Thursday, 9 February 2017

ENDANGERED GIANT DRAGONFLY FOUND NEAR TYNDALE IN THE CLARENCE VALLEY





                                                                                            Photo:  F Forest

Petalurid dragonflies are a relict family originating in the mid-Jurassic ages. The Coastal Petaltail Dragonfly (Petaleura litorea) was separated from the Giant Dragonfly or Southeastern Petaltail Dragonfly (Petaleura gigantea) as a distinct species in 1999. The Coastal Petaltail is impressive with a wingspan up to 12.5 cm. Unlike other dragonfly larvae which mostly live in water, this species requires damp peaty soils with a high and variably emergent water table for the hatched larvae to burrow down into soil, spending probably at least five years in their underground burrows before emerging into adult dragonflies.

Petalura litorea is listed as endangered in NSW.  The NSW Government's Save our Species program classifies it as 'data deficient' species, and, therefore dependent on further information into all aspects of its life-cycle and habitat requirements. As part of this process, Dr Ian Baird, an expert who has spent many years studying both species, recently undertook investigations of known observations as part of a knowledge review of the species. Up until this time, only a few known breeding sites were confirmed in NSW.

Local ecologist, Mr. F. Forest, photographed a mating pair in 2009 near Tyndale. That photograph was forwarded to the Australian Museum, where the identification was confirmed. Despite the recent 2009 sightings, surveys by consultants to RMS (NSW Roads and Maritime Services) on the Pacific Highway upgrade failed to locate any individuals of the Coastal Petaltail, although “ecologists undertaking the survey did note some potential breeding habitats associated with wetlands in the project corridor”. Despite this the consultants’ report concluded that there was no suitable breeding habitat.

After recently assisting Dr. Baird, Mr Forest located three other populations which highlighted a variety of swamp habitat types used by the species for reproduction. One site is impacted directly by the new highway route and two are within 200 metres of it. Hopefully work undertaken by scientists like Dr Baird and Mr Forest can help provide the additional data needed to develop an action plan for the species’ recovery, advance our scientific knowledge, and ensure that the new highway does not negatively impact upon breeding sites of this ancient species.

            - John Edwards

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT'S CLIMATE POLICY REVIEW



During 2017 the federal Government is committed to a climate policy review to determine how Australia will meet the pledge it made in Paris to reduce its carbon emissions.   It pledged a reduction of 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Government’s current policy “Direct Action”, involving paying polluters from tax revenues to improve their behaviour, is widely acknowledged to be unequal to the task.

So the review is important to Australia’s ability to meet its international obligations.  Also important is the need to canvass a range of possibilities to select the most appropriate.

As electricity generation accounts for about a third of our total carbon emissions, it makes sense that it should be the focus of efforts to reduce emissions.

In December Energy Minister Frydenberg discussed what could be considered during the forthcoming review.  One of the options was an emissions intensity scheme on the electricity generation industry.

Within two days this was decisively dropped.  The reason was the angry reaction from the climate-change-denying rump of the Coalition.  Consequently the Prime Minister declared the Government would not be taking any action that would increase the cost of energy.

What is particularly interesting about this knee-jerk reaction is that an emissions intensity scheme on electricity generation was considered the best approach by a number of authorities advising the Government on energy and climate change. These include the Climate Change Authority, the Chief Scientist and the Australian Energy Market Commission.

In pointing out the folly of the Government dismissing options out of hand, economist Ross Gittens referred to the fact that we are not all climate deniers and that  “it’s our community and our economy  and prime ministers don’t get to dismiss options without us even being allowed to think about them and decide what we prefer”.

Furthermore modelling suggests that consumer’s electricity prices will continue to rise (as they have been doing consistently over the years) under “business as usual” but will rise less under an emissions intensity scheme than under other curbs on electricity emissions.

The Government’s refusal to consider an emissions intensity scheme makes no sense.

            - Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 23, 2017.    

Sunday, 22 January 2017

GOODBYE BLINKY BILL



Far too often we humans stand beneath a tree, look up at a koala on a branch far above our heads and say in a voice loud enough for him to hear, “Our interests are more important than yours.”

The koala may answer softly, “No tree, no me.”  He could have added, “And if my home is threatened, then so is the diversity of other flora and fauna that share the same ecosystem with me.”

But we fail to hear.

Forested areas are cleared to make way for our developments – urban areas, agriculture, roads and highways – and loss of habitat, the number one threat to a healthy koala population, takes place.

The precious habitat areas that remain are fragmented and isolated, and on koalas trying to exist in these pockets the pressure builds and serious issues quickly arise.

There is now excessive energy expenditure on greater ground movement as koalas search for the scattered food trees.  As they move across highways, fences, car parks, and backyards, they face a myriad of problems from motor vehicles, dogs and swimming pools.

The greatly reduced habitat areas lead to a greater density in the remaining koala population.  There is now increased competition for food and many are forced to eat poorer quality leaf.  There is also a greater tendency for inbreeding, and thus a lower genetic quality animal.

The destruction of koala habitat creates very high stress levels which increases susceptibility to disease.

Historically koalas have not been treated well.  Up until 1930 around 2 million koalas were “harvested” for the fur trade.  A public outcry resulted in a change and koala numbers slowly increased.  However, with habitat being removed , koala numbers are spiralling down again.

It is indeed time that we change our statement as we look up and say in a voice loud enough for him to hear, “Yes, I will care for you and our Community of Life with understanding, compassion and love.”

-          Stan Mussared

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 16, 2017.    



Note: Blinky Bill was a koala in a number of classic Australian children's stories written by Dorothy Wall.  The first of these were published in 1933.