Biodiversity conservation research: Australia's priorities

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Biological Diversity Advisory Committee
Commonwealth of Australia, 2001
ISBN 0 6425 4742 4

F. Management action and institutional change

The true value of biodiversity to our society is far greater than most people would ever imagine. Our knowledge of biodiversity and its role in maintaining ecosystem processes needs to be interpreted, made available in a range of suitable forms and actively presented to private land holders, industry, catchment and marine management authorities, government at all levels and the community.

In seeking to provide for Australia's growing population and development 46, we have damaged vast areas of Australia with dryland salinity, soil acidification, toxic algal blooms and soil erosion. We now know the need to plan for biodiversity and ecosystem service conservation in local areas and across catchments and bioregions.

Our ability to predict the consequences of particular management actions in specific areas is still limited. The research recommended in this report will go a long way toward allowing informed decisions on natural resource management, enabling us to repair the damage as much as is possible and to maintain productive natural and managed ecosystems into the future.

Key priority management actions and institutional changes are set out below:

Planning

Establish best practice integrated natural resource planning across Australia, taking into account the full economic, social and environmental value of services delivered by native ecosystems. Build the capacity of communities to make planning decisions and support them to resolve the conflicts that are likely to arise when trade-offs seem to mean winners and losers. Manage natural resources against biodiversity conservation targets.

Sustainable-use management

Implement ecologically sustainable management techniques in agricultural and other managed production ecosystems, ensuring that ecosystem processes are maintained and that wherever practical, native biodiversity is encouraged to regenerate to provide these services.

Protective management

Complete the establishment of and maintain a system of conservation reserves that protects representative Australian native ecosystems particularly in marine and estuarine environments. Select and manage reserves against biodiversity conservation targets.

Habitat restoration

Restore soils and waterways throughout Australia to regain the natural fertility levels and quality of fresh water enjoyed prior to 1750, using locally native biodiversity wherever practical to regenerate the ecosystems.

Incentives

Institute and monitor the effectiveness of a comprehensive series of financial and other incentives to encourage informed natural resource management decision-making, taking into account the full value of native biodiversity. These could include:

  • tax incentives and rate rebates for conservation and ecologically sustainable practices;
  • compensation for retiring economically marginal agricultural and grazing lands; and
  • the removal of any remaining perverse tax or other incentives for clearing land.

In conclusion

Integrated natural resource management requires the interests of many groups to be balanced, work to be undertaken to restore damaged ecosystems and the long term benefits to the Australian community to be considered. We would do well to learn from the methods of those experienced in conflict zones and disaster relief, recognising the need to gather intelligence on our ecosystems and the biophysical processes in the environment, to develop coherent strategies for best practice and to implement effective tactics to rebuild our natural and managed production systems.

Footnote

46. Australia's biodiversity and ecological processes support our own 19 million population, food exports which feed another 30 million people overseas and wool exports which clothe 250 million.