Declining rainfall in parts of Australia, but still plenty of water available: BOM report


Malcolm Watson, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

The Millennium Drought ended more than five years ago, but several years of below-average rainfall and El Niño have brought drought back to many parts of Australia. Our latest report on water in Australia shows rainfall is continuing to decline in eastern Australia and increase in the north.

However in urban areas, where water use has not changed significantly since the Millennium Drought, more water is available for use thanks to technologies such as desalination and recycling.

In a recent article on The Conversation, the Bureau of Meteorology put the case that Australia can now better manage water resources using new water information capability.

Last week the Bureau released a new assessment report on our national water availability and use. Water in Australia 2013–14 examines climatic conditions and the physical hydrology to create the most recent national assessment of Australia’s water resources.

The main findings are outlined below.

Water resources

Since 1950, rainfall has increased in Australia’s north and northwest, but declined along the west coast and most of eastern Australia. This pattern was reflected in 2013–14.

Rainfall affects streamflow and groundwater replenishment, which in turn affects our available water resources.

In southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, a severe drought, which started in 2012, continued in 2013–14. As expected, streamflow in these areas was very much below average in drought-impacted areas.

Annual rainfall, runoff and streamflow conditions, 2013–14
Australian Bureau of Meteorology

The volume of groundwater stored in aquifers is very large compared with surface water and responds more slowly to external influences. As a result, most bores across the country had average groundwater levels in 2013–14.

In South Australia and Queensland, more than one-third of all bores had an above-average level. Below-average groundwater levels were present in 5–20% of bores in each State and Territory.

Water availability

Australia has extensive water supplies and their use is managed by various institutional arrangements. Water availability is being increased by using recycled and desalinated water. At the same time, greater protection is being afforded to the environment through the purchase of entitlements from water users and investments in water-saving infrastructure.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/5YaAM/1/

Status of Australia’s major water storages at 30 June 2014
Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Since the Millennium Drought, Australia’s water market has thrived, facilitating the buying and selling of water rights to allow water to be moved and put to more effective use. Entitlement trade increased in 2013–14 to about 2400 gigalitres (GL), and can partly be attributed to entitlements being transferred to the Commonwealth for the environment and partly to declining water storage levels that prompt buyers into the market to secure more water. Allocation trade in 2013–14 was around 5500 GL.

As well as ensuring sustainable water supply for human needs, water resources are managed to ensure that environmental needs are met. Environmental water holders in the Murray–Darling Basin held 3192 GL of surface water entitlements at the end of 2013–14 (increasing from 3160 GL at the end of 2012–13). Of the total allocated environmental water available in 2013–14, 68% was delivered for environmental purposes and 27% was carried over to 2014–15.

Water use

Total water use across Australia was estimated at 23 500 GL in 2013–14. Irrigation (57% of total use) and urban consumption (17% of total use) were the top two water uses.

Estimated total water use in Australia, 2013–14
Australian Bureau of Meteorology

The main irrigation use in 2013–14, at just over 9500 GL, was in the Murray–Darling Basin. The estimated total surface water use for irrigation in the Murray–Darling Basin decreased from 11 000 GL in 2012–13 to about 8400 GL in 2013–14—a drop of 24%.

Groundwater use for irrigation increased by 18%, to 1100 GL, because of drier conditions and limited surface water allocation announcements — particularly in the northern Basin.

Outside the Basin, 3900 GL were used for irrigation, mainly in the Queensland and Victorian coastal regions, the coastal regions surrounding Perth and Adelaide, northeastern Tasmania, and in the Ord irrigation scheme in northern Australia.

Urban residential use in 2013–14 was 185 kilolitre per property, up 3% from 2012–13. However, use per property has not increased significantly from the levels at the end of the Millennium Drought. Total water use in 2013–14 in the major cities showed no significant changes from the recent past.

Though water availability exceeded use in 2013–14, shortages were experienced across large parts of the continent. With Australia’s highly variable and changing climate there will be ongoing challenges to meet the water needs of our nation.

The Bureau’s wide variety of water products are available at: www.bom.gov.au/water, including the Monthly Water Update, Regional Water Information, National Water Account and Water in Australia.

The Conversation

Malcolm Watson, Manager Water Assessment and Analysis, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Conservation parks are growing, so why are species still declining?


Ro Hill, CSIRO; Barry Newell, Australian National University; Iain Gordon, James Hutton Institute, and Michael Dunlop, CSIRO

It’s now five years since the International Year of Biodiversity, and nearly 15% of Earth’s land surface is protected in parks and reserves. By 2020, we should reach the agreed global target of 17%. This is good news for species diversity, right?

Not really. Biodiversity loss continues apace despite these global agreements and conservation actions, and is unlikely to stop any time soon.

We explored this apparent paradox with the help of a simple model that simulates the current relative proportions globally of the area of remaining tropical forest, and the area that has been cleared for agricultural development. We used the model to look at what happens to these proportions when networks of conservation reserves expand.

Our research led to two insights: both the area of forest protection and the area of clearing for development can expand at the same time; and the governance regimes responsible for protected areas can actually be weakened by protected area expansion. This is because pressure for the creation of new protected areas comes largely from public discourse.

Forests and forces

In our model we depicted tropical forestlands as consisting of protected forests; traditionally managed or “unallocated” forests; and cleared agricultural land – plausible categories that broadly reflect the current status and areas.

We then modelled the different governance regimes (and feedbacks such as public discourse) responsible for this current status, regimes that:

a) protect unallocated forest;

b) develop (and clear) unallocated forest for agriculture;

c) maintain current habitat and restore agricultural land to forest, thereby opposing clearing for development.

We use the model to present three plausible scenarios of governance regime and land-use change trajectories.

The forces that affect land use in forested areas.

Our dynamic hypothesis depicted in the figure shows how the driving forces of development and protection, while competing for the remaining stock of forest habitat, do not necessarily oppose each other. Consequently the total stock of forest habitat can decrease while the area of protected forest increases.

The force that directly opposes clearance of forests for development is the one that maintains existing unprotected forest use regimes or that seeks to restore cleared forest.

The relative power of the governance regimes that “develop”, “protect”, or “maintain/restore” will determine what ultimately happens to the area of remaining forest habitat. Biodiversity loss will only stop when the net loss of forest habitat each year is zero – which means halting the clearing of tropical forest for agricultural development, as well as increasing protected areas.

But in the real world we are doing the opposite – investing heavily in the force that drives tropical forest clearing. The leaders of the G20 nations recently gave a huge boost to the power of development regimes, by pledging to invest up to US$70 trillion on new infrastructure projects by the year 2030. This is precisely the kind of driving force that will harm wildlife conservation, and which the growth of protected areas will fail to counter.

It seems counter-intuitive, but our research suggests that increasing the area of the world’s conservation reserves can also reduce the perception of the risk of ongoing biodiversity loss, primarily because the focus on the 17% protection targets takes our eye off the critical issue of halting habitat loss. As a result, the global distribution of protected areas is currently “high and far”, skewed toward mountainous areas and places far from development frontiers. If achieving 17% leads the public to conclude that biodiversity is now safe, it can lower the main feedback currently giving power to the protect force – public pressure for political action.

This is compounded by the phenomenon of extinction debt – the time delay between habitat loss and the resulting extinction of species that live here – which hides the impact of development on wildlife in both protected and unprotected areas.

What do we do about it?

Conservation has traditionally sought to identify and protect “representative samples” of different types of ecosystems. Recently, however, there has been an increased interest in identifying and protecting areas based on cost-effectiveness criteria.

We suggest instead that one useful leverage point for slowing tropical biodiversity decline would be to concentrate on placing protected areas near active agricultural frontiers, which could help to constrain the march of agriculture through tropical forests.

This approach has already been shown to work in urban planning, including in Australia, where it has been used to fight urban sprawl. A second useful leverage point is to set global targets that include both a percentage for protection and an overall percentage for remaining forest habitat. Globally, forest cover now is at 62% of its original extent, while 75% has recently been identified as the extent necessary to stay within planetary boundaries.

Sharing is caring

There is currently much debate in the conservation literature about “land sparing or land sharing”. Our scenarios suggests that while land sparing through rapid protected area expansion has immediate conservation benefits, these benefits are lost over time as species populations eventually crash. The land-sharing scenario, through strengthening the power to maintain current forest habitats, suggests better biodiversity outcomes in the long term.

Realising these long-term benefits may only be possible with a resurgence in traditional forest-management practices that promote wildlife-friendly agriculture, and that restore forest habitat. All too often the governance regimes of traditional forest owners have been subsumed by the State in order to allow commercial forestry or forest clearance for agriculture. However, there are signs that this may be changing in some places through commercially viable drivers of sustainability.

Our analysis suggests that human activity will continue to damage wildlife diversity, in spite of successful efforts to meet the target of protecting 17% of Earth’s land surface. The reason is that a large percentage of natural habitats are disappearing in the face of development, particularly through the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture.

This destruction will continue because the overall balance of land management is still geared towards ongoing clearing for development rather than sustainable re-development of our current human footprint. Getting out of this trap will require an understanding of the processes that reinforce this perverse situation, and the realisation that this system needs to be redesigned.

This is a new frontier in conservation science, and our new analysis is hopefully a first step towards unravelling this complex social-ecological problem.

What we need to do next is to identify the critical feedback relationships that can empower natural resource management, and to put reasonable limits on the power of development regimes. Otherwise, the world’s biodiversity will continue to dwindle even if conservation reserves expand rapidly.

This article was coauthored by Craig Miller, a former researcher with CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.

The Conversation

Ro Hill is Principal Research Scientist, Ecosystems, Biodiversity Knowledge and Services Program at CSIRO.
Barry Newell is Visiting Fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society at Australian National University.
Iain Gordon is Chief Executive at James Hutton Institute.
Michael Dunlop is Senior Research Scientist: land-water-biodiversity-climate at CSIRO.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Antarctica: Penguin Population Collapsing


The article below reports on the rapidly declining Penguin population in Antarctica. 

For more visit:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47877598/ns/us_news-environment/#.T-E-jRdfuuk

Australia: Western Australia – Carnaby’s Cockatoo Numbers Declining Fast


The following article reports on the rapidly falling numbers of Carnaby’s Cockatoo in Western Australia, Australia.

For more, visit:
http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/special-features/black-cockatoos-numbers-falling-fast/story-e6frg19l-1226293921795

Declining Penguin Numbers Linked to Whales?


The following link is to an article that looks into the decline of Krill and the impact on Penguins. The rising number of Whales is also having an impact on Penguin numbers because of competition for declining Krill.

For more visit:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110411-penguins-antarctica-decline-krill-whales-warming-environment-animals/