Conservation Biology in The Media Report
This Assessment Task refers to the following Learning Outcomes
Describe the current conservation issues in Australia, as well as some of the theories involved in conservation biology.
Analyze the literature on conservation issues contained in peer-reviewed scientific articles.
Demonstrate an ability to conduct literature-based conservation biology research and synthesize the current state of knowledge
Media often report scientific discoveries and results in misleading or inaccurate ways in order to attract attention.
This happens in many scientific fields. However, it is also common in conservation biology.
Scientists need to recognize when other scientists are misrepresenting their work, or omitting some aspects of results, in order for the media to tell a clear story.
This is something that conservation biologists can find themselves in. We must be able to recognize discrepancies and better communicate our work with the public, media, managers, and policy makers.
This task is meant to raise awareness about these issues and to help you recognize and assess them. You will verify media articles that discuss conservation research by consulting both scientific as well as non-scientific literature.
This task will allow you to assess the effectiveness of the media in communicating scientific literature.
Two recent media articles (5 years old) will be used to assess the effectiveness of the media in communicating scientific literature. Each article will focus on a specific published scientific paper in a conservation biology journal.
Each media article must focus on a specific conservation topic and have a different scientific papers associated.
Media Article 1
Journal paper 1 – Mella, V.S. McArthur C. Frend R. Crowther M.S. Crowther.
Australian tree-dwelling foxes: Are they a threat to Australian arboreal fauna?
Conservation and its Significance
Media reports and articles have extensively covered the unusual behavior of Australian Red Foxes, which climb trees to search for koalas or other food.
The European Red Fox had originally been introduced to Australia for recreational hunting purposes, but it soon began hunting on native species like wallabies as well as numbats.
It is now widespread throughout Australia, resulting in the decline and extinction medium-sized marsupial types (European Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes), 2017).
Numerous evidence has been presented that red foxes climb trees to hunt. Dickman (2014) also showed evidence about the variable level activities of red foxes.
This is shocking because red foxes do not climb trees.
European foxes played an important role in decreasing the number of Australian species considered to be endangered.
Red fox has been the cause of record numbers of mammal extinctions on the continent, and it is therefore the most invasive Australian species.
Summary of Media Articles:
Klein (2017) writes about the threat to Australia’s native mammalian populations after the introduction and spread of the European Red Fox.
The European red Fox was intentionally introduced to Australia in 1855 for recreational hunting. Within a period of 100 years it has spread across Australia.
Bengsen (2016) and Sparkes (2016) question why foxes were introduced for recreational hunting. This is because, instead of pest mammal management, it leads to a decrease in the number of marsupials.
Evidence is mounting that native mammalian populations are declining. A media article also revealed evidence that red foxes were seen scaling trees on footage from a study of Koalas in the Liverpool plains.
They were frequently found at heights of 4 metres above ground. This is a remarkable finding as foxes are not known to climb trees.
They were also not allowed to touch the fountain so it is unlikely that they have drank water.
The reason the foxes climbed the tree was that they were targeting animals who are used to living under the tree.
Because of the many bumps in Australian trees, climbing to them is easier.
This could be a problem for native Australian mammals because of the curiosity, agility and opportunistic natures of foxes.
Evaluation of Journal Articles And Media Media:
The media article dealt with the issue of mammalian extinction at its highest due to the introduction in Australia of the red-fox.
Mella et al. provided the reference for this issue.
(2017), who provided evidence about red foxes climbing trees in Australia.
It was discovered that Klein (2017) had briefly described the Mella et al.’s method in the media article.
The study was carried out by Klein (2017).
Although the journal article has only briefly mentioned the study, the main extract and summary of the journal are successfully reported by the author.
The journal article mentioned that the red fox behavior was also observed in the Liverpool plains.
Near the trunks of eucalypts trees were water stations.
The results of the study showed that foxes visited the area but did not drink the water. Instead, they were found to sniff the surrounding areas.
Another remarkable finding was that the Fox found it possible to climb higher in trees to grab the Koalas.
This description matches the one in media article. It also proves that there are no gaps or misinterpretations in scientific reporting in the source media article.
Similar research was done by Newsome and colleagues.
2014) showed that land managers in Australia are using isolated control programs to manage red foxes and decrease their impact on the native fauna.
Reports about the vulnerability of Australian fauna to red fox (Vulpes Vulpes) have been widely published. Australian conservation department also reported on the issue (Australian government 2017).
It was a supporting article which proved that the journal article’s topic is valid.
The predation of foxes led to a decline in ground-nesting birds and medium-sized mammals as well as reptiles.
This has made it difficult for different species to recover (Fisher, et al.
This also has economic implications as farmers are losing lambs, kid goats, and poultry (Dickman 2014).
Mella et al. analyzed the journal article.
(2017) reliability, credibility and credibility of finding. The researcher provided sequential photographs as evidence that the fox took the same path as a koala to climb a tree.
The media article correctly presented the analysis of the whole journal article, as it stated that red foxes are opportunistic and pose a danger to native Australian mammals.
It can be concluded that the media article was effective in attracting attention to the topic and that the consistency of content with the journal articles proved that there were no misleading statements.
The journal article summarizes the research findings by referring only to another study in which red foxes were observed.
The evidence showed that foxes climb trees for food. However Mella and colleagues’ research has shown otherwise.
The first evidence about foxes climbing trees was provided by Mella and colleagues (2017).
It explained that tree climbing behavior does not occur due to insufficient food, but that foxes are attracted by the trees because they smell potential grey.
A limitation of the media story is that it did nothing to highlight future actions or research to improve the situation.
Haddaway (2015) suggested that additional research should be done to address the conservation issue.
The journal article concluded the same by stating that research on the potential for foxes’ arboreal impacts could be significant for conservation of Australian arboreal fauna.
Woinarski, et al. also address the evidence of the redfox causing the death of Australian mammals.
Woinarski and colleagues (2015) stated that in addition to habitat loss, human influence and loss of land animals, predation from European red foxes and feral cat predators also causes loss.
This paper is an important study because it revealed the extent of loss as well as the reasons.
Knowledge or method gap:
Mella and colleagues.
Mella et. al. (2017) adequately summarized the research method. A comparison of journal articles and media articles shows consistency in reporting scientific evidence.
The journal article did not misinterpret any information. Journal articles and media articles give the same interpretation and meaning of the conservation issue. (Ruths, Pfeffer, 2014).
There is one major difference in reporting: the media article can’t be a lengthy piece of reports like journal articles. Everything has been presented in a clear and effective way.
Another method gap was identified in the media articles is that they do not offer any policy direction or recommendation to improve the situation.
The study would have been more useful if this was discussed.
Woinarski and colleagues found different levels of action to reduce red-fox population.
(2014). It was also mentioned about the different ways to protect arboreal mammals in Australia.
Red foxes were removed from areas where black-footed wallsaby colonized.
This resulted in the recovery of several species of prey.
Another approach to recovery was predatorproof fencing. This allowed monitoring of the native animal’s response (Hing et. al.
In some cases, endangered mammals were relocated to areas where there are no cats or foxes.
The media should have reported similar types of actions and responses to improve the situation and save mammals from extinction.
The report compared and summarized the quality of the media article to that of the journal article it was referring to as evidence.
Analyzing the media article revealed the conservation issue surrounding the extinction in Australia of mammalian specie after the introduction and control of red foxes.
The critical analysis showed that the media article correctly interpreted the methods used in research. Also, the original results were discussed.
There are no biases or disparities in reporting.
There was one limitation to the media article: it did not discuss the importance this piece of evidence in relation to future research and action.
The recommendation about areas for improvement and future research would have been a direction to solving the problem.
It was clear that the introduction and subsequent decline of mammalian species is the leading reason. Therefore, it is important to develop practical management strategies to help vulnerable species recover and protect themselves.
The entire Australian community should take responsibility for protecting and maintaining biodiversity.
Australian conservation might also be responsible for keeping records of distribution data and integrating monitoring programs that monitor Australia’s mammalian diversity.
This would be a good step in encouraging conservation management.
Media Article 2
Warming seas trigger the biggest ocean forest loss.
Wilson, S. (2016). “Climate driven regime shift in a temperate marine ecosystem”, Science (New York), N.Y., vol.
Conservation and its Significance
Climate change has an effect on marine ecosystems. Global temperature increases are also affecting marine flora, fauna (Barange and al.
Climate change is causing coral bleaching. Coral death can also be caused by loss of marine species from habitat loss (Burge and al.
The sea level rise has decimated kelp forests for several kilometres along the coasts of Western Australia.
It is amazing to see the rapid rate of kelp destruction. This has been caused by global climate changes.
Between the years 2011-2013, the Indian Ocean in Western Australia experienced a high average summer temperature. This was due to La Nina weather phases and global warming. (Marine issues: climate change 2017).
Scientists warned about the consequences of global warming and the unpredictable and extreme weather conditions.
The Great Barrier Reef could be devastated if it loses its kelp forest (Verges et.al.
Media Article Summary
Klein (2017) reported in a media article on the most significant ever impacts of rising sea temperatures upon the kelp forest.
Australia’s marine habitat is made up of kelp forests, which provide habitat for many commercially important species.
90% of this Kelp Forest is found in the Great Southern Reef’s northern part.
These forests have been threatened by climate change (Wahlquist 2017.
A hundred-kilometre stretch of kelp forest along the west coast of Australia was destroyed by the 2010 to 2013 marine heat wave.
In 2011, some areas of Western Australia’s sea surface temperatures reached more than 6°C.
This heatwave has had the ultimate result that 500km of kelp forest have been lost and the northern portion is now at risk of extinction. Explore the Seafloor 2017.
According to Provost et. al., 2015’s most recent sea survey found no evidence of kelp recoveries as the entire kelp forest had been destroyed.
These species were created after cold water was replaced by warm water.
With this marine change, the kelp forest will likely retreat further south than the ocean (Klein 2017.
Pecl et. al. also found evidence that kelp forest losses are caused by rising seawater.
As coral reefs receive less attention than kelp forest conservation, media articles emphasize the importance of conserving the forest.
The loss of kelp forests will have both economic and environmental consequences (Wernberg, et al.
Therefore, it is important to take action.
Evaluation of Journal Articles And Media Media:
Comparison of the journal article and media article regarding the effect of warming sea on kelp forests showed that there was consistency between the journal articles and media articles.
Klein (2017) reported that kelp forest was being destroyed by rising sea temperatures and that the temperate forest had been replaced with seaweeds and tropical fish.
Wernberg (2016) referred to a journal article that also stated that Australia’s temperate reefs lost their kelp forests and were dominated now by seaweeds, corals, and tropical fishes.
The journal article, however, uses a scientific approach to reporting on the causes of little improvement in kelp tree recovery. This is not found in Ware and Mabe 2015.
While the media article claimed that there was little evidence of kelp restoration from a survey expedition it did not mention tropicalization as a reason for slow progress in kelp forest recovery.
Bakun and colleagues also found evidence of this adverse effect of climate change, as well as increased climate variability.
Bakun et. al. (2015) found that the changes are affecting coastal marine ecosystems.
This study adequately explains the physical and chemical effects of rising sea temperature on marine macrophytes.
It is important to note that journal articles and media articles have different ways of reporting conservation issues.
The media article directly discusses the destruction of kelp forest. It also supports this cause with statistics and figures about the record summer temperature and the extent of the decline in kelp coverage in Australia.
The topic is discussed in the journal article by Bonney et.al.
Despite limitations in the scientific reporting of the finding, the media article has effectively highlighted figures related to the contractions within the kelp forest of the Australian Great Southern Reef.
The journal article had the main goal of documenting how marine heat waves lead to habitat shift to kelp forests.
To investigate the changes in ecosystems, the researcher used the survey technique to study the kelp forest and seaweeds present around the 2000km area of Western Australia.
This survey was completed between 2001-2015.
This timing is critical because the extreme heat wave that hit western Australia in 2015 was only one year ago (Wernberg, et al.
Although the media article did NOT describe the research methods, it reported on the extreme health wave conditions that Australia experienced between 2011 and 2013. (Klein 2017).
Bennett et.al. reported the same report on heat waves and their impact on Australia’s neglected kelp forests.
It also highlighted the severe impact the heatwave has on the Australian marine ecosystem.
You can clearly see the difference between the quality of media articles and journal articles.
While the media article uses news reporting to expose the dangers of heat wave damage to the kelp forest, the journal article presents evidence on the rate of ocean warming worldwide and the highest rise to western Australia (Spalding et al.
It also covered the difference in the kelp forest along the reef’s edge before and after the extreme heat wave.
70% of the reef was covered in kelp forests before 2010, and 43% of the kelp forests along the west coast were lost between 2010 and 2013.
It is not clear that the kelp forests are recovering despite the reduction in heatwave period.
Instead of recovery, subtropical or tropical fish feeding rates have increased.
In the journal and media article, both the economic and environmental effects are well reported. Wernberg et. al. highlight the possibility of local extinction by pushing the kelp forest to the south.
Pecl et.al. (2016). The economic consequences of the loss of kelp forest habitat and shifting of habitat will be devastating for lucrative tourism and fishing industries in Australia.
This conservation issue has been extensively published in a variety of journals and media articles.
(2014) highlighted the problem of tropicalization in the temperate ocean ecosystem due to climate-mediated changes.
In similar fashion, several other articles warn against the effects of global warming on the marine ecosystem.
Knowledge or method gap:
The research article has a weakness in that it only focuses on the issue kelp forest destruction as a result of global warming. No future recommendations or action have been suggested to save this resource.
While the article focuses primarily on coral reefs and kelp forest, it does not provide any scientific evidence that could improve the current situation (Scharks 2016; Masuda 2016,).
In the same journal article, a description of the contraction of the kelp forest, and shift towards warm water species, is also given. However, it is unclear if this is justified or what the future plans are.
This is because it recommends that the Great Southern Reef should be considered as a spatially linked temperate reef system, and takes steps towards conserving the Great Southern Reef’s ecological health.
An action plan was developed to improve public awareness of the issue through news and media reporting.
Research investment was also suggested in this area.
It is evident that the media article was successful in drawing attention to the issue of the destruction of the kelp forest.
In its reporting style, the media article attempted to present the main issue in the same way as the journal articles.
Even though the media article and journal articles report on the issue differently, the article could still have been strengthened by using better scientific interpretations of the issue.
A second aspect is that the article has been largely ignored by the kelp forests. Public action and recommendations to address these issues could have added scientific value.
European red Fox.
Predicted effects of climate change upon coastal upwelling eco-systems
Current Climate Change Reports 1(2), pp. 85-93.
Barange M., Merino G. Blanchard, J.L. Scholtens J. Harle J. Allison, E.H. Allen, J.I. Holt J. and Jennings S.
The impacts of climate change on the production of marine ecosystems in societies that are dependent on fishing.
Nature Climate Change 4(3), pp.211–216.
Sparkes and Bengsen, A.J.
Can recreational hunting help to reduce pest mammal population on public land in Australia.
The ‘Great Southern Reef’: the social, ecological, and economic value of Australia’s neglected kelp forests.
Marine and Freshwater Research 67(1): pp.47–56.
Parrish (J.K.), 2014.
Next steps for citizen science.
Climate change and marine infectious diseases: Implications for society management.
Annual review marine science, 6, 249-277.
C.R. Dickman, 2014. Micro-carnivores. The ecological role small dasyurid prey in Australia.
Australia’s carnivores: Past, present and future.
Melbourne, Australia, CSIRO Publishing. pp.241-262.
Feral cats have negative environmental effects.
In J. Tracey. C. Lane. P. Fleming. C. Dickman. J. Quinn. T. Buckmaster. J. Hone eds. (2015) National Feral Cat Management Workshop. (p. 30).
Fisher, D.O. Johnson C.N. Lawes M.J. Fritz S.A.H. McCallum H., Blomberg S.P. VanDerWal J. Abbott B. Frank A., Legge S., Letnic M.
Is Australia’s current decline in tropical marsupials repeating history?
Global Ecology & Biogeography, 23(2) pp.181-189.
A call to improve the reporting of conservation research data in meta?analyses.
Conservation Biology, 29, pp. 1242-1245.
After bushfire, wildlife in the fire line: Assessing the stress physiology of an Australian marsupial.
Australian Journal of Zoology.
Marine problems: Climate Change., 2017.
Dickman, C.R. (2014)
Rapid recolonization by the European red Fox: How effective is uncoordinated and individual control programs?
European Journal of Wildlife Research, 60(5): pp.749-757.
Redistribution of biodiversity under climate change: Effects on ecosystems as well as human well-being.
Provost E.J. Kelaher B.P. Dworjanyn S.A. Russell B.D. Connell S.D. Ghedini G. Gillanders B.M. Figueira W. Coleman M.A.
Climate-driven inequalities among ecological interactions threaten kelp forests persistence.
Global change biology 23(1), pp.353-361.
Ruths (D.) and Pfeffer (J.), 2014.
Social media are a great tool for large-scale behavior studies.
T. Scharks and Y.J. Masuda, 2016.
Do not discount the importance of economic valuation in conservation.
The role ecosystems play in coastal protection: adapting and responding to climate change.
Is it too late?
The importance of kelp forests
Verges A., Doropoulos C. Malcolm, H.A. Skye, M. Garcia-Piza M. Marzinelli E.M. Campbell A.H. Ballesteros E. Hoey A.S. Vila-Concejo A. and Bozec Y.M. (2016)
Long-term empirical evidence supports ocean warming as a cause of tropicalization and increased herbivory.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Figueira (W.), 2014, August
Climate-mediated changes to herbivory and community phase shiftings are the key factors in tropicalization of temperate ocean ecosystems.
The Royal Society.
A study shows that Australia’s huge kelp forests have been devastated by the heatwave.
Ware M. and Mabe M., 2015.
STM Report: An overview of journal publishing.
Climate Change and Threats to Ecosystem EngineeringMacrophytes.
Marine Macrophytes: Foundation Species (pp.
Climate Change and Threats to Ecosystem EngineeringMacrophytes.
Marine Macrophytes: Foundation Species (pp.
Current unravelling of a continent fauna: declines and extinctions in Australian mammals since European settlement.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (112(15), 4531-4540.