BIOL875 Contemporary Conservation In Australia

Table of Contents


Conservation Biology in the Media Report

This Assessment Task is related to the following Learning Outcomes

Describe current conservation issues in Australia and overseas, including the theoretical concepts of conservation biology

Assess the literature on conservation issues in peer-reviewed scientific papers and their representation within written media

Demonstrate the ability to conduct literature-based research on key conservation biology topics and synthesize current state-of-knowledge

In an effort to grab readers’ attention, the media frequently reports on scientific findings and discoveries in misleading or misinformed ways.

This is common in many science fields, but it also happens frequently in conservation biology.

It is crucial that scientists recognize when media might misrepresent other’s work or leave out certain results in order to present a clear story.

We can face this as conservation biologists. Therefore, we must learn how to spot discrepancies in our work and communicate it better to the media, managers, policy makers, and the public.

This task is intended to increase your awareness and ability to recognize and evaluate these issues by verifying media articles about conservation research, using both scientific and non-scientific literature.

The media’s ability to communicate scientific literature will be evaluated.

You will need to choose two media articles (5 years old) that focus on one published scientific paper in a journal that is part of conservation biology.

Each media article should be on a distinct conservation topic with a different scientific paper.


Media Article 1

Journal paper 1: Mella (V.S.), McArthur (C.), Frend, R., and Crowther (M.S.), 2017.

Australian Arboreal Fauna: Foxes in trees: A threat to their survival?

Conservation: Its Significance and Issues

The unusual activity of red foxes climbing trees in Australia to catch koalas and other animals to eat has been extensively documented in media reports and media articles.

While the European Red Fox was originally brought to Australia for recreational hunting, it began hunting native species such as wallabies or numbats.

It has spread to the entire mainland of Australia, causing the decline and extinctions of small-sized marsupial species like European Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes 2017).

Many evidence supports red foxes climbing trees for hunting. Dickman (2014) also provided evidence of the variable activities in red foxes.

This shocking discovery is surprising because red foxes never climb trees.

The population of Australian species that are endangered has been reduced by European foxes.

This discussion suggests that the red fox, which has been responsible for record-breaking numbers of mammal extinctions in Australia, is the most invasive species to have been introduced to Australia.

Media Article Summary

Klein (2017) wrote an article that highlights the danger to native Australian mammalian species after the introduction of the European red Fox.

In 1855, the European red fox was introduced to Australia to be used for recreational hunting. It spread quickly to all of Australia within 100 years.

Bengsen & Sparkes (2016) question the decision to introduce foxes for recreational hunt. Instead of controlling pest mammal populations, this is causing a decline in marsupials as well as other species.

There is increasing evidence of the decline in native mammalian species. The media article also showed that footage of Koalas being studied on a property in Liverpool plains revealed multiple instances in which red foxes scale trees.

These foxes were found at 4m above the ground, which is quite remarkable considering that foxes have never been known to climb trees.

Because they didn’t touch the fountain, the study did not consider the possibility that they had gotten water from the fountain.

They targeted animals that were used to living on the tree, which was why they climbed the tree.

Because these trees are dotted with bumps, it is much easier for foxes to climb up trees in Australia.

It could also be dangerous for native Australian mammals, given the curiosity, agility, and opportunistic nature of foxes.

Evaluation of Journal Articles and Media:

The media article addressed the topic of the greatest mammal extinction caused by the introduction and control of the red fox in Australia.

Mella et al. was the journal article that provided the reference.

Mella et al. (2017) provided the evidence on red foxes’ tree climbing behavior in Australia.

Comparing the journal article with the media article, it was found that Klein (2017) briefly described the Mella et al. method.

The study was conducted by Klein (2017).

The journal article contains a summary and main excerpt, which has been reported briefly in the media article. However, the author is able to report the entire journal.

As mentioned in the media article the journal article also revealed that red fox behavior was observed on the Liverpool plains.

Near the trunk of the eucalypt tree were placed water stations.

The study revealed that the fox frequented the area, and instead of drinking water, the fox would sniff the surrounding areas.

The fox was also able to climb higher up the tree in order to grab the koalas. Another amazing finding was the fact that the fox could reach higher into the trees.

This description is consistent with the one in the media article. It proves that scientific reporting in media articles does not suffer from misinterpretation.

Research by Newsome et. al.

2014) found that land managers use isolated control programs to reduce the impact of red foxes on Australia’s native fauna.

Red fox (Vulpes vipers) has made Australia vulnerable. This was extensively reported in media reports. The Australian government also published reports on it (2017, Australian government).

This supporting article proved the validity of the journal article.

Predation by foxes had a negative impact on ground-nesting birds, medium sized mammals, and reptiles.

This has hampered the recovery of threatened species (Fisher and al.

This has an economic impact as well, as the preying on lambs and kid goats is causing losses to farmers (Dickman 2014.

Mella et al. reviewed the journal article.

The reliability and credibility of the finding was demonstrated by the sequential photos provided by the researcher. These photos are evidence that the fox followed the path taken by a koala in order to climb the tree.

The media article accurately presented the entire journal article’s analysis. It also mentioned that red foxes’ opportunistic nature is a threat to native Australian mammals.

The media article attracted the attention of the reader and was consistent with the journal article. This means that there was no misinformation.

The journal article ends the research by referring to another study that observed red fox behavior.

This evidence indicated that foxes climb trees to find food. However, Mella et. al.

The first evidence of foxes climbing trees was found in 2017 by Mella et al.

The explanation was that tree climbing behavior is not due to food insecurity, but rather because of the scent of potential grey.

This explanation aside, the limitation of the media article was that it didn’t highlight any future research or plans of action to improve the situation.

Haddaway (2015) stated that the purpose of the media article was to report on the conservation issue.

This was also covered in the journal article, concluding with the statement that the findings concerning the potential arboreal effects of foxes on Australian fauna are significant.

Woinarski and colleagues also discuss evidence that the red fox has caused the extinction of Australian mammals.

Woinarski et al. (2015) reported that, in addition to habitat loss and the influence of humans, Australian land animals are also at risk from predation by European redfox and feral cats.

This paper is significant because it showed the extent of the loss and the reasons why.

Knowledge or Method Gap

Mella et. al.

Mella et al. (2017) provided a succinct summary of the research method. The comparison between journal articles and media shows consistency in reporting scientific evidence.

The journal article has not misinterpreted any information and scientific reporting quality is evident when reading both the media article (Ruths & Pfeffer 2014).

Only one difference can be seen in the reporting format. Journal articles cannot be a long piece of information like media articles. Therefore, everything has been presented in an effective and precise manner.

Another method gap in the media article is the fact that it doesn’t offer any recommendations or policy directions to improve the situation.

This aspect of the study would have been useful for discussion.

Woinarski et. al. found that different levels of action can be taken to reduce red fox population.

(2014), where it was discussed about the various approaches to protecting the arboreal mammals in Australia.

The red fox was removed from areas where the black-footed wallaby had colonized.

This allowed for the recovery of many prey species.

A second approach to recovery was predator-proof fencing, where the response of native animals was monitored (Hing and al.

Some threatened mammals were moved to areas that aren’t home to cats or foxes in some cases.

Media articles should have also reported on similar actions and responses that were required to improve the situation, and save the mammals.

This report summarised and compared media articles with respect to their reporting to the journal article they had cited as evidence.

The media article analysis gave an idea about the conservation problem related to the extinction mammalian species in Australia following the introduction of red foxes.

Critical analysis showed that the media article accurately interpreted the research methods and the results were also discussed as if they had been done by original researchers.

Reporting is free from bias or disparities.

Only problem was that the media article didn’t discuss the importance of this piece regarding future research and actions.

This means that the recommendations regarding areas for improvement or future research would have provided directions to solve this problem.

The media article had shown that the introduction of the red Fox was the main reason for the decline in mammalian species. Practical management strategies are required to protect and recover vulnerable species.

The responsibility of protecting biodiversity and conserving species from extinction must be shared by the wider Australian community.

Australian conservation departments might be able to keep records of species distribution and integrate monitoring programs to monitor and assess Australia’s mammalian biodiversity.

This is a great way to stimulate immediate conservation management.

Media Article 2

Warming seas cause the largest ever ocean forest die-off.

Wilson, S. 2016. “Climate-driven regime shifting of a temperate maritime ecosystem”, Science (New York), N.Y.), vol.

Conservation: Its Significance and Issues

Climate changes have an impact on the marine environment. The global temperature rise is also affecting marine fauna and flora (Barange et. al.

Climate change is also causing coral bleaching. This stress is caused by rising temperatures, which can lead to coral death.

The sea level rise has decimated kelp forests along the coast of Western Australia.

Global climate change is responsible for the rapid loss of kelp.

The Indian Ocean, near Western Australia, recorded high summer temperatures in the years 2011 and 2013. This was due to the La Nina weather phase and global warming (Marine problems: Climate change 2017).

Scientists have warned of the negative effects of extreme weather conditions and global warming.

The Great Barrier Reef will be destroyed if there is no kelp forest left in Australia. It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to preserve this natural resource (Verges et. al.

Media Article Summary

Klein (2017) has written a media article about the greatest ever effect of rising sea temperatures on Australia’s kelp forests.

The giant kelp forests of Australia provide habitat for important commercially-important marine species.

The Great Southern Reef’s north-western region is home to 90% of this kelp forests.

These forests are at risk due to climate change (Wahlquist 2017,).

The marine heat wave that occurred between 2010-2013 has decimated hundreds of kilometers of kelp forests along the western coast of Australia.

In 2011, the sea surface temperature reached 6 degrees Celsius in some parts of Western Australia.

Explore the Seafloor 2017).

In 2015, the most recent survey expedition to the sea showed no sign of kelp recovery. All the kelp forests had been replaced with sea weeds and corals (Provost, et al.

These species emerged after cold water was replaced with warm water.

This is why kelp forests are likely to shrink further south due to marine changes (Klein 2017,).

Evidence from research also suggests that rising seawater is responsible for kelp forest destruction (Pecl and al.

The media articles highlight the importance of conserving kelp forests, as coral reefs have received less attention to conservation than kelp forests.

Kelp forest is a source of oxygen that provides habitat for a wide range of marine organisms, so its loss will also have an economic and environmental impact (Wernberg and al.

It is therefore necessary to act against this issue.

Evaluation of Journal Articles and Media:

Comparing the journal article and the media article about the effects of warming seas on kelp forests revealed consistency between the journal articles’ findings and those reported in the media articles.

Klein (2017) wrote a media article that reported on the loss of kelp forests due to rising sea temperatures in Australia. He also suggested that temperate water forests were being replaced with seaweeds, tropical fish, and corals.

Wernberg (2016), however, also reported that the temperate reef community in Australia had lost their kelp forest, and was now dominated by tropical fishes, seaweeds, and corals.

The journal article’s scientific reporting explains why there has been little progress in kelp forest recovery (Ware and Mabe 2015).

Although the media article stated that there were no signs of kelp tree recovery from evidence from a survey expedition; however, the journal article explained that tropicalization of temperate coral community was a factor in slowing down the recovery of kelp forests.

Bakun et al. also support this form of climate change’s adverse effect and increased climate variability in their research.

These changes have been shown to be affecting the coastal marine ecosystem in 2015, according to Bakun et al.

This study explains how rising sea temperatures have an effect on marine macrophytes.

Journal articles and media articles can have different reporting styles.

The media article presents the destruction of kelp forests and provides statistics and figures to support the claim.

The journal article introduces the topic by discussing the effects of shifting ecosystem structure (Bonney et. al.

Although the media article was not scientifically accurate in reporting the findings, it adequately highlighted the numbers related to the contractions of the kelp forests across the Australian Great Southern Reef.

The journal article’s main purpose was to show how the marine heat wave causes kelp forest loss and results in habitat shift to seaweed grasses.

The survey method was used to examine the ecosystem changes in the 2000km area of Western Australia.

The survey was done between 2001 and 2015.

This is crucial because an extreme heat wave in western Australia had struck that year (Wernberg and al.

The media article didn’t describe the methods used in this research study but it did report on the extreme heat wave conditions in Australia between 2011-2013 (Klein 2017,).

Bennett et. al. also report on the heat wave and its effects on Australia’s neglected Kelp Forest.

The serious impact that the heatwave is having on Australia’s marine ecosystem was also mentioned.

It is evident that the quality of the media articles and the journal article are very different.

The media article follows news reporting format in order to highlight the effects of heat wave damage to the kelp forests. However, the journal article provides evidence about the global ocean warming rate and the highest rise in Western Australia (Spalding et al.

The article also addressed the differences in kelp coverage along the reef prior to and after the extreme marine heat waves.

The reef covered 70% of its surface with kelp forest before 2010. In 2013, 43% of the west coast’s kelp forest was gone.

There is no evidence of kelp forest restoration despite the decrease in heat wave periods. This is the main conservation problem.

The subtropical and tropic fish feeding rates have increased instead of recovering.

The economic and environmental impacts are adequately documented in journal and media articles. We highlight that pushing the kelp forests towards the southern edge could lead to local extinction (Wernberg and al.

Economically, the loss of kelp forests and habitat shifts will have devastating effects on Australia’s lucrative tourism and fishing industries (Pecl et. al.

This conservation issue was extensively published in various journals and media articles.

Verges et al. (2014) also raised the concern of the tropicalization of the temperate marine eco-system as a result climate-mediated changes.

Similar warnings have been issued in other articles.

Knowledge or Method Gap

The research article’s weakness or knowledge gap is that it focuses only on the issue of global warming causing destruction to kelp forests. However, no recommendations or future actions have been made to protect this resource.

Although the emphasis is on coral reefs rather than kelp forests, there is no scientific evidence to support this (Scharks & Masuda 2016).

The journal article also describes the shrinking of kelp forests and the shift to warm-water species. However, there is not enough information or clarity about the future direction of action.

Bennett et.

Bennett et al. (2016) are significant in this regard because they recommend that the Great Southern Reef be considered a spatially connected, temperate reef system and that steps can be taken to maintain the ecological health of Great Southern Reef.

A plan was created to increase public awareness through media reporting and news.

This area also needs research investment.

The media article is a successful tool in drawing public attention to the loss of kelp forests.

The media article tried to present the main topic as it was published in journal articles, but in its own way.

The issue was reported differently in journal articles and media. However, the article could have been strengthened if it had been interpreted scientifically.

Second, the article might have been more scientifically valuable if the issue of kelp forest was addressed by the public.

Refer to

The Australian government.

European red fox.

Sydeman W.J.

Climate change and coastal upwelling ecosystems: Expected effects

Current Climate Change Reports, 1(2) pp. 85-93.

Barange, M. Merino. G. Blanchard. J.L. Scholtens. J. Harle. J. Allison. E.H. Allen. J.I. Holt. J. and Jennings. S.

Climate change and the effects on marine ecosystem production in fisheries-dependent societies.

Nature Climate Change, 4(3) pp.211-216.

Sparkes, J., 2016

Can recreational hunting be used to control pest mammal populations on public land in Australia?

The ‘Great Southern Reef: Social, Ecological and Economic Value of Australia’s Neglected Kelp Forests.

Marine and Freshwater Research, No. 67(1), pp. 47-56.

2014, Parrish, J.K.

Next steps in citizen science.

Ford, S.E.

The impact of climate change on marine infectious disease: implications for society and management.

Annual review of marine science 6, pp.249-277.

The ecological role of small-sized dasyurid predators in Australia’s micro-carnivores.

The past, present, and future of Australian carnivores.

Melbourne, Australia: CSIRO Publishing. pp. 241-262.

The environmental impacts of feral cats.

In J. Tracey and C. Lane, P. Fleming and C. Dickman, C. Dickman, J. Quinn and T. Buckmaster, eds. 2015 National Feral Cat Management Workshop (p.

Fisher, D.O. Johnson, C.N. Lawes M.J. Fritz, S.A. McCallum H. Blomberg S.P. VanDerWal J. Abbott B. Frank A. Legge S. and Letnic M.

Is history repeating itself with the current decline in tropical marsupials of Australia?

Global Ecology and Biogeography 23(2), pp. 181-190.

A call for better data reporting on conservation research data to be used in meta-analyses.

Conservation Biology, 29(4): pp. 1242-1245.

Godfrey S.S.

The stress physiology and wildlife in the line-of-fire: An evaluation of the stress response of an endangered Australian marsupial to bushfire.

Australian Journal of Zoology.

Climate change and marine problems., 2017.

2014, and Dickman, C.R.

The European red fox’s rapid recolonization: How effective are uncoordinated or isolated control programs?

European Journal of Wildlife Research 60(5), pp.749-757.

Pecl. G.T.

Climate change and biodiversity redistribution: Impacts on ecosystems, human well-being, and biodiversity.

Provost E.J. Kelaher B.P. Dworjanyn S.A. Russell B.D. Connell S.D. Ghedini G. Gillanders B.M. Figueira W. and Coleman M.A. 2017.

Kelp forest persistence is at risk from climate-driven differences in ecological interactions.

Global change biology, 23(1) pp.353-361.

Ruths, D., and Pfeffer J. (2014).

Social media can be used to conduct large-scale behavioral studies.

T. Scharks and Y.J. Masuda (2016).

Economic valuation is important for conservation.

Beck, M.W.

The role of ecosystems and coastal protection in adapting to climate change.

The Conversation

Is it too late for the red fox to be controlled?

Explore the Seafloor., 2017.

Verges, A.

Long-term empirical evidence shows ocean warming is causing tropicalization of fish communities, higher herbivory, and the loss of kelp.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. p.201610725.

Figueira, W. 2014, August

Climate-mediated changes in herbivory, community phase shifts and tropicalization of temperate marine ecosystems.

In Proc.

B (Vol.

The Royal Society.

Study reveals that the marine heatwave has decimated Australia’s vast Kelp forests.

The Guardian.

Ware, M. and Mabe M. (2015).

The STM Report: A review of scientific and scholarly journal publication.

Mohring M.B.

Climate Change: Threats to Ecosystem Engineering Macrorophytes.

Marine Macrophytes as Foundation Species (pp.

CRC Press.

Mohring M.B.

Climate Change: Threats to Ecosystem Engineering Macrorophytes.

Marine Macrophytes as Foundation Species (pp.

CRC Press.

Continued unraveling of a continental fauna. The decline and extinctions of Australian mammals since European settlement.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(15), 43531-4540

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