7th National Conference - April 2008

Keynote speakers: biographies and abstracts

Overall keynote: Threats and responses at the Continental and Landscape scale

Professor Lesley Hughes

Lesley HughesProfessor Hughes works at the Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University. She is a specialist in the ecology of plant-animal interactions and the impacts of global climate change on terrestrial ecosystems.
Prof. Hughes is a lead author and contributing author of chapters of the Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2005-2007). The Panel won a collective Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
She is also Chair of the NSW Scientific Committee (2005-present), which assesses nominations for threatened species, populations and ecological communities under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
Her other recent roles include:

  • Co-convener, ARC Earth System Science network
  • Director, Macquarie University Concentration in Research Excellence (CORE) in Climate Risk
  • Member, Expert Advisory group on Biodiversity and Climate Change, Dept. of Climate Change
  • Reviewer of the NSW State of the Environment Report 2006
  • Appointed member, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (2005-2008)
  • Australian representative, European Climate Forum meeting (Beijing 2004)
  • Scientific editor, National Biodiversity and Climate Change Action Plan, Dept. of Environment and Heritage (2004)
  • Australian representative: Working party to draft guidelines on response of Red List species to climate change, IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), London, Feb 2003

Abstract: Climate change as a threatening process for Australian terrestrial biodiversity

Lesley Hughes

There is now widespread acceptance that the climate is changing and that human activities are responsible. The impacts of climate change on species and natural communities will be profound, and in many cases, disastrous. Evidence is accumulating that many species are already responding to the warming trends experienced in the last few decades. In particular, geographic ranges of the more mobile species are shifting poleward and upward in elevation, and the timing of life cycles of many plants and animals is also changing. Species responses to ongoing climate change are expected to be individualistic although some predictions can be made as to which species will respond most quickly. As species respond, the communities that they live in will also change, both in structure and composition.
This talk will briefly review recent climate changes on a global and Australian scale, summarise projections for the future, and outline the implications of these projections for species and communities with a particular focus on the conservation of Australian flora and the implications for conservation policy and restoration ecology.   

Theme: Threatening processes and their role in biodiversity conservation

Dr David Keith

David is a research scientist in the Biodiversity Research Group of the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. His internationally known research spans vegetation surveys, mapping and classification; the effects of disturbance – such as fire and grazing – on native species and vegetation; climate change impacts; and developing scientific methods for assessing the conservation status of species and ecological communities. His recent book, Ocean Shore to Desert Dunes, has rapidly become a standard reference and an important tool for ecological education. David is a former long-serving vice-president of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a current a member of the NSW Scientific Committee (for threatened species and community listing).

Abstract: Threatening processes and their role in biodiversity conservation

David Keith & Tony Auld

Threatening processes are mechanisms that cause loss of biodiversity, either through declines or extinctions in local populations of plants and animals or through disruption or degradation to ecological processes. Alongside ecological communities and functional group approaches, they are one of the key concepts for conservation above the species level. They are also important diagnostic tools for declines within species’ populations. Taxonomies of threats proposed by The Nature Conservancy and others give a global overview of processes involved. Broadly, they include the loss and fragmentation of habitat, degradation of habitat (e.g. through pollution or structural modification to soils or vegetation), harvesting of populations, adverse disturbance regimes (e.g. fires, floods), interactions between organisms (herbivory, predation, disease) and climate change. In addition to these, there may be indirect threats and opportunities that will impact on the ability of land managers to deal with the direct threats. We will review these briefly in an Australian context with reference to listing of Key Threatening Processes on statutory schedules at Commonwealth level and in some states.

Theme: Threats and responses at the ecological community scale

Dr Kevin Thiele

Kevin Thiele is Curator of the Western Australian Herbarium, in the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, Kevin’s botanical expertise ranges from primary taxonomy (including Banksia, Dryandra, Viola, and the family Rhamnaceae) through to the conservation ecology of grassy woodland ecosystems, focusing on understanding key ecological processes of degradation, recovery and resistance

Kevin is a leading exponent of the practical applications of botanical knowledge, including the development of user-friendly interactive identification systems (he is one of the architects of the Lucid system). He has also been one of the pioneers of innovative forms of conservation practice - notably the ‘dispersed multi-tenure reserve’ concept in grassy ecosystems.

Theme: Threats and responses at the species scale

Dr David Coates

David CoatesDavid Coates is a Principal Research Scientist in the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, and Program Leader for their Flora Conservation and Herbarium Program.

His main research interests lie in population genetics and conservation biology, including population biology, population viability and the recovery of rare and threatened flora and vegetation remnants.

David’s program responsibilities are coordinating and facilitating research in flora conservation and plant systematics, including species recovery actions and the amelioration of threatening processes such as Phytophthora dieback. He also coordinates the Threatened Flora Seed Centre in relation to threatened flora recovery and flora translocation programs, and the Western Australian Herbarium.

He is a member of the Western Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee, the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the IUCN Species Survival Commission Re-introduction Specialist Group, the WA Gene Technology Inter-Departmental Committee, the WA Dieback Research Advisory Committee and the WA Dieback Consultative Council.

Abstract: Species Based Approaches in Plant Conservation: Understanding Rarity and Threat

David J Coates, Department of Environment and Conservation, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Bentley, WA 6983, Australia.

A key issue in conservation biology and the ongoing management of rare and threatened species is understanding rarity and how it relates to threat and threatening processes. Rarity describes a species’ distribution, abundance, and habitat specificity, while threat relates to the species’ ability to persist over time and its risk of extinction. These issues are largely species - and population-based and provide the foundation for assessing conservation status, proneness to extinction and assigning species to different categories of threat. The latter has been developed and used by the IUCN to compile the comprehensive Red Lists of the world's plant species threatened with extinction. Understanding causes of rarity has been investigated in the context of various frameworks in which it has been categorised both in terms of temporal persistence and spatial distribution. A series of examples will be given investigating both rarity and threat covering demographic, life-history and genetic characteristics of species at the population level. These studies will be used to demonstrate how a clear understanding of both rarity and threat can greatly assist in the conservation and management of rare and threatened species and other species of conservation interest.