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ECOS ECOS
Issue 117




The environment - the world media's greatest challenge
There is a vital need for well-informed public debate in the world's media about the earth's growing environmental issues. The Greenaccord Association was recently born out of this necessity, and to highlight the priority, held its inaugural international media forum at its home in Rapalano Terme, Italy, on 16 October 2003.
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Monitoring for illegal Antarctic fishing
Members of the 20-nation-strong Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) have backed Australia's proposal for a centralised vessel monitoring system to fight increasing illegal, unreported, and unregulated catches in Antarctic waters.
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Over-burning pressures Top End's biodiversity
Overly frequent and widespread burning could be damaging the biodiversity of northern Australia's savanna bushland, according to results from the Kapalga fire experiment, one of the world's largest fire experiments, which involved CSIRO researchers.
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Governance reassessed in the Pacific's troubles
In recognition that sustainable and appropriate development is founded on 'good governance', and given the perceived failure of governance in many Pacific states, over 50 academics, indigenous representatives, and development practitioners met on 3 October 2003 in Fiji at the Suva Development Research Symposium. The agenda included corruption, media censorship, conflict resolution, governance, economy, and sustainable development.
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Global marine census role begins
Australia has officially commenced a significant role in the global $1 billion, 10-year Census of Marine Life, an international effort to assess the diversity, abundance and distribution of biodiversity in Earth's oceans.
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Old and new gather for the Tarkine
During October 2003, in the remote Tarkine rainforest of Tasmania's north-east, 20 of Australia's best wilderness photographers gathered with writers, documentary makers and visiting journalists for 'Fortnight in the Tarkine', an intense, creative fortnight to capture the region's essence in unique photographic and descriptive work.
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World-first water-efficiency labels
By 2005, water-efficiency labels will be mandatory on all showerheads, washing machines, dishwashers and toilets sold in Australia, with voluntary labelling suggested on taps, urinals and other products.
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Tax deduction encourages rural conservation
Landowners who sign voluntary conservation agreements - or covenants - with government authorities can now claim a tax deduction for any resulting decrease in land value.
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One golden pond
'Solar pond' technology, which uses shallow ponds of saline water to harness solar energy, is expected to replace some of the demand in rural areas for industrial process heat from the natural gas grid, traditionally drawn from fossil fuels. Pyramid Salt Ltd is involved in the demonstration and commercialisation of this phenomenon that generates cheap heat energy and helps restore salt-laden pastures.
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Light factories
An ambitious trans-Tasman cooperation, known as the Australian Artificial Photosynthesis Network (AAPN), is aiming to perfect artificial photosynthesis to produce a range of products. The researchers are exploring the potential of photobioreactors to exploit the photosynthetic abilities of cyanobacteria and microscopic algae.
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Rural remote control
Small, distributed computer devices are being developed to act as embedded, self-learning environmental 'agents' on rural properties, remotely reporting and managing complex agricultural processes, monitoring the behaviour, health and productivity of stock, and optimising environmental conditions. Farming, as we know it, could be revolutionised.
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Lessons on fire
From the ashes of the worst blaze to hit the Australian Alps since 1939, scientists have seized a rare opportunity to study the nature of fire in the high country. Their work is revealing new understanding about management interventions needed to ensure the continued survival and functioning of these rare and specialised alpine communities.
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Towards the forever fuel
While a transition to a Hydrogen economy has important technical pros and cons, hydrogen has the potential to power our homes, vehicles, appliances and industry, and could revolutionise society by decentralising the energy production. CSIRO is actively involved in advancing hydrogen technologies, and is at the leading edge of fuel-cell research and development.
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Australia's future energy focus
Under the national Research Flagship, Energy Transformed, leading scientists will concentrate on Australia's future energy requirements, positioning us to develop one of the world's first hydrogen economies and a new export industry in energy technology.
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Building beautifully
One of the funny things about energy and resource-efficient architecture is how we, as a society, expect it to look. Environmentally efficient buildings can be conventional-looking, as illustrated by Toyota's sales headquarters in California, USA, and the Royal Agricultural Showground pavilions project at Homebush Bay, NSW.
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Future dilemmas
A report on Australian life towards 2050 suggests that we need wholesale societal changes to break excessive consumer habits and uncouple the economic growth driving the depletion of our natural resources. The report, 'Future Dilemmas: Options to 2050 for Australia's population, technology, resources and environment', identifies six core dilemmas posed by the population scenarios, which require national policy consideration. These relate to population ageing, physical trade balances, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, per capita material flows, resource availability and environmental quality.
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Tracking nomadic birds and habitat health
Mark Ziembicki is tracking the threatened Australian bustard, a large, nomadic bird of Australia's grasslands and plains. His study is using satellite tracking methods to develop a model for species that will help predict the poorly understood movements and distributions of nomadic terrestrial birds in relation to landscape conditions. This should lead to better targeted conservation measures, and the possible use of nomads as indicators of habitat condition.
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Dances with cranes
Zoologist Emily Rodwell has devoted the past decade to preserving the cranes of Africa. Rodwell is building a conservation network, which combines the efforts of volunteers and experts in the 11 'wattled crane states' of central and southern Africa, to try to protect the wetlands on which the cranes - and many people - depend. Working with the International Crane Foundation, Rodwell has assembled a network of 90 conservation volunteers in eight countries to try to ensure that the birds and their habitat are protected across the continent. Its mission is simple and direct: healthy wetlands for the coexistence of cranes and people in Africa.
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The brussel sprout vs. the silver bullet
A range of sulphur containing compounds called glucosinolates (GSL) are common throughout the brassica family. Research has shown that these chemicals are responsible for the strong tastes in brassicas, and could also efficiently suppress some soil-borne crop diseases.
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Enticing mat cleans up - fast
Bodies of groundwater are vulnerable to contamination by fertilisers, pesticides, industrial waste and other pollutants. Cleaning them up is usually a very complex and costly business. But Bradley Patterson and Allan McKinley have developed a polymer-mat system which, when immersed in the groundwater, can be used to deliver oxygen, ethanol or other reagents to beneficial microbes which will quickly decontaminate polluted water free of charge.
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