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More Than 90% of Great Barrier Reef Impacted by Sixth Mass Bleaching Event

More Than 90% of Great Barrier Reef Impacted by Sixth Mass Bleaching Event


More than 90 percent of the Great Barrier Reef was impacted by coral bleaching during the Australian summer of 2021-2022. 


This is the conclusion of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which released the results Tuesday of aerial surveys taken of 719 reefs between Torres Strait and the Capricorn Bunker Group.

“The surveys confirm a mass bleaching event, with coral bleaching observed at multiple reefs in all regions,” the authority wrote. “This is the fourth mass bleaching event since 2016 and the sixth to occur on the Great Barrier Reef since 1998.”

The surveys revealed that 654 reefs, or 91 percent of those surveyed, had experienced some bleaching. The bleaching is especially notable this year because it is the first time it has happened under La Niña conditions, which usually result in cooler ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, as AP News pointed out.

“This is heartbreaking. This is deeply troubling,” Climate Council researcher Simon Bradshaw told AP News. “It shows that our Barrier Reef really is in very serious trouble indeed.”

Coral bleaching occurs when warmer than normal ocean temperatures turn the chemicals that coral-dwelling algae produce into poisons, prompting the coral to expel the algae. Because the algae provide the coral with both nutrients and color, the remaining coral turns white. 

This summer, the waters around the Great Barrier Reef began to heat up in December of 2021, the authority said. Ocean temperatures exceeded historical summer maximums that typically don’t occur until later in the summer. Between December and early April, the area experienced three distinct marine heat waves. The surveys were conducted after the last heat wave, which lasted from March 12 to 23. 

The bleaching recorded in the report does not necessarily mean that the impacted corals will die. 

“It is important to note that bleached coral is stressed but still alive,” the authority wrote. “As water temperatures cool, bleached corals may regain their colour and survive this stress event, as happened in 2020 when there was very low coral mortality associated with a mass bleaching event.”

During back-to-back mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, however, the reef experienced higher death tolls, according to AP News. Scientists predict that this year will be more like 2020.

“The early indications are that the mortality won’t be very high,” the authority’s chief scientist David Wachenfeld said, as AP News reported. 


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However, the reef remains in hot water as long as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The authority has said that the climate crisis is the single biggest threat to the reef, and a 2020 study found that the reef had already lost more than half its corals in the past 25 years because of human-induced global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that allowing temperatures to rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will kill 99 percent of all tropical reefs, while limiting warming to 1.5 degrees could save 30 to 10 percent of them.

The report comes as Australia prepares for federal elections later this month, AP News noted. Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, while the Labor Party has promised steeper cuts of 43 percent by 2030. 

Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign manager Lissa Schindler told The Guardian that reducing emissions should be a priority for the next government. 

“This was a La Niña year, normally characterised by more cloud cover and rain,” she said. “It should have been a welcome reprieve for our reef to help it recover and yet the snapshot shows more than 90% of the reefs surveyed exhibited some bleaching. Although bleaching is becoming more and more frequent, this is not normal and we should not accept that this is the way things are. We need to break the norms that are breaking our reef.”

Source:

Olivia Rosane at EcoWatch



AUSTRALIA’S “BLACK SUMMER” FIRES DAMAGED THE OZONE LAYER, STUDY REVEALS

AUSTRALIA’S “BLACK SUMMER” FIRES DAMAGED THE OZONE LAYER, STUDY REVEALS


Wildfires are becoming more frequent and severe and scientists warn that this could hinder the recovery of the ozone layer.


The ozone layer is between 15 to 40 kilometres away from the Earth’s surface, which is perhaps a closer distance than what some may have initially guessed.

This close proximity means that the ozone layer is susceptible to chemicals that humans create, such as the notorious CFC’s that cause widespread ozone-depletion. In 1987 the Montreal Protocol was enacted to regulate and ban certain ozone-thinning chemicals and is cited as a success story for environmental policy.

However, scientists have discovered an increasingly alarming source of ozone-destroying compounds that is impossible to ban: wildfire smoke.

study published by scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) investigated the catastrophic “Black Summer” Australian wildfires (2019-2020) and, for the first time, confirmed a connection between wildfire smoke and ozone depletion.

Over one million tons of smoke particles were released into the atmosphere during the Black Summer fires and travelled 35 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. This release is comparable to a volcanic eruption and changes in the stratosphere were noticed shortly after the fires had been tamed in March 2020.

An image from the International Space Station captured extreme fire activity in Australia on January 4, 2020. (NASA)

After studying data from a number of satellites, the scientists noticed there was a “sharp drop” in nitrogen dioxide in the stratosphere, which is the beginning of a chemical reaction that typically ends in ozone depletion.

Nitrogen dioxide rapidly dropped in March 2020, which represented a 20-year low for one satellite’s record. The study says that total ozone loss from this wildfire event was one per cent during March 2020, which raises serious concerns since scientists expect the ozone layer to recover by one per cent per decade.

By August 2020, the smoke particles left the ozone and fell back to Earth, putting an end to the ozone destruction that they were causing. Researchers say that the impact these wildfires had on the stratosphere in such a short period of time raises concerns about future fire events, despite the progress that has been made since the Montreal Protocol.

A burning forest during the historic bushfire season in Australia from 2019 to 2020. (Thomas Hogg/ iStock /Getty Images Plus)

“The Australian fires look like the biggest event so far, but as the world continues to warm, there is every reason to think these fires will become more frequent and more intense,” lead author Susan Solomon and MIT professor of environmental studies, stated in a press release.

“It’s another wakeup call, just as the Antarctic ozone hole was, in the sense of showing how bad things could actually be.”


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The ozone layer protects living organisms on Earth from damaging amounts of UV rays from the Sun and the U.N. estimates that the Montreal Protocol has prevented millions of additional cases of melanoma, other cancers, and eye cataracts.

Even though ozone is continuously created since it is formed by sunlight reacting with oxygen, the study concludes that increasingly frequent and severe wildfires due to climate change could hinder the recovery that the ozone layer has made since the Montreal Protocol was enacted.

“Wildfire smoke is a toxic brew of organic compounds that are complex beasts. And I’m afraid ozone is getting pummelled by a whole series of reactions that we are now furiously working to unravel,” Solomon stated.

Source:

Isabella O’Malley at The Weather Network



Endangered long-footed potoroo bouncing back from the brink after Black Summer

Endangered long-footed potoroo bouncing back from the brink after Black Summer


Up to 70 per cent of the long-footed potoroo’s habitat was destroyed in the Black Summer bushfires.


It is safe to say the long-footed potoroo is hard to find. 

In fact, this adorable, endangered “rat kangaroo” can only be found in three tiny pockets in the world — in south-east NSW, far East Gippsland and Victoria’s remote Barry Mountains.

When bushfires tore through much of both states’ wilderness regions in 2019-20, things weren’t looking good for the small marsupial.

“During the Black Summer bushfires, 70 per cent of their known Victorian habitat was burnt and destroyed,” Elizabeth Wemyss from Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) said.

But it was hard to know exactly what the impact had been, so for two sessions over two years cameras were set up in remote parts of Victorian bushland and watched.

In the second session, 148 camera sites were set up to survey more than 300,000 hectares of public land in the Barry Mountains and surrounds.

The results were promising.

“We’re really lucky to have these little animals and we’re really lucky that they’re being seen in larger numbers in places that are burnt,” Ms Wemyss said.

Potoroos were spotted in places they had not previously been seen in during the 2021 survey.(Supplied: DELWP)

Not out of the woods

Potoroos were spotted at 53 of the camera sites, an increase from the year before.

“They’re using the landscape in ways that we weren’t expecting,” Ms Wemyss said.

“That provides us with more information about them, where they are and how we can better protect the areas that they’re in.”

The project was a collaborative effort, combining the knowledge of DELWP, Parks Victoria, the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research and the Taungurung Land and Waters Council.

“To be able to be a part of surveying the fire damage and actually going out and being on country after such a significant event, the sense of the devastation was a bit breathtaking,” Taungurung man Noah Honeysett said.

“But to be able to see how country has healed and how it’s healing, and to be able to see how the animals have adapted to that is an eye-opener.”

But the potoroo is not safe yet.

Other native animals will be protected by an extended fox baiting program(Supplied: DELWP)

Ms Wemyss says it is great to see them coming back in bigger numbers, but they are still endangered.

“The potoroo is a resilient little guy, but they are in very small, isolated patches, so that’s the real problem,” she said.

“Every time they’re knocked back, there’s only a small amount to be knocked back from.

“The main threats to the potoroo’s survival can be directly attributed to bushfires, climate change and predation by introduced species like foxes and feral cats.”


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Baiting program begins

An extended fox baiting program has now been launched, starting in the Dandongadale, Buffalo River and Buckland state forests.

It will then be rolled out in parts of the Tea Tree Range state forests and the Alpine National Park.

It is hoped the program will eliminate some of the worst predators and protect other native animals that are being impacted.

The program will be completed in June and Ms Wemyss hopes the monitoring and the baiting will receive ongoing funding, so the groups can continue to protect the long-footed potoroo from the challenges it faces.

Mr Honeysett said the project felt like a real group effort and seemed like a step in the right direction in terms of co-managing country.

“I guess it’s a kind of way of healing country together,” he said.

“I think there is great importance in seeing everyone as equals as we move forward — we definitely want to have a bigger role in managing country.”

He says it is the only way that special places and animals will survive and thrive in the future.

“I think it all boils down to the saying, ‘Take care of country and country will take care of you’,” he said.

Source:

Katherine Smyrk at ABC News



People flee to rooftops as ‘weather bomb’ submerges Australian towns

People flee to rooftops as ‘weather bomb’ submerges Australian towns


Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate as heavy rains smashed Australia’s east coast on Monday, submerging towns and stranding residents on rooftops, with authorities warning of life-threatening flash floods.


Nine people have been killed since the deluge began last Thursday, and rescue teams were searching on Monday for at least four people reported missing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who called the unprecedented rains a “weather bomb”, said defence personnel would be deployed to flood-hit areas to lead both rescue and recovery operations.

Australia’s weather bureau said flash flooding remained a real risk in northern New South Wales (NSW) state as the wild weather moved south from neighbouring Queensland.

“What we are seeing today is unprecedented and the advice that we have received is we would expect things to get worse,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet told a televised briefing.

The Brisbane River in the Queensland capital peaked on Monday morning, flooding several streets in Australia’s third largest city. Social media posts showed indundated houses and debris, including bins, boats and cars, floating down roads.

In the northern NSW city of Lismore, the entire CBD was underwater and the Bureau of Meteorology warned the city’s Wilsons River could reach around 14.2 metres on Monday afternoon, surpassing the last peak back in 1954.

“I have been fielding calls from very distressed residents who are sitting on rooftops trying to get help. It’s diabolical,” Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg told broadcaster ABC.

Krieg said the sheer speed of rising waters caught people by surprise as he urged the town’s near 30,000 residents to leave their homes immediately.

Lismore resident Kara Ahearn said she, her partner and three children were rescued by a kayaker from their roof, to where they had fled when their house was inundated within two hours.

“Very intense morning … very shaken” she told ABC. “We had to leave our pets behind … we didn’t even have time to put our shoes on.”

CROSSING DEATHS

Australia’s east coast summer has been dominated by the La Nina climate pattern, which is typically associated with greater rainfall, for the second straight year.

Several regions have seen rainfall records for February broken because of the relentless downpour, with some places getting more than a month’s or more than a year’s rains in one day.


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Many of the nine fatalities were people who had attempted to cross flooded roads, either by foot or in a vehicle, including one man who was found in a submerged car on Monday morning with his deceased dog.

“We say this every time during flooding events,” Perrottet said. “If you drive through floodwaters, you are putting your life, and the lives of others, at risk.”

As tens of thousands of people were evacuated, tens of thousands more were put on alert for potential orders to flee, thousands of schools were closed and at least 50,000 homes were without power. read more

Insurer Suncorp on Monday said it had received more than 5,000 claims related to the floods and estimates costs of about A$75 million ($54 million).

Source:

Renju Jose via Reuters



Koalas: Australia lists marsupial as endangered species

Koalas: Australia lists marsupial as endangered species


Australia has listed the koala as an endangered species across most of its east coast, after a dramatic decline in numbers.


The once-thriving marsupial has been ravaged by land clearing, bushfires, drought, disease and other threats.

The federal government said the listing was for Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

It has been urged to do more to protect koalas from rapidly diminishing habitats and climate change.

The species was listed as “vulnerable” in those states and territory only in 2012. Despite the rapid deterioration, governments have been accused of dithering.

“This listing adds priority when it comes to the conservation of the koala,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said on Friday.

She said officials were designing a recovery plan, and land development applications would now be assessed for impacts on the species.

Last year, a New South Wales inquiry found koalas would be extinct there by 2050 unless there was urgent action.

It estimated the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 had killed 5,000 koalas and affected 24% of habitats in New South Wales alone.


Parts of Western Australia’s Pilbara region recorded 50C, making it the hottest day on record there. Photograph: John White Photos/Getty Images

AUSTRALIA MATCHES ITS HOTTEST DAY ON RECORD AS WESTERN AUSTRALIA TOWN HITS 50.7C


Mercury in the remote town of Onslow registers 50.7C (123.3F) , while two other sites also reach extreme temperatures

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“Koalas have gone from no-listing to vulnerable to endangered within a decade. That is a shockingly fast decline,” said conversation scientist Stuart Blanch from WWF-Australia.

“Today’s decision is welcome, but it won’t stop koalas from sliding towards extinction unless it’s accompanied by stronger laws and landholder incentives to protect their forest homes.”

Scientists warn that climate change will also exacerbate bushfires and drought, and reduce the quality of the animal’s eucalyptus leaf diet.

Koalas are also found in South Australia and Victoria but their numbers are on the decline nationally, according to conservation groups.

Source:

BBC News



Australia matches its hottest day on record as Western Australia town hits 50.7C

Australia matches its hottest day on record as Western Australia town hits 50.7C


Mercury in the remote town of Onslow registers 50.7C (123.3F) , while two other sites also reach extreme temperatures


Australia has matched its hottest ever reliably recorded temperature, with Onslow airport near the remote West Australian town of Onslow registering 50.7C (123.3F)

Prior to Thursday, the 50C-mark had only been crossed three times at a standardised monitoring site including consecutive days in early 1960. Onslow’s top was reached just before 2.30pm local time.

The 50.7C reading on 2 January 1960 had stood unmatched as Australia’s hottest temperature for 62 years, with the following day almost as scorching at 50.3C, according to Bureau of Meteorology data going back nationally to 1910.

On Thursday, Onslow was joined by at least two other WA sites in breaking 50C, with both Roebourne airport and Mardie hitting 50.5C. Mardie had been there once before, on 19 February 1998 – Australia’s only other 50C-plus day among the four.

The extreme temperatures came towards the end of a searing heatwave over north-western WA in recent days.

Stonkingly hot winds from Australia’s red centre had been building, in part as a result of the movement across northern Australia of tropical cyclone Tiffany.

Now an ex-tropical cyclone, Tiffany dumped huge amounts of rain over northern Queensland and the Northern Territory, and could end up steering heavy rainfall into central and eastern Australia in coming days.

A slew of other WA towns were likely to have set temperature records for January or any time of the year.

Iron-ore export hub Karratha, also on WA’s north-west coast, reached 48.4C (119.1F) to exceed its previous high of 48.2C.

Last year was the world’s fifth-hottest year on record, according to preliminary readings, and was likely the hottest recorded year with a La Niña event in the Pacific.

La Niña years are characterised by the tropical Pacific Ocean absorbing more heat than in a neutral year.


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The scorching heat was expected to somewhat ease in Roebourne and Karratha on Friday, but another 49C day was forecast further down the coast in Onslow.

Temperatures were also well into the 40s in parts of the Goldfields and Gascoyne regions, while Perth enjoyed a mild 26C day.

A severe weather warning had meanwhile been issued for people in parts of the far-north Kimberley region, including Kununurra and Wyndham.

The bureau said the ex-tropical cyclone had weakened to a deep tropical low that was set to move across the border from the Northern Territory, bringing heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding.

Damaging wind gusts up to 100km/h were anticipated from Thursday afternoon.

Source:

Peter Hannam at The Guardian



‘Dancing through the water’: rare sighting of blanket octopus in Great Barrier Reef

‘Dancing through the water’: rare sighting of blanket octopus in Great Barrier Reef


‘Seeing one in real life is indescribable,’ says marine biologist of the technicolour marine mollusc she spotted off Queensland


Only a handful of people have spotted the dazzling blanket octopus in the wild, making it one of the rarest sights in the marine world.

The technicolour marine mollusc was spotted last week by reef guide and marine biologist Jacinta Shackleton, off the coast of Lady Elliot Island in the Great Barrier Reef .

“When I first saw it, I thought it could have been a juvenile fish with long fins, but as it came closer, I realised it was a female blanket octopus and I had this overwhelming sense of joy and excitement,” she said.

“I kept yelling through my snorkel, ‘it’s a blanket octopus!’ I was so excited I was finding it difficult to hold my breath to dive down and video it.”

Blanket octopuses are extremely rare. The first sighting of a live male was made 21 years ago just north of the Great Barrier Reef in the Ribbon Reefs by Dr Julian Finn, a senior curator of marine invertebrates at Museums Victoria, and colleagues.

‘Rainbow-like’ blanket octopus off Lady Elliot Island, Queensland.
‘Rainbow-like’ blanket octopus off Lady Elliot Island, Queensland. Composite: Jacinta Shackleton

In the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, he noted they are the “most extreme example of sexual size-dimorphism in a non-microscopic animal”.

While females grow up to 2 metres in length, the males have only been seen to grow to about 2.4cm long.

Males also don’t develop the blanket octopus’s iridescent “blanket” that makes the species so alluring.

For the females that do develop it, the display can be shed to elude predators.

The extreme difference between the sexes is thought to have developed because of the blanket octopus’s unique habit of carrying blue-bottle stingers for self-defence.


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This Gilbert's Potoroo was caught on a motion sensor camera on Middle Island on November 1, 2021. (Supplied: DBCA)

GILBERT’S POTOROO AMONG A HANDFUL OF RARE SPECIES SURVIVING ON REMOTE AUSTRALIAN ISLANDS


Many remote islands are now being used as homes for critically endangered species, as mainland populations come under threat from bushfire and feral predation.


Shackleton said she believes there have only been three sightings of the octopus in the area before hers. It generally spends its lifecycle in the open ocean so it’s even more unusual to see one on the reef.

Shackleton said she feels lucky to have been in the water at the right time to capture vision of the spectacular species.

This is not Shackleton’s first extraordinary sighting. She has also encountered a rare ornate eagle ray and a rare melanistic manta ray but says the blanket octopus “has got to be one of my all-time favourite reef experiences”.

“Seeing one in real life is indescribable, I was so captivated by its movements, it was as if it was dancing through the water with a flowing cape. The vibrant colours are just so incredible, you can’t take your eyes off it.

“I’ve truly never seen anything like it before and don’t think I ever will again in my life.”

Source:

Bertin Huynh at The Guardian



Gilbert’s Potoroo among a handful of rare species surviving on remote Australian islands

Gilbert’s Potoroo among a handful of rare species surviving on remote Australian islands


Rangers from the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation are monitoring a small population of Gilbert’s Potoroos on Middle Island

An insurance population of the potoroo was translocated to the remote island, off WA’s south coast

Many remote islands are now being used as homes for critically endangered species, as mainland populations come under threat from bushfire and feral predation


Few places are more isolated than the islands off Western Australia’s rugged south coast.

Windswept and surrounded by dangerous seas, they remain uninhabited, and some are almost impossible to access.

But as Australia’s wildlife comes under increasing threat, many of these outcrops are taking on a critical role in conservation — as safe havens for some of our most endangered species.

On Middle Island, 120 kilometres south-east of Esperance, rangers are working to preserve the world’s rarest marsupial.

The Gilbert’s Potoroo is a small relative of the kangaroo, and is critically endangered, with only about 100 left in existence.

“We’re just seeing if the population can grow, because on the mainland they’re getting eaten by foxes and wild cats,” ranger Zane Vincent said.

Three rangers with their backs to the camera walk across the island, the ocean and other islands are visible
Rangers spend almost six hours trekking across Middle Island to download camera footage. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

Every three to six months, rangers from the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation travel to the island to download footage from three motion sensor cameras, designed to snap pictures of the animals, and replace their batteries.

Small canisters are placed within the frame of the cameras and filled with food – peanut butter and oats or other treats – in the hope the smell will attract potoroos and trigger the cameras.

But, as ranger Hayleigh Graham describes, it is difficult work.

She sits in the bush wearing a cap
Hayleigh Graham is a ranger with the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

After a two-and-a-half-hour boat ride to the island, the rangers spend almost six hours trekking to the different camera sites before making the return journey.

“It’s pretty hard; it’s different land over here. You’re climbing under trees, you’re going alongside granite rocks,” she said, “You’re pretty much bush-bashing all the way through.”

But it is work they are happy to do.

“It’s pretty good learning about all this stuff, going around all the islands. I love … just love being on Pop’s country, my great grandfather’s country,” Mr Vincent said.

He sits under a tree on the island, in a high-vis jacket, looking at the camera, fairly close up
Ranger Zane Vincent said working on the Esperance islands is his favourite part of the job.(ABC News: Emily Smith)

‘Insurance populations’ save Potoroos

Middle Island, also famous for its bright pink lake and for once being home to Australia’s only pirate, is a relatively new home for the Gilbert’s Potoroo.

Aerial shot of Lake Hillier on Middle Island, with its pink-coloured water
Middle Island is home to the vibrant pink Lake Hillier, which tourists usually see via a scenic flight. (Supplied: Jaimen Hudson)

The species was believed extinct, until it was spotted for the first time in more than a century near Albany in 1994.

Tony Friend, a research associate with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, said a new population was then successfully relocated to Bald Island off Albany.

The idea was to create an insurance population, so if something happened to the original one, the species would survive.

It was a wise move – a fire wiped out most of the original population at Two People’s Bay in 2015.

Aerial shot of the fire burning in the Two People's Bay Nature Reserve.
The fire at Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve in November 2015 decimated the potoroo population and habitat.(Supplied: DPAW)

Funding was then granted to establish another population, as a replacement, and Middle Island was chosen for its size, absence of predators and for the fact it has the underground fungi which the potoroos eat.

Recent evidence suggested the animals were breeding, with six individuals caught during a research trip in April, three of which were born on the island.

But it is not yet clear whether numbers will continue to grow.

A Gilberts Potoroo standing in dry leaves in bush land staring at camera holding front paws together
The Gilbert’s Potoroo is believed to be persisting on Middle Island, near Esperance. (GPAG: Dick Walker)

“Potoroos live for about 10 years so there’s plenty of time for that little population to build up,” Dr Friend said.

The data from the recent trip in November has not yet been analysed, but some potoroos were captured on the motion-sensor cameras.

A night-time black and white image of the potoroo
Footage taken from Middle Island in November shows the Gilbert’s Potoroo is persisting. (Supplied: DBCA)

Islands last refuge for endangered species

As more and more wildlife come under threat, from things like climate change, bushfires and feral predation, remote islands are frequently being used for “insurance populations” of critically endangered species.

A close up, he is wearing glasses and a cap
Tony Friend, from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, said islands could play an important role in conservation. (ABC News: Mark Bennett)

Dr Friend said in Western Australia alone about 23 or 24 islands were being used for these programs, including Bald Island, Dirk Hartog Island, the Montebello Islands and islands off Jurien Bay and the Pilbara coast.

Over the past few decades, he said the criteria for initiating these programs had been refined, and the success rate was now about 90 per cent.

But he said there were also challenges, in that they are difficult to work on, populations have to be carefully managed to prevent inbreeding and careful research had to be done to ensure they did not impact other native species already on the island.

He sits in a bucket hat at the beach, smiling at the camera
Wayne Gill recently trekked across Middle Island, along with rangers Hayleigh Graham and Zane Vincent, to download images from motion sensor cameras, targeting potoroos. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

Wayne Gill used to work for Parks and Wildlife, but now lends his expertise to the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, and said he believes the Recherche Archipelago, with more than 100 uninhabited islands, hold potential for more of these insurance population programs.

As well as the Gilbert’s Potoroo program, he noted two other islands had been used for similar initiatives – a population of dibblers translocated to Gunton Island are believed to be persisting, although noisy scrub birds taken to Mondrain Island have not been detected since 2020.


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MOUSE THOUGHT TO BE EXTINCT FOUND IN AUSTRALIA


A native mouse that was thought to be extinct was found off Western Australia recently, The Guardian reported. Gould’s mouse was found on several small islands after not being found on the mainland.


A tiny, furred creature, a cross between a weasel and a mouse.
Dibblers, one of Australia’s carnivorous marsupials, have also been translocated and are doing well on Dirk Hartog Island. (Supplied: Perth Zoo)

“I think it’s definitely on the cards; I don’t see why they couldn’t do more,” he said, “We’ve already stuffed the planet up quite a bit through our activities.

“So, it’s nice to do what you can to save what’s left.”

She wears high-vis and sits on a tinny
Hayleigh Graham on the way out to a larger boat, that will take all the rangers to Middle Island. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

Source:

Emily JB Smith at ABC News



proposed $1.5bn Australian coalmine site home to over a dozen threatened species

proposed $1.5bn Australian coalmine site home to over a dozen threatened species


Development would have to fit within the mining giant’s pledge to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050


Mining giant Glencore has defended its plans to dig a $1.5bn coalmine in Queensland after telling the federal government more than a dozen threatened species could be on the site.

Environmentalists said the Valeria mine would destroy habitat for threatened species and threaten farmland, and put a question mark over the company’s climate goals.

But Glencore said it was yet to decide if it would commit financially to the project, which would have to fit within its commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

That goal, the company has said, also includes the burning of the coal the company sells. In 2019, the company said it would not increase its coal production after pressure from investors.

Company documents say the mine would produce between 14m and 16m tonnes of coal a year from six open-cut pits in the Bowen Basin with an expected lifespan of 35 years.

According to documents sent to the federal government this month, there are four plants and nine animals that are considered threatened but that could be present at the mine site.

There are also three threatened ecological communities that would be affected, with some of those areas needing to be cleared.

Surveys carried out between 2019 and 2021 recorded hundreds of species, including 334 plants, 132 birds, 34 mammals, 37 reptiles, 16 fish, 10 frogs and 10 introduced species.

Koalas, greater gliders and squatter pigeons that are all considered to be vulnerable to extinction were recorded at the site.

Koalas and greater gliders were also seen in areas the company would use to build a 67km rail line.

The company said the project covered 29,501 hectares with about 10,364 hectares that would need to be cleared for the mine, workers’ camp, and access road.

The company has sent five documents to the federal government – covering the mine and other infrastructure including roads and rail – that will now be considered by the environment minister under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Director of the Queensland Conservation Council, Dave Copeman, said: “We can develop other projects that would create longer-lasting jobs and economic opportunities for regional Queensland without trashing the planet.”

He said the production of coal for power generation “must end by 2030 if we are to stay below 1.5 degrees of global heating” and the methane emissions from the proposed open-cut pits would be “a climate nightmare.”

Ellie Smith, of campaign group Lock the Gate Queensland, said there was no justification for a future approval of the project.

She said: “The Valeria coal project poses an unacceptable risk to farmland and to Theresa Creek, a known habitat of numerous threatened species and a waterway relied on by communities in the region for agriculture.”

She said the plan for the mine made the company’s climate goals “look like nothing more than greenwashed propaganda.”


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In a statement, Glencore could not say when a final investment decision might be made.

But the company said it was carrying out studies into the Valeria coal resource as the project moved through the state and federal assessment process.

Glencore has committed to cutting emissions by 15% by 2026, 50% by 2035 and to be a “net zero total emissions business” by 2050.

The statement said: “The development of any coal project, including Valeria, will take into account Glencore’s climate change strategy and stated emission reduction targets.”

The Queensland government granted the mine special status last year, streamlining the approvals process.

Source:

Graham Readfearn at The Guardian



Maralinga nuclear tests: descendants of displaced buy shares in company planning WA uranium mine

Maralinga nuclear tests: descendants of displaced buy shares in company planning WA uranium mine


Purchase designed to enable Indigenous objections to Mulga Rock project as environmental approval set to expire in three weeks


The descendants of people displaced by nuclear testing at Maralinga bought shares in a company planning to build a uranium mine on their country, in order to lodge an in-person objection to the project.

The proposed Mulga Rock uranium mine, about 240km west of Kalgoorlie, is in an area of land subject to a native title claim by the Upurli Upurli Nguratja people.

The mine is run by Perth-based Vimy Resources, which has just three weeks to convince the Western Australian government that it has met the threshold for substantially commencing development on the site before its environmental approval expires.

The approval was granted five years ago, before the McGowan government was elected on a platform of opposing uranium mining in the state. Premier Mark McGowan has said his government will not approve any new uranium mines but will honour existing approvals.

Mulga Rock’s environmental approval is due to expire on 16 December, unless it can prove it has substantially commenced work on the project. One uranium mine approved around the same time has already fallen over, and the deadline for two more mines is looming in January.

The company received mining approval only in September and began ground clearing this month. It has yet to secure the US$255m (A$357m) required to build the project but filed a notice of substantial commencement with the WA government this week.

Debbie Carmody, an Anangu Spinifex woman and registered Upurli Upurli Nguratjia (UUN) claimant, used shares in Vimy Resources – purchased on behalf of the claimants and environment groups – to gain a seat at the company’s annual general meeting on Perth on Friday and raise her people’s objection in person.

The UUN had invited a representative from Vimy to meet with them earlier this month, but the company cancelled.

They are strongly opposed to uranium mining, and wrote to the government this month to formally state their opposition to the proposal and disappointment in the lack of consultation.

Carmody is a descendent of people displaced by the nuclear tests conducted at Maralinga in South Australia in the 1950s.

She said Vimy Resources was trying to use competing native title claims over the area to divide traditional owners and avoid proper consultation.

“The company is really happy to wedge our community between mining dollars and cultural heritage, so they have been very selective with who they consult with,” Carmody said. “They are supposed to consult with the registered group, not individuals. It’s important that everyone understands that consultation is not consent.”

The UUN claim was filed on 2 December 2020, and the Kakarra Part B claim, which overlaps part of the claimed area, was filed two weeks later. An earlier native title claim by the Wongatha people was rejected by the federal court in 2007.

The company has recognised the Nanataddjarra, Nangaanya-Ku and Wongatha people as stakeholders and recorded two meetings in the past five years.

Carmody said: “After a decade of Vimy denying that there are any Aboriginal people with connection or knowledge of that country, it’s pretty hard to take them seriously when they have denied our existence for so long.”

In a response to Guardian Australia, a spokeswoman for Vimy said the company was unable to attend the 4 November meeting with UUP with eight days’ notice, but had scheduled another meeting for Monday.

The company said it had met with the UUN’s lawyers, the Central Desert Native Title Services, and engaged with the group through its own lawyers as a respondent to the native title claim.

That was not consultation, Carmody said.

Vimy also said it was awaiting the outcome of mediation on the issue of the competing native title claim.

“Vimy understands the significance of engaging with Aboriginal people with knowledge of country at the Mulga Rock Project, and has done so since 2009,” the spokeswoman said. “We look forward to continuing to engage with the Upurli Upurli Nguratja claimants to ensure we meet the highest standards of engagement with all stakeholders.”

The proposed development is near the Seven Sisters women’s dreaming. There are also four registered Aboriginal heritage sites on the project, which Vimy says it plans to avoid.

“As caretakers we have a cultural responsibility to protect land that is near the Seven Sisters, a sacred site for women,” Carmody said. “The land is a special place for women – the beautiful, soft desert sands are healing sands.

“Vimy don’t understand that a site is not just the immediate site but the whole area around it. That whole area is important.”

The site is also home to the endangered sandhill dunnart. Developing a sandhill dunnart conservation plan is a condition of the mine’s federal and state environmental approvals, but the company told Guardian Australia the plan was “still in draft format”.

Mia Pepper from the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) said beginning land clearing without having an approved conservation plan was a breach of the project’s federal approval under the Environment, Protection and Biodiversity Act.

The CCWA wrote to the federal and state environment departments earlier this month alleging the company had breached the conditions of its approval and requesting an urgent investigation.

The letter, seen by Guardian Australia, said the WA Department of Mines had informed the CCWA that Vimy had begun clearing to construct a new airstrip in an area recognised as prime sandhill dunnart habitat.

The federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said it was aware of the allegation and was “making a number of inquiries”.

“The department routinely monitors compliance and is not in a position to comment further on this matter,” a spokesperson said.

Vimy rejected the allegations and said it had not undertaken any clearing on the airstrip site and had not cleared outside the development envelope.

It said it had “begun vegetation clearing and soil and growth medium stripping at Mulga Rock East mining area and the location of the accommodation village”.

Pepper said the works undertaken so far should not meet the threshold for substantial commencement.

The company is yet to secure export licences, a licence to hold radioactive material and a permit to establish a nuclear facility, which will be required to build a processing plant.

It has also lost three senior executives in the past few months and is currently steered by an interim CEO. The project itself was subject to a hostile merger offer and is now under strategic review.

“The company has not even made a final investment decision about whether to develop the proposal,” Pepper said. “It’s definitely a long way from where we are now to an established mine.”

Source:

Calla Wahlquist at The Guardian