Proceedings of the Bushcare Grassy Landscapes conference, Clare, South Australia 19-21 August 1999
Edited by Tim Barlow and Roberta Thorburn
Environment Australia, 2000
ISBN 0 6421 9478 5
- Balancing conservation and production in grassy landscapes - Full proceedings (PDF - 1,748 KB)
- Introduction, authors' biographies, welcoming address, opening address (PDF - 444 KB)
- Session 1 - Setting the scene (PDF - 174 KB)
- Session 2 - The two-edged sward (PDF - 380 KB)
- Session 3 - Biodiversity of the grassy landscape (PDF - 519 KB)
- Session 4 - The nature of the business (PDF - 323 KB)
- Session 5 - Looking back: moving forward (PDF - 331 KB)
- Session 6 - Managing native pasture (PDF - 807 KB)
- Session 7 - A broader look at grassy landscapes (PDF - 693 KB)
- Poster abstracts (PDF - 196 KB)
About the proceedings
Grassy landscapes occur on the fertile plains, foothills and tablelands that for most Australians typify the farming environment (the rangelands of the 'outback' are in a different category). With few exceptions, farming activity has been so extensive that the original ecosystems of these regions have become highly fragmented, with many plant and animal species continuing to decline in number and extent.
Increasingly, the fragmentation of habitat and extinction of populations is manifesting as disrupted ecological processes that also threaten the economic viability of farms and rural communities. For example, weed invasion is estimated to cost Australian agricultural production some $3.5 billion per year. Salinity is another obvious problem of great economic cost, and it is estimated that up to 30% of the arable land in Australia will become salt-affected unless there is significant intervention.
For the remnants of the original ecosystems to survive, it is imperative that nature conservation becomes a normal part of farming operations. It is also argued that, for farming itself to survive, production objectives need to be more fully integrated with nature conservation.
The goal of Bushcare is to reverse the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover. It is therefore appropriate that Environment Australia, which manages the Bushcare Program, convene a conference that explores the social, economic and ecological issues involved in balancing nature conservation and agricultural production.
The conference Balancing conservation and production in grassy landscapes was divided into seven sessions, each of which contained four or five speakers invited to present a given topic relevant to their area of expertise. The first session, Setting the Scene, is introduced by the Hon. Dorothy Kotz, South Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, and fellow South Australian, Senator the Hon. Robert Hill, Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage, who outlines the role of Bushcare in balancing nature conservation and agricultural production. Biz and Lindsay Nicolson present their views on what it means to be 'on the land', in their case the Northern Midlands of Tasmania.
Denis Saunders then explains what biodiversity really means as a term, and for the maintenance of essential, life-supporting ecological processes.
The Two-Edged Sward includes presentations from farmers from various regions across South-eastern Australia, each giving their own perspective on balancing conservation and production. As Cynthia Dunbabin states 'it's hard to be green if you're in the red'. An issue of ubiquitous concern is the socially crippling exodus of young people from rural communities.
Despite the fragmentation and impoverishment of natural ecosystems, the Biodiversity of Grassy Landscapes still supports an array of biological treasures, including the mysterious sex-life of the Pale Sun Moth and the cryptic habits of our bat fauna. Conservation strategies, whether for a single species such as the Plains-wanderer or an entire ecosystem such as the White Box Woodlands, reveal the importance of including socio-economic issues, and adopting a flexible approach in conservation planning.
Gaining an understanding of the socio-economics of the farm enterprise is the purpose of The Nature of the Business, wherein we explore a range of issues from creating marketing advantages, to the strategic delivery of conservation incentives. In Looking Back: Moving Forward we consider the potential importance of 'evolutionarily-acquired' attitudes to grassy landscapes, and the on-going relationships of Indigenous Australians with this land. Both the long-past and most recent experiences will help determine our abilities to better integrate conservation and production.
The final two sessions are both pragmatic and profound. Managing Native Pastures examined concepts relating to knowing your plants and utilising 'ecological windows' to achieve a range of objectives from manipulating pasture composition through to non-destructive cropping of degraded native grasslands. A Broader Look at Grassy Landscapes includes consideration of the $20 billion worth of trees standing in the grassy landscape and threatened by dieback. Limiting pasture intensification to about 30% of any one property could potentially rectify this and maintain sufficient patchiness in the landscape to provide for the majority of plant and animal habitat needs.
Ultimately though, we must develop a more diverse and stable agricultural system if this balance of biodiversity and production is to be achieved.
These Proceedings are a record of the presentations given at the conference. We have endeavoured to allow the full 'flavour' of each presentation to come through to the written form. It should be noted that editorial input has been limited to mostly typographical matters and papers have not been subject to external refereeing.
One person with extensive experience in natural resource management in the NSW Riverina stated it was 'the most important couple of days I've had in the job in the last 10 years'. As editors, we are proud to be able to put this claim in print, and we know it represents the feeling of many at the conference.