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Pub ecology

January 24th, 2006

If you want to hear my thoughts on biodiversity in the context of a moderately-lubricated pub discussion, you can hear it on Radio National today at 1305 (1605 in WA).

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  1. Peter2
    January 25th, 2006 at 10:30 | #1

    I missed this on radio (I read your blog infrequently). I have several problems with the whole concept, but, to keep it brief, I’ll just post my most serious one — I’d like to hear what people have to say:

    Biodiversity is difficult to create. By its nature it takes a long time, so one cannot really produce a surplus of it to offset losses. Promising not
    to destroy one patch of biodiversity in exchange for being able to destroy some other patch is not really a trading scheme — every transaction results in a net loss of biodiversity.

  2. jquiggin
    January 25th, 2006 at 15:02 | #2

    This point was made very forcefully by Hugh Possingham.

    In response, I’d observe that, whatever we might think about it, coastal development is not going to stop, so an objective of zero loss of biodiversity is unattainable. The aim is to get the minimum loss for any given biodiversity, while investing in long-term proposals to rehabilitate degraded areas and restore carrying capacity for biodiversity.

    Under appropriate constraints, I think market-based programs have a role to play, though I’m dubious about full-scale biodiversity trading.

  3. Peter2
    January 25th, 2006 at 15:51 | #3

    Sure, zero biodiversity loss is unatainable. But a trading scheme which allows you to set aside some biodiversity for the right to destroy some other biodiversity means an effective goal of 50% biodiversity loss. Even assuming there is such a thing as a ‘unit’ of biodiversity (whoops, after saying I’d keep it to a single objection, my other objections are starting to leak out) — what makes this a sensible target?

    Without sensible constraints, the clear outcome of any simple trading scheme is that biodiversity on valuable land will go. This probably means the loss of most biodiversity that is particular to coastal regions.

  4. Bill O’Slatter
    January 26th, 2006 at 13:00 | #4

    Peter2 If you want to catch the dulcet tones of Quiggers then this is the URL.
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bigidea/audio/big_22012006_2856.ram

  5. Dano
    January 27th, 2006 at 08:32 | #5

    The Yank likes the hostess’ accent. rrrRRRRrrrowr!
    :o )

    D

  6. Peter2
    January 30th, 2006 at 08:54 | #6

    Thanks Bill.

  7. February 3rd, 2006 at 14:41 | #7

    The jury’s out on whether this sort of scheme can work in practice, but in theory it DOES give you zero NET biodiversity loss going forward: you can only destroy a bit of biodiversity here if you rehabilitate a bit over there which wouldn’t otherwise have been rehabilitated.

  8. Peter2
    February 9th, 2006 at 14:59 | #8

    The jury’s out on whether this sort of scheme can work in practice, but in theory it DOES give you zero NET biodiversity loss going forward: you can only destroy a bit of biodiversity here if you rehabilitate a bit over there which wouldn’t otherwise have been rehabilitated.

    I dont buy this. Our knowledge of how to rehabilitate ecosystems is really poor. Often we simply remove existing disturbances (pollution/clearing/etc) and hope that the system self-stabilizes. Sometimes we go for more active management (trying to mimic fire regimes). But in general, rehabilitation is a bloody mess. So even if all trades are for ‘rehabilitation’, there is still a net loss, due to imperfect understanding of biodiversity creation. As such, a heavy discount should be applied on all such promised biodiversity — that is,the biodiversity interest rate should be high — you need to promise 3 units of biodiversity to offset 1 now.

    In any case, in some schemes, you are allowed to destroy 1 unit of biodiversity by ‘protecting’ (i.e. promising not to destory) another bit. This is a net loss of biodiversity, whichever way you look at it.

  9. February 13th, 2006 at 13:41 | #9

    Peter, I agree that rehabilitation is less certain so you’ve got to apply a discount (possibly a heavy one). But I don’t think that means you shouldn’t have a trading system at all.

    As for your second point, I agree that’s a loss of biodiversity and shouldn’t be part of a biodiversity trading scheme.

    I think one point that’s sometimes overlooked in this debate is that trade-offs are already made. At the moment, as I understand it, Councils weigh up the biodiversity negatives against the economic benefits of a development. Predictably, the economic benefit almost always wins out and the development goes ahead with maybe a few conditions to reduce the biodiversity loss (so there is ALWAYS biodiversity loss). Under a trading scheme, you weigh up the biodiversity loss against other biodiversity gains and aim to have no net biodiversity loss. Again, it has to be done right, but I reckon that’s an improvement in the way we assess proposed developments. At the moment, we simply accept there’ll be biodiversity loss in the name of economic development.

  10. May 19th, 2006 at 11:39 | #10

    Very good site. Thanks for author!

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