May 19 - 25, 2024: Issue 626

NSW Government is Looking to the future: improving wildlife rehabilitation and care

The NSW Government announced on Wednesday May 15 2024, it is launching statewide consultation on the wildlife rehabilitation sector to gain a detailed understanding of how NSW can improve the way we care for our native animals.

The consultation will examine the challenges facing the sector, identify best practices and recommend next steps.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Trish Doyle will lead the consultation and provide a report on the outcomes to Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe within 12 months.

In NSW, 40 wildlife rehabilitation groups involving more than 8600 people rescue an average of 110,000 animals a year.

The sector is mostly made up of dedicated and passionate volunteers who respond to more than 180,000 calls for help from the community each year.

This work is supported by specialised wildlife hospitals and many local veterinary services.

The value of the sector’s work is estimated at $27 million a year.

The consultation will consider a range of areas:
  • challenges for the sector
  • resourcing
  • connections within the sector
  • service gaps and duplication
  • involvement in emergency response and significant wildlife events
  • administrative and legislative provisions
  • support for wildlife hospitals and veterinary practices.
'Our state is home to animals which live nowhere else on this planet and the NSW Government is committed to ensuring sick and injured native wildlife receive the best care and rehabilitation. The government recently invested $8 million into wildlife hospitals and care facilities across NSW and another $500,000 to support wildlife rehabilitators in Sydney’s South West.' the government said in a release

This consultation will inform next steps for the NSW Volunteer Wildlife Rehabilitation Sector Strategy 2020-23. That strategy will be extended until 30 June 2025 while this review is underway.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe said:

“Wildlife rescuers and rehabilitators are essential to the care and survival of native animals across NSW.

“We need to build on the achievements of the previous strategy and ensure the sector is supported for the future.

“I look forward to receiving this review, which will help inform and guide this important work.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Trish Doyle said:
“The NSW Government values the contribution of wildlife rehabilitators, who provide valuable work for the community by rescuing and caring for sick, injured and orphaned native animals across the state every day.

“I look forward to listening to their experiences to understand the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

“We need an integrated, future focused strategy to support the wonderful people who care for our native animals, while ensuring wildlife rehabilitation services are well connected and sustainable.”

Theodore and Blossom, orphaned Ringtail possums. Photo: Lynleigh Grieg, Sydney Wildlife Rescue 

NSW gears up for humpback migration with expanded disentanglement team

May 16, 2024

With the first humpback whales of the season sighted off Sydney this week, an expanded team of specialised rescuers are poised and ready to launch as tens of thousands of majestic humpback whales begin their annual migration along the NSW coastline.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Large Whale Disentanglement team boasts 45 professionals, including a new team of 11 people based out of the Hunter Central Coast branch who have recently completed their training, ensuring better state-wide coverage for whale rescue operations this migration season.

Each year, humpback whales undertake one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom, travelling up to 10,000 km from the Southern Ocean to breeding grounds in warmer climates.

As they travel through inshore Australian waters, humpback whales are susceptible to becoming entangled in fishing gear and other marine debris which can lead to fatigue, injury, and death.

In 2023, 13 humpback whales were successfully freed from entanglements off the NSW coastline.

If conditions allow, the NPWS team will launch small inflatable boats, along with a larger support vessel, to approach an entangled animal and assess the entanglement, the animal's condition, speed and behaviour. They then plan a release strategy to cut the animal free, which sometimes involves slowing the animal down by temporarily attaching large buoys.

Disentanglement rescues can sometimes take multiple days of tracking before a successful intervention can be made. The NPWS crew work with partner organisations including Marine Rescue, ORRCA and Sea World to optimise state-wide coverage for whale rescue operations.

The Large Whale Disentanglement team is one component of a broader project to understand and minimise the risk of humpback whale entanglements. The NSW Government is working with the fishing industry to develop whale- and dolphin-friendly equipment less likely to lead to entanglements, while scientific research continues to better understand the drivers of whale migration and entanglement risks.

People enjoying our coasts and waters are encouraged to enjoy the spectacle of the humpback whale migration but are reminded to stay at a safe distance and avoid interfering with the animals.

If you see a distressed or entangled whale, contact the NPWS on 13000PARKS (1300 072 757) or ORRCA on 02 9415 3333.

For more information about the best whale watching locations in New South Wales and the Large Whale Disentanglement team, visit the NPWS 'Wild about whales' page.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Marine Wildlife Team Leader Duane March said this week:

''It’s fantastic to have expanded the capacity of our highly specialised Large Whale Disentanglement Team as the humpback highway gets underway for 2024.

Our ability to respond to whale entanglements is crucial, given the risk they face from fishing gear and other marine debris. With our expanded team in place, we're better equipped to help these whales if they find themselves in distress in NSW coastal waters.

While this increased capacity is a positive step, whale disentanglements are inherently dangerous and dependent on weather and sea conditions. The safety of our teams is always the number one priority.

We can't always guarantee a successful rescue, but we're committed to doing everything in our power to help these animals when we can.''

Redcycle clean-up extended to increase recycling options

May 10, 2024
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has amended Clean-up Notices issued to Coles and Woolworths giving the supermarkets more time to manage the recovery, recycling and lawful removal of soft plastic stockpiled across the state.

The supermarkets applied to the NSW EPA for an extension after identifying possible pathways to keep most of the soft plastics out of landfill.

The supermarkets have been granted an additional 10 months to comply with the notices until March 2025. This will ensure that the identified processing solution is operating at sufficient capacity to handle the stockpiled material.  

The EPA required the supermarkets to submit a staged removal plan to track the progress of the supermarkets under the revised timeline. 

Coles and Woolworths moved more than 5,000 tonnes of soft plastic material to safe storage last year meeting their immediate clean-up obligations to address the potential fire and pollution risk posed by 15 stockpiles found across NSW.

See the amended Clean-up Notices:
NSW EPA Director Operations Adam Gilligan stated:

“Revising the time period gives the supermarkets an opportunity to secure a solution for the material so that the vast majority of the material doesn’t end up in landfill.” 

“We know the public, who diligently collected and dropped off their soft plastics, has been disappointed in Redcycle and the best outcome for this material is to see it recycled and reprocessed.”

“We will continue to monitor the progress of the supermarkets under the Clean-up notices including inspecting the current stockpiles to ensure they continue to be stored appropriately.” 

First Nations engagement for Renewable Energy Zones

May 17, 2024

The NSW Government has released 2 new First Nations Guidelines (guidelines) for Aboriginal communities in the Hunter-Central Coast and the South West Renewable Energy Zones (REZs).

These region-specific guidelines were developed collaboratively with First Nations Working Groups.

They provide guidance for project proponents to consult and negotiate with Aboriginal communities on projects delivered under the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap (Roadmap) within their REZs.

The Roadmap is the state's 20-year plan to transform the electricity system into one that is more affordable, clean and reliable.

Key features of the region-specific guidelines include:

  • an outline of the local Aboriginal communities' goals and aspirations for income and employment opportunities
  • streamlined engagement processes for renewable energy developers seeking to consult with local Aboriginal communities
  • a requirement for project proponents to prepare an Industry and Aboriginal Participation Plan which documents the engagement approach and the agreed commitments with local Aboriginal stakeholders.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water will review the guidelines at least every 2 years to ensure their objectives and requirements are in line with community expectations and state priorities.

For more information and to view the guidelines, including the Central-West Orana REZ First Nations Guidelines that were released last year, visit the Government's webpage at:

New England Weeds Authority board suspended over financial concerns

May 17, 2024

The Minister for Local Government has today suspended the board of the New England Weeds Authority (NEWA) and appointed an interim administrator due to serious concerns about the financial position and governance of the organisation.

NEWA is the registered trading name of the New England County Council and has a governing body made up of elected representatives from 4 constituent councils: 

  • Armidale Regional Council
  • Walcha Council
  • Uralla Shire Council
  • Glen Innes Severn Shire Council

The organisation is a single-purpose county council that operates as a Local Control Authority for the management of priority and invasive weeds in the New England area.

This intervention comes after the Office of Local Government was made aware of financial irregularities at NEWA, including the inability of the Audit Office to issue an audit due to gaps in the organisation's financial records.

Further enquiries identified significant issues that could have implications for its partner councils.

The board will therefore be suspended for an initial period of 3 months.

Independent local government expert and former general manager Mr John Rayner has been appointed as interim administrator.

Mr Rayner will be responsible for looking into the county council’s financial and operational concerns and report back to the Minister.

Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig stated:

“I was alarmed by reports about the financial mismanagement and governance issues at NEWA which is why I have taken this immediate action.

“The problems are of real concern, particularly given the potential impacts the financial instability of NEWA has for its four member councils which help fund its operations.

“Mr Rayner will help the Office of Local Government fully understand NEWA’s financial position and the extent of the challenges they are facing.

“This is a necessary measure to give confidence to staff and restore proper and effective functioning to the organisation.”

NSW Parliament to explore productive uses of land after mines close

May 17, 2024

With a number of significant mining sites slated for closure in the coming decade, the NSW Parliament will launch an inquiry to investigate new and innovative approaches to post-mining land use.

'The inquiry will help ensure these sites can continue to bring economic investment and opportunities to regional communities even after the mines close.' the Government states

'There are more than 50 large active mine sites across NSW, 37 of which are coal mines. There are other sites which were previously used for mining which continue to offer opportunities for new, productive uses of land.'

Minister for Natural Resources Courtney Houssos has written to Emily Suvaal, chair of NSW Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on State Development, asking her to undertake the inquiry.

A number of new post-mining land uses are already being progressed in NSW.

Earlier this year, the NSW Resources Regulator signed off on the rehabilitation of part of the old Rhondda Colliery in Lake Macquarie. The Black Rock Motor Park and Tourism Resort will take over part of the site, bringing 450 jobs during construction and 229 permanent roles.

BHP’s Mt Arthur, Idemitsu’s Muswellbrook coal mine, and Yancoal’s Stratford coal mine are investigating opportunities for pumped hydro and other clean energy uses.

The inquiry will consider how to accelerate and facilitate these uses, including through:

  • the development of sites for use for advanced manufacturing, commercial and tourism use,
  • reforms to the rehabilitation and planning regulatory frameworks which support mines,
  • opportunities to promote the development of solar farms, pumped hydro and other clean energy industries which may be particularly suited to the form and nature of former mine sites,
  • what investments in skills and training are needed to support the mining workforce,
  • the potential of unlocking surrounding land for residential dwellings, amenities, environmental and educational facilities, and
  • the compatibility of post mining land sites with commercial projects.

The inquiry is part of the government’s efforts to support mining communities, in particular where coal mining plays an important economic role in the region.

The NSW Labor Government has already committed $5.2 million to establish Future Jobs and Investment Authorities in four coal-producing regions across New South Wales. The authorities will work with the Commonwealth Government’s Net Zero Authority to support workers, industries and NSW coal mining communities.

Minister for Natural Resources Courtney Houssos said:

“Mining is a temporary use of land. We need to make sure NSW has the right policy mix to keep employment and economic opportunities even after mines close.

“I was privileged to turn the sod on the Black Rock Motor Resort earlier this year and witness the opportunities that can be created from these old mine sites.

“We will work with industry, local government and unions to bring forward these exciting opportunities.

“This is an important inquiry that will help us deliver positive community benefits in regional areas across NSW.

“We need to make sure these large mine sites can continue to be put to economically productive and efficient use long into the future.”

Chair, Standing Committee on State Development Emily Suvaal said:

“As a Hunter-based MP, I am committed to ensuring our mining communities across the state have a vibrant economic future, with secure, well-paid, local jobs.

“Exploring how we can improve the use of post-mining land is crucial for the continued success of our rural and regional communities, who have contributed so much to our state’s success.

“As chair of the State Development Committee, I am committed to conducting a robust and thorough inquiry into post-mining land use that will provide a blueprint for the economic future of our mining communities.”

Greens Quash gas fast-track bill

On Thursday May 16 Australia’s peak state and territory environmental bodies welcomed the agreement between the Greens and the Albanese government to amend the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024 by removing Schedule 2, Part 2.

The legislation as initially proposed would have effectively granted the offshore oil and gas industry a free pass from national environmental laws. 

The Bill has been widely condemned by members of the crossbench, the environmental movement.

They warned that the bill could pave the way to diminished rights to consultation for the Australian community, First Nations people, and environment groups, as well as reducing environmental protections and oversight of the hazardous offshore oil and gas industry.  

The Greens secured an agreement with the government to shelve Labor’s offshore gas fast track plan that silenced First Nations voices. After having previously publicly offered to pass government legislation if the gas fast-track legislation was shelved, the Greens will now support the electric vehicles and legislation to lift the PRRT gas tax rate.

The Resource Minister’s Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024 will be amended by the government to remove Schedule 2, Part 2, which bypassed environment laws and First Nations voices. The Greens will pass the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard Bill 2024 and the Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax accountability and Fairness) Bill 2023.

The remainder of the offshore gas bill, which deals with worker’s safety issues, will pass the Parliament today alongside the NVES and PRRT reforms.

Following this major win, the Greens will continue the fight against the government’s 'Future Gas Strategy' and their push for more coal and gas.

The government has advised that any matters relating to this approval process will now be considered as part of the broader tranche 3 of the environment law reform, which has been delayed indefinitely and will come after tranche 2. Tranche 2 legislation has not yet been introduced and the Greens are likely to be in balance of power on that legislation. Effectively, this means any changes cannot occur before the next election.

Adam Bandt MP, Leader of the Australian Greens stated on Thursday:

“The Greens have killed Labor’s gas fast-track bill,” Mr Bandt said.

“This is a big blow to the coal and gas corporations, a big win for the climate and First Nations voices, and it happened because the Greens have power in Parliament.”

“We will continue to fight Labor’s push for more coal and gas all the way to the election and beyond. The Greens have stopped Labor’s dodgy attempt to fast-track new gas mines, but their bid to bypass environmental protections shows Labor will stop at nothing to have more coal and gas past 2050.

“Climate scientists have said there can be no new coal and gas mines, but Labor wants more. You can’t put the fire out by pouring petrol on it. You don’t fix a problem by making the problem worse. With Labor and Liberal now backing more coal and gas past 2050, only the Greens will fight for real climate action.”

Senator Dorinda Cox, Greens First Nations and Resources spokesperson stated:

"Gas lobbyists have unlimited access to the Albanese Labor government and think they run politics in this country at the cost of cultural heritage, free prior and informed consent and the silencing of First Nations voices. This Bill would have sold our sea country as a commodity to the highest bidder. This is not acceptable.” Senator Cox said.

“The government must now stop opening new climate and environment wrecking gas projects and look to renewable energy.”

“Labor’s shameless attempt to bypass our already weak environment laws is dead,” Senator Hanson-Young, Greens environment spokesperson, said.

"It’s incredible that after two years of this government, their much promised ‘fix’ to environmental laws is nowhere to be seen, while harming nature is top priority."

Senator Nick McKim, Greens Treasury spokesperson, stated:

"The Greens have used our balance of power to stand up to the gas corporations and deliver for the environment and for First Nations people. We will see an increase in tax revenue from gas corporations and the rejection of Labor’s attempt to weaken environmental protections on gas mines," Senator McKim said.

“Standing our ground on Labor’s PRRT Bill has given us the leverage to reject the agenda of the gas cartel. When the Government works with the Greens instead of the gas cartel, we can ensure better environmental outcomes and more revenue from a publicly owned resource."

Jess Beckerling, Executive Director of The Conservation Council of Western Australia, said:

“Today’s win for the community is a victory against ongoing attempts to fast-track gas industry approvals and silence First Nations voices. This massive response, led by First Nations leaders, ensures that communities continue to have a voice about what happens in our country. This is good news for our climate and our environment, and we now turn our collective attention to the government’s dangerous Future Gas Strategy.”

Jacqui Mumford, Nature Conservation Council of NSW said:

“This is a win for climate, nature and the community. The initial proposal bypassed environmental laws and First Nations voices, displaced the role of the Environment Minister, and dramatically weakened oversight and accountability.”

Kirsty Howey, Executive Director of the Environment Centre NT, said:

“This win shows that the community - led by First Nations leaders - has the power to overcome insidious vested fossil fuel interests. However, the work is far from over. The Albanese Government must abandon its climate-wrecking Future Gas Strategy once and for all, and put an end to the approval of new fossil fuel projects in this country.”

Jono La Nauze, CEO of Environment Victoria said: 

“With this change, the Environment Minister will retain oversight of offshore oil and gas assessment and regulation, but much more needs to be done to respect the rights of Traditional Owners and end Australia’s massive exports of climate pollution.”

Dave Copeman, Director of the Queensland Conservation Council, said:

“We need stronger Nature laws, designed to end the biodiversity crisis we currently face. These exemptions on consultation would have allowed offshore gas to not listen to traditional owners and ignore their significant knowledge of Country.”

From Issue 619, March 2024:

Federal Offshore Gas Bill Added In Section Raises Environmental And First Nations Alarm Bells

In response to the Senate committee report on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024, published on Friday March 22, numerous organisations have expressed concerns about Schedule 2—Other measures, Part 2—Approval under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 which inserts proposed section 790E into the OPGGS Act to preserve the effect of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage approvals made in accordance with the Endorsed Program under the EPBC Act, even where amendments to the OPGGS Act or prescribed regulations (such as the Environment Regulations) are inconsistent with aspects of the Endorsed Program [are inconsistent with the Endorsed Program authorised by a strategic assessment under Part 10 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) ].

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is currently consulting on major reforms to the EPBC Act, as recommended by the Samuel Review, and it is unclear whether or how this proposed section will interface with those reforms. That consultation process is continuing until 30 March 2024.

The Bill does not directly address issues raised in relation to consultation requirements for offshore oil and gas developments under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2023, for example, through specific amendments that clarify required consultation processes. 

The Bill implements some recommendations of Offshore Oil and Gas Safety Review which began in 2018. However, the majority of the recommendations will be implemented through the remake of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety) Regulations 2009, which are due to sunset on 1 April 2026.

The amendment (proposed section 790E) would unequivocally grant the Resources Minister precedence over the Environment Minister in regulating the environmental impacts of the offshore petroleum and gas industries. The Department of Industry, Science and Resources (DISR) stated in its submission to the Senate committee that:

Consistent with section 17 of the Legislation Act 2003, the Minister for the Environment and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water would need to be consulted on any proposed amendments to the prescribes regulations before they are made.

The obligation imposed by section 17 is to consult. The section carries no implication that the consulted Minister may, or must certify or annul legislative instruments proposed by the proponent Minister. Section 19 clarifies that ‘a failure to undertake consultation does not affect the validity or enforceability of a legislative instrument. However, an explanation why no consultation was undertaken must be documented in the explanatory statement’. In simple terms, the Minister for Resources is obliged to consult with the Minister for the Environment, but carries no obligation to comply with, or obtain certification from, that Minister, and the obligation is unenforceable.

Of further concern is the absence of environmental objectives in the OPGGS Act.

Environmental Justice Australia commented that:

The only requirement for regulations made under the OPGGS Act is that they are required or permitted to be prescribed by the Act, or necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the Act (OPGGS Act, s 781). The object of the OPGGS Act is merely to provide an ‘effective regulatory framework for petroleum exploration and recovery and the injection and storage of greenhouse gas substances in offshore areas’ (s 3). There is no mention of the protection of the environment, or any reference to the principles of ecologically sustainable development set out in the EPBC Act.


Because of the lack of safeguards or limits on this provision, NOPSEMA’s processes for assessing the impacts of offshore oil and gas activities could be fundamentally changed – to the point they no longer even refer to matters protected under the EPBC Act.

Critically, if this amendment has the intended effect ……. it could mean that far lower environmental protections and safeguards are in place for marine environments in Commonwealth waters – yet these lesser protections still act as a substitute assessment and approval under the EPBC Act.

The Biodiversity Council commented:

If enacted, the EPBC Deeming Part would permanently override an important protection for both biodiversity and the environment more generally. The EPBC Act allows the Environment Minister to ‘switch off’ the requirement for environmental approvals by endorsing another environmental approval regime, but only after the regime concerned is assessed and the minister is satisfied, in effect, that it will deliver environmental outcomes equivalent to that provided by the EPBC Act. The effect of the EPBC Deeming Part, by implication, is to declare that the Environment Minister is satisfied, in advance and without assessment, that any environmental approval regime put in place under the OPGGS Act, whether pursuant to the current review or in future, delivers protection equivalent to that provided by the EPBC Act, provided it is within the scope of the original accreditation. This is obviously a complete fiction and is in effect a blank cheque, one that would enable a Resources Minister, current or future, to water down protections enacted by Parliament, if so minded.

The Bill is being rushed through the Parliament. It was introduced to the House on 15 February 2024, referred to the Senate Committee on 29 February which tabled its report on 22 March after just a single half-day public hearing on March 14. This equated to a single month for stakeholders to become aware of the Bill, to analyse the details, to confer with experts and to write submissions to the inquiry. 

Independent Senator David Pocock stated in his dissenting report; ''Regrettably, included in that Bill are the weak changes to the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT), which are woefully inadequate and lock in a bad deal for Australian taxpayers.''

Australia’s peak state and territory environmental bodies joined forces at Parliament House on March 19 to urge the Albanese government to withdraw the amendment to Australia’s offshore gas legislation that would displace the role of the Environment Minister, dramatically weakening oversight and accountability, and accord broad new powers to the Resources Minister.

Amendments to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024 would have effectively granted the offshore oil and gas industry a free pass from national environmental laws, they stated. 

Advancing a Nature Positive Australia - Budget 2024: Federal Minister For Environment And Water

May 14, 2024
Issued Statement by The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water

The Albanese Labor Government is making significant investments to help better protect more of our natural world, fix more of what has been damaged, and care for the places we love.

This Budget locks-in funding to establish Australia’s first national independent Environment Protection Agency, provides a big boost for Australia’s Antarctic research program, and gives extra support for world leading science on climate change and threatened species.

Protecting more of our natural world

After a wasted decade the Liberals and Nationals left the environment, and the institutions that manage it, in a state of disrepair.

We’re working hard to undo that damage by investing around $307 million of nature positive improvements in our laws and institutions, including:

  • $121 million for Australia’s first national independent Environment Protection Agency with strong new powers and penalties to better protect nature.
  • $51.5 million for more accountability and transparency with new body called Environment Information Australia which will give the public and businesses easier access to the latest environmental data, release State of the Environment reports every two years, and report on progress on national environmental goals.
  • $134.2 million to strengthen and streamline environmental approval decisions on priority projects, including renewables and critical minerals projects: 
  • $19.9 million to process assessments for priority renewable energy related projects.
  • $17.7 million to reduce the backlog and support administration of complex applications under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act, and progress the reform of Australia’s cultural heritage laws.
  • $7 million for more support for staff to assess project proposals from business, and more tailored support to help business more effectively comply with environment law.
  • $65.1 million for extra research into threatened species so sensitive areas can be more easily avoided and suitable projects can be more quickly approved based on robust, existing publicly available data.
  • $24.5 million for better planning – working with state and territory governments – in seven priority regions so it’s clearer to business where complying development can more easily occur and where the ‘no go’ areas are.

This Budget provides urgent investment in Australia’s research capabilities to better protect our natural world.

We’ve secured Australia’s position as a global scientific leader by investing $371.1 million over nine years from 2024-25 to rebuild and upgrade our research station on World Heritage listed Macquarie Island. Boosting our capacity to monitor climate and greenhouse gas emissions, and accurately forecast droughts and rainfall, means we will better protect nature and Australian livelihoods.

The Albanese Government is also expanding our Antarctic science program. This includes an additional $17.6 million over two years to enable the Nuyina, Australia’s icebreaking research vessel, to undertake more expeditions for scientific research, including its first dedicated marine science voyage to the Denman Glacier. If this glacier melts, sea levels could rise by 1.5 metres – making this research trip more important than ever.

Fixing more of what’s been damaged

We don’t just want to protect our environment – we are working hard to fix what’s broken.

Last year, the Albanese Government passed critical legislation to set up the world’s first nature repair market – driving business and philanthropic investment in nature repair and threatened species protection. The Budget locks in $35.6 million over two years from 2024-25 to continue developing the processes and systems needed to administer the scheme.

This builds on the Government’s more than $500 million investment to better protect our threatened species, such as koalas, quolls and Australian sea lions, and crack down on feral animals and weeds.

Working hard to care for the places we love

Australians love our bush and our oceans and want to be able to protect them for their kids and grandkids.    

Last year we doubled funding to better look after national parks, including Kakadu and Uluṟu, after the Liberals let them fall apart. This Budget reinforces our extra funding.

But caring for the places we love is not just about nature protection. It also means reducing our environmental footprint and making the most of Australia’s precious natural resources.

That’s why we’re driving Australia’s transition to a circular economy - cutting down on plastics, reducing waste, and supporting households and industry to recycle or repurpose more materials.

In this Budget, we’re investing $23 million in 2024-25 to develop a new national circular economy framework, continue to tackle problematic waste streams, such as packaging, and get on with the development of a much-needed new recycling scheme for solar panels.

Threatened species have declined 2% a year since 2000. Nature positive? Far from it.

Martin Tobias Aakesson/Shutterstock
Megan C Evans, UNSW Sydney; Brendan Wintle, The University of Melbourne, and Hugh Possingham, The University of Queensland

Our government has great aspirations. It has committed to end extinctions and expand our protected areas to cover 30% of every Australian ecosystem by 2030. This is part of its Nature Positive Plan, aligned with the 2022 Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity pact. The goal is not just to conserve nature but to restore what is being lost.

But how can these goals be reconciled with a budget that allocated more public money to carbon capture and storage than biodiversity?

This week’s federal budget was a new low point for investment in nature. Environmental groups roundly criticised the “bad budget for nature”, which delivered next-to-no money to protect and recover Australia’s unique and threatened biodiversity.

Research has shown Australians want at least 2% of the federal budget spent on nature. Instead, less than 0.1% of the budget spend will support biodiversity in some way. Over the past decade, biodiversity funding has gone down 25% relative to GDP.

Let’s say the government decided it was finally time to roll up the sleeves and do something. How would they go about it? What would it take to actually reverse the decline, as the government says it wants to in its Nature Positive approach?

Our threatened species populations have been declining by about 2-3% a year over the past 20 years. The first step is to stop the fall. Then the challenge is to restore dwindling species and ecosystems.

mallee fowl
Populations of endangered species have been falling steadily since 2000. Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock

The Dow Jones for threatened species goes down, down, down

Australia now has a Threatened Species Index. Think of it like the Dow Jones for wildlife. It uses trend data from bird, mammal and plant species collected from over 10,000 sites to measure progress for nature in Australia.

Last year, Treasurer Jim Chalmers talked up the index as part of the first national “wellbeing budget”, which aimed to measure Australia’s progress across a range of social, health and sustainability indicators.

What does the index tell us? You can see for yourself. The health of our threatened species has fallen by about 2-3% a year since the turn of the century.

If, as is likely, the trend continues, it will lead to the extinction of many more of our unique native animals and plant species. It will signal the failure of the government’s Nature Positive policy and a global biodiversity tragedy.

Given we have had decades of successive decline, what would be needed to reach the goal of nature positive?

Nature positive actually has a very specific meaning. It would:

halt and reverse nature loss measured from a baseline of 2020, through increasing the health, abundance, diversity and resilience of species, populations and ecosystems so that by 2030 nature is visibly and measurably on the path of recovery.

This definition gives us a clear, measurable timeline for action, often described as nature’s answer to net zero.

To reach nature positive means halting biodiversity loss by 2030 so that in the future there is much more biodiversity, relative to a 2020 baseline.

What would that look like using the Threatened Species Index? To get on track with nature positive, we would have to stop the index declining, stabilise, and then increase from 2030 onwards.

Of course, strong environmental laws and aligned policies are needed to effectively prevent further loss of habitat.

But we also need to invest in restoring what has been lost. Scientists think this is possible with $2 billion a year to recover our most threatened native plants and animals, and another $2 billion annually to drive ecosystem restoration across Australia.

The budget is not nature positive

In the budget papers, the government uses the Threatened Species Index as a performance measure for its nature positive goal. It expects the trajectory of the index to be “maintained or improved” out to 2027-28.

But given our species and ecosystems are steadily declining, year after year, to maintain a trajectory is simply to embrace the decline. It’s not nature positive at all. The government could make minor improvements, slowing the collapse, and claim it was improving the lot of nature.

Imagine if our GDP growth was negative and the government’s goal was merely to slow its decline over the next five years – there would be national uproar.

If the government is serious about nature positive – which is an excellent goal – it would be setting more ambitious targets. For instance, the goal could be for the index to climb back up to 2020 levels by the end of the decade.

Instead, Labor is planning for biodiversity decline to continue, while describing it as “nature positive”.

Watching over the steady decline of our species and calling it nature positive makes about as much sense as opening up new gas fields and calling it net zero.

Greenwashing Nature Positive

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the government has engaged in nature positive greenwash.

In coming weeks, the government will introduce bills to parliament to establish two new agencies, Environment Information Australia and Environmental Protection Australia. But there will be one bill missing – the reformed federal environment laws, intended to give teeth to the nature positive push.

The laws were pushed back indefinitely, to the shock of scientists and environmental groups.

But let’s be generous and say these laws finally make it to parliament after the next election. Would they be enough to stop our species losses and put the Threatened Species Index onto a nature positive trajectory?

nature positive plan website
Australia’s reformed environmental laws are described as Nature Positive. Are they? Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, CC BY-NC-ND

It’s unlikely.

The consultation documents show the government is aiming to deliver “net positive outcomes”, whereby development impacts to threatened species and ecosystems are more than compensated for.

But we don’t know the detail. How much improvement is the government aiming for? In the draft laws, this figure is listed simply as “at least X%”.

Time to aim higher

It is hard not to feel dispirited over the government’s backtracking on its promise to:

not shy away from difficult problems or accept environmental decline and extinction as inevitable.

But we cannot give up. As the plight of nature worsens, even iconic species such as the koala and platypus are now at risk. As ecosystems collapse, our food security, health and wellbeing, communities and businesses will suffer.

Perhaps one day we will have a government able to grasp the nettle and actually tackle the nature crisis – for the sake of all of us. The Conversation

Megan C Evans, Senior Lecturer, Public Sector Management, School of Business, UNSW Sydney; Brendan Wintle, Professor in Conservation Science, School of Ecosystem and Forest Science, The University of Melbourne, and Hugh Possingham, Professor of Conservation Biology, The University of Queensland

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

Green industry yes, conservation no: a budget for people, not for nature

Sonpichit Salangsing/Shutterstock
Timothy Neal, UNSW Sydney

Last night’s budget is another missed opportunity to arrest the poor and deteriorating state of the Australian environment.

Subsidising green industry in Labor’s Future Made in Australia policy may offer economic advantages if implemented well, but there is nothing in this budget to help address the immediate environmental crisis facing Australia.

The story so far

After being elected in 2022, Labor made a number of good promises. The new government legislated an emissions reduction target – a 43% cut by 2030 on 2005 figures and net zero by 2050. Last year, Labor reformed the Coalition’s only emissions monitoring program, the safeguard mechanism, to help deliver these reductions. (Recent research has cast doubt on the integrity of the system’s carbon credits). And the government signed an international biodiversity pact, which commits us to protect 30% of our land (currently at 22%) and halt biodiversity loss by 2030.

But Labor also promised to rewrite Australia’s main environment laws, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which governs the protection of places and species, and approvals for significant projects. This was motivated by the horrendous bushfires in 2019–20 and a damning review, which found the laws were not up to the task of stopping environmental decline.

In the lead-up to tonight’s budget, Labor announced that the stronger laws had been indefinitely delayed. Instead, Australia would get a national environmental protection agency, Environment Protection Australia. While a strong and independent agency would improve compliance and monitoring, it will be enforcing ineffective laws until reforms are passed. Labor also shocked environmental groups by supporting a future for fossil gas, including opening up new gas fields.

Made in Australia

So if we’re not getting new environment laws, what is in the budget for the environment?

A whole lot for green industries. The 2024 budget’s centrepiece is the Future Made in Australia policy, a series of initiatives costing A$23 billion over ten years that focuses on subsidies for manufacturing industries including solar panels and green hydrogen.

labor advertisement calling for more made in australia items
Labor’s Future Made in Australia policy is aimed at bringing manufacturing back, especially green manufacturing. But will it prove more than a sop to its voters? Labor Party of Australia, CC BY

Here, the Government is actively intervening in the market to push the economy towards specific ends – boosting green industries and making supply chains more resilient. As the budget papers state, one goal is to make Australia “an indispensable part of global net zero supply chains.”

In recent years western governments have embraced industrial subsidies, most notably seen in the CHIPS and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act in the United States.

So what’s the government planning? Included in the announced package is:

$3.2 billion over ten years in additional funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. This includes $1.7 billion in grants for innovation in green metals, low carbon liquid fuels, and batteries.

$1.7 billion over 10 years for an additional round of Hydrogen Headstart. This will fund the difference between the cost to produce renewable hydrogen and the current market price for eligible firms. Also planned is an additional $2 a kilogram tax incentive for renewable hydrogen produced from 2027–28.

$7 billion over the medium term for tax incentives in critical mineral production. Firms will be eligible to rebate 10% of refining and processing costs of 31 critical minerals from 2027-28.

$1.5 billion over ten years for solar PV and battery manufacturing. This will fund grants to firms for manufacturing solar PV components at all stages of the supply chain and batteries.

Is this the right thing to do? Economists are usually pessimistic about government efforts to guide industry in this way, pointing to the difficulty of picking winners and the potential for funding to flow in the direction lobbyists want rather than on merit.

Nevertheless, there’s recent evidence industry policy can be effective in spurring long-term structural change to an economy – when done well. After all, targeted assistance and direction by government may have played a role in how East Asian nations such as Japan, Korea and China became manufacturing titans.

But what about the environmental outcomes of these subsidies? Will they turn Australia into a green export giant, shipping green hydrogen instead of LNG and make homegrown solar panels a reality? Will they help drive the green transition?

This is even less clear. Australia’s once-significant manufacturing sector began its sharp decline after we dropped tariffs and opened up to international competition from the 1980s.

Could Labor turn the tide? That will depend on whether the subsidies succeed in creating manufacturing sectors able to compete with international competition. It’s far from guaranteed. But it is possible.

And what about trade-offs between green industry and conservation? In the rush to secure lithium and critical minerals for the green transition, the government has invested $566 million to give mining companies free data and maps. This could do further damage to the environment, if new projects are built on land home to threatened species.

Where’s the “Conserved in Australia” policy?

Nothing is in the budget to tackle our biodiversity and extinction crisis.

This is another missed opportunity. The postponed environment laws aside, the government could have addressed the severe lack of funding for conservation.

What about the goal of protecting 30% of land and seas by 2030? This will take funding to expand protected areas – and to actually conserve species in existing protected areas. Invasive species from deer to blackberries run riot in many national parks.

How much should the government be spending and for what? To give some examples:

– $5 billion would fund the purchase of private land for conservation and long-term management. Australia previously had a fund like this, which is why our protected area estate has grown so much.

– $1.7 billion a year is the expert estimate for how much it would cost to bring all of Australia’s threatened species under active management and recover their numbers.

– $2 billion a year for 30 years would restore 13 million hectares of degraded land, without touching farms or urban areas – about twice the size of Tasmania.

Our natural environment affects our national identity, our mental health, and even our future economic prosperity.

Yes, conservation costs money. But the costs may turn out to be very small relative to the benefits, not only for the diverse species we share Australia with but for its people too. People don’t just need manufacturing jobs – they need nature, too. The Conversation

Timothy Neal, Senior lecturer in Economics / Institute for Climate Risk and Response, UNSW Sydney

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

Protecting our water for generations to come - budget 2024: Federal Minister for Environment and Water

May 14, 2024
Statement Issued by: The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water

The Albanese Labor Government is safeguarding Australia’s precious water resources for the communities, industries and environments that rely on them.

In the 2024-25 Budget, we are investing in crucial infrastructure projects to ensure that people have clean drinking water, farmers have water to grow our food and fibre, and we deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Delivering water security

All Australians, no matter where they live, have the right to safe, reliable water.

In Australia, more than 600,000 people living in regional and remote communities don’t have access to water that meets recognised standards.

That’s why we’re investing $140.4 million in construction projects, including for agriculture, town water supplies and water recycling. This includes $20.7 million for ten new water infrastructure construction projects in regional and remote First Nations communities.  

To make sure future construction projects stack up economically and environmentally, we’re investing $34.3 million in 22 business cases and scientific research projects. This will help us to make more informed investment decisions, and better understand our water resources and the technologies we use to manage them.

The Great Artesian Basin is the country’s largest groundwater system and it’s a lifeline for towns and farmers in central Australia during the dry times. Industries that rely on this precious water source contribute $33.2 billion per year to Australia’s economy. We are investing $32 million in this Basin to deliver vital on-ground water security projects, fix or replace hundreds of flowing or leaky bores, and install new pipes for up to 4,560 kilometres of open bore drains, securing about 104 gigalitres or 41,600 Olympic swimming pools of water.

Delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

Basin communities were let down by the Coalition who blocked water recovery, tied up programs in impossible rules, and ignored expert advice. We’ve changed all that.

Since passing the Restoring our Rivers legislation last year to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full, we are now getting on with it.

This Budget will see more options and more funding added to our water recovery toolbox. An additional $27 million has been committed to expand the Resilient Rivers Water Infrastructure Program to allow more water savings projects to be developed.

There is also an extra $7.2 million for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to deliver the Constraints Relaxation Implementation Roadmap by the end of the year. We are helping Basin states to manage the flow of the rivers, including by building bridges, culverts, and other infrastructure, to minimise damage from low level flooding. Our investment will also help boost involvement of First Nations people in Basin water management.

Restoring trust in the water system

We’re building trust in the Murray-Darling Basin, making sure the water market has strong rules against insider trading and requirements for proper record keeping.

With an extra $28.6 million, the Inspector-General of Water Compliance will be better equipped to ensure people don’t take more water out of our rivers than they’re allowed to.

That’s on top of $5.7 million to ensure the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, as the incoming Basin water market conduct regulator, is resourced to carry out its new water market integrity functions. This includes enforcing compliance with insider trading and market manipulation rules.

The Albanese Government continues to invest in, protect and restore the country’s water resources – which is good for the environment, communities, businesses, and all Australians.

Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew: Queenscliff Lagoon - May 26

Come and join us for our Queenscliff clean up. We'll meet at the Manly/Queenscliff Lagoon, close to the carpark by Cameron Avenue. For exact meeting point look at the map in the event discussion. We have clean and washed gloves, bags and buckets. We'll clean up the grass area to try and catch the litter before it hits the lagoon and the beach as well as cleaning the lagoon/beach area, trying to remove as much plastic, cigarette butts and rubbish as possible. We're a friendly group of people and everyone is welcome to this family friendly event (just leave political, religious and business messages at home so everyone feel welcome). It's a nice community - make some new friends and do a good deed for the planet at the same time. Send us a message if you are lost. Please invite family and friends and share this event. Lovely Roly from Emu Parade Clean Up will be joining us too, providing volunteers with coffee, tea and hot chocolate. 

We meet at 10am for a briefing. Then we generally clean between 60-90 minutes. After that, we bag the rubbish. We normally finish around 12.00 when many of us go to lunch together (at own cost). Please note, we completely understand if you cannot stay for the whole event. We are just grateful for any help we can get. No booking required. Just show up on the day. We just kindly ask you to leave political and religious t-shirts and messages at home, so everyone feels welcome. Thank you for your understanding.

Botanic Gardens Day at Stony Range: May 26

To celebrate Botanic Gardens Day:  Enjoy morning tea with us at Stony Range, Sunday 26th May 9am - 12pm

  • Native plants for sale (card facilities available)
  • Live music from trio  'Coastal Cool'
  • Children's Fun Activities
  • 'Bugs About' and displays

810 Pittwater Rd, Dee Why

Stony Range Regional Botanic Garden  is a botanic garden specialising in native Australian flora located in Dee Why, New South Wales, Australia. The garden is wheelchair accessible, has walking tracks of varying lengths and inclinations.


Local Power Poles Transformed To Boost EV Uptake: Australian-First Trial Taking Place Across The Peninsula

May 15 2024, Mayor Sue Heins and Intellihub CEO Wes Ballantine - Northern Beaches power poles transformed into electric vehicle charging stations. Photo:  Intellihub

Charging electric vehicles on the Beaches has become even easier thanks to 7 new charging stations installed on power poles.

As part of an Australian-first trial, local street side power poles have been turned into charging stations for electric vehicles. The project is being led by energy technology business Intellihub, supported by Council, and with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Mayor Sue Heins welcomed the new chargers as a great addition to the growing list of EV charging locations on the Beaches.

“The Northern Beaches is one of the fastest growing areas for EV ownership and we are working with industry partners to make sure there are enough local charging stations to keep pace with demand,” Mayor Heins said.

“This wonderful initiative is making EV charging more accessible for people living in apartments, townhouses or units with no onsite EV charging options. We expect it will encourage more people to make the switch from petrol and diesel powered vehicles to electric.

“We continue to encourage all our residents to consider making the switch. Together, we can reach our target of a 30% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2038.”

The Northern Beaches LGA is one of 8 local councils taking part in the Intellihub EV Streetside Charging Project.

The 22 kilowatt chargers have been installed at:

  • Ashburner Street, Manly
  • West Promenade, Manly
  • Anzac Avenue, Collaroy
  • Blackbutts Road (opposite Malbara Crescent), Frenchs Forest
  • Yulong Avenue, Terrey Hills
  • Allambie Road, Allambie Heights
  • Dearin Reserve (opposite 13 Kalinya Street), Newport

The community was involved in deciding the best locations for the trial. Council received 429 responses from the community, with overall support for the project.

Two were slated for Pittwater, at Mona Vale and Palm Beach, however, after conducting their final pre-installation inspections, Ausgrid advised that the EV charging stations approved for sites at Governor Phillip Park, Palm Beach (outside Dunes Palm Beach) and 15 Coronation Street, Mona Vale can no longer proceed due to load limit issues. 

Council selected two alternative sites that were considered under the original proposal, and reported these to the Local Traffic Committee on Tuesday 6 February 2024 for approval:

  • 19 Yulong Avenue, Terrey Hills
  • 118 Allambie Road, Allambie Heights.

The Committee supported the installation of a charging station at 19 Yulong Avenue, Terry Hills, and, following a review of safety concerns and options for an alternative site, the proposal for 118 Allambie Road, Allambie Heights was approved by the Committee at its meeting on Tuesday 5 March 2024.

The EV charges are connected to the overhead electricity supply, and the energy use is matched with 100 per cent accredited GreenPower. For all the energy required to charge electric vehicles, the equivalent amount of certified renewable energy is put back into the grid.

More than 1,300 EVs have been registered across the peninsula over the past 12-months. There are now more than 3,100 EVs registered across the local government area.

Hundreds of charging sessions have already taken place at these charging stations this year.

Intellihub CEO Wes Ballantine said EV drivers will be able to drive up, park and charge at any of the charging sites via the Exploren App.

“A typical EV can get more than 200km of driving from a two-hour charge at any of these sites,” Mr Ballantine said.

“The new chargers are displayed on all public EV charging maps, so every EV driver, whether they live here or are just visiting, will know they can more easily charge their EV on the Northern Beaches.

“We’re very pleased to be working with Northern Beaches Council on such an important project.”

If the 12-month trial is successful more poles could be rolled out across the country. Results of the trial will be reported to the Local Traffic Committee in early 2025 and placed on public exhibition.

For more information about the trial visit Council's webpage.

The Intellihub EV Streetside Charging Stations increase the places residents can access charging stations, with an EV charging station being installed at 3 Bungan street Mona Vale and ready for use by September 2021.

Electric vehicle owners and users could now enjoy free, fast charging with the first Ausgrid  JOLT EV charging station.

The world-first initiative transformed an existing Ausgrid streetside kiosk into a state-of-the-art EV charging station. 

Bungan street Mona Vale - photo: Ausgrid/JOLT

Ausgrid Chief Customer Officer Rob Amphlett Lewis said then Ausgrid’s program to convert existing streetside “green boxes” to also double as charging stations was going to help push Sydney into greater EV take-up. 

“We’re using existing, essential electrical infrastructure on the street to provide a free service for the community and hopefully help accelerate the transition to electric vehicles in Australia,” Mr Amphlett Lewis said. 

“Innovative projects like this are the future of energy. They give our customers access to renewable energy choices and incentivise electric vehicle use which is a key step in the transition towards cleaner transport options.

“People will be able to pull up, plugin and be on their way in 15 minutes,” Mr Amphlett Lewis said.

“We’re thankful to have the support of the community and the Northern Beaches Council to make this happen.”

JOLT CEO Doug McNamee said he planned to roll out 500 charging kiosks across the Ausgrid network.

“We’re excited to be teaming up with Ausgrid for the launch of our Sydney network, giving drivers the ability to access free, fast charging across the city. Drivers will get 7Kwh free per day, potentially saving over $1000 a year,” Mr McNamee said.

“JOLT’s partnership with Ausgrid helps solve the major barriers affecting the uptake of EVs including access to charging, cost and range anxiety.

“In the last 12 months (2020 to 2021), EV ownership has skyrocketed, almost doubling to 23 thousand new registrations, representing the second year in a row where the total number of electric vehicles has almost doubled. Now, more than ever, Australians are gearing up for an EV revolution,” Mr McNamee said.

Customers will be able to sign up via the JOLT app to access 7 kWh for free once per day, which takes around 15 minutes to charge. Users looking for more than 7 kWh can pay for further energy via the app. 

Mona Vale was followed by 

  • Dee Why, Forestville, Freshwater
  • Lagoon Street Carpark, Lagoon Street, Narrabeen
  • Ocean Street, Narrabeen
  • Winbourne Road, Brookvale

EV charging stations and signage were then installed, with the stations ready to use, at the following sites:

  • Blackbutts Road (opposite Malbara Crescent), Frenchs Forest
  • 9 Anzac Avenue, Collaroy
  • 25-27 Ashburner Street, Manly
  • 4 West Promenade, Manly
  • Dearin Reserve (opposite 13 Kalinya Street, Newport).

A report on the outcomes from Community Engagement was presented to the Northern Beaches Local Traffic Committee on Tuesday 10 October 2023, where the Committee endorsed the installation at the following seven locations:

  • Pittwater Park South carpark, Palm Beach
  • Berry Reserve Carpark, Narrabeen
  • Collaroy Beach Reserve Carpark
  • Civic Centre Carpark, Dee Why
  • Oaks Avenue (cnr The Strand), Dee Why
  • Kempridge Avenue, Seaforth
  • South Steyne, Manly.

A proposal for The Boulevarde, Newport is not proceeding due to potential flooding issues. As this location was well supported by the community, we will continue to work with JOLT to find an alternative, suitable location in Newport.

The sites have been listed on EV charging apps.

To find out where you can charge your electric vehicle on the peninsula, visit the Transport for NSW map.

Another striped marlin satellite tagged: The Great Swordfish and Striped Marlin Race

May 14, 2024: NSW DPI Fisheries
Firstly, the sixth satellite tag this season has been deployed by Al McGlashan, this time wide of Sydney at the end of March. The fish was caught bait and switching and was a well-conditioned, healthy striped marlin estimated at 80kg. 

NSW DPI Fisheries have also received interesting data back from two previously tagged striped marlin with the tags detaching from the fish and transmitting data via satellite back to the NSW DPI team. 

The second striped marlin tagged by the McGlashan team whilst fishing off Jervis Bay on 13 January has transmitted data with the satellite tag detaching after 61 days. 

Modelling of the data received shows that the fish headed in a NE direction to deep offshore waters SE of Taupo Seamount (over 350 km off the NSW coast) at the end of January before steadily tracking back on a SW bearing to a point approx. 250 km SW of Cape Howe at the Victoria–New South Wales border. The marlin then headed north at the beginning of March, working its way back towards the continental shelf off Bermagui and then heading south back towards the shelf edge off Cape Howe when the tag detached from the fish in mid-March. 

Interestingly, when comparing tracks, this fish looked to have travelled in a similar direction to the other fish (tagged on the same day as part of the double hook up) over the first 6 days or so, however this fish travelled out further and wider than the first before heading back towards the east coast of Australia. 

The depth profile data shows that the fish undertook the typical yo-yo oscillations of striped marlin recorded in other worldwide studies. This is thought to be associated with foraging and hunting prey with the fish typically diving from surface waters, down to 50- 150 m interspersed with a few deeper dives to over 200 m with one dive reaching more than 400 m. These dives occurred regularly, multiple times a day over the two months.  

The striped marlin spent most of its time in surface waters over 21°C with more than 60% of its time in water 22°C - 25°C. The lowest temperatures were recorded on several deep dives – with the lowest temperatures recorded being 12 °C.  

NSW DPI Fisheries also have an additional tag that has reported back to us. NSW DPI Fisheries will provide an update on that one in a coming post very soon… 

Learning more about billfish that visit NSW waters
This research aims to learn more about movement and behaviour of swordfish and striped marlin caught off the NSW coast and their post-release survival.. Tagging is being carried out by using experienced anglers to deploy pop-up satellite tags into fish caught  in NSW waters.

Pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) are used to track the movement of marine animals, particularly highly migratory species such as sharks, tuna and billfish. The tags are like mini computers that are externally attached to the fish and travel along with the fish whilst logging information on water depth, light levels and temperature, and gathering information on its location (geolocation).  This allows us to gain a greater understanding of the behaviour of the fish, their migratory patterns and catch and release survival.  The great benefit of satellite tags is that they do not have to be retrieved to collect the recorded information. After a predetermined time the tag decouples from the fish and ‘pops-off’, floating to the surface. The tag then transmits the data that it has stored whilst it has been underwater to orbiting satellites that pass overhead. This data is then relayed back to DPI. Complex statistical models process the data to estimate the most likely movement track.

The project will provide us with data on the on the timing and availability of swordfish and striped marlin in NSW and their post release survival. 

The Great Swordfish and Striped Marlin Race
This project also includes the “Great Swordfish and Striped Marlin Race” which plans to provide an interactive experience to improve our understanding of these exciting billfish species.

Once the first fish has been tagged, the race will be underway for the individual billfish  that travels the furthest distance whilst tagged.

DPI Fisheries will keep you updated on the Race and the broader project on this page and on the DPI Fisheries Facebook page, including when fish have been successfully tagged. Information on movement of the fish will be provided when the tags pop-off the fish and their movement data is streamed back to us via satellite.

DPI is undertaking this project in collaboration with the Australian National Sportfishing Association (NSW) and NSW Game Fishing Association. 
This is all part of ‘Fish for Life – Building a healthy fishing future.’ 

More info on the aim of the project is given on our website, at:

Gardens of Stone Multi-Day Walk and Campsites 20 year commercial lease: Have your say

Consultation period
From: 1 May 2024
To: 31 May 2024

The proposed grant of lease is to Wild Bush Luxury Experience Pty Ltd ACN 648 431 734. With the aim to develop, operate and support:

  • 3 bush camps within the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area
  • guided multi-day walking experiences on the Gardens of Stone Multi-Day Walk.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service plans for the proposed lease to enhance its campgrounds. The grounds are available to independent walkers and commercial operators registered with the Parks Eco Pass program.

The proposed lease term is 10 years plus two 5-year options (total potential term of 20 years).

The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area plan of management identifies the accommodation notes located in 3 of the proposed lease areas.

The notice of intention to grant a lease in the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area is open for public consultation to give the community an opportunity to have a say.

The 3 bush camps will comprise at each site:

  • six 2-person enclosed cabins, with an approximate footprint of 3 m × 5 m (including entry deck)
  • one communal covered common area, with an approximate footprint of 5 m × 12 m for the covered area
  • one ablutions facility containing 3 showers and 3 composting toilets, with an approximate footprint of 8 m × 3 m and adjacent 20,000 L rainwater tank
  • all systems and facilities required for a quiet, ‘light-touch’, self-sufficient camp, including rainwater tank, solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity supply, and grey-water and black-water treatment
  • timber or Fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) boardwalks connecting the cabins, communal common area and ablutions facility
  • connections to ground (that is, footings) designed to be fully removable with minimal impacts.

The proposed lessee will also establish ‘adjoining’ walking tracks from the public walking track to the bush camps.

View the document and have your say here

Plastic Bread Ties For Wheelchairs

The Berry Collective at 1691 Pittwater Rd, Mona Vale collects them for Oz Bread Tags for Wheelchairs, who recycle the plastic.

Berry Collective is the practice on the left side of the road as you head north, a few blocks before Mona Vale shops . They have parking. Enter the foyer and there's a small bin on a table where you drop your bread ties - very easy.

A full list of Aussie bread tags for wheelchairs is available at: HERE 

Volunteers for Barrenjoey Lighthouse Tours needed


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:

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

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:

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 :

Gardens and Environment Groups and Organisations in Pittwater

Ringtail Posses 2023

Two-thirds of us support banning pet cats from roaming. A ban would save millions of native animals – and billions of dollars

Jaana Dielenberg
Jaana Dielenberg, Charles Darwin University

Australians have more pet cats than ever before – more than 5 million in total. With the growing number, expectations on pet owners are shifting.

Many cat owners are now voluntarily keeping their cats indoors or in secure runs, and local governments mandate it in some areas. But most pet cats in Australia still roam local streets and gardens.

Broader adoption of keeping cats safe at home would have large benefits for cat welfare, human health, local wildlife and even the economy. So, should pet owners be required to keep their pets contained to their property, as dogs are?

We put that question to thousands of people in a national survey in late 2023, and recently published the results.

We found most people support requiring owners to contain cats. Just one in 12 people (8%) are opposed. The time might be right for nationwide change in how we manage our pet cats.

A brush-tailed possum in a backyard in Brisbane
Keeping pet cats indoors protects native animals, especially birds and reptiles during the daytime and mammals like possums during the night. Jaana Dielenberg

Local councils are embracing cat containment

From November 1, Geelong City Council will join a fast-growing group of local governments in urban and regional areas that require pet cats to be securely contained 24 hours a day.

More than a third of local councils in Australia now require cats to be contained overnight or 24 hours a day. Most are in the ACT and Victoria.

Given how good cats are at climbing and jumping, containing cats usually requires keeping them indoors or in secure runs.

The main reasons cited by local govenments for these regulations are:

  • improving pet welfare: contained cats live longer and healthier lives with fewer vet bills because they are protected from traumatic injuries from car accidents, dog attacks and cat fights, infections, diseases and other misadventures.

  • saving wildlife: four out of five cats allowed outside will hunt and kill an average of two to three animals per week. With millions of pet cats in Australia, each year this adds up to 6,000–11,000 animals killed in our suburbs per square kilometre and 323 million native animals killed nationally. Night curfews only protect nocturnal species such as possums.

  • reducing nuisance to neighbours: containment results in less disturbance from cat fights and prevents the neighbour’s cat killing the birds and lizards living in your backyard or nearby park, which many community members value.

The public health toll of roaming cats

Another major benefit is less talked about. Stopping pet cats from roaming would greatly reduce rates of cat-borne diseases.

Several diseases which could not exist without cats can be passed to humans. These cost Australia more than $6 billion a year based on costs of medical care, lost income and other related expenses.

The most widespread of these diseases is toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can be passed to humans but must complete its life cycle in cats. Australian studies have reported human infection rates between 22% and 66% of the community.

Cat-borne diseases cause considerable community harm, with an estimated 8,500 hospitalisations and 550 deaths from acute infections and also from increased rates of car accidents, suicides and mental health issues in infected people.

Pet cats are crucial to the rates of these diseases in the community. In suburbs that do not require containment, you’ll find up to 100 roaming pet cats per square kilometre.

Eliminating stray cats from our suburbs is also important to reduce disease rates – just one of the reasons why people should not feed stray cats.

Black and white cat on vet table
Roaming outdoors exposes cats to car accidents, dog attacks, infections and injuries from cat fights and diseases. Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

Most of us support containment

A policy requiring all cats to be contained has clear benefits. But would it have support? Rules only produce benefits if people follow them.

This is why colleagues at Monash University and I surveyed more than 3,400 people on whether they would support policies that “require cat owners to keep their cat contained to their property”.

We found a clear majority (66%) of people support cat containment. A strikingly small proportion of people, about one in 12 people (8%), are opposed. The remaining 26% were ambivalent, selecting “neither support nor oppose”.

Other surveys have found almost half (42% or 2.2 million) of Australia’s pet cats are already kept contained by their owners.

Some councils can’t legally require cat containment

Our findings suggest communities would broadly support their local councils if they moved to require cats to be contained.

While councils are responsible for pet issues, state and territory laws greatly influence what councils can and can’t do.

In New South Wales and Western Australia, state laws actually prevent local councils from requiring cat containment (except for in specific circumstances, such as in declared food preparation areas in NSW).

Rules are just the start

To boost compliance, councils need to invest in communicating new rules and the reasons for them. After a grace period, council officers will also need to monitor and enforce the rules.

Communities may need support too, especially if there are costs involved. Councils could, for example, offer rebates for flyscreens to stop cats slipping out of open windows.

Working with other colleagues in 2020, we surveyed Australia’s local governments about their approaches to cat management. Most reported tiny budgets for cat management.

Local governments should not be left to shoulder the cost alone. Federal, state and territory governments are also responsible for Australia’s wildlife (and human health). These governments have a range of projects covering both feral and pet cats.

The Australian government collects A$3 billion a year in GST from spending on pets. Diverting a small proportion into responsible pet ownership programs would make an enormous difference.

A young cat looks out a window
Policies such as rebates for the cost of window screens could help the community to transition to keeping cats indoors. Jaana Dielenberg

Containment has wide backing

Our research shows the community is ready for widespread reform of how we manage all these cats.

Requiring pet cats to be contained is a sound policy choice. But to realise the full benefits, we also need to invest in effective communication for communities, provide rebates to help contain cats, and make sure the rules are followed.

This research was a team effort, involving Kim Borg, Melissa Hatty and Emily Gregg for the national survey, and Sarah Legge, John Woinarski and Tida Nou for the research on cat impacts and management.The Conversation

Jaana Dielenberg, University Fellow, Charles Darwin University

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

More desalination is coming to Australia’s driest states – but super-salty outflows could trash ecosystems and fisheries

Gonzalo Buzonni/Shutterstock
Jochen Kaempf, Flinders University

From around 1996 to 2010, Australia was gripped by the millennium drought. As water shortages bit hard, most of Australia’s capital cities built large seawater desalination plants – Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. Remote towns have also built smaller desalination plants.

Most cities didn’t actually use them much. The drought broke in 2010, and desalinated water is expensive. The exception is Perth, which has been hit by declining rainfall, a drying climate and overuse of groundwater. The city will soon open its third desal plant.

As climate change intensifies, other states are also looking to build more desal plants. In South Australia, for instance, there are plans to build one urgently in response to looming water shortages. The Eyre Peninsula, for instance, is expected to run out of drinking water within two years as groundwater runs dry.

But beyond the expense, many of these plants bring environmental problems of their own.

How does desal work?

A desalination plant pipes in seawater, filters out the salt (usually using a process called “reverse osmosis”), and then flushes the salt back out to sea. This creates plumes of hyper-salty brine.

If you position a desal plant near a strong current, this isn’t a big issue – the salt is quickly diluted. But if you pump brine into a gulf or bay without much natural turnover of water, it can lay waste to entire ecosystems. And unfortunately, South Australia has two large gulfs – and two planned desal plants that could kill off giant cuttlefish or decimate mussel farms.

mussel farm underwater
Mussel farms are vulnerable to brine flows. Drew McArthur/Shutterstock

When BHP Billiton was looking to expand its lucrative Olympic Dam uranium and copper mine in the mid-2000s, it had a problem: not enough water. To solve it, the mining giant announced plans to build a desal plant at Point Lowly, in the upper Spencer Gulf.

This was immediately controversial. Point Lowly is very close to the breeding grounds of the famous giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama), a tourist drawcard.

My research suggested the brine outflow from the desal plant would cause environmental harm to these spectacular breeding grounds.

Despite environmental concerns, the Olympic Dam expansion was eventually approved in 2011, and the approval for the Point Lowly desal plant carried forward to the new Northern Water partnership between the state government and the private sector, which involves BHP as a key player.

This, the government states, is designed to:

provide a new, climate independent water source for the Far North, Upper Spencer Gulf and Eastern Eyre Peninsula regions of South Australia, to enable the growth of industries crucial to achieving net-zero goals, including the emerging green energy and hydrogen industries

The government recently changed the preferred location to Cape Hardy, much further down the Spencer Gulf. From as early as 2028, it will produce up to 260 million litres (megalitres) of desalinated water a day for use in mining and green industries.

A separate smaller desal plant (24 megalitres a day) is also planned for Billy Lights Point near Port Lincoln, to provide water for the lower Eyre Peninsula.

If the government was hoping to avoid controversy by moving away from the cuttlefish, it did not succeed. Opposition has come from the local council, First Nations groups, and fishing and aquaculture industries.

The problem with the location at Billy Lights Point is, once again, what happens to the brine. Salty outflows could damage mussel farms, fisheries and ecosystems.

Super-salty brine is pollution

My research suggests these concerns are well founded.

While we might think brine is harmless – it’s salty, like the sea – this is not correct. Desalination produces brine that is twice as salty as seawater. When you pump it back into the sea, it can form a layer of heavier water that creeps along the seafloor as a so-called brine underflow.

Desal brine can be dangerous, especially in waters that don’t mix rapidly. Without sufficient mixing, the oxygen content of the brine underflow falls over time. Eventually, the brine underflow can turn into a dead zone where very little can survive.

Desalination plants also pump out harmful chemicals with the brine, including pre-treatment chemicals, anti-fouling agents, heavy metals, nutrients, organics, chlorine and acids.

This means we should think very carefully about where to build desalination plants. The Spencer Gulf is full of seagrass meadows, the nurseries of the sea, home to leafy seadragons, giant cuttlefish, king prawns and millions of larval and juvenile fish.

port lincoln sea view
The waters of the Spencer Gulf are often calm. Charlie Blacker/Shutterstock

The brine can degrade or even destroy marine ecosystems. In the Arabian Gulf, where about half the world’s desal plants are located, researchers have found the pulses of brine “greatly threatens sensitive species”.

Given this marine pollution, any move to discharge desal brine into calm seas that have high ecological significance and do not flush rapidly is extremely risky.

At present, South Australia’s two planned desal projects do not seem to properly value environmental principles.

For instance, while the large Northern Waters project lists Cape Hardy as the preferred site, Point Lowly is still on the list of options. This ignores previous evidence showing the Spencer Gulf flushes slowly, which means a higher risk of environmental damage. And Cape Hardy is still within valuable and vulnerable marine habitats.

The smaller Port Lincoln desalination plant is expected to be operational by 2026 on Billy Lights Point, which borders Proper Bay and Boston Bay in the lower Spencer Gulf.

These bays are ecologically important, as they provide safe havens to marine larvae. They’re also part of the region’s coastal upwelling, a vital source of nutrients for whales and tuna.

The proposed intake and discharge locations of the Port Lincoln plant are within a few kilometres of valuable mussel and tuna farming operations.

Looking forward

While Cape Hardy is environmentally more suitable for desal discharge than Point Lowly, it is still within the sheltered waters of Spencer Gulf. Hence, some environmental degradation is likely to occur here as well.

If authorities are determined to stick with brine-releasing desal, they should urgently look at sites outside Spencer Gulf, such as Ceduna or Elliston. Here, brine would be quickly diluted by the currents.

But there are other options not yet considered.

It is likely we will need more desalination plants as climate change intensifies. The best solution is a desal plant fully powered by renewables – and without brine discharge. How? By cleaning the brine and turning it into a valuable product: salt. The Conversation

Jochen Kaempf, Associate Professor of Natural Sciences (Oceanography), Flinders University

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

How a long-lost fish species was brought back to Bendigo

Greta Valley Landcare Group, CC BY
Sean Buckley, Edith Cowan University and Luciano Beheregaray, Flinders University

The southern pygmy perch hadn’t been seen in Bendigo Creek since the mid-19th-century goldrush, when a booming town sprang up around the central Victorian waterway. This attractive small fish, which displays bright colours when breeding, is no more than 6–8cm long. Once widespread, the species eventually became locally extinct across the Loddon River catchment, which includes the creek.

But today, thanks to the efforts of community volunteers, scientists and local authorities, there are several thriving local populations of this small fish.

Reintroducing species to their old habitat is complicated. For animal species, we need good information about where to source them from and how many to move. It’s essential to have good habitat ready for the newly restored population.

We should also know how genetically diverse the population is because that can affect its long-term success.

A successful reintroduction depends on researchers, environmental managers and local communities working together. That’s exactly what happened in Bendigo.

Pygmy perch range has shrunk

The southern pygmy perch (Nannoperca australis) was once found in many rivers and streams across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. However, the combined pressures of habitat loss and degradation, invasive species such as redfin perch, carp and eastern gambusia, drought and drawing too much water for farming drove many populations to local extinction.

In 2015, recognising the importance of collaboration across management groups and communities, six regional bodies formed the Tri-State Murray NRM Alliance. They developed the “Magnificent Six” project to reintroduce six native freshwater fish species – all small and endangered – in the Murray-Darling Basin, which includes the Loddon River. The southern pygmy perch was first in line.

The Magnificent Six program aims to restore populations of six small fish species in the Murray-Darling Basin.

In 2018, through the tri-state alliance, a partnership between local government, environmental managers, an aquarium business, local community and fish hobbyists was formed. The Molecular Ecology Lab at Flinders University was brought in to provide guidance and genetics expertise. The lab had experience of successful captive breeding and reintroduction of southern pygmy perch in South Australia.

Everyone came together to plan the most effective course of action. We consulted local community members. We discussed where best to collect fish from and to move them. We planned planting efforts to restore suitable habitat.

Building up new populations

In September 2018, local volunteers – guided by environmental managers – collected more than 100 wild fish. These came from three creeks in two nearby river systems: the Campaspe and Avoca Rivers.

They took these fish to the Middle Creek Farm, a private aquarium business in Stratford, Victoria, to set up a captive breeding program. The aim was to make sure we had enough fish to sustain new populations. Over the next year, volunteers helped to breed and raise more than 600 fish for release.

At the same time, volunteers created new homes for these fish in three local wetlands by planting aquatic vegetation and building woody habitat. The combination of woody debris and dense reeds provides refuge from predators like aquatic birds and are particularly important nurseries for juvenile fish.

In January 2020, 800 fish from all three creeks were released across four wetlands, including restored urban wetlands and national parks. The team came back in September that year to monitor how they were doing.

A triumph for community action based on expert advice

Local communities can play an integral role in programs like this. To date, relatively few conservation programs include active public participation. Even fewer consider genetic information.

At every stage of the Bendigo reintroduction, we collected DNA from the fish by taking a small clipping of the tail fin. Our aim was to see how well the program had maintained genetic diversity. This is important for populations to persist in the long term.

We showed the genetic diversity of the parents was maintained. This diversity has helped the new populations to thrive.

Interestingly, we found the different source populations had unique genetic variation and the breeding program had caused some fish to become “mixed” (like hybrids). When we monitored the populations after release, we found more of these mixed fish surviving. That suggests genetic mixing might be important for southern pygmy perch.

This information helped us to make recommendations for future reintroductions elsewhere.

Everyone benefits

The program was a huge success. All three populations are thriving – so much so that 2,800 fish were taken from our release sites to start a new population in another site within the Gunbower Forest along the Murray River last September. The species was last recorded there in 1997.

With their voracious appetite for mosquito larvae, these populations of pygmy perch may offer a natural solution for pest management. They are also a key food source for many native freshwater fish and waterbird species.

The community benefited too. Seven new landcare groups and more than 20 landholders are now part of reintroduction programs for other fish species. Volunteer organisations increased their social media and public footprint. Pygmy perch have also become popular fish in dams and backyard ponds.

Aquariums of southern pygmy perch are being used in high schools to teach students about fish conservation, pest management and water chemistry.

How can you get involved?

Communities are working tirelessly to restore lost biodiversity across Australia. To help bring back a lost local species you can:

  • get involved with your local community “Friends of” conservation groups as well as regional groups, which are great for driving change in your area

  • approach local councils and government to provide support and contact relevant stakeholders

  • call in university researchers, of course. Many of us would love to provide our expertise and skills to conservation efforts.

Together, we can improve the conservation status of threatened species and restore our declining biodiversity.The Conversation

Sean Buckley, Lecturer in Molecular Ecology and Environmental Management, Edith Cowan University and Luciano Beheregaray, Matthew Flinders Professor of Biodiversity Genomics, Flinders University

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

Clean energy slump – why Australia’s renewables revolution is behind schedule, and how to fix it

WDG Photo/Shutterstock
Alison Reeve, Grattan Institute

For years, the electricity sector has been the poster child for emissions cuts in Australia. The sector achieved a stunning 26% drop in emissions over the past 15 years, while other sectors have hardly budged. The share of renewable energy has gone from 7.5% to more than 30% in that time.

But unfortunately, this impressive pace is not fast enough.

Investments in renewable energy plants slowed in 2023 – financial approvals for new solar farms shrank more than a third and no new wind farms won backing. By the end of that year, Australia had 56 renewable energy projects under construction, down from 72 a year earlier.

For Australia to achieve the federal government’s 43% emissions cut target by 2030, and the deeper and swifter cuts required after that, we need to accelerate. The federal government wants the electricity sector to be generating at least 82% from renewable sources by 2030. The electricity sector needs to be clean enough by that year to make electrification the better choice for sectors heavily dependent on fossil fuels, from transport to heavy industry to household gas.

And it won’t end there. After 2030, when other sectors start to electrify en masse, the electricity sector will need to keep building more and more new renewable capacity to keep up.

If it doesn’t, it simply won’t be possible to eliminate the remaining 56% of our emissions that come from producing and burning fossil fuels. And that’s before Australia even starts looking at expanding its industrial base to become a so-called “renewable superpower”.

There are three reasons the electricity sector isn’t achieving the required pace at the moment.

Not enough poles and wires

New wind and solar farms need new transmission lines to get their electricity to users. That’s because the good sources of wind and sunshine aren’t in the same places as the existing transmission network. And even if they were, we’d still need to upgrade and build transmission because of the growth in demand.

The Australian Energy Market Operator estimates 50% of the transmission needed to deliver a clean, reliable, affordable energy supply in 2050 needs to be constructed in the next six years.

But most of these transmission lines are yet to be built.

chart showing building of renewables and transmission lines
This chart shows the planned build by five year time period for transmission and utility scale renewables, based on the AEMO Draft 2024 Integrated System Plan, Step Change scenario. Grattan Institute, CC BY-NC-ND

Instead, renewable generators have had to connect to existing lines, which have become congested. So even when new renewable installations get approvals for construction, their output can be curtailed because they can’t get it to consumers. This has hit developer finances hard.

And many rural communities aren’t happy with the new transmission lines planned for their regions. While many of the required lines have been known about in the energy sector for years, the communities that will host them are only finding out about them now. Understandably, many object.

As well, bottlenecks in the planning approval bureaucracy mean things are slow to get built. This isn’t just about transmission lines: it also applies to new renewable generators and even upgrading roads so equipment and machinery can be used safely.

Coal hanging on

There’s still uncertainty about when coal generators will leave the market.

We need to build replacement capacity for ageing coal generators before they retire but no one wants to build new generators to replace the coal if they aren’t sure when demand for their electricity will emerge.

Generators are required to declare their earliest exit date if that date is less than three-and-a-half years away, but there’s nothing to stop them pushing that date out. That’s what Delta Electricity did last year, when it changed the closure date for the Vales Point power station in New South Wales from 2029 to 2033.

On top of this, nervous state governments have started making opaque deals to pay coal power stations to stay open, as insurance against the slow pace of the renewables build.

Governments aren’t coordinating well

Every state government on the east coast has a renewable energy target. So does the federal government. But these targets were set as arbitrary percentages linked to arbitrary dates, not chosen to deliver the cleanest, most reliable, cheapest energy system for consumers.

State and federal governments choose their targets in isolation, which drives up overall costs. To give just one example: both New South Wales and Queensland have established “renewable energy zones” in New England shire, located right across the border from each other. Developing these areas as a single zone should cost less overall, but no such interstate efficiency has emerged. Each state has gone its own way.

Is there a way out?

All of the above has led to a policy quagmire that has bogged down Australia’s energy transition.

In our report released last month, my colleagues and I argue the best way forward is to temporarily put aside a desire for neat, market-driven policies. Instead, we think governments and industry need to accept an approach that could feel ad hoc or disorganised at times in the next decade while coal exits are taking place.

During this time, governments will probably need to intervene regularly to coordinate new transmission, new generation, and coal exits, so the lights stay on.

Once coal is a no longer a substantial part of the market, it will be time for governments to step back. Beyond 2030, electricity demand is expected to keep growing, and the renewables building task will continue.

chart showing coal progressively exiting Australian grid
If current forecasts are right, coal will fall below 10% of our electricity production by 2032. ‘Storage’ includes utility and consumer storage. This is based on AEMO’s 2023 Integrated System Plan, Step Change scenario. Grattan Institute, CC BY-NC-ND

Governments need to start designing the rules that will govern this new electricity system. It requires asking a fundamental question: what will the respective roles, rights, and responsibilities of energy consumers, industry, and governments be in the future?

Keeping the system reliable will be a fundamentally different task when the amount of electricity generated depends on the weather. Market rules must change to ensure there is always sufficient generation available to meet demand in this new electricity system.

And carbon pricing – a political taboo for so long – will need to be discussed again. Even when the coal generators have closed, a vital share of our electricity will come from gas. The electricity sector needs a clear and enduring carbon price for the energy sector to guide gas-plant entries and exits, and ensure they pay for their emissions.

Governments will need to better integrate and orchestrate all forms of distributed energy resources, from rooftop solar panels to electric vehicles, particularly as electric vehicles become able to use their batteries to help power the grid.

Australia may be able to muddle through the next few years, but voters will not forgive their political leaders if they mess up the post-coal era and fail to deliver the trifecta of clean, affordable, and reliable energy. The hard work starts now.The Conversation

Alison Reeve, Deputy Program Director, Energy and Climate Change, Grattan Institute

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

Cameras reveal wombat burrows can be safe havens after fire and waterholes after rain

Grant Linley
Grant Linley, Charles Sturt University and Dale Nimmo, Charles Sturt University

Australia’s unprecedented Black Summer bushfires in 2019–20 created ideal conditions for misinformation to spread, from the insidious to the absurd.

It was within this context that a bizarre story went viral on social media.

This was a tale of heroic wombats herding other animals into their fireproof burrows to save them from the flames. At the time, we explained this story was largely inaccurate. But now we’ve investigated in more detail, and confirmed it may contain a kernel of truth.

The burrows of common wombats are deep and complex. They can be over 15 metres long with multiple entrances and chambers. So, even if wombats don’t shepherd wildlife into their homes, their burrows might act as “fire refuges” – providing vital shelter, food, and even drinking water during and after a bushfire.

Cameras reveal wombat burrows can be safe havens after fire (Charles Sturt University)

Wombat burrows are not just for wombats

We set up 56 cameras in forests north of Albury, New South Wales, which burned during the Black Summer bushfires. Some areas suffered more than others, so we were careful to select sites that varied in how severely they burned.

Half of the cameras were pointed at wombat burrows and the other half were set up nearby – in areas with the same types of plants, but no burrows. Then we monitored the burrows from June 2021 to April 2022 to see which animals used them, and how.

We found 56 animal species at wombat burrow sites (19 mammal species, 33 bird and four reptile).

Native species such as bush rats, agile antechinus, lace monitors and birds such as the painted button-quail, were more abundant in and around burrows than nearby control sites. Even a threatened species, the heath monitor, was seen emerging from a burrow.

Wombat expert Barbara Triggs, who literally wrote the book on wombats, had seen several of these species “scurrying away from burrow entrances” and emerging “from small crevices in the the walls” of wombat burrows. So our results are supported by her, and others’, observations.

Overall, burrows were hotspots of mammal activity, with more mammal species recorded at burrows than control sites. These tended to be smaller mammals, presumably because they can use the burrows without bothering the wombats.

Bigger animals such as kangaroos and wallabies tended to avoid the burrows. They may have been wary of a encountering a cantankerous wombat. Wombats are known to defend their territories.

A composite image showing six different animals at wombat burrows (red-necked wallaby, short-beaked echidna, lace monitor, grey shrike-thrush, superb lyrebird, swamp wallaby)
Cameras captured a variety of animals interacting with the wombat burrows. Top row, L to R: red-necked wallaby, short-beaked echidna, lace monitor. Bottom row, L to R: grey shrike-thrush, superb lyrebird, swamp wallaby. Grant Linley

We observed some fascinating behaviour at wombat burrows. In total, 31 species were found interacting with the burrows. This included 30 species inspecting the entrance, 11 foraging (feeding in or directly around the lip of the burrow), and ten entering or emerging from burrows.

We also saw animals drinking and even bathing in pools at burrow entrances that temporarily filled with water after rain.

While water was not scarce during our study period, this suggests wombat burrows are providing a valuable ecosystem function that might help other wildlife. It’s an interesting observation that warrants further investigation.

Burrow use by several native wildlife species was highest in areas that burned most severely. This supports the idea that wombat burrows act as a kind of refuge for native wildlife after fire.

Underground networks

Our results are just the tip of the iceberg. Globally, many burrowing species provide habitat for others. From the American badger to the giant armadillo, burrows provide shelter and resources for species across many ecosystems.

Closer to home, sand goanna burrows provide shelter for at least 28 animal species. And bilby burrows have been described as an “outback oasis” for their role in supporting birds, reptiles and mammals.

We’re not the first to find animal burrows offer refuge after fire. A US study published in 2018 found gopher tortoise burrows in burned areas had 8.5 times more wildlife species than burrows in nearby unburned areas.

An adult and juvenile bare-nosed wombat, facing the camera
Wombats are the largest burrowing marsupials in the world. Grant Linley

Help wombats help others

The star of our research is the bare-nosed wombat. While not listed as threatened with extinction, their numbers have declined markedly since European colonisation.

Our research adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests protecting wombats will benefit various species across many Australian ecosystems.

As large and severe fires become more common in forests across southeastern Australia, our wildlife will need all the help they can get – including the humble wombat burrow.The Conversation

Grant Linley, PhD Candidate in Ecology, Charles Sturt University and Dale Nimmo, Professor in Ecology, Charles Sturt University

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

Floating robots reveal just how much airborne dust fertilises the Southern Ocean – a key climate ‘shock absorber’

Dust storm blowing off the Australian east coast over the South Pacific. Jeff Schmaltz/NASA GSFC, Author provided
Jakob Weis, University of Tasmania; Andrew Bowie, University of Tasmania; Christina Schallenberg, CSIRO; Peter Strutton, University of Tasmania, and Zanna Chase, University of Tasmania

The Southern Ocean, a region critical to Earth’s climate, hosts vast blooms of microscopic ocean plants known as phytoplankton. They form the very basis of the Antarctic food web.

Using a fleet of robotic floats, our study published in Nature today reveals that windblown dust delivers enough iron to support a third of the Southern Ocean’s phytoplankton growth. Knowing this will help us understand how global warming will affect key climate processes phytoplankton are involved in.

The Southern Ocean acts as a climate “shock absorber”. Its cold waters and vast area capture up to 40% of human-generated carbon dioxide (CO₂) absorbed by the planet’s oceans each year.

Human-generated CO₂ mainly enters the ocean as it dissolves at the surface. However, biological processes that transfer vast quantities of CO₂ from the surface to the deep ocean play a critical role in the ocean’s natural carbon cycle.

Even slight changes to these processes in the Southern Ocean could weaken or strengthen the climate shock absorber. This is where phytoplankton play a key role.

A satellite image of a landmass with ocean next to it with swirls of turquoise and green.
A massive phytoplankton bloom off of the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, Argentina, in 2010. NASA's Earth Observatory/Norman Kuring, Ocean Color Web

Phytoplankton: tiny but mighty

Like plants on land, phytoplankton convert CO₂ into biomass through photosynthesis. When phytoplankton die, they sink into the deep ocean. This effectively locks away the carbon for decades, or even hundreds of years. This is known as the biological carbon pump, and it helps to regulate Earth’s climate.

Phytoplankton need nutrients and light to flourish. Nitrogen, in the form of nitrate, is one of these essential nutrients and is plentiful in the Southern Ocean. During the bloom period in spring and summer, phytoplankton consume nitrate.

This offers scientists a unique opportunity – by measuring how much nitrate disappears seasonally, they can calculate the growth of phytoplankton and the carbon sequestered in their biomass.

But there’s a twist. Iron, another essential nutrient, is in short supply in the Southern Ocean. This shortage stunts phytoplankton growth, lowering the efficiency of the biological carbon pump.

Dust boosts life in the Southern Ocean

Iron is commonly found in soil. Winds carry iron-rich dust from the continents to the oceans. This supply of dust-derived iron can trigger phytoplankton blooms, greening stretches of the ocean and strengthening the carbon pump.

Historically, to study the effects of iron fertilisation on phytoplankton – whether the iron came from dust, other natural sources, or was deliberately added – scientists had to embark on expensive research voyages to the remote Southern Ocean.

However, insights from such experiments were restricted to small regions and short periods during certain seasons. Little was known about the impact of dust on phytoplankton all year round across the whole of the Southern Ocean.

To address this gap, we turned to robots.

Ocean robots follow the trail of dust

Over the past decade, research organisations have deployed a fleet of robotic ocean floats worldwide. These robots tirelessly track ocean properties, including the nitrate concentration.

In our study, we analysed nitrate measurements at 13,600 locations in the Southern Ocean. We calculated phytoplankton growth from nitrate disappearance and combined these growth estimates with computer models of dust deposition.

With this new approach, we uncovered a direct link between the supply of dust-derived iron and phytoplankton growth. Importantly, we also found the dust doesn’t just coincide with phytoplankton growth – it actually fuels it by supplying iron.

We used this relationship to build productivity maps of the Southern Ocean — past, present or future. These maps suggest that dust supports roughly a third of the phytoplankton growth in the Southern Ocean today.

During ice ages, a combination of drier conditions, lower sea levels and stronger winds meant dust deposition on the Southern Ocean was up to 40 times greater than today.

When we apply dust simulations of the last ice age to our newfound relationship, we estimate that phytoplankton growth was two times higher during these dustier times than it is today.

So, by fuelling phytoplankton growth, dust likely played an important role in keeping atmospheric CO₂ concentrations low during ice ages.

Why does it matter?

Global warming and land use changes could rapidly change dust delivery to the ocean in the future.

These shifts would have important consequences for ocean ecosystems and fisheries, and our research provides the tools to help forecast these changes.

To keep global warming below 1.5˚C, it is imperative that we find safe and effective methods for actively removing CO₂ from the atmosphere. One proposed and controversial strategy involves fertilising the Southern Ocean with iron, mimicking the natural processes that decreased CO₂ during ice ages.

Our results suggest such a strategy could boost productivity in the least dusty parts of the Southern Ocean, but uncertainties remain around the ecological consequences of this intervention and its long term effectiveness in capturing carbon.

By studying how nature has done this in the past, we can learn more about the possible outcomes and practicality of fertilising the ocean to mitigate climate change.The Conversation

Jakob Weis, Postdoctoral research associate, University of Tasmania; Andrew Bowie, Senior Research Scientist in Marine Biogeochemistry, University of Tasmania; Christina Schallenberg, Research Scientist, CSIRO; Peter Strutton, Professor, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, and Zanna Chase, Professor, University of Tasmania

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

Are we really about to talk to whales?

A humpback whale surfaces for a chat. Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock
Luke Rendell, University of St Andrews

The past decade has seen an explosion of new research into some of the most fascinating sounds in the sea: the vocalisations of whales and dolphins.

Scientists have uncovered how humpback whales learn songs from neighbouring populations, so that these songs travel from western Australia to South America. They discovered bowhead whales singing 184 different songs over three years, and learned how bottlenose dolphins use signature whistles to shore up alliances.

Researchers have also showed that sperm whale vocal dialects are more different the more they are in contact with each other across the entire Pacific, suggesting these dialects function as ethnic markers. Advancing technology in the form of drones, acoustic tags and recorders mean such insights are accumulating rapidly.

Much of what whales and dolphins signal seems to relate to identity within social contexts. This can include identifying alliance members, or members of long-term social units and clans, or a particular population or species. Vocal communication also builds and reinforces social bonds and coordinates cooperative foraging.

We have also seen the resurrection of an old idea: that hiding behind all these findings is really a human-like language. If we can just find the right tools, the thinking goes, we can decode it and start talking to whales like we talk to our neighbours.

The hottest new tool is AI. Reading some of the press around the topic, you could be forgiven for thinking such conversations are imminent.

Researchers in yellow coats pilot a drone next to a moored research vessel.
Techniques for studying whales and dolphins are becoming more sophisticated. Nick Starichenko/Shutterstock

Two recent studies stand out for the dramatic claims they make about whale language. One details a humpback responding to the playback of a call with a similar one (but then ultimately losing interest).

This study’s importance was to demonstrate that such playback studies are possible, because playing back an animal’s calls and observing their reaction is a tested method for uncovering the meanings and functions of signals.

It’s not, however, the first playback to whales or dolphins, and neither, as the scientists claimed, were they “conversing” with the whale. If this was a “conversation”, then we’ve been having more insightful “conversations” with other species for decades – there have been over 600 such playback studies on birds.

The second study is a detailed analysis of patterns of clicks, called codas, produced by sperm whales. It shows that the whales appear to synchronously change the tempo of their codas when using them in exchanges with each other.

Such synchronous chorusing is not unique to whales. It happens across the animal kingdom, from fireflies to primates. Few animal displays are as breathtakingly synchronised as the four-part chorusing of plain-tailed wrens, while happy wrens use pair-specific duets to signal commitment to mates.

Nonetheless, the sperm whale findings are exciting, and fit in with our general understanding of codas having a social bonding function. But the scientists also tried to force these tempo changes into a “phonetic alphabet”, “like the International Phonetic Alphabet for human languages”, and it is this latter claim that has grabbed headlines.

There is, however, no evidence that sperm whales use these different tempos in anything like the complex sequences that characterise human language. We find better evidence for complex sequencing rules in Bengal finches. I wonder why we don’t see headlines about phonetic alphabets or imminent conversations with these birds?

Don’t believe the hype

We’ve been closely studying cetacean vocal behaviour in the wild and in captivity for several decades now. Compare that to how quickly you or I can start exchanging ideas with another person we don’t share a language with – because we use our theory of mind to understand each other as communicative agents.

If language was there, I think we would have found it by now. The most powerful language detector we know of sits between our ears, and we used it to effortlessly learn the language of our childhood as toddlers. As the story of Helen Keller shows, language finds a way.

Persuading the BBC not to describe sperm whale clicks as “language” in their Blue Planet II series was the highlight of my science communication career. Why?

A lot of complex communication is going on in cetaceans, much of which we still don’t understand. However, I am convinced that we should drop the stifling and anthropocentric focus on language. It crowds out other perspectives on what is going on – for example, the relationship between rhythm-based communication and music might be a better way to understand the bonding function of coda synchrony in sperm whales.

We should be wary of ranking species on a single dimension relative to humans, as if all evolution is a path to something like us (much like early anthropologists ranked societies by their progress toward western “perfection”). Instead, let’s take ourselves off the top of the ladder and see other animals as distinct branches of an evolutionary tree.

Both of the research groups promoting talking to whales are linked to, or name themselves after, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (Seti). The leaders of one group, Project Ceti, argue that understanding whale “language” will help us when we meet ET.

Two large radio telescope dishes at dusk.
Whale communication research has been treated as a test run for talking with aliens. Josemaria Toscano/Shutterstock

We’ve been here before. John Lilly also leaned into Seti, promoting the idea that dolphins were an alien intelligence with a complex language. His weak evidence ultimately evaporated in a cloud of hype and hallucinogens.

Unfortunately, his claims kept the important discovery of bottlenose dolphin signature whistles in the shadows for far too long, and cast a cloud of disrepute over the entire field of cetacean communication that took decades to disperse. It would be tragic if today’s important insights suffered the same fate because of irresponsible claims and a narrow focus on language.

We should strive to understand and value these awesome creatures for what they are, not for how they might sooth our cosmic loneliness.The Conversation

Luke Rendell, Reader in Biology, University of St Andrews

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

Seagrass meadows are rapidly expanding near inhabited islands in Maldives – here’s why

Nikolay 007/Shutterstock
Matthew Floyd, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Swimming through the crystal clear waters of the Maldives, a nation renowned for its marine life, it could be easy to forget that these delicate ecosystems stand on the frontline of climate change and that seagrass habitats are in crisis globally.

Now, my research, which combined hundreds of hours of fieldwork with thousands of satellite images, has uncovered something unexpected: Maldivian seagrasses have expanded three-fold over the last two decades – and island populations could be playing a part.

I also discovered that seagrass is surprisingly three times more likely to be found next to inhabited islands, rather than uninhabited. So this flowering plant seems to benefit from living in seas close to humans.

Seagrasses grow along coasts all around the world. They can help guard against climate change yet they are frequently underappreciated. In the Maldives, seagrass meadows are dug up to maintain the iconic white beaches that are a frequent feature of honeymoon photos.

Matthew Floyd has spent more than three years studying the drivers of seagrass habitat expansion in the Maldives. Matthew Floyd, CC BY-ND

Important marine habitats have declined in the Maldives. Amid this backdrop of environmental uncertainty, I have spent more than three years studying seagrasses here alongside a team of scientists. We found that seagrasses are faring remarkably well and one of the most plausible drivers could be the supply of nutrients from densely populated areas, such as tourist resorts.

Every day, human activities could provide valuable nutrients for seagrass habitats in an otherwise nutrient limited environment. Food waste is traditionally discarded into the sea from the beach and rain can wash excess fertilisers from farmland into the ocean. As human populations and fertiliser use have both increased, we suspect that seagrass meadows have started to thrive and expand as a result of this increased nutrient supply.

Additionally, building work around islands may create more suitable habitats for seagrass. Land reclamation is widespread across the country as the population has expanded by 474% since 1960.

During this development, sand is dug up from the seabed and some inevitably spills into the water. The structure of seagrass meadows can slow down local water currents, promoting suspended sand grains to sink and creating more sediment for future generations of seagrass to grow into.

Currently, nutrient inputs seem to be creating just the right conditions for seagrasses. But if nutrients continue to increase, there is a risk that the seagrasses will be outcompeted by seaweeds and smothered. Continued land reclamation works that disregard seagrass may also remove this important habitat. So the future of this Maldivian success story may therefore largely lie in our hands.

Seagrass habitats are expanding in some areas, to the surprise of researchers. Matthew Floyd, CC BY-ND

The ecotourism paradox

Although seagrass removal has done little to curb habitat expansion, it highlights a troubled relationship with the tourism industry upon which so many jobs in the Maldives depend. Because it can ultimately make water depths shallower, seagrass can limit boat access and mooring, and therefore interfere with daily life. The proliferation of seagrass in areas of domestic refuse has understandably damaged its image in the eyes of the public.

But, by making coastal waters shallower, seagrasses reinforce coastal protection. And by growing close to refuse sites, they absorb excess nutrients and clean the water of pathogens. Despite being a vital tool in the fight against climate change, seagrass clearly has an image problem on the islands.

Seagrasses can make water more shallow, interfering with boat access and mooring. Matthew Floyd, CC BY-ND

As a marine ecologist, I firmly believe that conservation scientists - and ecotourists - have an important role to play in conveying the value of seagrasses. Conservationists must also fully appreciate the challenges that meadow expansion can bring to local communities, and understand how the needs of conservation and tourism may differ.

There is hope. A campaign called #ProtectMaldivesSeagrass, recently launched by Blue Marine Foundation and Maldives Underwater Initiative, led to 37 resorts (out of a total of 168) pledging to protect their seagrass meadows. Additionally, the data from my research can be used to protect seagrass habitats and quantify their value to people and nature.

Hopefully, the unexpected – yet welcome – success of seagrass in the Maldives is a cause for conservation optimism. And perhaps tourist resorts can learn to love their newly expanding neighbours.The Conversation

Matthew Floyd, PhD Candidate, Marine Ecology, Northumbria University, Newcastle

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

Floods in south Brazil have displaced 600,000 – here’s why this region is likely to see ever more extreme rain in future

Marcia Zilli, University of Oxford; Caio Coelho, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe), and Neil Hart, University of Oxford

A mighty river is flowing out of the Amazon rainforest, and it’s not the one you’re thinking of. In the first kilometre above the forest canopy, a “flying river” is transporting moisture evaporated from Amazonian trees southwards along the Andes mountains towards Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil.

Almost the entire state – an area larger than the UK – is currently affected by unprecedented floods. The flying river has acted like a firehose, fuelling five months of rainfall in just two weeks, further enhanced by a strong jetstream located in just the wrong position above the region. And, based on future projections of climate change, this situation will likely get worse as the temperature rises.

Since the beginning of May, those massive floods in Rio Grande do Sul have made world headlines. In the state’s capital, Porto Alegre, the Guaíba river is more than five metres above its normal level, breaking a record set in 1941. The death toll is 149 and growing, with 108 still missing. The floods have displaced more than 600,000 people and directly or indirectly affected more than 2 million, in 446 of the 497 municipalities in the state.

In various municipalities, the water and energy systems collapsed, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes with no power or drinking water. Schools suspended classes and the state’s main roads and airport are closed.

While the southern part of the country is under water, a heatwave caused record-breaking temperatures in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. For scale, this is similar to all of northern France being flooded while Barcelona swelters in 40°C heat.

This is not the first time the southernmost part of Brazil has been affected by such large-scale disasters. Similar weather systems, featuring moisture from the Amazon near the surface and the jetstream crossing the Andes high above, were associated with floods between September and November 2023, as well as major floods in 1997 and 1983.

A combination of factors makes these floods more likely. For instance, warm ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific (still currently the case, even as El Niño starts to decay) is associated with these weather systems, as are abnormally warm tropical Atlantic temperatures, which add more moisture to the air brought south in the flying river.

Things to come

Is this event a sign of things to come for southern Brazil? As the atmosphere warms, it can carry more water, which means there is the potential to form massive clouds and heavy rains. This is a bit like buying a more absorbent sponge: it can hold more water but when you squeeze, more water falls out.

In fact, we are already observing this. Compared with the floods in 1941, this time the excessive rainfall was concentrated in a much shorter period, meaning the water rose much faster. Future climate projections already indicate that a warmer atmosphere results in an intensification of the flying rivers from the Amazon into south Brazil and adjacent regions, and more precipitation.

We have analysed results from state-of-the-art climate models that are able to simulate storms across South America in detail, just a few kilometres across. These indicate that extreme rainfall like that happening now is likely to become more frequent in the future, and such risks may in fact be underestimated by the previous generation of climate models.

These simulations, run under UK-Brazil and South America-US partnerships, are being used to assess such risks in southern Brazil and right across South America. Early results suggest that, as in Africa, parts of Europe, North America, India and elsewhere, short but very intense rainfall is likely to happen more often as the planet warms, irrespective of the unique weather systems that may affect particular regions.The Conversation

Marcia Zilli, Postdoctoral Researcher in Climate Dynamics, University of Oxford; Caio Coelho, Senior Research Scientist, Center for Weather Forecast and Climatic Studies (CPTEC), National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe), and Neil Hart, UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, University of Oxford

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

‘Everywhere we looked we found evidence’: the godfather of microplastics on 20 years of pollution research and the fight for global action

University of Plymouth, CC BY-ND
Richard Thompson, University of Plymouth

Thirty years ago, while counting barnacles, limpets and seaweeds along rocky shores, I started noticing a daily tide of litter, mostly plastic. As a marine biology PhD student at Liverpool University, I kept removing it, but the next day, there’d be more.

I’m now a leading international expert on microplastics, a term I coined on May 7 2004 to describe fragments of plastic measuring as small as a millionth of a metre. As I work to help reduce the grip of plastic pollution on our planet, the solutions are clear to me.

Regulators, governments and citizens all urgently need to turn off the tide of plastic pollution at its source by reducing the production of plastics. But having just returned from the UN global plastics treaty negotiations in Ottawa, Canada, it’s frustrating to see the lack of consensus among nations about how to address this global problem.

Disturbed by the scale of the plastic contamination I first noticed on that beach in 1993, I felt compelled to act. I recruited students and the local community to help with the annual Marine Conservation Society’s beach clean. We recorded what we found on printed templates.

Back then, a new tool was just becoming available for data compilation: the Excel spreadsheet. The budding scientist within drove me to tabulate what we removed, based on the categories on the printed templates that included bottles, bags, rope and netting. Suddenly, it struck me that the most numerous items had no category. Fragments of larger plastic items, which appeared by far the most numerous were not being recorded. I got curious and wondered what the smallest plastic pieces on the shore were.

close up shot face of man with glass jar with tiny plastic fragments
Richard Thompson realised that mechanical degradation of large, visible fragments of plastic resulted in the accumulation of tiny microplastics in the environment. University of Plymouth, CC BY-ND

When I began teaching a few years later, I challenged my students to find the smallest pieces of plastic on the beach. Looking amongst the sand grains, there they were – tiny blue and red fibres and fragments.

An almost forensic journey ensued to confirm their identity. In collaboration with a polymer chemist, we confirmed the tiny fragments were common plastic polymers – polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – that presumably formed via mechanical degradation and were accumulating as fragments smaller than the grains of sand themselves.

I was hooked on discovering more about this new form of contamination. Working initially with postgraduate students at the University of Plymouth where I was lecturing, we found that these pieces were common on the shore and in seabed mud and we showed they were eaten by marine life. Most alarmingly, we used archived samples of plankton that had been collected decades previously to demonstrate that the abundance of microplastics had increased significantly since the 1960s and 1970s.

I pulled together nearly a decade of this research into a one-page summary entitled “Lost at sea: where is all the plastic?” That paper, published in the journal Science 20 years ago, was the first to use the term microplastics in this context. Within a couple of weeks, this became a worldwide news story.

Everyone wanted to know whether microplastics were harmful. I set out to establish the wider distribution and determine whether they might be harmful to humans and wildlife.

Despite huge media and policy interest, funding was a challenge. One anonymous reviewer commented that there will never be enough plastic in the oceans to cause the sort of harm Thompson wants to investigate.

Over the years that followed, my team and I showed that microplastics were common on shorelines worldwide, they were abundant in the deep sea, in Arctic sea ice and in multiple species of fish. They weren’t just polluting marine environments. They were present in rivers and snow from near the summit of Mount Everest. Everywhere we looked, we found evidence of microplastics.

beach with man looking at camera, fragments of plastics on rock in foreground
Richard Thompson first noticed microplastics washed up on the beach in 1993 and his research has focused on them ever since. University of Plymouth, CC BY-ND

By 2008, the term microplastic was highlighted by the EU’s flagship marine strategy framework directive, a policy introduced to maintain clean, healthy, productive and resilient marine ecosystems. It stipulated that “the quantities of plastic and microplastic should not cause harm in the marine environment”.

We demonstrated that, if ingested, microplastics could transfer from the gut to the circulatory system of mussels and that nanoparticles could pass through the bodies of scallops within a matter of hours. We demonstrated the potential for chemical transfer to wildlife and confirmed that the presence of microplastics could have negative consequences, reducing the ability of organisms to put on weight.

A UK parliamentary environmental audit committee requested a special report on microplastics in 2016. I was called to give evidence, and perhaps prompted by comments from my colleagues, MP Mary Creagh referred to me as the “godfather of microplastics” and so it entered the public record.

There are now thousands of studies on microplastics published by researchers worldwide. Policy interventions resulting from this work include the UK ban on plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics, and EU legislation to prohibit intentional addition of microplastics to products which could prevent hundreds of thousands of tonnes of microplastics entering the environment.

A ban resulted in the phasing out of plastic microbeads used in cosmetic products like these. The top row shows microbeads found in products during 2015, below features products from 2018 after new regulation. University of Plymouth, CC BY-ND

However, the largest source of microplastics is the fragmentation of larger items in the environment. So ultimately, we need to take action to reduce the production of a wider range of plastic products than just those containing microplastics.

Without action, plastic production could triple by 2060. Yet, some nations seem set on a path to increase production rather than reduce it.

Treaty negotiations

Last week, I was in Ottawa where 180 nations debated the content of the global plastic pollution treaty, a text that contains more than 60 references to microplastics.

What can be done to halt this accumulation? Microplastics are almost impossible to remove. Even for larger items, clean up won’t solve the problem. Novel materials such as biodegradable plastics may offer benefits in specific circumstances but won’t solve plastic pollution.

I left the negotiations with mixed emotions. Pleased that the scientific community had delivered sufficient hard evidence – including some of my own research – on plastic pollution to initiate the need for this global treaty. Saddened that 180 nations found it so hard to reach a consensus on the way forward. Negotiations failed to stipulate that independent scientists should even be included in formal expert working groups.

Like many scientists who helped deliver the evidence of harm, it’s immensely frustrating to potentially be sidelined from an international process that hopes to deliver solutions. It may be hard for some to swallow – I saw one delegate holding a single-use plastic water bottle behind his back during negotiations. Contrary to the outcome of those midnight discussions in Ottawa, the focus must be on prevention by reducing global production of plastic polymers and ensuring any plastic items we do produce are essential, safe and sustainable.The Conversation

Richard Thompson, Professor of Marine Biology, University of Plymouth

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

Migratory birds are on the move and nature-friendly farms can help them on their way

Tundra swans migrating from southern China to the high Arctic. Yifei Jia, Author provided
Yali Si, Leiden University

Every spring, hundreds of thousands of birds leave their winter habitat on Poyang, the largest freshwater lake in China, and fly north over the most densely populated region on Earth to reach their breeding grounds in Siberia. As with any long-distance journey you might take, these birds need to make stops where they can find a good meal and a chance to refuel.

Migratory birds must make use of food that is only available seasonally. Grass-eating birds like geese follow fresh, green shoots that appear as the season unfolds and the geese move northwards. The brief window when this young, spring grass is at its most nutritious and abundant can last as little as three weeks.

Such a fine-tuned strategy can become a liability. Geese can only eat when they arrive in the right place at the right time, but climate change has disrupted when and how long this seasonal food source is available. Migratory birds may arrive too late in one area if rising temperatures have ushered spring in earlier, for example. If birds cannot replenish their energy stores during migration they risk their ability to breed successfully when they reach their destination – and could even starve.

A gaggle of geese surrounded by bright green grass.
Greater white-fronted geese grazing on wet meadows near Poyang Lake. Yifei Jia

Along with colleagues, I have investigated the impact of climate change on 16 migratory waterfowl in Asia over the past 21 years. We compared how well a series of stopover sites on their migration route would fare as food sources as the climate changes and found that it is challenging for birds to solely rely on eating enough tasty grass to make the journey safely.

Fortunately, in other research which involved attaching satellite tracking devices to migratory geese and swans, we discovered other food sources on their route from Lake Poyang to Siberia.

Leftover seeds can help birds breed

I tagged 246 birds in total: 102 greater white-fronted geese, 74 tundra bean geese, 58 swan geese (an endangered species) and ten tundra swans which stopped over in the Northeast China plain before heading to their breeding grounds in Siberia.

Do the seasons feel increasingly weird to you? You’re not alone. Climate change is distorting nature’s calendar, causing plants to flower early and animals to emerge at the wrong time.

This article is part of a series, Wild Seasons, on how the seasons are changing – and what they may eventually look like.

Some birds can stay over a month in this region. Vast wetlands were once common here, offering important foraging and roosting areas for east Asian waterbirds preparing for the next leg of their journey to the high Arctic. Most have since been converted to cropland growing soybeans, corn, and rice.

The loss of wetlands as farmland has expanded and is a worrying trend globally. It has forced waterbirds to turn from natural vegetation to agricultural land as a source of food.

Six geese in shallow water.
Geese arriving at Momoge wetlands in Northeast China Plain. Yifei Jia

In the Northeast China Plain, migrating birds eat seeds left over after harvesting. As soon as the snow melts, these seeds are ready for hungry beaks to dig out. Leftover seeds mean that birds which do arrive before spring has started can still find sufficient food.

What’s good for the goose…

In fact, we found that birds tend to forage on seeds first and then shift their diets to spring vegetation as it emerges, taking advantage of both wetland and farmland habitats. Farmland seeds will become more and more important as natural habitats decline.

Geese in a stubbly field post-harvest.
Geese grazing on leftover seeds in farmland in Northeast China Plain. Haixiang Zhou

Mechanised harvests, which tend to leave more seeds in the field, could provide more food for birds. But protecting wetlands from destruction is still critical, and that will require limiting how much farmland is reclaimed and the intensity of cattle grazing. Lowering these forms of disturbance and encouraging bird-friendly tourism would help swans and geese use both types of habitat during their stopover.

If healthy wetlands accompany farmland, birds can eat natural vegetation when farmers sow their crops and so minimise their impact on crop yields. Seeing birds as part of the landscape, and not as intruders on farmland, can help preserve this biodiversity on the wing.The Conversation

Yali Si, Assistant Professor of Ecology, Leiden University

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

Swifts delayed by cold and wet springs face mounting problems as the climate changes

Alexander C. Lees, Manchester Metropolitan University

The weather is warmer and the nights are lighter. What are those black, curved silhouettes looping in the sky?

Assuming you are looking at birds and not attending the World Boomerang Championships, those shapes will likely be the UK’s only breeding member of the Apodiformes (a grouping that includes the hummingbirds): the common swift (Apus apus), harbinger of summer.

People in the UK tend to think of these birds as theirs, but really, they are tropical African species that spend a few months of the year at temperate latitudes. Competition for food, shelter and mates is intense in the tropics, so swifts evolved migration to take advantage of the seasonal boom in plant growth at temperate latitudes. Their breeding range stretches from Ireland to China and birds from the eastern edge of their range make epic annual round trips of 30,000km.

For swifts, migration to temperate latitudes should mean access to lots of flying insects to feed their young and much less competition from other species to eat them. Like other aerial insect feeders, swifts can’t stay through the winter as there is nothing to eat and so nothing to keep them here.

Do the seasons feel increasingly weird to you? You’re not alone. Climate change is distorting nature’s calendar, causing plants to flower early and animals to emerge at the wrong time.

This article is part of a series, Wild Seasons, on how the seasons are changing – and what they may eventually look like.

These birds are much-loved symbols of the changing seasons. So how are they faring as rising temperatures change when seasons arrive and what form they take?

Swifts getting swifter

Swifts are arriving on average about five days earlier in the UK than they were in the 1960s, but they are also leaving significantly earlier too – the only common migrant bird to do so in the UK. Many other species are deciding to extend their summer residency and have multiple broods.

There is still variation between years, but the swifts were very late this year. In this wet, cold spring, I saw my first here in the Longdendale Valley of Derbyshire in England on May 3; by way of comparison, in the unseasonably sunny weather of spring 2020, I saw my first Longdendale swift as early as April 19.

Cold and wet weather is bad for anything that eats flying insects, which aren’t active in these conditions and are more difficult to catch even if they were. One way swifts can weather these challenges is by going on very long foraging trips far from their nest sites to avoid storms. Adults and nestlings can also lower their metabolic rate while sitting on the nest (a phenomenon called torpor) to save energy.

Swifts struggle with prolonged wet periods. A recent study linked an increase in rainfall in June and July from 1975 to 2015 with higher nest failure rates, smaller broods and lower survival of swifts in their first year of life, as they can’t find enough food to feed themselves or their chicks. This is likely to be compounded by potential declines in their invertebrate prey, which are very sensitive to weather conditions like temperature and rainfall.

Cold, inclement springs like this year’s may also kill large numbers of swifts as they migrate through the Mediterranean by preventing them refuelling, leading to starvation, although there have also been instances of heatwaves killing large numbers of swifts as they overheat in their nests in roof cavities in the same region, something which might become a problem in the UK in future.

The cues of birds to migrate come both from an internal clock and factors in their environment, like changes in the seasons. Evidence suggests that species which are not adjusting their migratory schedules in the face of global change are more likely to be in decline and swifts do not appear to be as flexible as some other species in arriving earlier.

Tailored swift bricks

Longer-distance migrants are then more likely to be declining than shorter ones, but scientists’ understanding of the role of climate change in driving declines is still limited and complicated by so many other facets of global change.

Beyond reducing the carbon emissions and habitat destruction associated with our diets and lifestyles (and voting for politicians who take these challenges seriously), providing swift nest boxes may be another way people can help.

A campaign by Hannah Bourne-Taylor, a nature writer, to mandate the installation of “swift bricks” in new UK housing stock, could make up for the loss of nest sites in the eaves of older buildings – if only the government would support it.

Given all the difficulties swifts face and the joy that so many people derive in watching and listening to them careering across our summer skies, then we really should be supporting any efforts that may make a difference.The Conversation

Alexander C. Lees, Reader, Manchester Metropolitan University

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

Vatican conference on ‘climate resilience’ is the latest in a long line of environment initiatives by Pope Francis and the Catholic Church – 5 essential reads

A march for climate action in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in June 2015. Pope Francis praised the participants, who included Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus. AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Molly Jackson, The Conversation

From May 15-17, 2024, American leaders including California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healy will be attending a global conference on environmental issues. The host? The Vatican.

The summit, “From Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience,” will focus on human adaptation, not just trying to mitigate climate change. “We need to embark on building climate resilience so that people can bend the emissions curve and bounce back from the climate crisis safer, healthier, wealthier to a sustainable world,” the Pontifical Academy of Sciences said in a statement announcing the workshop.

The Catholic Church might seem a surprising institution to convene a climate change event. But many saints, activists and religious leaders have called on their faith to inspire care for the Earth. Pope Francis in particular has been vocal about the risks of climate change, especially its impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Here are five aspects about Francis’ views – and Catholicism’s broader relationship with the environment – that scholars have written about for The Conversation.

1. God’s creation

Care for the Earth has a long Catholic lineage, dating back centuries.

An illumination depicts Hildegard of Bingen experiencing a spiritual vision while dictating to a scribe.
Hildegard of Bingen did it all: music, botany, medicine, drama and theology. Miniatur aus dem Rupertsberger Codex des Liber Scivias/Wikimedia Commons

“One of the basic beliefs of Christianity is that the material world was created directly by God, and thus fundamentally connected with God’s goodness,” explained Joanne M. Pierce, a religious studies scholar at College of the Holy Cross.

One saint who took that teaching to heart was Hildegard of Bingen, who died in the 12th century. A German expert on herbal medicines and botany, she was also a writer, and she “espoused a kind of ‘green’ theology, called viriditas.”

Another Catholic saint famous for his love of nature is Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology: an Italian friar described as treating animals “with the same dignity as human beings.”

2. Faith – and reason

In fact, when Pope Francis published an encyclical on the environment in 2015, he took its title from one of his namesake saint’s poems: “Laudato si.”

The encyclical links concern for climate change with Catholic teachings. But it is not just meant for Catholics; Francis also makes science-based arguments that people can appreciate with or without religious faith, noted Lawrence Torcello, a philosopher at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“Laudato si” is a notable “example of how reason ought to be incorporated into public discourse,” Torcello wrote. In a time as polarized as our own, arguments need to be framed in a way that anyone can understand, even if they don’t agree, “regardless of private religious or parochial commitments.”

3. An influential messenger

Similarly, University of Michigan business scholars Andrew Hoffman and Jenna White zoomed in on the pope’s ability to speak to people beyond divides: Catholics and non-Catholics, Republicans and Democrats, people who care deeply about climate change and others that are skeptical about it.

In the United States, they pointed out, debates over climate change are often more about worldviews than about scientific proof. “Calling on people to protect the global climate because it is sacred … will create far more personal commitment than a government call for action on economic grounds or an activist’s call on environmental grounds,” the pair wrote.

4. Environmental front line

Francis has often highlighted climate change’s unequal impact on people across the globe. That was on display in 2019, when the Vatican hosted a “Synod of the Amazon” – a region especially threatened by environmental destruction.

“As a theologian who studies religious responses to the environmental crisis, I find the pope’s effort to learn from the indigenous people of the Amazon noteworthy,” wrote University of Dayton professor Vincent Miller.

“Some might dismiss this synod as just a meeting,” he acknowledged. But “the Synod of the Amazon marks a significant shift from high-minded papal exhortations about taking climate action to a global religious community that gives voice to those living on the front lines of ecological destruction.”

5. Warnings and wonder

In 2023, Francis released an addendum to “Laudato Si.” Like the original document, it linked environmental, social and technological challenges – such as by rebuking wealthy countries and individualistic attitudes for ignoring climate change’s impact.

In the pope’s eyes, “all life exists in relationships,” wrote Lisa Sideris, an environmental ethicist at UC Santa Barbara: nature, human beings and the divine. “Francis’ social critique, I believe, stems from his vision of life – one filled with awe for the depth of meaning and mystery to be found in an interconnected world.”

Part of the problem, as Francis presents it, is that people have forgotten just how deeply bound together we are – a theme likely to be front and center at this week’s summit.

This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Molly Jackson, Religion and Ethics Editor, The Conversation

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

Stirring films made the Snowy scheme a nationbuilding project. Could the troubled Snowy 2.0 do the same?

National Archives of Australia
Belinda Smaill, Monash University and Kate Fitch, Monash University

In 2017, then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull alighted from a helicopter to announce a grand plan: Snowy Hydro 2.0. It would turn the famous hydroelectric scheme into a giant battery, ready to power the green transition.

Turnbull no doubt expected his announcement would associate his leadership with the positive aura of the enormous post-war Snowy scheme, since mythologised as the foremost nation-building achievement of the 20th century.

But bad press has plagued Snowy 2.0. Recent news of a tunnel collapse is the latest episode in ongoing mechanical problems. There have been reports of environmental mismanagement, bogged tunnelling machines and cost blowouts. The constant stream of bad stories have outweighed any nation-building glow.

Or has it? Snowy 1.0 took 25 years to complete. It was a huge task to divert the Snowy River inland through tunnels, bolstering water supplies in the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers and generating power through hydroelectricity. Workers died. Costs blew out. But the mythology of the project grew, partly driven by promotional films depicting the project as a source of national pride and power.

A tale of two projects

Snowy 2.0 is overseen by a government-owned corporation, Snowy Hydro. Its public relations program includes social media, an onsite Discovery Centre and a YouTube channel with monthly video updates narrated by Snowy 2.0 personnel.

To date, the biggest boon for the project has been the three-part SBS series, Building the Snowy, first broadcast in August 2023. While not formally a product of Snowy Hydro, the series has an upbeat tone. Extensive use of archival footage strongly links current works to the celebrated post-war scheme.

Despite these efforts, Snowy 2.0 is now nationally known for slow progress and cost blowouts. The negative perception is fair. Snowy Hydro bosses admit there have been unanticipated setbacks.

Is it too late to change these perceptions? Not necessarily. Energy projects can be powerfully reimagined and legitimated in the public sphere. The original Snowy Scheme of the 1950s offers a formidable template.

This wasn’t by accident. Sir William Hudson, an engineer tasked with managing the Snowy scheme, had witnessed the successful promotion of Roosevelt’s 1930s New Deal policies in the United States, including the construction of the monumental Hoover Dam.

workers building a dam
The building of America’s Hoover Dam was similarly feted as a nationbuilding project. Everett Collection/Shutterstock, CC BY

Hudson decided to follow suit, investing heavily in promotion. This, it turned out, was wise. The scheme’s early years were fraught. Political wrangling meant the scheme was started under Commonwealth defence powers until it was formalised by state legislation in Victoria and NSW in 1959. It could easily have been cancelled or curtailed.

As the building progressed, workers began to die in accidents – a tally which would reach 121. States continued to disagree about the allocation of water for irrigation.

Hudson had to convince both the public and politicians of its merits. In addition to the usual press releases and newsreels, Hudson turned the works into a tourist attraction, taking people into the mountains by the busload.

Documentaries by the dozen

From the 1950s to the 1970s, the Snowy Mountain Authority sponsored a prolific photographic section, which put out huge volumes of photos – and around 130 documentaries.

historic photos of tunnelers for snowy scheme
The project was documented in great detail. The construction of the Murrumbidgee-Eucumbene tunnel (1959, left image) and the breakthrough joining two sections of the tunnel together (1960, right image) National Archives of Australia

Some of these weren’t aimed at a wide audience, such as safety training films or recruitment films to sustain the workforce.

But there were dozens which deliberately set out to create a favourable image of the scheme. The experienced cinematographer Harry Malcolm produced many of these films, which were shown at film festivals, schools and community group screenings.

men working on hydroelectric tunnel
Several documentaries depicted the safety practices in tunnelling. Sound and Safe (1963), Australian Screen, CC BY

The films made much of the spectacular alpine environment. Some showed the lives and accommodation of workers and their families in company towns such as Khancoban and Cabramurra. Only a few mentioned the multicultural workforce the scheme is known for.

Titles include Where Men and Mountains Meet (1963), Challenge of the Great Divide (1967) and Where the Hills Are Twice as Steep (1958). This last features a male narrator speaking from the perspective of Mt Kosciuszko, describing a chronology from deep time to colonisation to the problems of irrigation and electricity the scheme was meant to solve.

A high point was Conquest of the Rivers (1957), which won awards at film festivals and circulating internationally.

The semi-fictionalised documentary tells the story of Tom Carpenter who leaves his drought-affected home west of the Great Dividing Range with his small family and travels to Cooma to work on the Snowy.

Conquest of the Rivers emphasises a better future, created by the labour of male bodies as they carve paths inside mountains. The film draws on wartime tropes of capable masculinity.

tunnelling vehicle
Dozens of documentaries showed tunnelling, dam building, town relocation, town building and the environment of the area. The Construction of Geehi Dam, Australian Screen, CC BY

Taken together, these documentaries offered a stabilising discourse for the nation against the massive social change brought by the large Baby Boomer generation.

By 1960, the films had done their work. There was widespread enthusiasm for the project and its future was guaranteed.

There’s a telling quote from Tom Mitchell, a critic of the scheme, in Margaret Unger’s Voices from the Snowy:

In 1960 Upper Murray people suffered from a strange disease known as ‘Snowyitis’ which consisted of an overwhelming enthusiasm for the Snowy Scheme, almost rising to the fervour of a Billy Graham crusade. And yet, if asked, no one could really define the benefits

These films were never meant to be even-handed. Instead, Harry Malcolm’s films were a potent mix of truth and illusion, distracting from real problems such as deficient safety standards, low worker morale, and alarmingly, no planning for floods until after devastating floods on the Murray in 1956.

Could history repeat?

Just like the original Snowy scheme, the future of Snowy 2.0 is not assured. Its original backer has left politics. Enormous engineering challenges have yet to be overcome.

Could Snowy 2.0 be reframed as 1.0 did? It is possible. But it would require a much more imaginative storytelling regime, beyond photos of large tunnelling machines or commentary from engineers.

To make it successful in the public eye, it should harness the new story of our time – the essential energy transition away from fossil fuels and the creation of a new grid. It should connect this project in the mountains to the needs of people around the nation, appealing to the senses and conjuring up the desired future.

And it cannot be only in the realm of PR – Snowy 2.0 must make our environmental plight better, not worse. The Conversation

Belinda Smaill, Professor of Film and Screen Studies, Monash University and Kate Fitch, Senior Lecturer, Communications and Media, Monash University

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

Summer 2023 was northern hemisphere’s hottest for 2,000 years, tree rings show

Mary Gagen, Swansea University

The summer of 2023 was the warmest in the non-tropical areas of the northern hemisphere for 2,000 years, a new study has shown.

Across this vast area of land, encompassing Europe, Asia and North America, surface air temperatures were more than 2°C higher in June, July and August 2023 than the average summer temperature between AD1 and 1890, as reconstructed from tree ring records.

While climate change is a global phenomenon, warming on a regional scale is often stronger. And it is regional climate change, not the global average temperature, that people experience.

The Paris agreement aims to limit climate change to below 2°C and ideally 1.5°C of warming, but these figures refer to global temperature change, usually averaged over 20 years. The authors of the new research argue that these targets have already been breached at a regional scale in the northern hemisphere summer.

There were 2,295 deaths associated with five heatwaves in summer 2023 in the UK. The authors of the new study wanted to understand how unusually warm the summer of 2023 was in the northern hemisphere compared with the past.

To do that, they turned to one of the most useful tools for taking Earth’s temperature over thousands of years: rings that grow annually in tree trunks anywhere on the planet where the climate is seasonal.

Two millennia of tree rings

The extreme warmth of 2023 was caused by greenhouse gas emissions and amplified by El Niño, the warm phase of a natural climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean.

To find out what the climate was like in the recent past, scientists analyse weather station records to see if a particular year was warmer or cooler than previous ones. The longest instrumental record available is the Central England Temperature series and that only goes back to 1659, which is not long enough to place recent warming in context.

To find out how warm it is now compared with two millennia ago, scientists use climate proxies. These are natural archives like ice cores and sediments that store a record of the climate in the layers they accumulate over time.

Trees grow in lots of different places and sensitively record past climate information for much of the globe. Trees grow one ring a year in seasonal climates, so there is no doubt about the date a particular ring formed.

To study past climate, tree ring scientists analyse how wide or narrow a ring is in a particular year, how dense the wood is or its chemical composition.

A tree stump with growth rings exposed.
Rings in tree cores indicate how well the tree grew each year it was alive. DrimaFilm/Shutterstock

Tree-ring growth is sensitive to many climate variables, but in conifer trees growing at northern hemisphere treelines (the point at which trees can no longer grow due to cold temperatures, high winds or low moisture) it is summer temperature that most strongly controls tree ring growth. In a warm summer, such trees will tend to produce wide, dense rings.

A period in which trees from a particular region all grew wide, or narrow, rings, if accurately cross-referenced with many trees, indicates an unusual phase in the climate which affected the trees’ growth.

The authors of the new study were looking for trees which faithfully recorded past summer temperatures. They combined records from thousands of these trees across hundreds of sites in North America and Canada, the UK and Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Mongolia and Japan. The tree ring records were produced by scientists working laboriously to take tree core samples, measure the rings and share the data.

This huge tree ring archive revealed that the northern hemisphere summer of 2023 was warmer than the average of every year between AD1 and 1890 by 2.2°C. When compared to the very coldest year of the last two millennia, AD536, when a large volcano erupted and cooled the planet for several years, summer 2023 was found to be nearly 4°C warmer than that year.

What will future forests show?

As greenhouse gas emissions rise, enhancing Earth’s greenhouse effect, people can expect more frequent and severe climate events. In the past, very warm years globally generally happened during El Niño events, such as in 2016.

However, greenhouse gas levels are now so high that, for the first time in 2017, the planet experienced a very warm year during El Niño’s opposite, the La Niña phase, which has a cooling effect on global temperatures.

The new study found that 2023 even broke the 2016 record as it was 0.23°C warmer than the last El Niño-amplified summer. Greenhouse gas emissions are now so high that, when climate records are broken, they break in large step changes, rather than small increments.

The thousands of trees sampled for this study, from mountain forests around the northern hemisphere, face increasingly tough growing conditions. Were the scientists to revisit them they would find, in many places, trees stressed by heat and drought.

A single drought between 2012 and 2016 in California killed more than 200 million trees. Tree deaths in France have increased by over 80% in the last decade, a pattern seen around the globe as a result of hotter droughts.

Forests contain 80% of biodiversity living on land and sustain the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people. Trees also regulate the global climate and store carbon from the air, while slowly building up a record in their rings of our failure to halt dangerous climate change.

The extreme heat of 2023 highlights the need for urgent climate action. If the world rapidly decarbonises, future scientists will hopefully see the climate’s recovery quietly recorded in the tree ring records of Earth’s remaining forests.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation’s environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 30,000+ readers who’ve subscribed so far.The Conversation

Mary Gagen, Professor of Physical Geography, Swansea University

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 Beach Reserve- Bequeathed By John Therry  
Avalon Beach This Week: A Place Of A Bursting Main, Flooding Drains + Falling Boulders Council Announces Intention To Progress One LEP For Whole LGA + Transport Oriented Development Begins
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 Sea Scouts Hall: Some History
Bayview Wetlands
Beeby Park
Bilgola Beach
Bilgola Plateau Parks For The People: Gifted By A. J. Small, N. A. K. Wallis + The Green Pathways To Keep People Connected To The Trees, Birds, Bees - For Children To Play 
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 
Pictures From The Past: Views Of Early Narrabeen Bridges - 1860 To 1966
Pittwater Beach Reserves Have Been Dedicated For Public Use Since 1887 - No 1.: Avalon Beach Reserve- Bequeathed By John Therry 
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
Pittwater Pathways To Public Lands & Reserves
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 'Newport Loop': Some History 
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

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:

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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To find out more visit:

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.


Create a Habitat Stepping Stone!

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

How it works

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

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

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

What you get                                  

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

Get the kids involved and excited about helping out!

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

Newport Community Gardens

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

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

Avalon Preservation Association

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

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

Report illegal dumping

NSW Government

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

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

The Green Team

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

Australian Native Foods website:

Wildlife Carers and Organisations in Pittwater:

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

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


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

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

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


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

Find out more at:

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

Newport Community Garden: Working Bee Second Sunday of the month

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

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

For enquiries contact

Living Ocean

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

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

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

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

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

Donations are tax-deductable 
Permaculture Northern Beaches

Want to know where your food is coming from? 

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

Find out more here:


What Does PNHA do?


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

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

Email: Or click on Logo to visit website.

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

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

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

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

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

Pittwater's Environmental Foundation

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


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

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.

"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