking is happening upstream, our community members are worried about it.”

Katherine Veterinarian and Protect Big Rivers spokesperson Dr Samantha Phelan said the delay in the NT Government response was unacceptable.

After calling the NT Environment Protection Authority to report the incident, she was transferred to an outsourced hotline in Melbourne rather than being able to contact the Department of Infrastructure, Tourism and Trade directly. 

This process effectively wasted a critical 48 hours of disease investigation. 

“This unacceptable delay shows the NT Government hasn’t got a hope in hell of responding if and when fracking causes an environmental catastrophe in a remote part of the Territory,” she said.

“There’s clearly insufficient monitoring, particularly prior to and during big floods that regularly occur during the wet. This is when the risk of water contamination from fracking is high, and it is also when many government workers are interstate on holidays. 

“The cause of this fish kill is still under investigation. But what we do know is that the NT government is allowing fracking companies to operate through the wet season. This is an area prone to massive flood events. 

“Companies are permitted to store toxic drill waste and waste water through the wet in open ponds in direct contravention with the recommendations in the Pepper scientific fracking inquiry. This risks polluting our much loved rivers and underground aquifers. 

“With the announcement of 15 new exploration and appraisal wells by Tamboran Resources and a similar number from Empire expected in the near future, we are now at a point where the cumulative impacts warned about in the scientific inquiry may start to be seen. 

“It’s clear the NT doesn’t have a regulatory regime that can stand up to this test.”

“Spills, leaking wastewater from holding pond liners, flooding and overflow of ponds during heavy rain and other accidents and disposal of inadequately treated wastewater onto the ground or into creeks and other water bodies all threaten surface water and surrounding soil” according to a review of scientific literature published by Haswell, M., Hegedus, J., Shearman, D. (2023). The risks of oil and gas development for human health and wellbeing: A synthesis of evidence and implications for Australia (p. 37). 

Tamboran Resources was fined for using untreated wastewater upstream of this site, to suppress dust at its Maverick 1 site in 2022, ahead of big rains. Whistle-blower contractors later revealed they were told to spray drill rig water despite Tamboran knowing the fluid was contaminated. In the same year a bund wall broke during flooding, spilling sediment and potentially toxic chemicals down towards Newcastle Creek. Investigations were also launched for what appeared to be the pumping of contaminated water into a cattle breeding paddock last year. 

The Northern Territory Government is assessing a 3,600-page Environmental Management Plan from Tamboran Resources, lodged during the Christmas period, to drill and frack 15 new gas wells, clear 145 hectares, and store 34 million litres of wastewater on site. If approved, the wells would be drilled just north of Newcastle Waters.

The world’s spectacular animal migrations are dwindling. Fishing, fences and development are fast-tracking extinctions

Alec Taylor/Shutterstock
Richard Fuller, The University of Queensland; Daniel Dunn, The University of Queensland, and Lily Bentley, The University of Queensland

In 1875, trillions of Rocky Mountain locusts gathered and began migrating across the western United States in search of food. The enormous swarm covered an area larger than California. Three decades later, these grasshoppers were extinct.

This fate is all too common for migratory species. Their journeys can make them especially vulnerable to hunting or fishing. They may move between countries, meaning protecting the species in one jurisdiction isn’t enough. And it’s hard for us to even know if they’re in trouble.

Today, we get a global glimpse of how migratory species are faring, in the first-ever stocktake produced by the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species. The report shows falling populations in close to half (44%) the 1,189 species tracked by the convention. The problem is much worse underwater – 90% of migratory fish species are threatened with extinction.

Their decline is not inevitable. After all, the migratory humpback whale was headed for rapid extinction – until we stopped whaling.

Why are migratory species at higher risk?

Every year, birds weighing about 300 grams leave Siberia and fly non-stop to Australia. Some bar-tailed godwits fly 13,000 km without stopping – one of the longest known continuous migrations.

Their journeys are critical for their life cycles – to find food, mates or a better climate. To undertake these journeys, animals must be in good condition with plenty of fat stores, and they must have safe flyways, swimways and pathways.

On land, roads and fences carve up migratory routes for animals like wildebeest. At sea, fishing trawlers chase migrating schools of fish and often accidentally collect sea turtles, albatrosses and whales. On seashores, development or land reclamation take away vital resting points for migrating shorebirds.

What the report shows us is that migration between countries is getting harder and harder. While a few species are benefiting greatly from farming and artificial wetlands, many more are being severely harmed.

Even the largest migrations can be stopped by fences or other barriers. Mcknub/Shutterstock

Overexploitation is the top risk

Human exploitation of migratory species – taken as food, bycatch or exterminated as “pest” species – is the main reason why these species are in decline.

Animals often migrate in large groups, making them an appealing target for hunting or fishing. This is why we no longer have species such as the passenger pigeon, once numbering in their billions but hunted to extinction in 100 years.

Marine species are often out of sight, out of mind. But this report is a huge red flag for ocean ecosystems. Oceanic shark and ray populations have fallen 71% since 1970, which coincides with an 18 fold increase in fishing pressure. Bycatch in commercial fisheries is a huge problem for sharks, turtles, mammals and birds, but it can be massively reduced with existing technology, if deployed across all fleets

Overexploitation can be stopped. In 1981, Australia and Japan agreed to stop hunting Latham’s Snipe, a migratory shorebird that travels between the two countries. It’s the same story for humpback whales, which have returned in large numbers – and created a new industry, whale-watching.

dead manta ray fishing
Populations of sharks and rays have plummeted since 1970 – and fishing pressure is to blame. Orin/Shutterstock

On fences and stepping stones

Direct killing of migratory animals isn’t the only threat. Clearing forests and grassland for farming destroys habitat. Light pollution can mess with navigation, climate change plays havoc with the timing of migration, and underwater noise pollution can confuse marine migrants. Even simple actions like building fences, roads and dams can disrupt migrations over land and through rivers.

Many migratory species need stepping stones: resting sites linking up their whole migratory route. If just one site is lost – or if animals are intensely hunted there – the whole chain can collapse.

Once identified, key areas have to be protected, which is where we often get stuck. But there are glimmers of hope. Last year conservation of these areas in the ocean got a boost when the world’s nations agreed to better protect the high seas beyond national jurisdictions, which fills a planet-sized gap in biodiversity governance.

What the report didn’t cover

This is a groundbreaking report, but it has limitations. First, it only covers species listed under the UN convention, a tiny fraction of all migratory species. Listing unlocks stronger protections and urgently needs to be rolled out to more species.

For instance, around 60 migratory fish species are covered – but more than 1,700 others are not. Of these unprotected species, almost 25% are threatened, near threatened or there’s not enough data to know.

That’s to say nothing of insects. To date, only one insect is listed on the convention, the famous Monarch butterfly which migrates from the United States to Mexico. But millions of tonnes of insects migrate through the airspace each year, and we have largely no idea what they are, where they’re going or how they’re faring.

monarch butterfly
Monarch butterflies get the press – but many more insect species migrate. Gudkov Andrey/Shutterstock

Can we save these species?

We now know much more about why migratory species are in decline. But we’re still not acting to protect them adequately.

More than 90% of the world’s migratory birds aren’t adequately protected by national parks and other protected areas. Only 8% of the world’s protected land is joined up, preventing migrating animals from moving safely across their routes. Because of this, animals have to make daring sorties across unprotected land or sea to complete their journeys.

So what can be done? Agreements between countries can create more action, but in practice, each country needs to actually do what it has already promised.

Policymakers can turn to a bevy of new tools, including Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas and the Migratory Connectivity in the Ocean system, to provide easy access to knowledge on how migratory species use and move through the world.

Animal migrations have collapsed on our watch. We need to do all we can to stem the losses and begin recovery if we want future generations to be able to experience nature in all its glory.The Conversation

Richard Fuller, Professor in Biodiversity and Conservation, The University of Queensland; Daniel Dunn, A/Prof of Marine Conservation Science & Director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (CBCS), The University of Queensland, and Lily Bentley, Postdoctoral research fellow, The University of Queensland

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

The good news: 25 Australian birds are now at less risk of extinction. The bad news: 29 are gone and 4 more might be

John Woinarski, Charles Darwin University; Sarah Legge, Australian National University, and Stephen Garnett, Charles Darwin University

What does it mean to save threatened species? How often do we achieve it? And how often do we fail? Our new research answers these questions for Australian birds.

One of the goals of conservation is to reduce the risk of a species becoming extinct. While this might be seen as a low bar for conservation managers, it is seldom achieved. A new set of research papers on the conservation of Australian birds looks at cases of success over the past 30 years and where we have failed over the past 200.

We found extinction risks had reduced for 25 bird species and subspecies in at least one of the decades between 1990 and 2020. Nine of these would have gone extinct if not for hard work and expertise to prevent it happening.

The most effective action has been eradicating invasive species from islands. This work benefited 13 birds.

Most Australians approve of killing invasive species to save threatened species. They have good reason: it works.

What were the successes?

Nine of these successes are seabirds nesting on Macquarie Island. The program there was so successful it had a significant positive impact on Australia’s Red List Index for birds, a way of measuring overall progress on threatened species status.

This success also changed the average characteristics of Australian threatened birds. Before the pest eradications on Macquarie Island, large seabirds dominated the profile of the threatened Australian birds. Now the average threatened bird is smaller and lives on land.

Further programs have the potential to have a similar impact. The likely huge benefits from eradicating rodents from Lord Howe Island, for example, are yet to show up in these figures.

Another four birds benefited simply from having their habitat protected. Protection of rainforest reduced extinction risk for the southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) and Albert’s lyrebird (Menura alberti). One of the largest national parks in New South Wales was acquired for the Bulloo grey grasswren (Amytornis barbatus barbatus). The Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi) also had more of its nesting habitat protected.

For another species, simply enforcing the law reduced the threat. In south-western Australia, culling of Muir’s corella (Cacatua pastinator pastinator) for agriculture threatened it with extinction. Now, with better protection, there are thousands.

Some threatened birds have benefited from intensive interventions by dedicated conservation agencies, non-government organisations and individuals.

Translocations of Gould’s petrels to new breeding islands and of eastern bristlebirds (Dasyornis brachypterus) to heathlands were exemplary.

Very few glossy black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami halmaturinus) on Kangaroo Island were nesting successfully before their nests were protected from predatory possums.

Rats twice almost wiped out Norfolk Island green parrots Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae cookii. Their population has increased ten-fold since nests have been better protected.

These examples show our society can make changes that help to prevent extinctions.

A glossy black-cockatoo eats seeds from a casuarina tree on Kangaroo Island
Protecting glossy black-cockatoo nests from possums on Kangaroo Island has boosted the population. Paleokastritsa/Shutterstock

There have also been setbacks

Our stories contain salutary lessons too. The pathway to recovery can have reversals.

In the past decade, Gould’s petrel and the bristlebird have suffered setbacks due to new or escalating threats. A new report suggests Tasmanian wind farms are killing and injuring significant numbers of eagles – and many more windfarms are planned.

Our analysis of improvements in the conservation outlook for Australian birds was complemented with an assessment of Australian bird extinctions. Sadly, we found extinctions are continuing.

Even with the conservation effort of the past 30 years since Australia’s first endangered species legislation, three birds are gone forever. The Mount Lofty Ranges spotted quail-thrush (Cinclosoma punctatum anachoreta), white-chested white-eye (Zosterops albogularis) and southern star finch (Neochmia ruficauda ruficauda) were still surviving in the 1990s, but were extinct by 2010.

The number of extinct birds has risen steadily since Australia was colonised in 1788. There was an initial burst of extinctions on islands, particularly big birds that were good to eat and probably had small populations. More recent losses have tended to be small birds whose mainland habitat has been cleared or modified.

A museum specimen of a white-breasted white-eye, now an extinct bird
The white-breasted white-eye is now found only in museum collections, having gone extinct by 2010. Naturalis Biodiversity Center/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

29 birds are gone, but we can halt the losses

At present, 29 Australian birds are known to have become extinct. It’s a lower percentage than for mammals but still far too high.

Grave fears are held for another four – the Tiwi hooded robin (Melanodryas cucullata melvillensis), buff-breasted button-quail (Turnix olivii), Coxen’s fig-parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni) and Cape Range rufous grasswren (Amytornis striatus parvus). We don’t know whether they persist or not.

For the 29 extinct birds, we can do nothing. The important lesson is that this number of losses need grow no more. We have the resources and skills to prevent extinction.

A recent court order halting forestry activity in swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) habitat suggests at least some environmental laws are making a difference.

Other judgments expose legal shortcomings and show how much more needs to be done. The revisions of national environmental laws now being negotiated provide an opportunity to fill loopholes through which threatened species might fall.

Extinctions are neither accidental nor deliberate. They are a failure of policy and people.

However, the examples of birds whose risk of extinction has declined show what can be achieved. While some of these improvements were mostly a matter of good luck, many were the result of hard work, advocacy, investment and well-judged interventions. And they give the world hope.The Conversation

John Woinarski, Professor of Conservation Biology, Charles Darwin University; Sarah Legge, Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Australian National University, and Stephen Garnett, Professor of Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University

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

‘Fascinating and troubling’: Australians would rather save a single human life than prevent an entire species from becoming extinct

John Woinarski, Charles Darwin University; Kerstin Zander, Charles Darwin University, and Stephen Garnett, Charles Darwin University

Australia is in the grip of an escalating extinction crisis. Since colonisation, 100 native plant and animal species have become formally listed as extinct due to human activities. The actual number is undoubtedly far higher.

Surveys suggest Australians want to prevent extinctions, regardless of the financial cost. But when it comes to the crunch, how much do we really care?

In emergency situations, there is a long-held convention that official responders such as firefighters first attempt to save human life, then property and infrastructure, then natural assets.

Our research published today investigated whether this convention reflects community values. We found the people we surveyed valued one human life more than the extinction of an entire non-human species – a result both fascinating and troubling.

What are we willing to lose?

Catastrophic events force us to make hard choices about what to save and what to abandon. In such emergencies, our choices reveal in stark detail the values we ascribe to different types of “assets”, including plant and animal species.

Our priorities will become even more crucial under climate change, which is bringing worse bushfires and other environmental catastrophes. If nature is always saved last, we can expect recurring biodiversity losses, including extinctions.

The unprecedented loss of biodiversity in the Black Summer fires was a taste of what’s to come. The fires burnt the entire known range of more than 500 plant and animal species and at least half the range of more than 100 threatened species. The catastrophe led to at least one extinction – of a mealybug species in Western Australia.

The losses prompted reflection on our priorities. The final report of a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry into the bushfires, for example, questioned if this hierarchy of protection should always apply.

Our new research investigated community values on this issue. The findings were illuminating.

Making the hard choices

The survey involved 2,139 Australians. Respondents ranked the assets they would save in a hypothetical bushfire, choosing from the following options:

  • a person not warned to evacuate
  • a person who had ignored advice to evacuate (and so implicitly taken responsibility for their own safety)
  • a population of 50 koalas (of which many other populations exist elsewhere)
  • one of only two populations of a wallaby species
  • the only population of a native snail species (which would become extinct if burnt)
  • the only population of a native shrub species (which would become extinct if burnt)
  • a flock of 50 sheep
  • a house, shed and tractor
  • two items of Indigenous cultural significance (a rock art gallery and a tree carving).

Survey respondents overwhelmingly gave the highest ranking to the two options involving saving a human life – even if that person had been repeatedly told to evacuate and even if, as a consequence, a snail or shrub species became extinct.

Saving a person who had not received evacuation warnings was rated highest, ahead of saving a person who ignored evacuation advice. Saving the koala population was next preferred, followed by saving the wallaby population.

The remaining options had negative scores, meaning that respondents were more likely to choose them as least important than most important.

Graph showing what survey respondents chose to save in a bushfire.
Scores for each asset, calculated as the number of times (out of five possible choices offered for that asset) a respondent chose the asset as their highest priority minus the number of times the asset was chosen as the lowest priority. Author provided

Amongst the biodiversity assets, decisions based on conservation consequences would have meant the top priority was preventing the extinction of the snail and shrub populations. Next in line would have been the wallaby population, then a relatively less consequential loss of koalas.

But the results were the opposite: people prioritised the koalas over the wallabies, with less concern for the shrub and the snail. Ranked even lower were the items of Indigenous cultural significance. Saving the house and shed had lowest rankings.

The results are revealing

We take several key messages from the survey results.

First, the conventional hierarchy of protection during fire – prioritising human life, then infrastructure, then biodiversity – does not always reflect societal values. Sometimes, protecting natural assets is more important than protecting at least some infrastructure. In the Black Summer fires, the attempts to save crucial populations of the imperilled Wollemi Pine showed such protection of biodiversity assets is possible.

Second, our society values one human life more than the millions of years of evolution that can be eclipsed almost instantaneously in the extinction of another species.

Third, our regard for nature is far from egalitarian. In this case, the preference for saving koalas is consistent with previous studies that show we care far more for iconic cute mammals than other species.

Fourth, animal welfare issues may trump consideration for conservation consequences. We suspect that the haunting imagery of koalas suffering in the Black Summer wildfires may have contributed to them being prioritised ahead of more imperilled species.

And finally, our results were troubling for the conservation of poorly known species, the extinctions of which are increasing around the world. These losses have been largely disregarded or unmourned by society.

It suggests the case for saving such species needs to be better made. Australia’s invertebrate fauna is highly distinctive, fascinating and vital for the health of our ecosystems. To prevent mass losses of invertebrate species, we must take action now.

red and green snail
Australia’s invertebrate fauna is highly distinctive. Pictured: a Tasmanian snail, Attenborougharion rubicundus, named after Sir David Attenborough. S. Grove/Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery

Rethinking our priorities?

The world is becoming more perilous. There’s a high risk of losing much of the nature that surrounds us, supports us and helps define us as Australians.

We must think carefully about what future we bequeath to our children and to future generations. This may require reconsidering our priorities – and in some cases, making different choices.The Conversation

John Woinarski, Professor of Conservation Biology, Charles Darwin University; Kerstin Zander, Professor of Environmental Economics, Charles Darwin University, and Stephen Garnett, Professor of Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University

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

Can we be inoculated against climate misinformation? Yes – if we prebunk rather than debunk

Adrien Demers/Shutterstock
Christian Turney, University of Technology Sydney and Sander van der Linden, University of Cambridge

Last year, the world experienced the hottest day ever recorded, as we endured the first year where temperatures were 1.5°C warmer than the pre-industrial era. The link between extreme events and climate change is clearer than ever. But that doesn’t mean climate misinformation has stopped. Far from it.

Misleading or incorrect information on climate still spreads like wildfire, even during the angry northern summer of 2023. Politicians falsely claimed the heatwaves were “normal” for summer. Conspiracy theorists claimed the devastating fires in Hawaii were ignited by government lasers.

People producing misinformation have shifted tactics, too, often moving from the old denial (claiming climate change isn’t happening) to the new denial (questioning climate solutions). Spreading doubt and scepticism has hamstrung our response to the enormous threat of climate change. And with sophisticated generative AI making it easy to generate plausible lies, it could become an even bigger issue.

The problem is, debunking misinformation is often not sufficient and you run the risk of giving false information credibility when you have to debunk it. Indeed, a catchy lie can often stay in people’s heads while sober facts are forgotten.

But there’s a new option: the prebunking method. Rather than waiting for misinformation to spread, you lay out clear, accurate information in advance – along with describing common manipulation techniques. Prebunking often has a better chance of success, according to recent research from co-author Sander van Linden.

How does prebunking work?

Misinformation spreads much like a virus. The way to protect ourselves and everyone else is similar: through vaccination. Psychological inoculation via prebunking acts like a vaccine and reduces the probability of infection. (We focus on misinformation here, which is shared accidentally, not disinformation, which is where people deliberately spread information they know to be false).

If you’re forewarned about dodgy claims and questionable techniques, you’re more likely to be sceptical when you come across a YouTube video claiming electric cars are dirtier than those with internal combustion engines, or a Facebook page suggesting offshore wind turbines will kill whales.

Inoculation is not just a metaphor. By exposing us to a weakened form of the types of misinformation we might see in the future and giving us ways to identify it, we reduce the chance false information takes root in our psyches.

Scientists have tested these methods with some success. In one study exploring ways of countering anti-vaccination misinformation, researchers created simple videos to warn people manipulators might try to influence their thinking about vaccination with anecdotes or scary images rather than evidence.

They also gave people relevant facts about how low the actual injury rate from vaccines is (around two injuries per million). The result: compared to a control group, people with the psychological inoculation were more likely to recognise misleading rhetoric, less likely to share this type of content with others, and more likely to want to get vaccinated.

Similar studies have been conducted on climate misinformation. Here, one group was forewarned that politically motivated actors will try to make it seem as if there was a lot of disagreement on the causes of climate change by appealing to fake experts and bogus petitions, while in fact 97% or more of climate scientists have concluded humans are causing climate change. This inoculation proved effective.

The success of these early studies has spurred social media companies such as Meta to adopt the technique. You can now find prebunking efforts on Meta sites such as Facebook and Instagram intended to protect people against common misinformation techniques, such as cherry-picking isolated data.

Prebunking in practice

A hotter world will experience increasing climate extremes and more fire. Even though many of the fires we have seen in recent years in Australia, Hawaii, Canada and now Chile are the worst on record, climate misinformation actors routinely try to minimise their severity.

As an example, let’s prebunk claims likely to circulate after the next big fire.

1. The claim: “Climate change is a hoax – wildfires have always been a part of nature.”

How to prebunk it: ahead of fire seasons, scientists can demonstrate claims like this rely on the “false equivalence” logical fallacy. Misinformation falsely equates the recent rise in extreme weather events with natural events of the past. A devastating fire 100 years ago does not disprove the trend towards more fires and larger fires.

2. Claim: “Bushfires are caused by arsonists.”

How to prebunk it: media professionals have an important responsibility here in fact-checking information before publishing or broadcasting. Media can give information on the most common causes of bushfires, from lightning (about 50%) to accidental fires to arson. Media claims arsonists were the main cause of the unprecedented 2019-2020 Black Summer fires in Australia were used by climate deniers worldwide, even though arson was far from the main cause.

3. Claim: “The government is using bushfires as an excuse to bring in climate regulations.”

How to prebunk it: explain this recycled conspiracy theory is likely to circulate. Point out how it was used to claim COVID-19 lockdowns were a government ploy to soften people up for climate lockdowns (which never happened). Show how government agencies can and do communicate openly about why climate regulations are necessary and how they are intended to stave off the worst damage.

firefighter putting out bushfire
False information on bushfires can spread like a bushfire. Toa55/Shutterstock

Misinformation isn’t going away

Social media and the open internet have made it possible to broadcast information to millions of people, regardless of whether it’s true. It’s no wonder it’s a golden age for misinformation. Misinformation actors have found effective ways to cast scepticism on established science and then sell a false alternative.

We have to respond. Doing nothing means the lies win. And getting on the front foot with prebunking is one of the best tools we have.

As the world gets hotter, prebunking offers a way to anticipate new variants of lies and misinformation and counter them – before they take root. The Conversation

Christian Turney, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research, University of Technology Sydney and Sander van der Linden, Professor of Social Psychology in Society, University of Cambridge

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

Soft plastic recycling is back after the REDcycle collapse – but only in 12 supermarkets. Will it work this time?

Mykolastock, Shutterstock
Anya Phelan, Griffith University

After the memorable collapse of Australia’s largest soft plastic recycling program REDcycle in late 2022, a new scheme is emerging. It’s remarkably similar, albeit on a much smaller scale.

The trial underway in 12 Melbourne supermarkets intends, once again, to provide customers with an in-store option for recycling “scrunchable” food packaging.

It’s estimated Australia uses more than 70 billion pieces of soft plastic a year. Most of it still ends up in landfill or blows into streets and waterways, polluting our rivers and oceans. So 12 stores won’t cut it in the long term.

But starting small is a good idea. REDcycle collapsed under its own weight, stockpiling recyclable material with nowhere to go. The new scheme will feed new, purpose-built waste processing facilities so it has much better prospects.

What do we know about the new scheme?

Australia’s Soft Plastics Taskforce is behind the new trial. The taskforce is a coalition of the three major supermarkets: Woolworths, Coles and Aldi. It was established in the wake of REDcycle’s demise and is chaired by the federal government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

The taskforce assumed responsibility for roughly 11,000 tonnes of soft plastic, formerly managed by REDcycle, across 44 locations across Australia.

Addressing the lack of soft plastics recycling infrastructure in Australia is a top priority. This is the main reason REDcycle was unable to process the mountains of soft plastics it had stored around the country.

Much like the original REDcycle scheme, the new small-scale trial in Victoria has identified several potential end markets for used soft plastic. After treatment, it could become an additive for asphalt roads, a replacement for aggregate in concrete, or a material for making shopping trolleys and baskets.

To be a successful and lasting solution, the scheme must be cost-effective and suitably located, with established markets for the recycled products.

Why are soft plastics so difficult to recycle?

Recycling soft plastic packaging is particularly challenging, for several reasons.

Plastic packaging is typically made from the petrochemicals polyethylene or polypropylene, and often contains a mix of materials, including various types of plastics and additives for flexibility and durability. This blend of materials makes it difficult to separate and recycle effectively.

To make matters worse, soft plastics readily absorb residues from food, grease and other substances. This causes contamination, reducing the quality of the recycled material.

There’s also less demand for recycled soft plastics, compared to other plastics. Many manufacturers prefer using brand new or “virgin” plastics or recycled rigid plastics instead, such as recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET), leaving limited avenues for recycled soft plastics to find new uses.

Soft plastics can get tangled or stuck in machinery at recycling or waste-processing facilities, causing inefficiencies and disruptions in the process.

Finding local solutions

We need to make it economically viable to recycle low-value plastics such as soft plastic packaging. Placing recycling facilities closer to communities and transport can save money and reduce emissions. So local, decentralised, small-scale recycling or reprocessing infrastructure is the way to go.

Fit-for-purpose facilities can develop the specialised processing and manufacturing techniques needed to handle soft plastics. This takes care of the contamination problem and creates new options for developing recycled products.

Local recycling initiatives also foster community engagement and awareness. We need to encourage individuals to participate actively in recycling efforts, and foster local businesses focused on resource recovery. To this end, we are currently exploring innovative enterprise-based recycling solutions in remote First Nations communities in Queensland.

The high cost of cheap packaging

Soft plastics are lightweight, flexible and inexpensive to produce. This has made them popular choices for packaging. But this ignores the problems of disposal, including harm to nature and people. There has to be a better way.

Recycling soft plastic packaging does face numerous obstacles. These stem from complex composition, contamination risks, sorting and processing challenges, scarce recycling infrastructure and limited demand for the end product.

Tackling these challenges requires collaborative efforts from industry players, policymakers, consumers and researchers. We need to develop innovative local solutions and reduce consumption of single-use plastic.

Holding producers accountable for the end-of-life management of their products is paramount. In the meantime, local, decentralised recycling infrastructure offers a promising solution to improve the efficiency and sustainability of soft plastic recycling, while empowering communities to contribute to a circular economy.

The trial in Victoria raises hopes of a working solution for post-consumer soft plastic. This time they are starting on a small scale. That should make it easier to manage the volume of material available for recycling and avoid secret stockpiles. Ultimately this approach could see “micro-factories” cropping up across the country, turning what was once waste into viable, useful products. The Conversation

Anya Phelan, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Griffith University

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

Australia’s shot-hole borer beetle invasion has begun, but we don’t need to chop down every tree under attack

jgeyser, Shutterstock
Theo Evans, The University of Western Australia and Bruce Webber, CSIRO

A new pest attacking Perth’s trees threatens to spread across Australia, damaging crops and native forests as well as our urban forest. To control its spread, the Western Australian government is chopping down hundreds of established trees. But these losses may be in vain.

Originally from southeast Asia, the polyphagous (meaning “many-eating”) shot-hole borer has invaded several countries. It attacks more than 400 tree species, including crops such as apple, avocado, macadamia and mango. Trees grown for timber, such as ash, elms and oaks are not safe either. And with every new country it invades, it threatens an increasingly large number of native trees.

Australia plans to eradicate this pest using one method: felling established trees. But the borer has been eradicated only once – in isolated tropical glasshouses in frosty Europe – demonstrating the difficulty of eradication from larger agricultural and natural ecosystems.

To achieve this worthy but difficult goal, everyone will need to work together. We need a wide range of experts to fully evaluate all available control methods, and consider the most appropriate time frame for eradication. Understanding the impacts of both the pest and its management will ensure we get the best possible outcomes in both the short and long term.

The nature of the beast(s)

The borer probably arrived in Australia as a stowaway with untreated wood and remained undetected until August 2021, when a concerned resident of East Fremantle noticed unusual holes in her backyard maple trees. Now more than 80 suburbs in 25 councils are affected. Fortunately, the pest has not yet been detected outside the Perth metropolitan area.

A map of Perth and the Polyphagous shot-hole borer quarantine area
The pest borer quarantine area covers 25 local government areas in Perth. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, CC BY-SA

The borer attacks so many tree species because it has an accomplice, in the form of a fungus. The two live in a mutually dependent “symbiotic” relationship.

The borer creates a Swiss cheese-like matrix of tunnels through the wood. The fungus feeds on the wood lining the tunnels as it grows, and the borer eats the fungus.

The tunnels weaken the structure of the wood, but tree death occurs when the fungus invades and blocks the flow of water and sap between roots and leaves.

The borer’s small size likely limits its natural rate of spread, however we don’t know how far it can fly. There is a risk of human-assisted spread over long distances as the borer can survive in small pieces of wood for weeks. To make matters worse, a single female borer can produce offspring without a mate.

Six development stages of the shot hole borer, arranged in a circle to show the life cycle, on a white background
The life cycle of the polyphagous shot-hole borer, also known as the Asian ambrosia beetle (Euwallacea fornicatus) Protasov AN, Shutterstock

Responding to the threat in Australia

The threat to Australia can be estimated from the experience in other invaded locations. As in Perth, the invasion usually begins in cities, then spreads into the surrounding countryside, attacking horticulture and forests, including avocado production in Israel and California and stone fruit in South Africa. This overseas experience has informed models of potential impacts for WA.

But local effects are hard to predict. Figs and eucalypts not susceptible in California and Israel, yet figs are preferred and some eucalypts are susceptible in WA.

The national biosecurity response led by WA has allocated A$41 million to eradicate the borer. This funding was based on an assessment of what it should cost. But there is only a short window of opportunity to effectively deploy these resources to achieve eradication.

The response includes trapping and surveillance to determine the spread of the pest. More than 1.5 million trees on more than 50,000 properties have been inspected and some 3,000 traps laid.

These traps catch flying beetles, which fly just once in their lives, so there’s a low catch probability. This makes it hard to detect false negatives, when no beetles are trapped but there are beetles in the area. This can be improved with alternative trap designs and chemical lures.

When infested trees are found in WA, the response is “removing infested trees to save healthy trees”. This could mean hundreds of trees at popular public locations such as Perth Zoo, Lake Claremont, Kings Park and Hyde Park will be felled and chipped.

Continuing with the one control method, felling trees, will leave us with fewer trees, particularly if the eradication campaign runs for many years. Reduction of the urban tree canopy could be profound, and Perth already has the sparsest urban tree canopy in the nation.

The flow-on consequences could mean even higher urban temperatures and poorer human health.

Urban trees are also valued for their beauty, shade and habitat for animals. All these benefits can be assigned a significant monetary value, which would be even higher if intrinsic or cultural value could be included.

Waging war on the shot-hole borer

Although felling and chipping entire trees is necessary, there are other effective control methods. Alternatives may include removing and chipping infested branches only, which may be more cost-effective than felling entire trees, to injecting at-risk but uninfested trees, and slowing infestations in trees or spraying repellents onto uninfested trees. In California, traps were developed into an attract-and-kill strategy to tackle the borer in avocado orchards.

Polyphagous shot-hole borer trap set by the OC Parks Department and the University of California, in Irvine Regional Park. The large, multi-tiered black trap with a white collection vessel at the bottom is hanging from a metal pole.
The best trap for the borer, developed in California, is not being used in Perth. Steve Cukrov, Shutterstock

While a rapid response is crucial for eradication, we need to keep improving on this, using the most effective methods available. Relevant solutions from around the world suggest broader community engagement, beyond Perth, would be beneficial.

It is unclear what has been learned so far from efforts in WA. Is it still feasible to eradicate the pest completely? We need more experts to evaluate and advise on the response as it continues.

Making the right response choices will be crucial. Just consider other threatening invaders such as the red imported fire ant, the honey bee varroa mite, and myrtle rust.

As the borer has only been detected in Perth, the window of opportunity is open now. Let’s make sure we have the best plan of attack so we can achieve eradication.

Australians pride themselves on working together to get things done. If we can bring everyone together to rapidly tackle this insect invasion, the whole nation will benefit.The Conversation

Theo Evans, Associate Professor, The University of Western Australia and Bruce Webber, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO

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

The world’s coral reefs are bigger than we thought – but it took satellites, snorkels and machine learning to see them

Mitchell Lyons, The University of Queensland and Stuart Phinn, The University of Queensland

The world’s coral reefs are close to 25% larger than we thought. By using satellite images, machine learning and on-ground knowledge from a global network of people living and working on coral reefs, we found an extra 64,000 square kilometres of coral reefs – an area the size of Ireland.

That brings the total size of the planet’s shallow reefs (meaning 0-20 metres deep) to 348,000 square kilometres – the size of Germany. This figure represents whole coral reef ecosystems, ranging from sandy-bottomed lagoons with a little coral, to coral rubble flats, to living walls of coral.

Within this 348,000 km² of coral is 80,000 km² where there’s a hard bottom – rocks rather than sand. These areas are likely to be home to significant amounts of coral – the places snorkellers and scuba divers most like to visit.

You might wonder why we’re finding this out now. Didn’t we already know where the world’s reefs are?

Previously, we’ve had to pull data from many different sources, which made it harder to pin down the extent of coral reefs with certainty. But now we have high resolution satellite data covering the entire world – and are able to see reefs as deep as 30 metres down.

We coupled this with direct observations and records of coral reefs from over 400 individuals and organisations in countries with coral reefs from all regions, such as the Maldives, Cuba and Australia.

To produce the maps, we used machine learning techniques to chew through 100 trillion pixels from the Sentinel-2 and Planet Dove CubeSat satellites to make accurate predictions about where coral is – and is not. The team worked with almost 500 researchers and collaborators to make the maps.

The result: the world’s first comprehensive map of coral reefs extent, and their composition, produced through the Allen Coral Atlas.

The maps are already proving their worth. Reef management agencies around the world are using them to plan and assess conservation work and threats to reefs.

Researcher towing a GPS on  Great Barrier Reef during an expedition.
We combined satellite data with real world observations. Here, Dr Eva Kovacs tows a GPS on the Great Barrier Reef. Allan Coral Atlas, CC BY-SA

Where is this hidden coral?

You can see the difference for yourself. In the interactive slider below, red indicates the newly detected coral in reefs off far north Queensland.

This infographic shows the new detail we now have for the Tongue Reef, in the seas off Port Douglas in Far North Queensland.

Our maps have three levels of detail. The first is the most expansive – the entire coral reef ecosystem. Seen from space, it has light areas of coral fringed by darker deeper water.

Then we have geomorphic detail, meaning what the areas within the reef look like. This includes sandy lagoons, reef crests exposed to the air at low tide, sloping areas going into deeper water and so on.

And finally we have fine detail of the benthic substrates, showing where you have areas dominated by coral cover.

Coral can’t grow on sand. Polyps have to attach to a hard surface such as rock before they can begin expanding the reef out of their limestone-secreting bodies.

Some of our maps include fine detail of benthic substrates, meaning where coral is most likely to be and the substrates (seafloor) available to the polyps, such as existing coral, sand, rubble, or seagrass.

Made with Flourish
Made with Flourish

It’s a crucial time for the world’s coral reefs. We’re discovering the full extent of shallow water reefs – while other researchers are finding large new black coral reefs in deeper water.

But even as we make these discoveries, coral reefs are reeling. Climate change is steadily heating up the sea and making it more acidic. Coral polyps can’t handle too much heat. These wonders of biodiversity are home to a quarter of the ocean’s species.

Scientist doing coral reef research.
Making these maps took plenty of underwater research as well as satellite data. This photo shows Dr Chris Roelfsema conducting a photo transect in a remote area of the Great Barrier Reef. Allen Coral Atlas, CC BY-SA

In good news, these maps are already leading to real world change. We’ve already seen new efforts to conserve coral reefs in Indonesia, several Pacific island nations, Panama, Belize, Kenya and Australia, among others. The Conversation

Mitchell Lyons, Postdoctoral research fellow, The University of Queensland and Stuart Phinn, Professor of Geography, Director - Remote Sensing Research Centre, Chair - Earth Observation Australia, The University of Queensland

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

Permaculture showed us how to farm the land more gently. Can we do the same as we farm the sea?

Scott Spillias, CSIRO

As wild fish and other marine species get scarcer from overfishing and demand for ‘blue foods’ grows around the world, farming of the ocean is growing rapidly. Fish, kelp, prawns, oysters and more are now widely farmed. The world now eats more farmed seafood than wild-caught.

These farms are springing up along coasts and in offshore waters worldwide. Australians will be familiar with Tasmania’s salmon industry, New South Wales’ oyster farms, and seaweed farms along the southern coastline. Aquaculture is already larger than fishing in Australia. Farming the sea is hailed as a vital source of food and biomass essential to reduce the damage we do to our oceans and help feed a growing population.

But the booming “blue economy” is no panacea. Fish farms can pollute the water. Mangroves are often felled to make way for prawn farms. The solutions of today could turn out to be problems of the future. We cannot simply shift from one form of environmental exploitation to another.

There is an alternative: permaculture. This approach has proven itself on land as a way to blend farming with healthy ecosystems. What if it could do the same on water?

Making aquaculture better

Many of today’s most pressing problems – from climate change to biodiversity loss to pollution – are linked to the way we produce food on land. To make new farmland often involves removing habitat, destroying trees and adding synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

Since humans began farming about 12,000 years ago, we have expanded to the point where we now actively control about 70% of Earth’s ice-free land to make food, build cities, and many other uses.

On land, we are farmers, tending domesticated species. But at sea, we’ve been hunters, seeking wild populations. Now, the seas are to be farmed. We should farm in ways which do not damage these ecosystems.

We cannot afford to use the same intensive methods of farming in the oceans as we have been on land. Given how sick many of the world’s ocean systems are already from overfishing, algal blooms from nutrient overload, and habitat loss, there’s not much room for error.

prawn farms in Thailand
It’s entirely possible for aquaculture to be done too intensively. Shutterstock

What is marine permaculture?

Permaculture as we know it was developed in the 1960s by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. The latter is a co-author of the research forming the basis of this article.

The goal was simple: create ways of farming which give back to the soil and ecosystems, using tools like no-till farming, companion planting and food forests. Over the last 50 years, it has been adopted by farmers around the world.

Permaculture is framed around three ethics – care of Earth, care of people, and a fair share – aimed at producing benefits and distributing costs equitably between different people and nature.

So what would permaculture of the seas look like? While it hasn’t been fully articulated, many recent developments in ocean production and governance have strong parallels with the work permaculture practitioners have been doing for decades.

Aquaculture systems can, many now believe, not only be low-impact but work to restore lost or damaged ecosystems. Picture oyster farms slowly bringing back the natural oyster reefs which once carpeted shallow coastal waters, or prawn farms surrounded by regrowing mangroves to protect the coast from erosion.

There are strong parallels between the closed-loop approach taken by permaculture on land and an emerging sea farming approach called integrated multi-trophic aquaculture. Here, species with different ecological roles are grown together, producing more food from your farm – and strengthening natural ecosystem services.

In these systems, food waste from consumers is recycled by seaweeds and shellfish, which in turn provide food and habitat to farmed fish species. If well-designed, these benefits flow out from the farm.

Permaculture’s influence is also evident in nature-inspired design and biomimicry, using natural shapes to give nature a boost. Australian work here includes efforts to restore rocky reefs by creating structures with the nooks and crannies small sea creatures need.

fish farms seen from above
Fish farming is becoming big business. But that comes with risks. Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock

From the grassroots

At present, a handful of corporations have disproportionately high levels of control over fisheries and aquaculture. In part, that’s because supertrawlers, motherships, and large blue-water fish farms are expensive.

If we instead took a marine permaculture approach to the blue economy, we would seek to return power back to the people who live and work at the water’s edge – a permaculture equivalent to artisanal fishing.

A localised approach to aquaculture has real benefit. Individuals and communities could develop their own versions of marine permaculture which work in their area, by adopting design solutions used elsewhere or just by tinkering and trialing.

If something isn’t working or it’s creating flow-on consequences, people can see what’s happening and respond quickly.

Small-scale sea farms are less likely to do damage, and should also boost resilience by investing in local social and environmental benefits.

How do we make this a reality?

For their part, governments can help by creating policy frameworks encouraging small-scale producers – especially those able to demonstrate positive social and ecological outcomes.

Governments have an essential role in creating comprehensive spatial plans to guide aquaculture in an area or region. This is important, as it removes uncertainty and avoids conflict between different uses.

Researchers can help by developing measures of success and testing new techniques to help guide the new communities which will form to farm the sea.

Over the past half-century, permaculture on land has grown into a diverse movement challenging conventional wisdom about how to produce food.

We’ll need that same intense creative energy to make marine permaculture a reality. It’s entirely possible to design food-producing seascapes which give back to the sea as well as take from it – while making it possible for smaller sea farmers to flourish.

Climate Foundation CEO Brian von Herzen and permaculture pioneer David Holmgren contributed to the research this article is based on.The Conversation

Scott Spillias, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CSIRO

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

First Peoples’ land overlaps with 130 imperilled bird species – and this knowledge may be vital to saving them

Amanda Lilleyman, Charles Darwin University; Jack Pascoe, The University of Melbourne, and Stephen Garnett, Charles Darwin University

Australia’s First Peoples have a strong and continuing connection to the land. Their determination to maintain this connection provides important opportunities for conservation.

Our new research explored this opportunity by examining where Australia’s imperilled birds overlap with the Country of First Peoples. We defined such land as anything considered part of the Aboriginal or Indigenous estate. The includes but is not confined to Indigenous Protected Areas, native title land and areas controlled by Indigenous land councils.

More than 200 Australian bird species are threatened with extinction. Our analysis found 64% of these, or about 130 species, occur on lands and waters to which First Peoples’ groups have a legal determination.

We hope our research may lead to greater collaboration between First Peoples and conservationists. We also hope it elevates First Peoples’ voices to inform how we understand and care for our precious birds.

‘Threatened species’ is a Western concept

In the decades since Australia’s threatened species legislation was passed in 1992, First Peoples have become key partners in conservation.

Australia’s First Peoples make up just 3.2% of the population. Yet Indigenous Protected Areas – land, sea, and river Country managed by Traditional Owners and Custodians, and Indigenous ranger groups – comprise 87 million hectares, or more than 50% of Australia’s conservation reserve system.

For millennia, birds have been integral to the cultural practice and livelihoods of Australia’s First Peoples. They play a major role in many songlines, are sung and danced in ceremony, act as totems and are managed as key food resources. Many First Peoples are keenly aware of declines in once-common bird species.

The concept of “threatened species” is founded in Western science and is not necessarily a term First Peoples use. And a bird species considered threatened may not be culturally significant to First Peoples.

However, many First Peoples have chosen to engage actively in the conservation of imperilled species and there are opportunities to expand this. Exactly where those opportunities lie was the subject of our new research.

small bird on branch
The chestnut-rumped heathwren, one of about 130 threatened birds found on Country connected to First Peoples. Shutterstock

What we found

Many non-Indigenous people think of Australia as one country. But for First Peoples, the continent comprises many countries, each of which is home to distinct groups, each with their own culture, customs, language and laws.

Under Australian law, First Peoples lack legal title to much of their ancestral lands. Regardless, connections to Country – and species that live there – remain.

Our study identified 463 First Peoples’ Country on which about 130 threatened birds occur. Mapping of First Peoples’ Country is incomplete, and boundaries between groups are often blurred or disputed, so the actual number is likely to be higher still.

More than 20 species are found on the Country of four First Peoples groups - the Ngarrindjeri People of south-east South Australia, the Nywaigi of the Wet Tropics of north Queensland, and the Wiradjuri and Yuin of New South Wales.

Some 14 species have highly restricted ranges. For example, the entire population of Australia’s rarest bird, the mukarrthippi grasswren, lives on Ngiyampaa Country in central NSW. Mukarrthippi is a name created by the Ngiyampaa Elders.

Similarly, the forested hills north of Adelaide are both Nukunu Country and home to the chestnut-rumped heathwren. The Wurundjeri are the Traditional Owners of Yellingbo Nature Conservation Area, home of the last helmeted honeyeaters. And the entire range of three threatened species is on the Country of Tiwi Islander First Peoples.

Some 15 threatened bird species occur on Country of more than 50 First Peoples groups. Some of these, such as southern boobook owls and southern whitefaces, are declining rapidly across their vast ranges. Others, such as the grey falcon, are exceedingly scarce.

How First Peoples can become more involved

We don’t expect our research to guide First Nations people in identifying their priorities. But it may help First Peoples know which threatened bird species occur on their Country. They may then choose to seek support to protect these species.

For example, First Peoples may seek expansion of Indigenous Protected Areas where the species occur. These areas comprise land, sea, and river Country managed by First Nations groups.

Or the threatened species could become a focus of management by Indigenous rangers, a form of employment for First Peoples that has proliferated in recent decades.

The monitoring of imperilled birds is another activity where First Peoples already contribute strongly but could be more involved. Some First Peoples may have been monitoring species themselves and be willing to share their knowledge of population trends and cycles.

Compensation for centuries of damage

Numerous opportunities exist for First Peoples to engage in threatened bird conservation should they choose to. But one big barrier to this is a perennial lack of funding.

For example, Indigenous Protected Areas make up almost half of Australia’s conservation areas, yet receive just a fraction of funding for the federal conservation estate.

This is unjust. Our research also found all threats to Australia’s imperilled birds were a consequence of colonisation. They include habitat destruction, changed fire regimes, invasive species and climate change.

This suggests governments have a moral, and potentially legal, responsibility for supporting the conservation work of First Peoples. Such support should be viewed not as charity or welfare, but through the lens of restorative and intergenerational justice.

Australia’s First Peoples were begrudgingly granted land rights after two centuries of having their ownership denied. They also have a right to compensation for the damage done.The Conversation

Amanda Lilleyman, Adjunct associate, Charles Darwin University; Jack Pascoe, Research fellow, The University of Melbourne, and Stephen Garnett, Professor of Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University

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

A major blackout left 500,000 Victorian homes without power – but it shows our energy system is resilient

Loy Yang power station Shutterstock
Roger Dargaville, Monash University

Half a million homes and businesses in Victoria were left without power late on Tuesday following a major power outage. The disruption occurred when severe winds knocked over several high-voltage electricity transmission towers, causing all four units of the Loy Yang A coal-fired power station to trip and go offline.

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio described the blackout as “one of the largest outage events in the state’s history”.

The event has prompted questions about the reliability of the state’s electricity grid. But it’s important to note these extreme winds would have seriously disrupted any power system. It has little to do with the mix of renewable energy and conventional fossil fuels.

As climate change worsens, we have much work ahead to ensure our electricity grids cope with severe weather events. But in this case, the fact that a complete system blackout was avoided is testament to the resilience of the system.

A day of wild weather

An extreme storm, including strong winds and lightning, tore through Victoria on Tuesday afternoon. It caused two transmission lines near Geelong to collapse, prompting several generators to disconnect from the grid and cutting power to parts of the network.

Other customers lost power after the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) ordered “load shedding”. This involves temporarily cutting off electricity supply to some customers to keep the network stable and prevent damage.

According to a statement from AEMO, the storm also damaged hundreds of powerlines and power poles and restoring electricity to all customers “may take days if not weeks”

What happened at Loy Yang A?

The disruption to electricity transmission caused AGL’s Loy Yang A generator to go offline. This was an automatic response known as a “fault ride-through” mechanism. It’s much like a fuse blowing if you have a short-circuit at home.

When large electricity loads are rapidly and unexpectedly removed from the system, electricity supply and demand are no longer matched. It’s a dangerous situation and means electricity generators can be badly damaged or even destroyed if they don’t disconnect from the network.

It appears that Loy Yang A was the first generator to disconnect. The effect was to reduce supply and help bring the system back into balance, preventing a system-wide outage.

All generators have protection systems that stop them from being damaged in these kinds of events. Loy Yang A tripped up to protect itself from permanent damage and in doing so actually kept the system stable. It did what the system is designed to do.

coal fired power station
The disruption to electricity transmission caused AGL’s Loy Yang A generator to go offline. Shutterstock

What part did renewables and coal play?

When transmission lines fail, the whole system is affected. This includes all types of generators – wind, solar, gas, hydro and coal. The power outages on Tuesday were unrelated to the proportion of renewables and fossil fuels in the energy mix.

It’s possible that old coal power generators are more sensitive to transmission disruptions than newer technologies. But it’s far too early to say whether this had anything to do with Tuesday’s event.

Battery storage may have helped steady the grid. Batteries have ultra-rapid responses to these kinds of disuptions and can add or subtract power from the grid within milliseconds to keep the grid stable.

And looking ahead, one benefit of renewable energy systems is that they tend to be much more widely “distributed” geographically than coal generators. So when power lines go out, having a more distributed network actually provides more resilience.

Lessons from South Australia

In September 2016, wind storms in South Australia also blew over transmission lines. Cascading disconnections by generators meant the entire grid went black in a matter of seconds, causing a statewide outage.

It will take months to analyse all the data from the Victorian blackout. But it may well show that the lessons learned from SA blackout saved the Victorian grid.

For example, AEMO was reportedly unaware about the exact settings of “fault ride-through” mechanisms on wind farms before the SA blackouts. This has since changed, and may have helped minimise the impacts in Victoria.

A warmer future

We know more severe weather events are predicted under climate change. It will manifest in many different ways: strong wind events, heatwaves, bushfires and floods.

All infrastructure, but especially energy infrastructure, is vulnerable under these conditions. It means all of us – researchers, the market operators, and generator operators – must work hard to make energy systems more resilient as we move into an uncertain future.The Conversation

Roger Dargaville, Director Monash Energy Institute, Monash University

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

A secret war between cane toads and parasitic lungworms is raging across Australia

Greg Brown, Macquarie University; Lee A Rollins, UNSW Sydney, and Rick Shine, Macquarie University

When the first cane toads were brought from South America to Queensland in 1935, many of the parasites that troubled them were left behind. But deep inside the lungs of at least one of those pioneer toads lurked small nematode lungworms.

Almost a century later, the toads are evolving and spreading across the Australian continent. In new research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, we show that the lungworms too are evolving: for reasons we do not yet understand, worms taken from the toad invasion front in Western Australia are better at infecting toads than their Queensland cousins.

An eternal arms race

Nematode lungworms are tiny threadlike creatures that live in the lining of a toad’s lung, suck its blood, and release their eggs through the host’s digestive tract. The larva that hatch in the toad’s droppings lie in wait for a new host to pass by, then penetrate through its skin and migrate through the amphibian’s body to find the lungs and settle into a comfortable life, and begin the cycle anew.

Parasites and their hosts are locked into an eternal arms race. Any characteristic that makes a parasite better at finding a new host, setting up an infection, and defeating the host’s attempts to destroy it, will be favoured by natural selection.

Over generations, parasites get better and better at infecting their hosts. But at the same time, any new trick that enables a host to detect, avoid or repel the parasites is favoured as well.

So it’s a case of parasites evolving to infect, and hosts evolving to defeat that new tactic. Mostly, parasites win because they have so many offspring and each generation is very short. As a result, they can evolve new tricks faster than the host can evolve to fight them.

The march of the toads

The co-evolution between hosts and parasites is most in sync among the ones in the same location, because they encounter each other most regularly. A parasite is usually better able to infect hosts from the local population it encounters regularly than those from a distant population.

But when hosts invade new territory, it can play havoc with the evolutionary matching between local hosts and parasites.

Since cane toads were released into the fields around Cairns in 1935, the toxic amphibians have hopped some 2,500 kilometres westwards and are currently on the doorstep of Broome. And they have changed dramatically along the way.

The Queensland toads are homebodies and spend their lives in a small area, often reusing the same shelter night after night. As a result, their populations can build up to high densities.

For a lungworm larva, having lots of toads in a small area, reusing and sharing shelter sites, makes it simple to find a new host. But at the invasion front (currently in Western Australia), toads are highly mobile, moving over a kilometre per night when conditions permit, and rarely spending two nights in the same place.

At the forefront of the invasion, toads are few and far between. A lungworm larva at the invasion front, waiting in the soil for a toad to pass by, will have few opportunities to encounter and infect a new host.

Lungworms from the invasion front

When hosts are rare, we expect the parasite will evolve to get better at infecting the ones it does encounter, because it is unlikely to get a second chance.

To understand how this co-evolution is playing out between cane toads and their lungworms, we did some experiments pairing hosts and parasites from different locations in Australia. What would happen when toad and lungworm strains that had been separated by 90 years of invasion were reintroduced to each other?

To study this we collected toads from different locations, bred them in captivity and reared the offspring in the lab under common conditions. We then exposed them to 50 lungworm larvae from a different area of the range, waited four months for infections to develop, then killed the toads and counted how many adult worms had successfully established in their lungs.

As expected, worms from the invasion front were best at infecting toads, not just their local ones. Behind the invasion front, in intermediate and old populations we found that hosts were able to fight their local parasites better than those from distant populations.

While we saw dramatic differences in infection outcomes, we have yet to determine what biochemical mechanisms caused the differences and how changes in genetic variation of host and parasite populations might have shaped them. The Conversation

Greg Brown, Postdoctoral researcher, Macquarie University; Lee A Rollins, Scientia Associate Professor, UNSW Sydney, and Rick Shine, Professor in Evolutionary Biology, Macquarie University

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

NZ votes the red admiral butterfly ‘bug of the year’ – how to make your garden its home

Janice Lord, University of Otago and Connal McLean, Te Papa Tongarewa

New Zealanders traditionally show their love for a special other on Valentine’s Day, so what better time to reveal which insect they feel the most affection for?

The second annual Bug of the Year contest has been won by the red admiral butterfly. It received a total of 2,275 votes from the nearly 17,000 votes cast by New Zealanders at home and abroad.

One of our most spectacular butterflies, the red admiral inherits the crown from last year’s inaugural winner, the native bee, or ngaro huruhuru (Leioproctus fulvescens).

While a butterfly beat the other bugs, the Mt Arthur giant wētā, the ngāokeoke (velvet worm) and the titiwai (glowworm) were close behind, with thousands of votes each.

The Entomological Society of New Zealand began the competition to shed light on the underrepresented and stunningly unique bugs of Aotearoa New Zealand. As interest grows, it is hoped more people will be inspired to create and maintain habitats for these often-endangered species.

Aotearoa is home to over 20,000 different species of bugs – more correctly known as terrestrial invertebrates. They range from vibrant butterflies and iconic wētā to secretive velvet worms and carnivorous land snails. And those are just the species described so far.

There are ten times as many bug species in New Zealand than there are native plants, and over a hundred times more than native bird species. Yet most people don’t know much about them.

Moths and butterflies aren’t so different

The red admiral is easily recognisable by its vibrant red and black wings. Its Māori name, kahukura, translates directly as “red cloak or garment”, but can also refer to the atua (deity) represented by the top bow of a double rainbow.

The closely related kahukōwhai, or yellow admiral, has similar colouring, except the underside of its upper wings is creamy yellow. Red admirals are endemic – only found in New Zealand – whereas yellow admirals are also native to Australia.

Aotearoa has over 2,000 species of lepidoptera – butterflies and moths – and roughly 90% of these are endemic. You might be surprised to know there are no clear differences between what are commonly called butterflies and those called moths.

Only 17 of our lepidoptera species are popularly referred to as butterflies. But many of the other 98% – so-called moths – are active during the day and can also be beautifully patterned and coloured.

Because they feed from floral nectar sources and transfer pollen in the process, moths and butterflies are important pollinators. They are also staples in the food chain, forming a large portion of native bird diets.

Gardens as butterfly habitats

Like many butterflies worldwide, red admirals are less common than they used to be. While recent gardening advice has begun to include bee-friendly planting, it is also important to think of other invertebrates, like butterflies, when we plan and cultivate our backyards.

In general, a diversity of simple nectar-rich flowers is positively related to pollinator health. And resilient and diverse pollinator populations benefit both natural and created ecosystems like gardens. In turn, they support biodiversity and overall environmental health – which all benefits human welfare.

The Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust conducts an online course on how to assess, create and maintain butterfly habitats.

Lepidoptera differ from some other invertebrates in that females prefer to (or exclusively) lay their eggs on specific host plants. If preferred host plants are not available, caterpillar survival can be low.

So, while having a variety of flowering plants for adults to feed from is important, providing host plants for caterpillars to develop on is crucial.

It is well known that monarch butterfly caterpillars need to feed on milkweed (swan plant). Similarly, Muehlenbeckia species such as climbing pohuehue and shrubby tororaro are important host plants for many native butterflies, as well as many native moths.

Lack of suitable hosts may be one reason red admirals are becoming increasingly uncommon. Recent research has shown the females prefer laying eggs on native nettles, and larvae raised on native nettles outperform those raised on introduced nettles.

Experiments show that the tree nettle ongaonga (Urtica ferox) is an ideal host for red admiral caterpillars. But ongaonga is often removed due to its extremely painful stinging hairs.

Pollinator protection

Besides planting with butterflies and moths in mind, there are many other actions you can take in the garden to help make it suitable for thriving pollinator populations.

Some of the biggest threats to insect populations in Aotearoa and the world are related to urbanisation, deforestation and agricultural intensification: loss of habitat and food sources, and pesticide use.

Introduced predators also threaten our unique bugs. Invasive vespula wasps and rodents are a menace to native butterflies and moths. But predator control systems such as backyard trapping can make a difference.

Future articles will offer seasonal advice on gardening and lifestyle practices to help bugs in your backyard. This will include the best times to spot native and introduced bugs, and other ways to promote invertebrate conservation and biodiversity.

Whether you’re already a bug lover or still a bit bug-tentative, it’s important we all help invertebrate populations in Aotearoa survive and thrive.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of the Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust in the preparation of this article. The Conversation

Janice Lord, Associate Professor in Botany, University of Otago and Connal McLean, Natural History Technician – Invertebrates, Te Papa Tongarewa

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

Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) , Bükk National Park, Hungary. Photo: Charles J. Sharp

Forever chemicals in ski wax are being spread on snowy slopes

A study of the Austrian slopes has found that forever chemicals in ski wax end up on the slopes, in soil and snow. Artur Didyk/Shutterstock
Daniel Drage, University of Birmingham

Every February half-term, I think back to the French ski trips I went on as a teenager. I remember the freshness of the cold, crisp air as I snow-ploughed my way down the slopes. Escaping to somewhere seemingly so pristine felt like a world away from where I grew up in London.

Back then, I never considered that snow could be a potential source of exposure to a harmful chemical. However, recent evidence suggests that persistent, synthetic chemicals are being transferred into snow and soil from waxes applied to the surfaces of skis to enhance performance.

Nicknamed forever chemicals, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of more than 10,000 different chemicals, many of which have been used since the 1950s. They repel water and oil so they make great waterproof coatings for clothing, greaseproof paper and construction materials.

Some act as surfactants, allowing different liquids to mix more easily. Many resist high temperatures, so they’re ideal for making non-stick frying pans and firefighting foams.

Certain PFAS are used in ski wax applied to skis and snowboards as lubrication. By making surfaces of ski kit more slippery, skiers can speed up and make smoother turns as they travel from piste to piste. A new study has found high PFAS concentrations in ski waxes and in the snow and soil sampled from popular skiing areas in Austria.

The problem with persistence

PFAS are organoflourine compounds – their super strong carbon-flourine bonds make them incredibly stable. Because PFAS don’t break down easily, they can persist inside our bodies or in the environment for many years.

A single dose of perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, one of the most well-studied PFAS, could take between three and seven years to reduce by half inside the body – that means it could take 100 years to eliminate 99.9% of that dose.

Some PFAS can be toxic to humans and wildlife, with links to cancers, developmental and reproductive problems, hormone disruption, diabetes and obesity.

Woman in yellow jackets applies wax to four yellow skis laid out on wooden table
The presence of PFAS in ski wax is widely understood - now research shows that the chemicals transfer from ski wax to the environment and end up in snow and soil on the white slopes. Rammy_Rammy/Shutterstock

A slippery slope?

The presence of PFAS in ski waxes is not a new discovery. In 2010, a Swedish study, found high levels of various PFAS in ski wax and in the blood of ski-waxing technicians.

The fascinating thing about the new study is the potential for these chemicals to transfer into the environment from recreational and professional skiing equipment. She reveals that PFAS levels in the snow and soil from skiing areas are consistently higher than in those from the control sample collected away from skiing areas, indicating that skiing can act as a source.

The researchers highlight how the PFAS profiles (the combination of different PFAS found in each sample) differed between locations and sample types. This variability was attributed to differences between ski waxes that had been manufactured at different times or in different places.

I would suggest that additional sources of PFAS are likely in these areas, particularly as PFAS were still sometimes detected in areas of no skiing. They are present in some waterproof clothing, which is worn in abundance by skiers, and in food packaging, paints and cabling – all of which will be found in these areas. These products are likely to display different PFAS profiles.

The new study highlights the difficulty of assessing PFAS globally. There are so many different individual PFAS chemicals. So much so that there’s still uncertainty over the true number that exist. With PFAS in so many products, it’s hard to identify a singular source.

With so many PFAS in circulation, it’s hard to know which ones to test for. The researchers in the new study searched for 34 PFAS chemicals – that’s no easy task. For every PFAS measured, analysis takes more time and money and gets more complicated.

The sum of the concentrations of these 34 PFAS represented less than 1% of the total organofluorine present in the same samples, so the true PFAS concentration could be even higher.

A class-based approach

Historically, individual chemicals have been banned depending on toxicity, persistence and resistance to degradation. This has invariably led to the replacement of banned chemicals with structurally similar ones.

Assessing 10,000 PFAS individually would be impossible. PFAS display varying levels of toxicity and persistence with some breaking down quite readily, but in recent years, environmental chemists have called for PFAS to be regulated together as a group or class.

The European Chemicals Agency is considering a proposed restriction to ban the manufacture and use of PFAS, with some exemptions for essential use where no alternatives exist. If accepted by member states, it could prove a significant step towards the beginning of the end for forever chemicals. Meanwhile, UK legislation falls behind by focusing on individual PFAS, with delays in implementing new restrictions.

Interestingly, PFAS-containing waxes were banned by the International Ski and Snowboard Federation at the start of the 2023 – 2024 season. Norwegian Olympic silver medallist Ragnhild Mowinckel was disqualified last October for competing with fluorinated wax.

But a ban that only applies to professional competition won’t stop PFAS chemicals from reaching the slopes. The manufacture of PFAS-containing products is crucial. Only then can we prevent PFAS reaching the mountains, and even with a comprehensive ban now, PFAS already in the snow won’t disappear within my lifetime.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

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Daniel Drage, Lecturer in Environmental Health, University of Birmingham

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

Ice Bed: Stunning image of a young polar bear drifting to sleep wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award

‘Ice Bed,’ Nima Sarikhani’s dreamy image of a young polar bear drifting to sleep on a bed carved into an iceberg, has been voted as the winner of Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award. 

The 25 images in the running for this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award received a record number of votes with over 75,000 wildlife photography and nature fans from around the world casting their votes to name British amateur photographer Nima Sarikhani this year’s winner.

Director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Douglas Gurr, says: ‘Nima’s breathtaking and poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet. His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss.’

After three days searching for polar bears through thick fog off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, the expedition vessel Nima was on decided to change course and headed towards where there was still some sea ice. Here they encountered two polar bears. Just before midnight, the young male clambered onto a small iceberg and, using his strong paws, clawed away at it to carve out a bed for himself. Nima captured the dreamlike moment the young bear drifted off to sleep.

Nima says: 'I am so honoured to have won this year's People’s Choice award for WPY, the most prestigious wildlife photography competition. This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it. Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope; there is still time to fix the mess we have caused.'
The four ‘Highly Commended’ finalists that also captivated wildlife lovers across the globe include ‘The Happy Turtle’ by Tzahi Finkelstein, a fascinating interaction between a Balkan pond turtle and a northern banded groundling dragonfly, and ‘Starling Murmuration’ by Daniel Dencescu, which frames the moment a starling murmuration formed the shape of a bird.

Two lionesses groom one of the prides five cubs in Kenya’s Maasai Mara in Mark Boyd’s ‘Shared Parenting’, and Audun Rikardsen’s stunning capture ‘Aurora Jellies’ shows two moon jellyfish illuminated by the aurora borealis in a fjord in Norway.

Nima’s image and the four finalist ‘Highly Commended’ images were selected from a shortlist of 25 images chosen by the Natural History Museum, London, and an international judging panel from almost 50,000 images submitted for the fifty-ninth Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

The five images will be displayed both online and in the accompanying exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London, until 30 June 2024.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year shines a light on inspiring and impactful stories from the natural world to create advocates for the planet. The annual competition for amateur and professional photographers of all ages from around the world uses photography’s unique emotive power to connect people with nature. Images entered into the sixtieth competition are currently being judged by an international panel of experts. The winners will be announced at the next annual awards ceremony which takes place in South Kensington in October 2024.

Nature award for polar bear photo shows that images of these magnificent creatures still have the power to move people

Samuel Shaw, The Open University

A polar bear sleeps perched atop a precariously angled shard of melting ice. The bear’s calm is juxtaposed by the frenetic waves lapping at the little island, suggesting that at some point the sea will reclaim it. This is the scene, captured by the photographer Nima Sarikhani, that has won this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice award.

When I saw this picture had won, I had mixed feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, the photograph is stunning and fully deserves praise. But the subject of a lone bear on a small patch of ice remains, for me, laden with problems. In the 2015 film This Changes Everything, the writer Naomi Klein famously stated that images of “desperate polar bears” were so regularly used in the media that they had begun to bore her.

She didn’t mean that she didn’t care but wanted to draw attention to the way that certain images or motifs lose power the more they are repeated. Was it useful for the environmental movement to keep fixating on polar bears when countless other species were also suffering or when there are, perhaps, more original ways of communicating the issues at hand?

Up until recently, I’d been persuaded by Klein’s argument. Popular messaging around climate change is saturated with images of polar bears and it can be hard to maintain interest. However, that Sarikhani’s photograph received the People’s Choice award is one of many indications that the power of the polar bear is not as diminished as some think it is. Was I wrong to be bored of polar bears?

About a year ago, I started approaching this question from another angle by looking at how polar bears have been depicted in the past.

Beyond photographs

As an expert on 19th-century art and visual culture, I’ve frequently encountered polar bears in Victorian paintings, yet I hadn’t given them a second thought.

I decided to explore whether there was a connection between these historical works and our current fascination. I also wanted to look beyond a certain way of visualising polar bears. After all, Klein’s reservations were not about polar bears per se, but about images of “desperate” polar bears. Perhaps there are other ways of picturing them that might change the way I thought.

My research took me on a fascinating journey, from delicate Innuit sculptures of standing bears to some rather dodgy European prints in which they look rather more like white, shaggy dogs.

Through these works, I’ve learned a lot about the long and complex relationship between people and polar bears, and how polar bears have been constantly caught up in wider concerns. For example, Edwin Landseer’s famous 1864 painting Man Proposes, God Disposes represents two ferocious bears feeding among the wreckage of a ship.

Man Proposes, God Disposes is about the arctic explorer John Franklin’s famous failed expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. Here, the polar bears represent man’s violent defeat by nature.

Painting of two polar bears feeding among the wreckage of a ship in the arctic.
Man Proposes God Disposes by Edwin Landseer. Wikimedia

Other Victorian paintings, meanwhile, show how closely the fate of polar bears was aligned to the whaling trade in and around the north and south poles. When whales became scarce in Arctic waters, hunters would turn their attention to the trade in bear skins. Here, man’s dependence on nature is foregrounded as well as the violence enacted upon it.

While researching these pictures I decided to reach out to Doug Allan, a wildlife cameraman who has spent over 35 years filming and photographing in the Arctic. I wanted to know whether Allan could see connections between the longer history of polar bear imagery and contemporary photographs and footage of bears we see today.

Better stories

It’s fair to say that Allan has never been bored of polar bears, despite the many hours he has spent in the Arctic waiting for one to amble into view.

He shared my interest in the history of polar bears and the contexts in which their image has been used. Together, we explored the collections in the Scottish city of Perth. Objects owned by Perth Museum and Art Gallery and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, offered me new insights into this subject.

We drew links between 19th-century paintings and the kind of footage he’s filmed for series such as Frozen Planet. Although there are many differences, these Victorian paintings and nature documentaries share the goal of trying to capture moments of high drama to communicate a message.

The conclusion we reached was that it wasn’t pictures of polar bears that were boring, the problem was the limited, often maudlin narratives that accompanied them. The images are more than cute, sad or emotional representations of climate collapse – these sorts of descriptions flatten them. Instead, they deserve explanations that tell much more complex, sometimes conflicted stories.

In relation to this, I’m still thinking about Sarikhan’s photograph – about how it differs from other contemporary polar bear images and may relate to this longer tradition of depicting bears.

Why are photos of polar bears on icebergs so popular? What other kinds of polar images are we overlooking? How would our perception of this particular photograph differ, for instance, if the bear were dead, not sleeping?

I may have mixed feelings about Sarikhan’s photograph. However, as someone who has now seen hundreds of images of polar bears, I am far from bored by it. Instead, when I look at it, I see the complex history of polar bear images and the many dramatic narratives of survival and violence that have continuously been thrust upon them.

So, if you are feeling unmoved by what you consider “just another bear on an iceberg” try thinking about the storied tradition of polar bear images, about how these have changed as our own relationship with the environment has, and I dare you to be bored.The Conversation

Samuel Shaw, Lecturer in History of Art, The Open University

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

Atlantic Ocean is headed for a tipping point − once melting glaciers shut down the Gulf Stream, we would see extreme climate change within decades, study shows

Too much fresh water from Greenland’s ice sheet can slow the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation. Paul Souders/Stone via Getty Images
René van Westen, Utrecht University; Henk A. Dijkstra, Utrecht University, and Michael Kliphuis, Utrecht University

Superstorms, abrupt climate shifts and New York City frozen in ice. That’s how the blockbuster Hollywood movie “The Day After Tomorrow” depicted an abrupt shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation and the catastrophic consequences.

While Hollywood’s vision was over the top, the 2004 movie raised a serious question: If global warming shuts down the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is crucial for carrying heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes, how abrupt and severe would the climate changes be?

Twenty years after the movie’s release, we know a lot more about the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation. Instruments deployed in the ocean starting in 2004 show that the Atlantic Ocean circulation has observably slowed over the past two decades, possibly to its weakest state in almost a millennium. Studies also suggest that the circulation has reached a dangerous tipping point in the past that sent it into a precipitous, unstoppable decline, and that it could hit that tipping point again as the planet warms and glaciers and ice sheets melt.

In a new study using the latest generation of Earth’s climate models, we simulated the flow of fresh water until the ocean circulation reached that tipping point.

The results showed that the circulation could fully shut down within a century of hitting the tipping point, and that it’s headed in that direction. If that happened, average temperatures would drop by several degrees in North America, parts of Asia and Europe, and people would see severe and cascading consequences around the world.

We also discovered a physics-based early warning signal that can alert the world when the Atlantic Ocean circulation is nearing its tipping point.

The ocean’s conveyor belt

Ocean currents are driven by winds, tides and water density differences.

In the Atlantic Ocean circulation, the relatively warm and salty surface water near the equator flows toward Greenland. During its journey it crosses the Caribbean Sea, loops up into the Gulf of Mexico, and then flows along the U.S. East Coast before crossing the Atlantic.

Two illustrations show how the AMOC looks today and its weaker state in the future
How the Atlantic Ocean circulation changes as it slows. IPCC 6th Assessment Report

This current, also known as the Gulf Stream, brings heat to Europe. As it flows northward and cools, the water mass becomes heavier. By the time it reaches Greenland, it starts to sink and flow southward. The sinking of water near Greenland pulls water from elsewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and the cycle repeats, like a conveyor belt.

Too much fresh water from melting glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet can dilute the saltiness of the water, preventing it from sinking, and weaken this ocean conveyor belt. A weaker conveyor belt transports less heat northward and also enables less heavy water to reach Greenland, which further weakens the conveyor belt’s strength. Once it reaches the tipping point, it shuts down quickly.

What happens to the climate at the tipping point?

The existence of a tipping point was first noticed in an overly simplified model of the Atlantic Ocean circulation in the early 1960s. Today’s more detailed climate models indicate a continued slowing of the conveyor belt’s strength under climate change. However, an abrupt shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean circulation appeared to be absent in these climate models.

How the ocean conveyor belt works.

This is where our study comes in. We performed an experiment with a detailed climate model to find the tipping point for an abrupt shutdown by slowly increasing the input of fresh water.

We found that once it reaches the tipping point, the conveyor belt shuts down within 100 years. The heat transport toward the north is strongly reduced, leading to abrupt climate shifts.

The result: Dangerous cold in the North

Regions that are influenced by the Gulf Stream receive substantially less heat when the circulation stops. This cools the North American and European continents by a few degrees.

The European climate is much more influenced by the Gulf Stream than other regions. In our experiment, that meant parts of the continent changed at more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) per decade – far faster than today’s global warming of about 0.36 F (0.2 C) per decade. We found that parts of Norway would experience temperature drops of more than 36 F (20 C). On the other hand, regions in the Southern Hemisphere would warm by a few degrees.

Two maps show US and Europe both cooling by several degrees if the AMOC stops.
The annual mean temperature changes after the conveyor belt stops reflect an extreme temperature drop in northern Europe in particular. René M. van Westen

These temperature changes develop over about 100 years. That might seem like a long time, but on typical climate time scales, it is abrupt.

The conveyor belt shutting down would also affect sea level and precipitation patterns, which can push other ecosystems closer to their tipping points. For example, the Amazon rainforest is vulnerable to declining precipitation. If its forest ecosystem turned to grassland, the transition would release carbon to the atmosphere and result in the loss of a valuable carbon sink, further accelerating climate change.

The Atlantic circulation has slowed significantly in the distant past. During glacial periods when ice sheets that covered large parts of the planet were melting, the influx of fresh water slowed the Atlantic circulation, triggering huge climate fluctuations.

So, when will we see this tipping point?

The big question – when will the Atlantic circulation reach a tipping point – remains unanswered. Observations don’t go back far enough to provide a clear result. While a recent study suggested that the conveyor belt is rapidly approaching its tipping point, possibly within a few years, these statistical analyses made several assumptions that give rise to uncertainty.

Instead, we were able to develop a physics-based and observable early warning signal involving the salinity transport at the southern boundary of the Atlantic Ocean. Once a threshold is reached, the tipping point is likely to follow in one to four decades.

A line chart of circulation strength shows a quick drop-off after the amount of freshwater in the ocean hits a tipping point.
A climate model experiment shows how quickly the AMOC slows once it reaches a tipping point with a threshold of fresh water entering the ocean. How soon that will happen remains an open question. René M. van Westen

The climate impacts from our study underline the severity of such an abrupt conveyor belt collapse. The temperature, sea level and precipitation changes will severely affect society, and the climate shifts are unstoppable on human time scales.

It might seem counterintuitive to worry about extreme cold as the planet warms, but if the main Atlantic Ocean circulation shuts down from too much meltwater pouring in, that’s the risk ahead.

This article was updated on Feb. 11, 2024, to fix a typo: The experiment found temperatures in parts of Europe changed by more than 5 F per decade.The Conversation

René van Westen, Postdoctoral Researcher in Climate Physics, Utrecht University; Henk A. Dijkstra, Professor of Physics, Utrecht University, and Michael Kliphuis, Climate Model Specialist, Utrecht University

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

Population can’t be ignored. It has to be part of the policy solution to our world’s problems

Marina Poushkina/Shutterstock
Jenny Stewart, UNSW Sydney

There is a growing consensus that environmental problems, particularly the effects of climate change, pose a grave challenge to humanity. Pollution, habitat destruction, intractable waste issues and, for many, deteriorating quality of life should be added to the list.

Economic growth is the chief culprit. We forget, though, that environmental impacts are a consequence of per capita consumption multiplied by the number of people doing the consuming. Our own numbers matter.

Population growth threatens environments at global, national and regional scales. Yet the policy agenda either ignores human population, or fosters alarm when perfectly natural trends such as declining fertility and longer lifespans cause growth rates to fall and populations to age.

That there are still too many of us is a problem few want to talk about. Fifty years ago, population was considered to be an issue, not only for the developing world, but for the planet as a whole. Since then, the so-called green revolution in agriculture made it possible to feed many more people. But the costs of these practices, which relied heavily on pesticide and fertiliser use and relatively few crops, are only now beginning to be understood.

The next 30 years will be critical. The most recent United Nations projections point to a global population of 9.7 billion by 2050 and 10.4 billion by 2100. There are 8 billion of us now. Another 2 billion will bring already stressed ecosystems to the point of collapse.

A line graph showing global population growth since 1950 and projection to 2100.
The latest global population projection from the United Nations. UN World Population Prospects 2022, CC BY

It’s the whole world’s problem

Many would agree overpopulation is a problem in many developing countries, where large families keep people poor. But there are too many of us in the developed world, too. Per person, people in high-income countries consume 60% more resources than in upper-middle-income countries and more than 13 times as much as people in low-income countries.

From 1995 to 2020, the UK population, for example, grew by 9.1 million. A crowded little island, particularly around London and the south-east, became more crowded still.

Similarly, the Netherlands, one of the most densely populated countries, had just under 10 million inhabitants in 1950 and 17.6 million in 2020. In the 1950s, the government encouraged emigration to reduce population densities. By the 21st century, another 5 million people in a tiny country certainly caused opposition to immigration, but concern was wrongly focused on the ethnic composition of the increase. The principal problem of overpopulation received little attention.

Australia is celebrated as “a land of boundless plains to share”. In reality it’s a small country that consists of big distances.

As former NSW Premier Bob Carr predicted some years ago, as Australia’s population swelled, the extra numbers would be housed in spreading suburbs that would gobble up farmland nearest our cities and threaten coastal and near-coastal habitats. How right he was. The outskirts of Sydney and Melbourne are carpeted in big, ugly houses whose inhabitants will be forever car-dependent.

An aerial view of city suburbs stretching out to the horizon
Non-stop growth means our cities are becoming less efficient and liveable. Harley Kingston/Shutterstock

Doing nothing has a high cost

The longer we do nothing about population growth, the worse it gets. More people now inevitably mean more in the future than there would otherwise have been.

We live very long lives, on average, so once we’re born, we tend to stick around. It takes a while for falling birthrates to have any impact.

And when they do, the population boosters respond with cries of alarm. The norm is seen as a young or youngish population, while the elderly are presented as a parasitical drag upon the young.

Falling reproduction rates should not be regarded as a disaster but as a natural occurrence to which we can adapt.

Recently, we have been told Australia must have high population growth, because of workforce shortages. It is rarely stated exactly what these shortages are, and why we cannot train enough people to fill them.

Population and development are connected in subtle ways, at global, national and regional scales. At each level, stabilising the population holds the key to a more environmentally secure and equitable future.

For those of us who value the natural world for its own sake, the matter is clear – we should make room for other species. For those who do not care about other species, the reality is that without a more thoughtful approach to our own numbers, planetary systems will continue to break down.

Line graph showing the probabilities of global population projections and the impacts of having 0.5 more or less children per woman
Cutting births by just 0.5 children per woman can dramatically reduce the level at which the world’s population peaks. UN World Population Prospects 2022, CC BY

Let women choose to have fewer children

So, what to do? If we assume the Earth’s population is going to exceed 10 billion, the type of thinking behind this assumption means we are sleepwalking our way into a nightmarish future when a better one is within our grasp.

A radical rethink of the global economy is needed to address climate change. In relation to population growth, if we can move beyond unhelpful ideologies, the solution is already available.

People are not stupid. In particular, women are not stupid. Where women are given the choice, they restrict the number of children they have. This freedom is as basic a human right as you can get.

A much-needed demographic transition could be under way right now, if only the population boosters would let it happen.

Those who urge greater rates of reproduction, whether they realise it or not, are serving only the short-term interests of developers and some religious authorities, for whom big societies mean more power for themselves. It is a masculinist fantasy for which most women, and many men, have long been paying a huge price.

Women will show the way, if only we would let them.The Conversation

Jenny Stewart, Professor of Public Policy, UNSW Sydney

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
A Stroll Around Manly Dam: Spring 2023 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
A Stroll Through Warriewood Wetlands by Joe Mills February 2023
A Walk Around The Cromer Side Of Narrabeen Lake by Joe Mills
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
Aquatic Reflections seen this week (May 2023): Narrabeen + Turimetta by Joe Mills 
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
Bangalley Headland Walk: Spring 2023 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
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
Mona Vale Woolworths Front Entrance Gets Garden Upgrade: A Few Notes On The Site's History 
Mother Brushtail Killed On Barrenjoey Road: Baby Cried All Night - Powerful Owl Struck At Same Time At Careel Bay During Owlet Fledgling Season: calls for mitigation measures - The List of what you can do for those who ask 'What You I Do' as requested
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 Entrance Clearing Works: September To October 2023  pictures by Joe Mills
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 Reserves: The Green Ways; Bungan Beach and Bungan Head Reserves:  A Headland Garden 
Pittwater Reserves, The Green Ways: Clareville Wharf and Taylor's Point Jetty
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways; Hordern, Wilshire Parks, McKay Reserve: From Beach to Estuary 
Pittwater Reserves - The Green Ways: Mona Vale's Village Greens a Map of the Historic Crown Lands Ethos Realised in The Village, Kitchener and Beeby Parks 
Pittwater Reserves: The Green Ways Bilgola Beach - The Cabbage Tree Gardens and Camping Grounds - Includes Bilgola - The Story Of A Politician, A Pilot and An Epicure by Tony Dawson and Anne Spencer  
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 Great Outdoors: Spotted To The North, South, East + West- June 2023:  Palm Beach Boat House rebuild going well - First day of Winter Rainbow over Turimetta - what's Blooming in the bush? + more by Joe Mills, Selena Griffith and Pittwater Online
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!
Some late November Insects (2023)
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 Chiltern Trail On The Verge Of Spring 2023 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
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
Turimetta Moods by Joe Mills: June 2023
Turimetta Moods (Week Ending June 23 2023) by Joe Mills
Turimetta Moods: June To July 2023 Pictures by Joe Mills
Turimetta Moods: July Becomes August 2023 by Joe Mills
Turimetta Moods: August Becomes September 2023 ; North Narrabeen - Turimetta - Warriewood - Mona Vale photographs by Joe Mills
Turimetta Moods: Mid-September To Mid-October 2023 by Joe Mills
Warriewood Wetlands - Creeks Deteriorating: How To Report Construction Site Breaches, Weed Infestations + The Long Campaign To Save The Warriewood Wetlands & Ingleside Escarpment March 2023
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

Pittwater's Birds

Attracting Insectivore Birds to Your Garden: DIY Natural Tick Control small bird insectivores, species like the Silvereye, Spotted Pardalote, Gerygone, Fairywren and Thornbill, feed on ticks. Attracting these birds back into your garden will provide not only a residence for tick eaters but also the delightful moments watching these tiny birds provides.
Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2017: Take part from 23 - 29 October - how many birds live here?
Aussie Backyard Bird Count 2018 - Our Annual 'What Bird Is That?' Week Is Here! This week the annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count runs from 22-28 October 2018. Pittwater is one of those places fortunate to have birds that thrive because of an Aquatic environment, a tall treed Bush environment and areas set aside for those that dwell closer to the ground, in a sand, scrub or earth environment. To take part all you need is 20 minutes and your favourite outdoor space. Head to the website and register as a Counter today! And if you're a teacher, check out BirdLife Australia's Bird Count curriculum-based lesson plans to get your students (or the whole school!) involved

Australian Predators of the Sky by Penny Olsen - published by National Library of Australia

Australian Raven  Australian Wood Duck Family at Newport

A Week In Pittwater Issue 128   A Week In Pittwater - June 2014 Issue 168

Baby Birds Spring 2015 - Rainbow Lorikeets in our Yard - for Children Baby Birds by Lynleigh Greig, Southern Cross Wildlife Care - what do if being chased by a nesting magpie or if you find a baby bird on the ground

Baby Kookaburras in our Backyard: Aussie Bird Count 2016 - October

Balloons Are The Number 1 Marine Debris Risk Of Mortality For Our Seabirds - Feb 2019 Study

Bangalley Mid-Winter   Barrenjoey Birds Bird Antics This Week: December 2016

Bird of the Month February 2019 by Michael Mannington

Birdland Above the Estuary - October 2012  Birds At Our Window   Birds at our Window - Winter 2014  Birdland June 2016

Birdsong Is a Lovesong at This time of The Year - Brown Falcon, Little Wattle Bird, Australian Pied cormorant, Mangrove or Striated Heron, Great Egret, Grey Butcherbird, White-faced Heron 

Bird Songs – poems about our birds by youngsters from yesterdays - for children Bird Week 2015: 19-25 October

Bird Songs For Spring 2016 For Children by Joanne Seve

Birds at Careel Creek this Week - November 2017: includes Bird Count 2017 for Local Birds - BirdLife Australia by postcode

Black Cockatoo photographed in the Narrabeen Catchment Reserves this week by Margaret G Woods - July 2019

Black-Necked Stork, Mycteria Australis, Now Endangered In NSW, Once Visited Pittwater: Breeding Pair shot in 1855

Black Swans on Narrabeen Lagoon - April 2013   Black Swans Pictorial

Brush Turkeys In Suburbia: There's An App For That - Citizen Scientists Called On To Spot Brush Turkeys In Their Backyards
Buff-banded Rail spotted at Careel Creek 22.12.2012: a breeding pair and a fluffy black chick

Cayley & Son - The life and Art of Neville Henry Cayley & Neville William Cayley by Penny Olsen - great new book on the art works on birds of these Australian gentlemen and a few insights from the author herself
Crimson Rosella - + Historical Articles on

Death By 775 Cuts: How Conservation Law Is Failing The Black-Throated Finch - new study 'How to Send a Finch Extinct' now published

Eastern Rosella - and a little more about our progression to protecting our birds instead of exporting them or decimating them.

Endangered Little Tern Fishing at Mona Vale Beach

‘Feather Map of Australia’: Citizen scientists can support the future of Australia's wetland birds: for Birdwatchers, school students and everyone who loves our estuarine and lagoon and wetland birds

First Week of Spring 2014

Fledgling Common Koel Adopted by Red Wattlebird -Summer Bird fest 2013  Flegdlings of Summer - January 2012

Flocks of Colour by Penny Olsen - beautiful new Bird Book Celebrates the 'Land of the Parrots'

Friendly Goose at Palm Beach Wharf - Pittwater's Own Mother Goose

Front Page Issue 177  Front Page Issue 185 Front Page Issue 193 - Discarded Fishing Tackle killing shorebirds Front Page Issue 203 - Juvenile Brush Turkey  Front Page Issue 208 - Lyrebird by Marita Macrae Front Page Issue 219  Superb Fairy Wren Female  Front Page Issue 234National Bird Week October 19-25  and the 2015 the Aussie Back Yard Bird Count: Australia's First Bird Counts - a 115 Year Legacy - with a small insight into our first zoos Front Page Issue 236: Bird Week 2015 Front Page Issue 244: watebirds Front Page Issue 260: White-face Heron at Careel Creek Front Page Issue 283: Pittwater + more birds for Bird Week/Aussie Bird Count  Front Page Issue 284: Pittwater + more birds for Bird Week/Aussie Bird Count Front Page Issue 285: Bird Week 2016  Front Page Issue 331: Spring Visitor Birds Return

G . E. Archer Russell (1881-1960) and His Passion For Avifauna From Narrabeen To Newport 

Glossy Black-Cockatoo Returns To Pittwater by Paul Wheeler Glossy Cockatoos - 6 spotted at Careel Bay February 2018

Grey Butcher Birds of Pittwater

Harry Wolstenholme (June 21, 1868 - October 14, 1930) Ornithologist Of Palm Beach, Bird Man Of Wahroonga 


Issue 60 May 2012 Birdland - Smiles- Beamings -Early -Winter - Blooms

Jayden Walsh’s Northern Beaches Big Year - courtesy Pittwater Natural Heritage Association

John Gould's Extinct and Endangered Mammals of Australia  by Dr. Fred Ford - Between 1850 and 1950 as many mammals disappeared from the Australian continent as had disappeared from the rest of the world between 1600 and 2000! Zoologist Fred Ford provides fascinating, and often poignant, stories of European attitudes and behaviour towards Australia's native fauna and connects these to the animal's fate today in this beautiful new book - our interview with the author

July 2012 Pittwater Environment Snippets; Birds, Sea and Flowerings

Juvenile Sea Eagle at Church Point - for children

King Parrots in Our Front Yard  

Kookaburra Turf Kookaburra Fledglings Summer 2013  Kookaburra Nesting Season by Ray Chappelow  Kookaburra Nest – Babies at 1.5 and 2.5 weeks old by Ray Chappelow  Kookaburra Nest – Babies at 3 and 4 weeks old by Ray Chappelow  Kookaburra Nest – Babies at 5 weeks old by Ray Chappelow Kookaburra and Pittwater Fledglings February 2020 to April 2020

Lion Island's Little Penguins (Fairy Penguins) Get Fireproof Homes - thanks to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Fix it Sisters Shed

Lorikeet - Summer 2015 Nectar

Lyre Bird Sings in Local National Park - Flock of Black Cockatoos spotted - June 2019

Magpie's Melodic Melodies - For Children (includes 'The Magpie's Song' by F S Williamson)

Masked Lapwing (Plover) - Reflected

May 2012 Birdland Smiles Beamings Early Winter Blooms 

Mistletoebird At Bayview

Musk Lorikeets In Pittwater: Pittwater Spotted Gum Flower Feast - May 2020

Nankeen Kestrel Feasting at Newport: May 2016

National Bird Week 2014 - Get Involved in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count: National Bird Week 2014 will take place between Monday 20 October and Sunday 26 October, 2014. BirdLife Australia and the Birds in Backyards team have come together to launch this year’s national Bird Week event the Aussie Backyard Bird Count! This is one the whole family can do together and become citizen scientists...

National Bird Week October 19-25  and the 2015 the Aussie Back Yard Bird Count: Australia's First Bird Counts - a 115 Year Legacy - with a small insight into our first zoos

Native Duck Hunting Season Opens in Tasmania and Victoria March 2018: hundreds of thousands of endangered birds being killed - 'legally'!

Nature 2015 Review Earth Air Water Stone

New Family of Barking Owls Seen in Bayview - Church Point by Pittwater Council

Noisy Visitors by Marita Macrae of PNHA 

Odes to Australia's Fairy-wrens by Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen and Constance Le Plastrier 1884 and 1926

Oystercatcher and Dollarbird Families - Summer visitors

Pacific Black Duck Bath

Painted Button-Quail Rescued By Locals - Elanora-Ingleside escarpment-Warriewood wetlands birds

Palm Beach Protection Group Launch, Supporters InvitedSaturday Feb.16th - Residents Are Saying 'NO' To Off-Leash Dogs In Station Beach Eco-System - reports over 50 dogs a day on Station Beach throughout December-January (a No Dogs Beach) small children being jumped on, Native birds chased, dog faeces being left, families with toddlers leaving beach to get away from uncontrolled dogs and 'Failure of Process' in council 'consultation' open to February 28th 

Pardalote, Scrub Wren and a Thornbill of Pittwater

Pecking Order by Robyn McWilliam

Pelican Lamps at Narrabeen  Pelican Dreamsong - A Legend of the Great Flood - dreamtime legend for children

Pittwater Becalmed  Pittwater Birds in Careel Creek Spring 2018   Pittwater Waterbirds Spring 2011  Pittwater Waterbirds - A Celebration for World Oceans Day 2015

Pittwater's Little Penguin Colony: The Saving of the Fairies of Lion Island Commenced 65 Years Ago this Year - 2019

Pittwater's Mother Nature for Mother's Day 2019

Pittwater's Waterhens: Some Notes - Narrabeen Creek Bird Gathering: Curious Juvenile Swamp Hen On Warriewood Boardwalk + Dusky Moorhens + Buff Banded Rails In Careel Creek

Plastic in 99 percent of seabirds by 2050 by CSIRO

Plover Appreciation Day September 16th 2015

Powerful and Precious by Lynleigh Grieg

Red Wattlebird Song - November 2012

Restoring The Diamond: every single drop. A Reason to Keep Dogs and Cats in at Night. 

Return Of Australasian Figbird Pair: A Reason To Keep The Trees - Aussie Bird Count 2023 (16–22 October) You can get involved here: aussiebirdcount.org.au

Salt Air Creatures Feb.2013

Sea Birds off the Pittwater Coast: Albatross, Gannet, Skau + Australian Poets 1849, 1898 and 1930, 1932

Sea Eagle Juvenile at Church Point

Seagulls at Narrabeen Lagoon

Seen but Not Heard: Lilian Medland's Birds - Christobel Mattingley - one of Australia's premier Ornithological illustrators was a Queenscliff lady - 53 of her previously unpublished works have now been made available through the auspices of the National Library of Australia in a beautiful new book

7 Little Ducklings: Just Keep Paddling - Australian Wood Duck family take over local pool by Peta Wise 

Shag on a North Avalon Rock -  Seabirds for World Oceans Day 2012

Short-tailed Shearwaters Spring Migration 2013 

South-West North-East Issue 176 Pictorial

Spring 2012 - Birds are Splashing - Bees are Buzzing

Spring Becomes Summer 2014- Royal Spoonbill Pair at Careel Creek

Spring Notes 2018 - Royal Spoonbill in Careel Creek

Station Beach Off Leash Dog Area Proposal Ignores Current Uses Of Area, Environment, Long-Term Fauna Residents, Lack Of Safe Parking and Clearly Stated Intentions Of Proponents have your say until February 28, 2019

Summer 2013 BirdFest - Brown Thornbill  Summer 2013 BirdFest- Canoodlers and getting Wet to Cool off  Summer 2013 Bird Fest - Little Black Cormorant   Summer 2013 BirdFest - Magpie Lark

The Mopoke or Tawny Frogmouth – For Children - A little bit about these birds, an Australian Mopoke Fairy Story from 91 years ago, some poems and more - photo by Adrian Boddy
Winter Bird Party by Joanne Seve

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: http://www.birdlife.org.au/documents/Shorebird_ID_Booklet_V3.pdf

Paper copies can be ordered as well, see http://www.birdlife.org.au/projects/shorebirds-2020/counter-resources 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: http://www.birdlife.org.au/projects/shorebirds-2020/shorebirds-2020-program

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 - lespatflood@gmail.com
Jodie Streckeisen
Please email for the address - streckeisenjodie@gmail.com

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.

Visit:  http://www.surfersforclimate.org.au/

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! www.HabitatSteppingStones.org.au

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: https://www.facebook.com/newportcg/

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: http://www.anfil.org.au/

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: www.sydneywildlife.org.au

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: southerncrosswildlifecare.org.au/wp/

"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 newportcommunitygardenau@gmail.com

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: pnhainfo@gmail.com 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 : email@narrabeenlagoon.org.au

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.