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Welcome to the third ACEAS Newsletter…

The past quarter has sped by, with many activities and two major events: the ACEAS Great Debate and the Grand ACEAS Workshop (well, had to call them something).

The Grand Workshop was a real experiment–putting 29 people in a room and not letting them out until they had discovered commonalities, differences, and had at least one eureka moment was pretty scary–but it proved remarkably successful. Thanks to help from Richard Thackway, Estelle Weber and Lucy Keniger, we got through the first morning, and after a bit of a stand-off in the afternoon, Corey Bradshaw took the baton (has to be the term for an Olympic year), and we hear from him later in the newsletter.

The Great Debate was a nice bit of colour during the proceedings, held on the eve of the TERN Symposium. The six speakers were fantastic, all coming up trumps under the guidance of Sara Phillips from the ABC. If you have not yet seen their stellar performances, and glimpses of the audience, it is time you did! Visit the Royal Institution of Australia’s web site . The RIAus provided great support for the Workshop and the Debate, and it was wonderful to be in such an interesting building (the old Adelaide Stock Exchange where ‘our Don’ worked for many years when not travelling the cricket-playing world).

Of course, other business of ACEAS continues, and 2012 has had some very packed weeks. Just recently we have had concurrent meetings in Darwin and Brisbane, the Darwin meeting jointly funded with the United Nations University and with a range of attendees from our near neighbours, the Brisbane meeting a long-awaited workshop on the opportunities and challenges of Environmental Bioacoustic Monitoring. We have had meetings about koala conservation, incorporating molecular information in models, how to deal with despotic species, linking different scales of measurement of stream ecosystem health, linking phylogenetic information into our national heritage assessment tool, ANHAT, examining the 'real deal' about our nation’s genetic robustness, tipping points in wetlands, and last, but not least, seagrass habitats and climate change. It is not just the data deluge that we are dealing with in this modern age, it is the great leaps in sophistication of information that is also presenting challenges.

In May I visited Knoxville, Tennessee to work with the Usability and Assessment working group of DataONE. Bill Michener, the Principal Investigator, visited Australia for the TERN Symposium. International links have been further enhanced by Xavier le Roux visiting from CESAB in France, and the three-week visit of Dr John Parker, of NCEAS and the University of Arizona. More in the next newsletter!

How carbon pricing will change land use and impact biodiversity

A review of the Grand ACEAS Workshop.

The Grand ACEAS Workshop was something of an experiment: what will happen when we bring 30 of Australia’s top scientists working on land management issues into the same room?

The Grand Workshop participants came from academia, research institutions and the government, and had all received ACEAS funding for working groups. David Keith, Ted Lefroy, Jasmyn Lynch, Wayne Meyer and Dick Williams were amongst the attendees of the two-day workshop.

And when this group of people came together wanting to analyse and synthesise ecological data, great things happened.

"We decided to focus on how carbon pricing legislation will affect land use change and how will that spill over into biodiversity persistence", said Professor Corey Bradshaw, Director of Ecological Modelling at The University of Adelaide, who led the synthesis activity at the Grand ACEAS Workshop.

"Will carbon pricing lead to good outcomes for biodiversity, or negative ones, or will it have no bearing whatsoever?"

The workshop participants broke into five groups to discuss how the carbon tax legislation will change land use when it is introduced in July 2012, and the potential impact on biodiversity.

Some of the questions asked included:

  • Is it enough simply to allow plants to re-grow to be eligible for carbon credits?
  • How will an increase in forestry plantations impact biodiversity, water catchments and fire regimes?
  • Will there be more kangaroo grazing to reduce methane emissions and erosion, replacing hard-hoofed livestock?
  • Can you receive carbon credits for shooting large feral animals like goats, camels, deer and boars?
The groups found many opportunities for positive biodiversity outcomes with the carbon sequestration activities encouraged by carbon pricing, but there are also many potential 'bio-perversities'.

One example Corey gave with reference to plantations was "You could plant hundreds of thousands of hectares of radiata pine, which will sequester a lot of carbon, but you won’t get a lot of other species using this forest type. If you create a native plantation instead, with a variety of plant species that create the kinds of habitats required by native animal species, you are getting a better bang for your buck."

But is Australia ready for the outcome of the Grand Workshop?

Corey says that is must be. "There is a lot of talk about what little old Australia can possibly do to save the planet from global warming. But that’s only half the point."

"There is much potential for Australia to get multiple benefits from land-use change arising carbon farming. It is important for us to consider what will happen immediately after we start having a flow of cash into the landscape, and the longer-term consequences these changes will have for biodiversity."

The results of discussion are currently being prepared as a synthesis paper.

The Grand ACEAS Workshop
Back row L-R: Andrew Moore, Richard Thackway, Ted Lefroy, Nick Bond, David Bowman, Stephen Gregory,
David Keith, Ross Bradstock, Trent Penman, Brett Murphy and Matthias Boer.
Middle row L-R: Wayne Meyer, Leigh Hunt, Beverley Henry, Diana Fisher, Chris Johnson,
Craig Thornton, Jim Thomson, Mike Lawes.
Front row L-R: Barry Brook, Corey Bradshaw and Damien Fordham.
Absent from photograph: Jasmyn Lynch and Brett Bryan.

The Role of ACEAS

ACEAS provided a unique forum for bringing people together from across the spectrum of land management in Australia.

As Corey described, ACEAS succeeds at "Getting bums on seats, giving them a single task, and locking them in a room away from email, phone and students."

"You can produce a lot of really relevant material very quickly when this happens. There is also all the benefits of being with people that have different, but complementary skills."

"I’m a big believer in the ACEAS workshops. I wouldn’t have had this kind of opportunity otherwise."

Corey Bradshaw led the ACEAS working group "Precise estimates of modern biodiversity extinction rates". Join 1762 other followers of his blog over at

ACEAS Portal

A very exciting event to report this newsletter is the 'arrival' of the ACEAS Web Portal. This has been designed to publish the data products developed by our participants. It will enable ACEAS to display these products in a re-usable format with metadata attached, and provide a relevant contextual way to view the outcomes of the groups and sabbatical fellows.

The data products generally consist of both spatial and temporal information. The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards have been used for data publication. Datasets with spatial information are published as ‘Features’ in a Web Feature Service (WFS) and maps are published using Web Map Service (WMS). The Geoserver implementation of WMS and WFS is used to display spatial information.

The metadata information is captured and published using Metacat in Ecological Markup Language (EML) format. Each dataset will be accompanied by the metadata. The working groups will populate the EML-based metadata and pass on to ACEAS for publication.

The user interface provides a map overlay of Australia and provides information about different data products. It is developed using OpenLayers and HTML5 making the interface platform independent. The portal can be viewed at Feel free to provide any feedback and suggestions to Siddeswara Guru via email:

Note from ACEAS PM: It is great to see this come to fruition, and I think it will provide a great model for groups to visualise some neat ways to present their synthesis outcomes. All credit goes to the ACEAS-TERN Data Synthesis and Integration Coordinator and team (i.e. Guru and Wing-Fai).

Meeting Dates

meeting dates 3

Contact: Alison Specht | ACEAS Program Manager |

TERN is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and the Super Science Initiative.


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