Symposia

Click on the links below to view further information regarding the Symposia proposals:

  1. Biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes: is it really worth the effort?
  2. Combining Indigenous and Western ecological knowledge for future land management
  3. Conservation and the Ecology of Wildlife Parasites and Diseases
  4. Taking action together: the role of ecology in conservation partnerships
  5. Ecological restoration science and practice: current and future directions
  6. Biodiversity indicators for measuring and monitoring ecosystem condition and climate change adaptation
  7. Grassy woodlands: managing processes to restore ecosystem function
  8. Monitoring for a purpose: optimal monitoring and management of cryptic or declining populations
  9. Sustaining Biodiversity in the Australian Alps
  10. Conserving biodiversity in a changing climate: a forum for scientists, managers and policy-makers
  11. When Continents Collide: Biological Invasions and Ecosystem Theory
  12. Long-term, trans-scale, integrated monitoring of Australian landscapes
  13. From Genes to Ecosystems
  14. Ecology in Australia over the last 50 years: from the past to the future
  15. Dissecting Australian Diversity: the key to understanding global biodiversity

Title

Biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes: is it really worth the effort?

Convener

Andrew Fisher, Stuart Collard and Patrick Smith

Outline

Agricultural landscapes continue to lose biodiversity in response to a range of threatening processes with ecosystem fragmentation and degradation leading to a loss of resources for biota. Given that ecological processes underpin not only landscape function but agricultural productivity, there are major implications of biodiversity loss for the resilience of agro-ecological systems. There is an urgent need to both conserve the biodiversity that remains and determine priorities for restoration efforts in the face of finite resources to do the job. This challenge is further heightened by the gaps in knowledge and practice as to how to actually do ecological restoration on the ground. This symposium will address these issues in the context of emerging opportunities associated with future farming systems, carbon/ecosystem services markets and philanthropic investment as efforts are made to turn idealistic concepts of integrated multiple-use landscapes into reality.

Title

Combining Indigenous and Western ecological knowledge for future land management solutions

Convener

Dr Emilie Ens and Professor Max Finlayson

Outline

Over millennia, Indigenous Australians have developed a deep ecological and spiritual understanding of Australian country and have played an active part in shaping the landscape, particularly through the use of fire. Indigenous-owned land currently makes up some 20 per cent of the Australian land mass, which includes some of the most biodiverse lands in Australia. Indigenous people are playing an active role in maintaining this biodiversity on their lands. In recent years there has been a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating indigenous knowledge into land management activities and conservation strategies internationally and locally. However, attempts in Australia to date are typically fragmented, piecemeal and lack sustainability. This symposium aims to bring together policy makers, Western ecologists, Indigenous ecologists, economists, natural resource managers and other stakeholders to discuss potential frameworks and innovative techniques for ‘two-way’ approaches to land management, combining Indigenous knowledge with Western Science. Case studies of on-ground successes and failures will be discussed as a means of determining a more participatory and sustainable approach to natural resource management across Australia which combines both Indigenous and Western approaches.

Title

Conservation and the Ecology of Wildlife Parasites and Diseases

Convener

Stephanie Godfrey

Outline

Although parasites and diseases form important ecological and evolutionary roles in host populations and ecological communities, they also pose a current and future threat to the conservation of wildlife populations. In the next fifty years, as our environment continues to change; understanding how these changes affect the balance of host-parasite relationships and the emergence of infectious diseases will be essential to the future conservation management of wildlife populations. On a fundamental level, this involves understanding the factors that influence the ecology, dynamics and transmission of wildlife parasites and diseases. This symposium will consider how research on the ecology and transmission of wildlife parasites and diseases can be used to make informed conservation management decisions for the future, across a range of wildlife species.

Title

Taking action together: the role of ecology in conservation partnerships

Convener

Jim Radford, David Freudenberger, James Fitzsimons

Outline

The scope and scale of on-ground actions necessary to avert and reverse the threats to biodiversity and restore degraded habitats is immense. The non-government conservation sector (NGOs, Indigenous communities, private companies and landowners) is at the forefront of this challenge and will play a pivotal role in conservation in the next 50 years. To tackle the enormity of the task, the conservation sector is increasing investment in partnerships to improve the effectiveness of their actions. Partnerships often increase the spatial scale, skills base, resourcing and participation in conservation projects, and spread the risk among partner organisations. However, multi-tenure, multi-agency partnerships are often complex beasts with inertia beyond ecological drivers. Is ecological science negotiable in such partnerships? Does the focus on operational tools override ecology imperatives? To what extent does organisational pragmatism conflict with conservation priorities and quality implementation? Or do partnerships focus ecological thinking towards applied conservation outcomes? Do we need ecology to achieve positive environmental and conservation outcomes? What role does ecological understanding play in conservation partnerships? This symposium will explore these questions with case studies of applied conservation partnerships. Outcomes of the symposium will include synthesis of the:

· variety of conservation partnership models and approaches

· factors that are common to successful conservation partnerships

· pathways for and pitfalls of incorporating ecological science in conservation partnerships

· knowledge gaps for improving outcomes in conservation partnerships

Title

Ecological restoration science and practice: current and future directions

Convener

Tein McDonald, Jann Williams, Noel Preece and Alison Specht

Outline

Australian ecosystems have been managed and shaped by Aboriginal peoples for tens of thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. Post-colonial industrial, agricultural and urban development in Australia, while carving a modern society and economy, has led to the reduction in condition and area of many ecosystems. This degradation, and the hope of a more sustainable future, has spurred individuals and organisations to improve land management and pursue ecological restoration, supported by increasingly active restoration science. The aim of this symposium is to distil the lessons from past and present science, practice and communications to inform and encourage stronger restoration science and practice. Emphasis will be given to papers illustrated by outstanding cases of broader scale on-ground works that involve strong links between science and practice. Speakers will identify the key messages from their work for ecological restoration science and practice over the coming decades.

Title

Biodiversity indicators for measuring and monitoring ecosystems condition and climate change adaptation

Convener

Jean-Marc Hero, Guy Castley, Ben Lawson, William E. Magnusson

Outline

The importance of ecological indicators to detect changes in patterns and trends within populations, communities and ecosystems is well established and there are a plethora of studies that advocate the use of certain indicators above others. This is largely determined by the nature and extent of the threat that requires monitoring to ensure that the power of any change detection is reliable. Climate change is a current and future threat facing the global environment and the associated impacts will be felt throughout all environments, both natural and transformed. Being able to adapt to these changes and to put measures in place to deal with such change will be a critical requirement to ensure the conservation of global biodiversity but also to ensure that human society is in a position to implement effective management strategies and adaptation policy to facilitate such conservation efforts. Consequently it is of vital importance to have a greater understanding of how we able to monitor any changes in ecosystem structure and function effectively to provide relevant recommendations for management. This symposium seeks to bring together conservation biologists and ecologists to provide an overview of the current initiatives being used to measure and monitor biodiversity change in response to climate change. It hopes to go beyond the predictive assessments of the likely consequences of climate change on biota to focus more on how, when, what and why we should be measuring and monitoring climate change adaptation in ecological systems.

Title

Grassy woodlands: managing processes to restore ecosystem function

Convener

Adrian Manning and Sue McIntyre

Outline

Eucalypt grassy woodlands have been a research focus in conservation ecology for some time, but the theory and practice of woodland restoration are still poorly integrated. On-ground actions have tended to address percieved structural degradation (e.g livestock removal and tree planting) but there are a range of processes and interactions to be addressed to achieve fully functional grassland ecosystems. Ecological theory recognises a range of important processes (predation, disturbances, nutrient regulation, regeneration, herbivory etc) but our ability to manage these on-ground is still rudimentary. The challenge is to implement integrated and whole of ecosystem approaches. Starting with a focus on a recently-established, long-term extensive restoration experiment, this symposium expands to consider landscape-scale research approaches to broad-scale restoration practices.

Title

Grassy woodlands: managing processes to restore ecosystem function

Convener

Adrian Manning and Sue McIntyre

Outline

Eucalypt grassy woodlands have been a research focus in conservation ecology for some time, but the theory and practice of woodland restoration are still poorly integrated. On-ground actions have tended to address percieved structural degradation (e.g livestock removal and tree planting) but there are a range of processes and interactions to be addressed to achieve fully functional grassland ecosystems. Ecological theory recognises a range of important processes (predation, disturbances, nutrient regulation, regeneration, herbivory etc) but our ability to manage these on-ground is still rudimentary. The challenge is to implement integrated and whole of ecosystem approaches. Starting with a focus on a recently-established, long-term extensive restoration experiment, this symposium expands to consider landscape-scale research approaches to broad-scale restoration practices.

Title

Monitoring for a purpose: optimal monotoring and management of cryptic or declining populations

Convener

Kerrie Wilson and Ayesha Tulloch

Outline

How should monitoring programs differ depending on their objective? How can resources best be applied to monitoring and measuring the success (or failure) of management? In the face of uncertainty, what should managers monitor, and where and when should this monitoring occur? Such questions can be particularly pertinent for threatened species, as a poorly-designed monitoring program might have grave consequences for their persistence. The information gained through monitoring can establish the degree of success of management and consequently influence policy and future investment in management actions. However a trade-off often exists between the funding allocated to monitoring and evaluation, and doing conservation action. Therefore, it is important that (a) the objective of the monitoring program is clearly specified, (b) indicators are carefully chosen, (c) the monitoring program is designed with the best available information on the possible distribution of the indicators, (d) and the returns on conservation investment are established a priori and evaluated through time. Approaching monitoring from a decision-theoretic or an adaptive management framework can allow managers to make decisions in the face of enormous uncertainty, and to improve on those decisions over time. This symposium will be of interest to both theoretical and applied researchers, and also conservation practitioners.

Title

Sustaining Biodiversity in the Australian Alps

Convener

Catherine Pickering and Susanna Venn

Outline

Ecosystems within the Australian Alps are some of the most threatened in Australia from climate change and associated increased human impacts. Alpine and subalpine ecosystems face decreased snowfalls, increased end of season variability in the timing of snowmelt, increased weed and pest animal invasions and recently, increased fire frequencies. Understanding how all facets of alpine and subalpine biodiversity can be sustained and how these ecosystems will react under such pressures is a major goal of ecologists who work in Australian alpine and subalpine regions such as the Australian Alps. This symposium aims to attract researchers concerned with the potential ecological effects of these interacting threats, including ways in which these species and ecosystems may be conserved in the future.

Title

Conserving biodiversity in a changing climate: a forum for scientists, managers and policy-makers

Convener

Paula Peeters

Outline

Techniques, targets and strategies currently used for conserving biodiversity may no longer be valid in a changing climate. The movement of species’ distributions is predicted to alter the composition of ecological communities, protected areas may no longer provide habitat for species they were intended to conserve, and uncertainty about how species will respond to climate change is exacerbated by doubts about the rate, timing and extent of these changes. These challenges add to the existing difficulties of conserving biodiversity, including the optimal allocation of scarce resources. The rising tide of research results needs to be distilled into clear management actions, and preferably those that will be beneficial under a range of climate scenarios. Realistic targets that focus conservation work are still needed – but what should they be? Should we be ‘allowing biodiversity to change’ rather than ‘conserving’ it? Concepts such as novel ecosystems and assisted migration further shake the foundations of why we value biodiversity, and how it should be managed. This forum invites scientists, managers and policy-makers to discuss the challenges of biodiversity conservation in a changing climate at a range of scales (property, catchment, protected area, region, state, and beyond), and suggest innovative solutions to overcome these challenges.

Title

When Continents Collide: Biological Invasions and Ecosystem Theory

Convener

Iain Gordon and Herbert Prins

Outline

Biological invasion of animals and plants is one of the most important threats to the world as we know it. Invasive species threaten the conservation of native plants and animals and through their effect on ecosystem structure and composition invaders jeopardise the delivery of ecosystem services. The central issue of this symposium is how invading plants and animals find their place in existing native ecosystems, and why some potential invaders fail to find a niche for themselves. The most recent rafting of a continent, namely Australia, into the “ecological neighbourhood” of Indo-Malayan and Afrotropical, offers a unique insight into what can happen if ecosystems are subject to invasive species and changed climatic conditions. We will explore what happened when species were well-adapted to their environment and new species invade, but will also look at the potential for native Australian species to become invaders of ecological neighbourhoods and beyond. This symposium is about the confrontation between old and new, and from it we distil the lessons about invasion, and also – perhaps equally important – about failed invasions.

Title

Long-term, trans-scale, integrated monitoring of Australian landscapes

Convener

Alison Specht, Andrew Lowe, Alex Held and Stuart Pillman

Outline

A range of approaches can be applied to the monitoring and measurement of ecosystems, which differ broadly in spatial and information content scales; from remote sensing, through broad-scale plot surveys, down to intensively studied plots with flux towers. Within these approaches, a range of new methodolgies and exciting developments have been progressing the analytical capabilities at these different monitoring and surveying scales, but have to date remained relatively poorly integrated. This symposium encourages the submission of talks that will highlight the latest monitoring developments across the range of approaches (e.g plot based, remote sensing, photo/spectral analysis, genomic analysis), and projects that aim to integrate across approaches and scales. The symposium will finish with a facilitated discussion that teases out new questions and paradigm shifts that could potentially be developed from a trans-scale monitoring approach applied to Australian landscapes.

Title

From Genes to Ecosystems

Convener

Stephen Sarre, Arthur Georges, Tariq Ezaz

Outline

Genetics and ecology are two research disciplines that, to some extent, have focused on different sides of the same coin in studying the factors that affect the distribution and abundance of organisms. Despite the obvious links between them, a comprehensive integration has remained elusive. A gradual realisation that neither could really prosper in the absence of the other, and the advent of new tools in ecological modelling, hypervariable and sensitive molecular markers, and genomics now makes the alignment of these two disciplines an exciting and dynamic place to be. In this symposium, we aim to bring together those that are working at the intersection of genetics and ecology to highlight the insights that are being gained through such an integrated approach.

Title

Ecology in Australia over the last 50 years: from the past to the future

Convener

Carla Catterall, Mike Bull and Kris French

Outline

Ecologists in Australia work in a distinctive context with ecosystems, biota and climate whose derivation and phylogeny are very different from those of other continents. In spite of (or perhaps because of) these differences, ecologists working in and from Australia have played a significant role in advancing the ideas and approaches that are at the core of ecological thought. The Ecological Society of Australia was formed in 1960 to foster a distinctive voice for Australian ecologists, and the 50 years since then have seen many exciting developments in ecological science and its applications. Ecology has flourished, proliferated, and progressed from a peripheral and minor position to a central place in global scientific thought as well as in public debate and attention. This Symposium brings together eminent Australian ecologists to provide their personal perspectives on the developments and milestones of their fields over the past 50 years, and to comment on the directions in which ideas or practice are headed.

Title

Dissecting Australian Diversity: the key to understanding global biodiversity

Convener

Michael A Huston and Charles J Krebs

Outline

This workshop will convene researchers and graduate students working on aspects of terrestrial and marine biodiversity across Australia, with the goal of evaluating a new set of ecological and evolutionary hypotheses that make predictions that are the opposite of most of the dominant hypotheses for explaining biodiversity. Current hypotheses state that ecological and evolutionary processes operate to create the highest diversity where plant growth rates (net primary productivity) is highest. This is obviously not true in Australia, which may be the key to a completely new understanding of global biodiversity patterns.
One of the greatest challenges in global ecology and evolution is understanding why the two most diverse types of plant communities in the world, tropical rain forests and mediterranean climate shrublands, occur at the opposite end of several major environmental gradients, including rainfall and plant size. Both occur in Australia, which is unique among continents in having nearly the full range of temperature and rainfall conditions capable of supporting plant-based ecosystems, all within a relatively uniform and flat landscape. Excellent universities, along with national and state-level scientific organizations, have created the most comprehensive spatial scientific infrastructure and database of any continent. Consequently, Australia, with its remarkable biodiversity and adaptations of plants and animals, provides the ideal system for testing hypotheses that attempt to explain the ecology and evolution of biodiversity.