In this issue

Issue 99

A monotreme about town
A study by the Australian Platypus Conservancy provided information on the habitat requirements of platypus in urban waterways. The study has shown that platypus can encompass up to three waterways in their home range. This confirms the need for platypus conservation to be planned on a whole catchment basis.
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Trees face the acid test
Soil acidification is a major problem in Australia, affecting more than seven million hectares. Scientists have shown that certain species of trees can counteract soil acidification.
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Cool evidence confirms unnatural rise in methane
Analysis of air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice cores has confirmed a dramatic surge in atmospheric methane concentrations since pre-industrial times and a puzzling trend towards their stabilisation since 1980.
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Tagging along with sharks
Researchers are using sophisticated surveillance devices to study the movement, diving behaviour and swimming speed of school and whale sharks.
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Caught in the crossfire
Koala ecology and management is subject to debate and opposing views. Research indicates the density of koala populations is related to foliage nutrient content. The presence of plant chemical defences called diformyl-phloroglucinols affect koala diet. Habitat loss, dogs and cars are the greatest potential threat to koalas. Chlamydia, a bacterial disease once thought to threaten the survival of the species, is not a significant threat, although it may act as a population control measure.
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Treetop tremors
Rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels threaten the existence of several rare Australian leaf-eating mammals, including several possum species. This is due to habitat decline as a result of global warming.
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Modelling the battle of the grasses
Grasses classified as C3 and C4 grasses employ different photosynthetic systems. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could change the dynamic balance between C3 and C4 grasses, with accompanying effects on animal species.
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Glimpses of a warmer world
Climatologists have identified that the Southern Ocean is relatively slow to respond to atmospheric warming. The lag effect is characterised by a temperature gradient between the tropics and the higher southern latitudes. Because of this, patterns of climate change in the Southern Hemisphere will continue to vary, and may even change direction, after greenhouse gas concentrations stabilise. Researchers are also using computer models to predict the behaviour of future El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) - the driver of El Nino and La Nina events - under an enhanced greenhouse regime.
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Rising threats to coral reefs
Global warming poses a number of threats to coral and reef ecosystems. Threats include rising carbon dioxide concentrations, rising sea levels, and increased runoff of fresh water from land.
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Cyclone warnings
Tropical cyclones are the most destructive of all weather phenomena. Cyclones may become more frequent and severe due to global warming. However, until climate models can reproduce realistic cyclones, researchers cannot assess these threats. Researchers are using a higher-resolution, regional-scale climate model - DARLAM - to study the effect on cyclone activity following increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
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Adapting to a climate of uncertainty
The science of predicting climate change is clouded with uncertainty. We cannot foretell how human behaviour - policy decisions, technological advances and population growth - will effect greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century. The CSIRO has developed a risk assessment framework which has the potential to help industries and communities adapt to global warming, despite the uncertainties of climate prediction.
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Finding the energy to come clean
New energy generation technologies are needed to reduce the accumulation of combustion byproducts in the atmosphere. CSIRO is contributing to their development with a demonstration hybrid solar-fossil fuel facility. CSIRO is also undertaking research in wind, biomass-waste and solar thermal energy. Advances are being made in energy storage systems such as lead acid batteries, supercapacitors and reversible chemical reactions.
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Outfall fallout
140,000 megalitres of waste water from Melbourne, Vic, is dumped into the ocean off Boags Rocks each year. A study of the effect of the discharge has found the local ecosystem is affected. An effluent management plant has been developed, which includes 14 possible ways of reducing the amount of outfall.
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Shedding the light on Lepidoptera
A profile of the work of entomologist Ian Common. His work has involved deciphering Australia's insect biodiversity and species of moths.
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New directions in sustainability planning
The capacity of Queensland's Central Highlands region to address issues of sustainability has been enhanced through a cooperative planning process. The process involves a broad cross-section of the community including producers, government departments and resource management authorities.
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