Lines in the sand

Dr. Suzanne Prober, Prof Richard Hobbs, Prof Hugh Possingham and I have recently had a paper entitled ‘Lines in the sand: quantifying the cumulative development footprint in the world’s largest remaining temperate woodland‘ published in the journal Landscape Ecology. You can view the article online here or contact me to send you a pdf and/or any appendices.

In the paper, we quantify cumulative anthropogenic development footprints for the Great Western Woodland and expose the large proportion of this that is made up of unmapped linear infrastructure. We highlight the crucial importance of explicitly accounting for the ecological impacts of linear infrastructure in impact evaluations – impacts that typically pass under the radar of impact evaluations.

We also present an analysis of key drivers of development footprint extent, both at the regional and landscape-patch levels, and provide key insights, such as the mitigative effect of pastoralism on development footprints in mining landscapes, and investigate the implications for edge effects. Our approach and methodology provide information and insights that are useful for cumulative and strategic impact assessment as well as landscape planning and conservation, and can be applied to other relatively intact landscapes worldwide.

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Fig. 3 Contribution of different anthropogenic disturbance types to total direct development footprint, with some examples. a) Contribution of different types of infrastructure to total footprint. b) An example of ‘hub’ infrastructure: an abandoned gold mine. c) Aerial view showing both hub and linear infrastructure of a mine and associated exploration grids. d) Aerial view of exploration grids passing through shrubland and woodland vegetation, the white dots are drill pads. e) A mapped track leading to Helena-Aurora Range, one of the banded ironstone formations where mining is currently proposed. The track was probably initially built for mineral exploration purposes and is now used by miners, conservation agencies, and tourists. f) A ground-truthed unmapped track with abandoned exploration drilling sample bags to the left. An abandoned hydrocarbon drum was found further along this track.

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Linear infrastructure impacts on landscape hydrology

The extent of roads and other forms of linear infrastructure is burgeoning worldwide, however there has been little quantification of how linear infrastructure affects the movement of water across landscapes. In our paper published in the Journal of Environmental Management, we present the first (to our knowledge) study to characterise and quantify the broad-scale impacts of linear infrastructure networks on surface and near-surface hydrology of a semi-arid region, Western Australia’s Great Western Woodlands.

With linear infrastructure named ‘one of the most pressing rangeland management concerns in arid and semi-arid lands globally’ (Duniway and Herrick 2013, in Rangeland Ecology and Management), we found that hydrological impacts of linear infrastructure are pervasive, but that there is considerable scope for addressing impacts. Hydrological impacts included erosion and pooling, as well as flow impedance, concentration and channelling, diversion, and new channel initiation at drainage crossings. Strategies for managing and mitigating these impacts include: hydrologically considerate infrastructure design; improving consideration of hydrological impacts in environmental impact evaluations, land-use or conservation plans, and mitigation strategies; developing risk maps to inform landscape-scale planning of linear infrastructure in relatively undisturbed landscapes; and further research to better understand the ecological ramifications of the impacts we report, and identify cost-effective solutions.

Our approach and methodology provide information and insights that are useful for cumulative and strategic impact assessment and decision-making as well as landscape planning and conservation policy, and can be applied to a range of other landscapes worldwide.

Ref: Raiter, K.G., Prober, S.M., Possingham, H.P., Westcott, F., Hobbs, R.J., 2018. Linear infrastructure impacts on landscape hydrology. Journal of Environmental Management. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.10.036

Until mid-January 2018, this paper is available to anyone for free, via this link: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1WAyL14Z6tTGzZ.

 

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Examples of linear infrastructure impacts on surface water hydrology. a) Gully erosion along a track caused by large amounts of fast-moving water produced on-road during rainfall events and/or intercepted from upslope overland or subsurface flows. b) A track that is lower than the surrounding ground level has become a drainage channel. c) Three locations 400 m apart along a track where sheetflow from upslope (right of image) appears to have been intercepted by the track, and concentrated into the three drainage outfalls indicated by the arrows. The arrows also show the direction of flow. Vegetation on the downslope (left) side of the track in the lower part of the image appears sparse and may be suffering from water starvation. d) A small eroded channel initiated by a track along which water movement is evident. There is no channel upslope of the track. e) Pooling along a track has created an unnatural water source which has attracted emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae). Wildlife attracted to water along infrastructure are at greater risk of road mortality, and increasing the temporal availability of water for fauna may cause other ecological changes. f) A windrow on the upslope side of a track which intercepted sheetflow and caused upslope pooling, until the windrow was breached and the water flowed onto the track – now in a concentrated fashion. g) Large area of pooling along a track. Such pools can stay wet for many days after the surrounding landscape has dried. Such obstructions to traffic often cause drivers to create alternative vehicle tracks to drive around, causing further disturbance and increasing the total road footprint. In this case the detour track is also flooded and additional detour tracks may result. Images: A, B, D, E, F: Keren Raiter. C: Google Earth. G: Carl Gosper.

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Being quoted

I just came across an interesting book recently published by Random House in the UK called Linescapes: Remapping and Reconnecting Britain’s Fragmented Wildlife, by Hugh Warwick. In the book, the author discussed some of my research, published a few years ago in an article called ‘Under the radar: mitigating enigmatic ecological impacts‘ (contact me if you’d like a copy).

I really like the discussion, even though he’s misquoted me a little (still, the point I was making is unchanged). What a nice feeling to see my research quoted as an example of ‘recent thinking’ and incorporated into the global discourse in such an obviously well-researched and thoughtful book. I hope to have more of my reasearch on the ecological implications of the lines that we draw through wild landscapes published soon too!

Click on this link to see the discussion: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=REEtDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT150&dq=keren+raiter&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjck5aRmOjUAhWDabwKHbWuDKYQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=keren%20raiter&f=false

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Here is the book’s blurb: It is rare to find a landscape untouched by our lines – the hedges, walls, ditches and dykes built to enclose and separate; and the green lanes, roads, canals, railways and power lines, designed to connect. This vast network of lines has transformed our landscape.
In Linescapes, Hugh Warwick unravels the far-reaching ecological consequences of the lines we have drawn: as our lives and our land were being fenced in and threaded together, so wildlife habitats have been cut into ever smaller, and increasingly unviable, fragments.
I’d love to hear any comments from anyone who has read it!

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Jungkajungka Woodlands Festival

jungkajungka_poster_final.jpgDon’t miss being a part of the inaugural Jungkajungka Woodlands Festival, held over Easter in Norseman, Western Australia—the Heart of the Great Western Woodlands. This event is organised by the Wilderness Society in collaboration with the Shire of Dundas, GondwanaLink, and with support from a number of other organisations.

This is Ngadju country and the festival organisers acknowledge the traditional owners of this part of the Great Western Woodlands and thank them for co-hosting the festival.

I’ll be talking as part of the presentations on Saturday afternoon on Woodlands Knowledge.

For more information, including how to register (for free), go to:

https://www.wilderness.org.au/events/jungkajungka-woodlands-festival-wa

or click here to download the full program.

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The Great Western Woodlands: a biological wonderland, a poem, a movement

I’m pleased to share that I have had one of my poems used as the voiceover for the Wilderness Society’s Great Western Woodlands campaign that they launched last month. The poem is called Biological Cornucopia and is one of a suite of  poems that I wrote about the enigmatic ecological impacts of mining and associated linear infrastructure development in the Great Western Woodlands, the subject of the PhD that I completed last year.

My PhD was focused on the conservation of large, relatively intact landscapes in the face of widespread development such as resource extraction: a challenge of global conservation significance. In particular, ‘enigmatic’ ecological impacts that commonly evade consideration in conservation strategies invariably pervade such landscapes. Keren investigated the significance and ecological implications of linear infrastructure (e.g. roads, tracks and railways) largely associated with mining activity in the largest and most intact remaining temperate woodland on earth. Keren discovered significant effects on attributes of key ecosystem processes, including predator activity and water movement and recommends ways in which these impacts could be ameliorated.

Great cudos to Amy Matheson for excellent editing, and to the amazong team at the Wilderness Society for their great work on the campaign.

If you’re inspired to experience the Great Western Woodlands, consider joining the inaugural Jungka Jungka Woodlands Festival to be held in Norseman in April.

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The Great Western Woodlands Campaign Launch: 3rd February 2017

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All are invited to join the Wilderness Society for a special celebration of the Great Western Woodlands (GWW), one of West Australia’s most significant natural spaces. They’ll be launching a new campaign for the Great Western Woodlands and showcasing the new GWW website and video.

The GWW is the largest unfragmented woodland left on earth. It is vast, beautiful and unprotected. The GWW has remained home to a remarkable richness and diversity of plant and animal life. With over 3,300 flowering plant species, there are more native plants in the Great Western Woodlands than in the whole of Canada! This is a great opportunity to learn more about the GWW, why it’s under threat, and how you can help preserve it for all Australians.

This event will also exhibit work from local artists with a focus on natural spaces and the Australian outback including some  stunning photos of the GWW. I’ll be giving a presentation about the incredible environmental values of the GWW and my research in it, and also presenting a poem that I wrote about my experience doing field research in the GWW and reflections on the magnificent Helena Aurora Range and the proposal to mine it.

RSVP by Wednesday the 1st of February and…

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Friday the 3rd of February 2017.
6.30 – 8.30pm.
North Perth Town Hall.
26 View St, North Perth WA 6006.

Food and drinks provided.

RSVP at: http://wilderness.nationbuilder.com/wa_gww_launch_event

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In defense of science

As a government scientist in Australia, I stand in solidarity with those around the world who are restricted from enabling informed decisions

Being A Better Scientist

I (Pleuni Pennings) endorse the following, which was drafted by Graham Coop (UC Davis), Michael Eisen (UC Berkeley) and Molly Przeworski (Columbia):

We are deeply concerned by the Trump administration’s move to gag scientists working at various governmental agencies. The US government employs scientists working on medicine, public health, agriculture, energy, space, clean water and air, weather, the climate and many other important areas. Their job is to produce data to inform decisions by policymakers, businesses and individuals. We are all best served by allowing these scientists to discuss their findings openly and without the intrusion of politics. Any attack on their ability to do so is an attack on our ability to make informed decisions as individuals, as communities and as a nation.

If you are a government scientist who is blocked from discussing their work, we will share it on your behalf, publicly or with the appropriate recipients…

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