Indicator: LD-19 Land use and land use change

Data

Land use in Australia 2006
Land use % of total
Agriculture 61.5
   Grazing natural vegetation (rangelands) 56
   Dryland grazing (improved pastures) 2.5
   Cropping 2.8
   Horticulture
   Irrigation
Minimal use 15
Traditional Indigenous uses 12
Biodiversity conservation 6.1
Forestry 2.0
Water 1.7
Managed resource protection 1.4
Urban uses
Mining
Total 100

Source: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2006, National Land Use 1996-97 Summary Statistics, viewed 21 Sep 2006, http://www.daff.gov.au/content/
output.cfm?ObjectID=24597553-446E-435F-851E067477DB1E73

The National Land and Water Resources Audit also undertook extensive analysis of land use across the Australian continent. Despite some differences in classification terminology, there appears to be little difference between the two analyses.

Area of land uses in Australia
Land Use Description Total Extent ('000 ha) Total Extent (%)
No Data 187.4 0
Nature conservation 49881.3 6.5
Other protected areas including indigenous uses 102631.2 13.4
Minimal use 120812.3 15.7
Livestock grazing 430100.8 56
Forestry 15187 2
Dryland agriculture 40310.8 5.2
Irrigated agriculture 2170.3 .3
Built environment 2442.4 .3
Waterbodies not elsewhere classified 4993.7 .6

Source: National Land and Water Resources Audit 2001, Australian Natural Resources Atlas, V2.0, Land, Land Use Australia, National Land and Water Resources Audit, viewed 1 Dec 2005, http://audit.ea.gov.au/ANRA/land/land_frame.
cfm?region_type=AUS&region_code=AUS&info=land_use

Summary map of land use patterns in Australia during 1996-97

Summary map of land use patterns in Australia during 1996-97

Source: National Land and Water Resources Audit 2001, Australian Natural Resources Atlas, V2.0, Land, Land Use Australia,, National Land and Water Resources Audit, viewed 1 Dec 2005, http://audit.ea.gov.au/ANRA/land/land_frame.cfm?region_type=AUS&region_code=AUS&info=land_use

Land Use in Australia

Land Use in Australia

Source: National Land and Water Resources Audit 2001, Landuse Change, Productivity & Diversification report, Recent land Use Changes (1983-1997, viewed 12 Dec 2005, http://audit.ea.gov.au/ANRA/land/land_frame.cfm?region_type=AUS&region_code=AUS&info=land_use

Total area of farms (agicultural holdings) in each State since 1960 (million hectares). Source ABS.
State 1960 1980 1997
New South Wales 69.95 65.01 60.90
Queensland 150.58 157.72 151.07
Victoria 15.28 14.74 12.74
South Australia 62.95 62.79 56.22
Western Australia 99.07 114.92 112.48
Tasmania 2.64 2.23 1.92

Source: National Land & Water Resources Audit 2001, Landuse Change, Productivity & Development, Final Report of Theme 5.1 to the Historical and Geographical Context, National Land & Water Resources Audit, viewed 9 Dec 2005, http://audit.ea.gov.au/ANRA/land
/docs/landuse/Landuse_Historical.html

Area of sown pasture in the States of Australia since 1950

Area of sown pasture in the States of Australia since 1950

Source: National Land & Water Resources Audit 2001, Landuse Change, Productivity & Development, Final Report of Theme 5.1, Recent Land Use Changes (1983-1997), viewed 12 Dec 2005, http://audit.ea.gov.au/anra/land
/docs/landuse/Landuse_changes97.html. Figure 3-6

The CSIRO/ University of Sydney Triple Bottom Line Analysis of the Australian Economy, provides a whole of life analysis of the land disturbance by all aspects of Australian industry, including agricultural industries. Area of land disturbed is shown in the following table. Meat products, dairy products and clothing are also shown because much of land disturbed in growing farm animals is ultimately embodied in these products. To avoid misinterpretation, it is essential that these figures be read with an understanding of what they actually represent (see below, “What the data mean”.)

Land disturbance by agricultural industry (kha)
In supplying industry Total
Sugar cane 222 0
Cotton 168 -
Vegetables and fruit 170 224
Barley 1,502 614
Rice 72 1
Wheat and other grains 7,358 3,759
Beef 89,070 12,828
Dairy cattle and milk 1,837 122
Pigs 49 2
Poultry and eggs 0 272
Sheep and shorn wool 57,392 32,677
Meat products 3 65,976
Dairy products 2 1,712
Flour and cereal foods 1 851
Bakery products 1 1,119
Confectionary 0 114
Clothing 7 4,071

Source: Foran,B; Lenzen, M and Dey,C. 2005, Balancing Act: A triple bottom line of the Australian economy, DEH, Canberra.

What the data mean

More than 60% of the Australian continent is potentially under pressure from introduced plant and animal species.

By far the most extensively introduced species are sheep and cattle. 56% of the continent is used for grazing of introduced herbivores, while only 5.5% is used for growing introduced plants (in both dryland and irrigated agriculture). A further 5% (15 million hectares) of continent is used for forestry but only 502,620 ha of this is plantations of introduced softwood (see: National area under plantation forestry).

Most grazing of introduced animals is conducted on native pasture. However, about 23 million hectares, or 5% of the total area used for grazing introduced herbivores, is on introduced pasture. The pasture analysis shows a steady replacement of native pasture with sown pasture in all states until about 1970, continuing in Queensland until 1994. (An apparent reversal since 1994 reflects changes in ABS definitions rather than a reversal of land use.)

The total area occupied by agricultural holdings declined in all States between 1980 and 1997. It is likely that these reductions have been due to transfers to alternative uses such as urban, roads, national parks and native title, although some may be due to environmental degradation. Where transferred to national park or native title, it is possible the introduced species, other than naturalised populations, have been largely removed and native species are re-establishing themselves. However, where agriculture has been replaced by urban infrastructure, it is likely the introduced species have been replaced by other pressures, and similarly if the land has been abandoned due to erosion or salinity.

The Balancing Act report gives two figures for area of land disturbed by industry: “in supplying industry” and “total”. The “in supplying industry” figures include the land disturbed within the industry itself. In the case of an extensive farm growing farm animals, this includes the land disturbed on the farm, in growing and managing the pasture to feed the animals. However. in the case of an intensive animal production facility, such as a piggery, beef feedlot or poultry establishment, it excludes any land disturbed by the production of the feed for the animals. Since cattle are primarily grown extensively in Australia and pigs and poultry are primarily grown intensively, this accounts for the relatively low “in supplying industry” land disturbance figures for “pigs” and “poultry and eggs” and the very high figures for “beef”.

The second figure in the table derived from the Balancing Act analysis is “total” land disturbance and represents the area disturbed throughout the whole life cycle of the product at the point where it reaches the final consumer. Cotton, sugar cane and pigs all show relatively low “total” land disturbance because relatively little raw cotton, sugar cane, pigs or fowls find their way to final consumer in these forms. The final land disturbance from these products are attributed to the industries in which they are processed for final consumption, such as confectionary, clothing and meat products. In order to give some perspective to these figures, Table 5 includes the area of land disturbed embodied in some of the final products derived from agricultural sources.

Data Limitations

In 2004, BRS extended the work on land use change to capture the years from 1998 to 2001. However, the more detailed information has not yet been analysed. The data have not been aggregated into categories, nor has change analysis been done. Trends since 2001 are therefore unavailable for State of the Environment (SoE) 2006.

While the available data show broadly what species have been introduced over what area and for what purposes, and show some changes in these uses over time, BRS have not developed corresponding data measuring the different pressures corresponding to these species. It is difficult to separate the pressure of removing original species (initially all land now used for agriculture, or other human uses, was under some form of native vegetation) from the pressures generated by introducing the new species.

Heavy hard-hoofed animals, such as most introduced herbivores, are known to have a more damaging impact on Australian soils and water courses than native animals. Introduced herbivores also graze closer to the soil than native herbivores and are therefore more likely to be implicated in exposing the soil to wind and water erosion.

It is also likely, because land has been cleared in order to maximise their numbers, that the overall number of introduced grazers is much higher than the number of native grazers would otherwise have been. Additionally, arguably sheep and cattle are larger and therefore eat more than the herbivores who would otherwise have occupied the space (even if they had been present in comparable numbers) (See LD-20 Total grazing pressure relative to net primary productivity).

To further complicate matters, the number of native grazers has also increased as a result of more grazing land being made available.

In short, it is difficult to assess how much damage these introduced species would have done to soils and water courses, and other aspects of the land environment, in the absence of the extensive land clearing that was undertaken to make space available for them.

Issues for which this is an indicator and why

Land - Direct pressure of human activities on the land - Species introduction and species change 

Human land uses generally involve the introduction and production of introduced species and the manipulation of the natural environment (in turn changing populations and distributions of native species), in order to accommodate and nurture those introduced species. The combined pressures of these introduced species and associated manipulations can be complex and vary considerably between different land uses.

As a pressure indicator this indicator needs to be read in the context of actual or potential pressures known to be associated with each introduced species, overall grazing pressure, and indicators relating to land clearing, erosion, salinity, drought and climate change and fire regimes.

Other indicators for this issue:

Land - Contributions of land to human life - Space occupied by human activities 

The range and changes of land uses in Australia provide information about changes in the importance of land space to human life.

Other indicators for this issue:

Land - Contributions of land to human life - Living materials from the land 

The range and changes of land uses in Australia provide information about the changing value of various agricultural products to human life.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity - Pressures on biodiversity - Invasive species 

While the term “invasive” is usually used to refer to introduced species that have become naturalised in the wild, in terms of scale of impact, the invasive impact of plants and animals intentionally introduced and maintained for agriculture is much more significant.

Other indicators for this issue:

Biodiversity - Pressures on biodiversity - Grazing pressure 

Grazing is the most extensive land use in Australia.

Other indicators for this issue: