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Research Funding Provided by: Australian Government
Research Funding Provided by
Australian Government

Australian Research Council

Environmental Futures Network
Environmental Futures Network
The University of Adelaide
North Terrace Campus
Darling Building
South Australia 5005

Phone: +61 8 8303 3952
Facsimile: +61 8 8303 4364

Project: Multidisciplinary approaches to key Australian biodiversity challenges of 2010 and beyound

CI(s)/Institution: Dan Faith, The Australian Museum, NSW (Funded in 2005, first cycle funding AUD$28,000)
Simon Ferrier, Department of Environment and conservation, NSW


Synthesize available information, and research a key issue concerning Australia's biodiversity: how to achieve the cross-disciplinary approaches needed 1) for better estimation of overall biodiversity, and 2) for finding the balance with other needs of society, underpinning sustainability.
* Focus on the 2010 biodiversity target, plus Australian land use/climate change challenges.

Selected specifics:

  • Develop surrogates for overall biodiversity, based on existing biotic and environmental data, allowing ongoing estimation of gains/losses, and endemicity
  • Explore use of phylogeny to improve estimation
  • Use available historical data on land-cover change to answer - "how much biodiversity has Australia lost and what are the future scenarios?"
  • Explore impacts on overall biodiversity, using climate change scenarios
  • Develop a multidisciplinary framework for exploring rates of change in biodiversity loss, exploring 2010 scenarios
  • Provide system for calculating "collateral" biodiversity benefits associated with carbon accounting

Australia's 2010 target is "a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss". Limitations of conventional indicators for 2010 now require "broadening the science" (Science 2010 essay). The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment argues:

"Biodiversity surrogates based upon best possible use of a combination of environmental and species…data may provide greater certainty in estimating biodiversity patterns. Such a ''calculus'' of global and regional biodiversity may allow biodiversity targets to be formulated in ways that integrate socioeconomic factors" and "may provide one pathway for addressing …the 2010 biodiversity target".

The research challenge is to 1) develop a biodiversity calculus integrating best-possible use of available biotic and environmental data, and 2) link this to socio-economic factors, to address the 2010 target, plus other climate and land-use change pressures.

Exploring novel, multidisciplinary, approaches to 2010-target assessment (e.g., ) requires building on current opportunities to bring together exciting developments in different disciplines, e.g.:
1) recent work by Australian Greenhouse Office (AG0), on carbon accounting, has synthesized continental-scale land-cover change since 1972.
2) a prototype calculus has been demonstrated in Bioscience; it raises prospects of links with climate and land-use change scenarios, plus integration with phylogenetic pattern.


Our network project will address biodiversity scenarios relating to the 2010 target plus other land-use and climate change pressures at the scale of continental Australia. It brings together workers on #1 and #2 above, plus much related work. Information complementing biotic data of museums and related data bases includes: AGO's 12 snapshots since 1972 of detailed land-cover change for Australia, and national environmental audit information and ANU climate data providing environmental layers for surrogate-building. Addressing stated Aims is based on networking scientists across disciplines of biodiversity, climate change/ carbon accounting, remote sensing, land-use planning, systematics/biogeography, and environmental/economic audits.

Early workshops will focus on synthesis of existing data, analytical frameworks, and software. Later workshops will discuss pilot analyses and grant preparation. Project results will be presented at an international symposium focused on the project, at ICSEB 2008.

Our project exemplifies the Network vision of a large spatial scale, multi-disciplinary, program exploring a complex problem, addressing "synthesis and analysis of existing data in innovative ways." We have a window of opportunity - leading research on modeling "overall" biodiversity now can be married to leading research on land-cover change, climate, and carbon-accounting. The group will include representatives of key resource management agencies (AGO,DEC,DEH,LWA), provide opportunity for early-career researchers (Cameron), plus feed into a bioinformatics course at ANU. The project will influence international research directions - e.g. through much-debated GDM and ED methods. Future collaborative work and grants not only will extend the Australian framework, but also may promote parallel work in New Guinea, possible use of bar-coding linked to PD, and models for GBIF and GEOSS.
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Outputs include one or more grant proposals addressing both the information needs and the analytical framework needs identified through the project. We anticipate additional top journal publications and conference presentations on what are already some internationally prominent topics (e.g. GDM and ED and PD/GD methods). Outputs also include first analyses based on the toolbox and expanding information base created by the project. Example outputs include estimates of how much biodiversity has been lost since 1972; estimates of how balanced planning might shift the "curve" reflecting rates of biodiversity loss in the context of the 2010 target; estimates of areas containing either high species or high PD-endemism; estimates of collateral biodiversity benefits to be associated with carbon accounting efforts. Another output is course material for an ongoing "bioinformatics" course at ANU.The outcomes naturally include useful new multi-disciplinary collaborations. Outcomes importantly include a range of enhanced capabilities to talk about overall biodiversity in the context of the 2010 biodiversity target, climate and land-use change scenarios, and trade-offs based conservation planning.The project may provide a first working example of the "biodiversity calculus" called for by the MA, enabling 1) better estimation of biodiversity patterns for Australian planning and scenarios analysis, and 2) integrated use of biodiversity conservation instruments (payments to private land owners; new protected areas), so promoting sustainability through better synergies and trade-offs with other needs of society.An important outcome specific to the 2010 target may be take-up of the idea that measurement of success against the target must integrate land-clearing and other factors reflecting other needs of society.

Working group members (initial group)

D. P. Faith, Australian Museum
Simon Ferrier, Dep Env Cons, NSW
Dan Rosauer, CSIRO
D. Yeates, CSIRO
K. Williams, CSIRO
C. Margules, CSIRO
M Byrne, CALM WA
G Richards, Australian Greenhouse Office
S. Cameron, U. Cal, Davis
C. Moritz, U. Cal, Berkeley
R Waterhouse, ANU
J. Trueman, ANU
M. Crisp, ANU
S Pearson, Dept Land and Water
G. Wilson, Australian Museum
H. Cogger, Australian Museum
B. Brook, Charles Darwin University
R. Crozier, James Cook Univ.
J. Hughes, Griffith Univ.
A Baker, QIT
H Nix, ANU
J. Stein, ANU
J. Kesteven, ANU

The 2010 biodiversity target See

"In decision VI/26 the Conference of the Parties adopted the Strategic Plan for the Convention on Biological Diversity. In its mission statement, Parties committed themselves to a more effective and coherent implementation of the three objectives of the Convention, to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth.

This target was subsequently endorsed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
In decision VII/30 the Conference of the Parties adopted a framework to facilitate the assessment of progress towards 2010 and communication of this assessment, to promote coherence among the programmes of work of the Convention and to provide a flexible framework within which national and regional targets may be set, and indicators identified.
The framework includes seven focal areas. The Conference of the Parties identified indicators for assessing progress towards, and communicating the 2010 target at the global level, and goals and sub-targets for each of the focal areas, as well as a general approach for the integration of goals and sub-targets into the programmes of work of the Convention.
Parties are invited to establish their own targets and identify indicators, within this flexible framework." (quoted from

Australia has set a goal of achieving a significant reduction in biodiversity loss by 2010 see
At the 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (2004), Australia supported more international work to develop globally applicable indicators for countries to meet the target to 'significantly reduce the current rate of loss of biological diversity by 2010'. See
Background to one approach to be considered by the EFN working group is found in:
Faith, DP. 2005. Global Biodiversity Assessment: Integrating Global and Local Values and Human Dimensions. Global Environmental Change 15(1) 5-8.

Faith, DP & Ferrier S 2005. Good news and bad news for the 2010 biodiversity target. Science Online, 6 Mar 2005

Carbon accounting toolbox

National Carbon Accounting Toolbox CD - a set of tools for tracking greenhouse gas emissions and carbon stock changes from land use and management, including the FullCAM modelling software and Data Builder.
Data Viewer DVD - a unique 30-year visual record of landscape and vegetation change in Australia since 1972, as seen through 5 national snapshots of Landsat satellite data.

"Integrating biodiversity science for human well-being. By linking biology, ecology and social sciences, DIVERSITAS produces socially relevant new knowledge to support sustainable use of biodiversity." See
The Australian National Committee for DIVERSITAS now has EFN network (and 2010 working group) members, Faith and Yeates.

Participants at the First DIVERSITAS Open Science Conference: "Integrating biodiversity science for human well-being" called for a properly resourced international panel on biodiversity. (Oaxaca declaration )

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
The "Biodiversity synthesis" document highlights challenges in addressing the 2010 target. See

Early career researchers
As part of the Environmental Futures Network's "Early Career Researcher (ECR) Support Program", early career researchers associated with the 2010 working group have submitted a proposal for a "Multidisciplinary training workshop for the integration of biodiversity modeling, environmental data, phylogenetic diversity, and carbon accounting"
The proposed two-day training workshop emphasizes multidisciplinary aspects of training in the areas of species modeling, environmental scenarios and carbon accounting. The workshop objective is to enable ECRs to integrate, in their own research programs, exciting developments in different disciplines that underpin "environmental futures." These include integration of environmental and species data and integration of biodiversity modeling with scenarios analysis and carbon accounting.
The workshop will broaden ECR research perspectives, further ECR careers by providing training and introduction to new methods, enhance collaboration among ECRs in various disciplines, and make a contribution to research covered by the EFN and the 2010 working group. The two primary ECR s organizing and running the workshop are Susan Cameron and Rob Waterworth.


  • Ferrier S. 2005. New directions in spatial modeling of terrestrial biodiversity for conservation assessment and land-use planning. In: Australian Entomological Society's 36th AGM and Scientific Conference/7th Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Conference/Australian Systematics Society. Canberra, Australia, 4-9 December 2005. pp. xxxii-xxxiii
  • Faith DP & Williams KJ. 2005. How Large-scale DNA Barcoding Programs Can Boost Biodiversity Conservation Planning: Linking Phylogenetic Diversity (PD) Analyses to the Barcode of Life Database (BoLD). In: Australian Entomological Society's 36th AGM and Scientific Conference/7th Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Conference/Australian Systematics Society. Canberra, Australia, 4-9 December 2005. pp. 83-84. [this paper proposes that DNA barcoding can greatly boost biodiversity surrogates information for use in conservation planning tools, both through species data and through phylogenetic pattern and PD]
  • Faith, DP 2005.Phylogenetic diversity (PD) provides biodiversity surrogates information that can enhance the contribution of DNA barcoding programs to conservation planning
    In: First DIVERSITAS Open Science Conference: "Integrating biodiversity science for human well-being", 9-12 November 2005, Oaxaca, Mexico. Symposium 14 - Phylogeny and biodiversity science. Invited follow-up on the debates arising at DIVERSITAS, by 2010 working group members, will appear as guest editorial in Journal of Biogeography:
  • Faith DP et al. in prep. Biodiversity, barcoding and biogeography. J Biogeography

Other EFN working group publications are:

  • Faith DP & Williams KJ. in press. Phylogenetic diversity and biodiversity conservation. McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology.
  • Faith DP & Baker AM. in review. Phylogenetic diversity (PD) and biodiversity conservation: some bioinformatics challenges Evol. Bioinformatics Online