Australia has a total of 19 World Heritage Sites and the link below is to an article that lists them. Have you been to any of them? Please share your experiences of them in the comments.
I guess it had to happen eventually and so it has, I am taking some extended time off from the Blogs – aiming to return at the beginning of 2017 (possibly the 1st January 2017). Why? Burnout. Illness – you call it, I probably have it. Seriously though – I’m tired and can’t hold onto to good health, so a longer break is required.
For the third year in a row, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry have barely grown, while the global economy has continued to grow strongly. This level of decoupling of carbon emissions from global economic growth is unprecedented.
Global CO₂ emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and industry (including cement production) were 36.3 billion tonnes in 2015, the same as in 2014, and are projected to rise by only 0.2% in 2016 to reach 36.4 billion tonnes. This is a remarkable departure from emissions growth rates of 2.3% for the previous decade, and more than 3% during the 2000s.
Given this good news, we have an extraordinary opportunity to extend the changes that have driven the slowdown and spark the great decline in emissions needed to stabilise the world’s climate.
This result is part of the annual carbon assessment released today by the Global Carbon Project, a global consortium of scientists and think tanks under the umbrella of Future Earth and sponsored by institutions from around the world.
Fossil fuel and industry emissions
The slowdown in emissions growth has been primarily driven by China. After strong growth since the early 2000s, emissions in China have levelled off and may even be declining. This change is largely due to economic factors, such as the end of the construction boom and weaker global demand for steel. Efforts to reduce air pollution and the growth of solar and wind energy have played a role too, albeit a smaller one.
The United States has also played a role in the global emissions slowdown, largely driven by improvements in energy efficiency, the replacement of coal with natural gas and, to a lesser extent, renewable energy.
What makes the three-year trend most remarkable is the fact that the global economy grew at more than 3% per year during this time. Previously, falling emissions were driven by stagnant or shrinking economies, such as during the global financial crisis of 2008.
Developed countries, together, showed a strong declining trend in emissions, cutting them by 1.7% in 2015. This decline was despite emissions growth of 1.4% in the European Union after more than a decade of declining emissions.
Emissions from emerging economies and developing countries grew by 0.9% with the fourth-highest emitter, India, growing at 5.2% in 2015.
Importantly, the transfer of CO₂ emissions from developed countries to less developed countries (via trade of goods and services produced in places different to where they are consumed) has declined since 2007.
Deforestation and other changes in land use added another 4.8 billion tonnes of CO₂ in 2015, on top of the 36.3 billion tonnes of CO₂ emitted from fossil fuels and industry. This is a significant increase by 42% over the average emissions of the previous decade.
This jump in land use change emissions was largely the result of increased fires at the deforestation frontiers, particularly in Southeast Asia, driven by dry conditions brought by a strong El Niño in 2015-16. In general, though, long-term trends for emissions from deforestation and other land use change appear to be lower for the most recent decade than they were in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The carbon quota
When combining emissions from fossil fuels, industry, and land use change, the global economy released another 41 billion tonnes to the atmosphere in 2015, and will add roughly the same amount again this year.
We now need to turn this no-growth to actual declines in emissions as soon as possible. Otherwise, it will be a challenge to keep cumulative emissions below the level that would avoid a 2℃ warming, as required under the Paris Agreement.
As part of our carbon budget assessment, we estimate that cumulative emissions from 1870 (the reference year used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to calculate carbon budgets) to the end of 2016 will be 2,075 billion tonnes of CO₂. The remaining quota to avoid the 2℃ threshold, assuming constant emissions, would be consumed at best in less than 25 years (with remaining quota estimates ranging from 450 to 1,050 billion tonnes of CO₂). Ultimately, we must reduce emissions to net zero to stabilise the climate.
Pep Canadell, CSIRO Scientist, and Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project, CSIRO; Corinne Le Quéré, Professor, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia; Glen Peters, Senior Researcher, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo, and Rob Jackson, Professor, Earth System Science and Chair of the Global Carbon Project, Stanford University
One of the concerns of any conservation breeding program is how well a species raised in captivity will survive when released into the wild.
Evolutionary changes that are beneficial for an individual while in captivity may reduce its fitness when translocated to the wild.
For some species, like many fish, rapid evolutionary changes can occur within the first generation in captivity. And carnivores raised in captivity have a low chance of surviving the first year following their release.
A review of 45 carnivore translocations, which included 17 different species, including the European lynx, European otter and the swift fox, found that if the animals had been raised in captivity they had on average a 30% chance of survival after release.
Save the devil program
All this was a concern then for efforts to help save the Tasmanian devil.
The devil plays an important functional role within the Tasmanian ecosystem and is the last of the large marsupial carnivores.
But the Tasmanian devil is listed as endangered and their population has declined by 80% over the past ten years. This is due largely to the infectious fatal cancer, the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD).
As part of a conservation effort, a disease-free devil population has been established in captivity.
But given the low rate of survival of released captive-raised carnivores in other conservation programs it was important to identify whether their release could play a viable role in the conservation of the Tasmanian devil.
Captive breeding programs are extremely expensive and resource allocation was very tight. So more than 35 institutions helped to set up the captive devil insurance population.
Different types of enclosure setting were used, some intensive zoo style while others had larger pens to allow for a more free range style. The different enclosure types offered different opportunities for the devils to retain their natural behaviours.
We tested the effect of the various captive-rearing methods on the survival and body mass of captive raised Tasmanian devils that were released on Maria Island, off Tasmania’s east coast.
Our study, published this month in CSIRO Wildlife Research, showed that Tasmanian devils raised in captivity before being translocated into the wild had a high survival success (96%). Most of the devils are still alive two years after their release.
The devils gained weight, are hunting and breeding. This is irrespective of the type of captive-rearing method as both zoo style and free range reared animals are thriving.
Natural born killers
One cause of translocation failure in other programs has been that the released animals starve. The captive-raised animals had not learnt foraging and hunting skills. Some carnivorous mammals can lose this natural foraging behaviour in captivity.
But the captive-raised Tasmanian devils adjusted to the wild better than other carnivorous species. This was not only because they were released in the relative safety of an island, but it suggests that the devils’ foraging behaviour does not need to be learnt.
Devils have a massive head with bone crushing jaws, large tough molars and strong shoulders and neck. They have a very broad approach to what they will eat.
Their diet includes all major critters such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Devils have been seen catching gum moths out of the air, slurping tadpoles out of ponds and digging yabbies out of their burrows.
They also live from the intertidal zone to the sub alpine zone. They climb trees like a possum and are good swimmers.
There was less carrion available on Maria Island than on the mainland. Also the captive-raised devils would not have learnt hunting skills while in captivity so we presumed that they would not eat large prey.
Initially, after the first release, the devils fed on brushtail possums. But relatively soon after we found the devils started to feed on large prey, such as the common wombat and eastern grey kangaroo. These species are much larger than you would predict for a mammal of the devils’ size to prey on.
What’s planned for the devils?
So what does the success of this wild release say for the future conservation of the Tasmanian devil?
The devil facial tumour disease has been detected across the majority of the devil’s range. The wild devil population has been decimated as the disease moved across Tasmania.
It is time to boost the genetic diversity of the wild population. We need to provide the potential for immunity to develop in the species. That’s why it is exciting to have found that the captive-raised devils adjusted so well in the wild.
The next step will be to supplement the wild Tasmanian mainland population by releasing further captive-raised devils, along with those born wild on Maria Island.
But the devils released on the Tasmanian mainland will face other dangers. Alongside the disease they will have to contend with dogs, rodent poison and car collisions.
Clearly there’s some work still to be done, but the Maria Island and captive devils will continue to be an important part of the fight against the deadly facial tumour.