[ASC-media] Media release: "Large-scale Experiments Needed to Save Australia ¹ s Biota"

Australasian Science science at control.com.au
Wed Nov 9 09:34:19 EST 2005

For immediate release
"Large-scale Experiments Needed to Save Australia's Biota"
"Ecological research and management in Australia is lacking adequate
knowledge from good science," according to internationally recognised
ecologist Professor Charles Krebs in the November/December issue of
Australasian Science, published today.
Prof Krebs is Honorary Fellow in CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, a former
Chief of CSIRO Wildlife Research and a retired Professor of Zoology in the
University of British Columbia. He is renowned for studies of population
dynamics of small mammals. His textbook, Ecology, is heavily cited, having
been the standard work in North America since 1994 (now in its 5th edition).

Prof Krebs is especially worried about the four major threats to
biodiversity conservation: "introduced predators, fire, land clearing and
climate change". He characterises land clearing as "less a scientific issue
than a political one" and says that climate change "requires long-term
policies and these are lacking. Despite these huge gaps in policies, we can
do much about introduced predators and fire. However, both problems require
manipulations over the next 10­50 years.

"For example, we do not know how to control foxes and cats cleverly because
we cannot measure their populations accurately. We cannot achieve the
necessary knowledge with purely observational, small-scale studies after the
damage has become starkly evident." Drawing on a seminar he presented in
CSIRO recently, he criticises changes of direction in the national research

"We cannot import ecological knowledge for Australia from the Northern
Hemisphere like we import medical knowledge. Only our universities, states,
Cooperative Research Centres and the CSIRO have the potential to conduct
research in natural resource management. These organisations have differing
goals and time frames and only partly overlapping mandates." He is concerned
that "all are constrained by shortfalls in funding".

"CSIRO should be conducting the long-term, large-scale research needed to
complete coverage of resource management problems that involve both the
public and the private good. But, CSIRO is not currently doing the field
research needed to achieve the goal of biodiverse, healthy ecosystems for
Australia. Its shift to computer models is a shortcut that does not meet
these challenges because models are useful only with reliable fundamental

Professor Krebs concludes: "We do not have the wide consultation among the
public that is needed to guide strategic priorities or the extensive
discussions among scientists and policy makers needed to decide what can be
done in practice".

Summaries and quotations of selected passages for reporting or review are
permissible provided AUSTRALASIAN SCIENCE MAGAZINE is credited as the source
of this story.

Professor Krebs can be reached on (02) 6252 1623 or (0407) 354 179.
For permission to reproduce the text partially or in full call the Editor,
Guy Nolch, on (03) 9500 0015 or Senior Correspondent, Peter Pockley, on (02)
9660 6363. 

A photo is available.
Guy Nolch
Editor, Australasian Science
Box 2155 Wattletree Rd PO
VIC 3145 Australia
Phone 61-3-9500 0015
Fax 61-3-9500 0255
Web australasianscience.com.au

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