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TESS Seminar- Why do we map threats? Making more informed conservation decisions

When May 24, 2017
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where D3.054 Cairns, 145.030 Townsville
Contact Name
Contact Phone 07 4232 1427
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Dr Ayesha Tulloch
University of Queensland
Australian National University

AbstractAyesha Tulloch

Management of threats to biodiversity occurs in complex and uncertain landscapes, and there are often numerous options for reducing or eliminating a threat to restore declining communities. Spatial representations of threatening processes – “threat maps” – can identify where biodiversity is at risk, and are often used to identify priority locations for conservation. In doing so, decision makers are prone to making errors, either by assuming that the level of threat dictates spatial priorities for action or by relying primarily on the location of mapped threats to choose possible actions. The only way to ensure that conservation decisions are effective is to develop and use threat-based information with an understanding of how species respond to actions that attempt to mitigate the threat. In today's talk, I will explore how best to incorporate knowledge of threats and their possible management actions into conservation decision-making to ensure that actions are effective and appropriate for conservation program goals. I demonstrate a transparent and repeatable structured decision-making (SDM) process, which ensures transparent and defensible conservation decisions by linking objectives to biodiversity outcomes, and by considering constraints, consequences of actions, and uncertainty. Critical to this is a fundamental understanding of baseline ecological processes driving community change, from which the benefits of threat management can be derived. This approach ensures that conservation actions are prioritized where they are most cost-effective or have the greatest impact, rather than where threat levels are highest. I will describe challenges for conserving species and communities threatened by multiple processes, and will present some new approaches to resolving these challenges. The communities I describe span numerous systems, including birds in the arid Australian rangelands and the endangered box-gum grassy woodland of eastern Australia, critical weight range mammals and invasive foxes in the threatened fire-prone proteaceous mallee-heath of south-western Australia, and coral reef ecosystems of Fiji.


Ayesha is a conservation ecologist whose research focuses on using ecological knowledge to inform conservation decision-making. Based at the University of Queensland as a partner investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and the National Environmental Science Programme's Threatened Species Recovery Hub, she is currently a research fellow with the Wildlife Conservation Society working on land use planning to preserve ecosystem function, biodiversity and human livelihoods in Africa. Her current research integrates mapping of anthropogenic processes such as forest harvesting and bushmeat hunting with priorities for carbon storage, human subsistence and biodiversity conservation, and forecasts likely scenarios of declines in biodiversity under future scenarios of human resource use versus conservation management.

Ayesha worked in applied management in non-government organisations and academia for 15 years prior to returning to academia. She now works primarily in dynamic human-modified landscapes where there are usually multiple threats and conflicting objectives related to biodiversity and social or economic factors. She has a particular interest in solving conservation problems related to threatened bird and mammal communities, by integrating research on anthropogenic and ecological processes such as fire, invasive predators and ecosystem degradation, using cross-disciplinary approaches such as network analysis and decision theory. Ayesha’s work spans theoretical and applied ecology as well as decision-making for both monitoring and managing biodiversity, including Red Listing of Ecosystems, community dynamics and responses to anthropogenic change, prioritising threat mitigation actions for species recovery, monitoring effectiveness, and human-wildlife conflict.

Centre for Tropical Environmental & Sustainability Sciences

Twitter (@TESSJCU)