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Title: Condition thresholds in Australia's threatened ecological community listings hinder conservation of dynamic ecosystems
Contributor(s): Saunders, Manu E  (author)orcid ; Bower, Deborah S  (author)orcid ; Mika, Sarah  (author)orcid ; Hunter, John T  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2021
Early Online Version: 2020-11-13
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1071/PC20040
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Abstract: Environmental degradation is threatening biodiversity and ecosystem function globally. Mandating ecosystem-level protection in policy and legislative frameworks is essential to prevent biodiversity loss. Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the key legislative mechanism for supporting biodiversity at the national level, but has so far been ineffective at protecting habitat and ecological communities. Here we identify a major flaw in the current approach to listing threatened ecological communities (TECs): restrictive condition thresholds that threaten ecosystem function in dynamic ecosystems. Using two wetland TECs as a case study (Upland Wetlands and Coolibah-Black Box Woodlands), we argue that Australia’s environmental legislation should adopt a landscape-scale approach to TEC protection that acknowledges ecosystem function, accounts for different states in temporally dynamic systems, and sustains landscape connectivity of TEC distribution. We present a state-and-transition model for each TEC to show how human activities affect the reference-state continuum of wet and dry phases. We also show that the current listed condition thresholds do not acknowledge alternative ecosystem states and exclude areas that may be important for restoration and conservation of the TEC at the landscape-scale. Description of alternative and transitional states for dynamic systems, including how, when and why ecological communities shift between different states, should be formally integrated into the TEC listing process to protect Australia’s vulnerable ecosystems from further degradation and loss.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Grant Details: ARC/DE200101424
Source of Publication: Pacific Conservation Biology, 27(3), p. 221-230
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Place of Publication: Australia
ISSN: 2204-4604
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 050205 Environmental Management
160507 Environment Policy
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 410404 Environmental management
440704 Environment policy
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 960799 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 190299 Environmental policy, legislation and standards not elsewhere classified
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science
UNE Business School

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