Ecologies in Danger: Part Two

4568873503_1ee5c98d0c_bOn Saturday I wrote about some parallels I saw between the Australian Sports Commission’s (ASC) announcement of The Winning Edge and Tim Flannery’s Quarterly Essay.
Overnight I have been thinking about the role lifeboat islands play in preserving eco systems and enabling them to flourish. I see further parallels between The Edge and The New Extinction Crisis.
In his essay, Tim writes about the work of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC).

In little over a decade the AWC has grown to the point where it manages over 3 million hectares. Its reserves are scattered throughout the nation, with particularly significant holdings in the tropical north and centre. On this land, the organisation conserves around two-thirds of Australia’s threatened mammal species, and 70 per cent of its threatened mainland bird species. And it manages to do this on an annual budget of around $12 million (page 61).

Tim points out that the AWC:

  • Has a clear vision: the protection of Australia’s biodiversity
  • Is committed to creating and maintaining a strong scientific base
  • Establish goals, monitor progress and report accurately

The AWC employs twenty-five ecologists and has fifteen students at work at any time. There is an internship program too.
Tim adds that:

A strong scientific basis means that the AWC an account for its successes and failures. It also means that it is today the only conservation organisation in Australia able to provide reliable estimates of the population sizes of each endangered species in its care. The ability to demonstrate the success of its operations is also a great magnet for staff: talented young people are keen to work for such a body (page 67).

In the Winning Edge, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is identified as Australia’s strategic high performance sport agency with responsibility and accountability for leading the delivery of Australia’s international sporting success. The AIS works in partnership with National Sporting Organisations (NSOs), state institutes and academies of sport (SIS/SAS)  and other sport partners to deliver international sporting success.

The AIS partners with NSOs to position high performance investment in order to support coaches and athletes to deliver Australia’s collective ambitions. This involves providing expertise in athlete preparation, performance science and medicine, innovation, coach and leadership development, performance strategy and planning, pathway support and athlete career and education. The AIS also works closely with the SIS/SAS to develop systematic national support for NSOs to deliver the daily training environment for Australia’s elite athletes. (Page 10)

The Winning Edge positions the AIS to grow its role as Australia’s national high performance agency. This involves:

  • A sharper focus on true podium potential athletes
  • Responsibility for all high performance funding within the ASC
  • Empowering sports to determine optimal high performance program delivery
  • A focus on: Strategy/Investment + Athlete/Sport Services + Research/Innovation

I thought there was an interesting example in Tim Flannery’s essay of how an agency can transform an eco system. In contrast to the Christmas island Pipistrelle, the Gouldian Finch is flourishing.
AWC research indicated that the threats to the Finch were linked to changed fire patterns “which had altered the availability of the grass seeds upon which the species feeds” (page 66). This meant that during the breeding season “birds were becoming stressed by the great distances they had to travel between their nesting hollows and the nearest seeding grasses” (page 66).

With research completed, AWC staff started to burn parts of their properties in ways that encouraged the seeding of grasses near nesting hollows of the finches. Today as a result of the program, Gouldian finches are thriving on Mornington, and blood analysis shows that nesting females are far less stressed than in years past and therefore more likely to survive into a second breeding year. (Page 67)

I do think there are enormous synergies between the work undertaken by AWC and the AIS. The flourishing of both requires a sensitive understanding of context and environment. The Edge is about Finches!
Photo Credit
Portrait of a Rainbow Finch (Raymond Larose, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)



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