Incorporation of Practical Measures to Assist Conservation of Biodiversity Within Sustainable Beef Production in Northern Australia

Edited by Sue McIntyre, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Jointly funded by MLA, CSIRO and Environment Australia, October 2001
ISBN 1 74036 189 X

Project Objectives - Success in Achieving Objectives

1. Learning module

Develop a learning module introducing concepts of ecological sustainability and biodiversity conservation in a whole property context. Milestone 10 was the submission of a draft to MLA by July 2000.

The learning module was submitted nine months prior to the milestone deadline and the draft was piloted at a series of workshops.

The module 'Balancing Conservation and Production' is a presentation of the principles and thresholds in a non-technical format, with explanation of the ecological terms and concepts that underpinned the principles (see Appendix 2). The material was developed into a source book for people working in extension and community learning areas. The module, and its introduction to stakeholders in a workshop environment, has been pivotal to the project's impact. The draft module was presented at three one-day workshops in Bundaberg and Toowoomba in November 1999. In this phase, 75 people, mainly extension, catchment and landcare co-ordinators attended.

Successful strategies were the careful design of the workshops and the use of professional facilitator. The habitat connectivity game was developed for an exercise within the workshop program and was a great success being scored on average 9/10 while the rating for the whole workshops averaged 8/10.

An edited version of the module was introduced at second round of two workshops in Toowoomba and Bundaberg in March, 2000. These workshops were also very well received by the great majority of attendees. The learning module was finalised in April 2000 and is available in booklet form. An electronic pdf version is available on the web. A total of 114 people attended the five workshops and the process was very successful in providing feedback to the module and eliciting interest in the projects outputs. We have subsequently distributed approximately 500 copies of the module and are still receiving requests from all over the country.

'I read your paper this morning and was extremely impressed with your presentation of the issues. The paper would have to be the most relevant, succinct, easily digested I have come across. I congratulate you on presenting a paper which all farmers must have as compulsory reading.'
—Gavin Wall, NSW Farmers Association.

2. Technical information manual

Develop a manual providing appropriate technical information for producers and other resource managers wishing to implement sustainable management.

Milestone 13 was the submission of a draft to MLA by October 2000. This milestone was renegotiated for February 2001.

The draft manual was submitted in February 2001 and a copy is presented in Appendix 4. The manual consists of contributions from seven members of the research team and contains ten chapters explaining the technical detail behind the management principles, as well as sections on financial issue, adoption and implementation. The chapters have been sent to reviewers in relevant fields and most reports have been received. CSIRO publishing has expressed interest in the publication of this manual as a book and negotiations are being conducted.

3. Implementation

One hundred beef producers in northern Australia implementing management strategies on their properties to maintain biodiversity and sustainability.

As a result of the usage of the learning module, the content relating to the principles and thresholds reached 1543 landholders. The information contained in the module changed perceptions of conservation management in 942 landholders. This means that these landholders have a better understanding and greater awareness of the issues of conservation management in terms of their own properties. Of these 942 landholders, 418 (44%) have changed their property management practices to incorporate some conservation measures. The majority of landholders were involved in beef cattle grazing (81%), the others were dairy farmers or involved in cropping or farm forestry. The method of evaluation is presented in Appendix 7.

'I have found your work to date very interesting and as you know we constantly write your findings into our landholder management agreements because they (your findings) make a lot of sense'.
—Steve Cupitt, Regional Extension Coordinator, Greening Australia QLD Inc

4. Creating awareness

At least 500 producers demonstrating awareness of the role of biodiversity on their properties.

As described above, our evaluation had indicated that as a result of usage of the concepts presented in the learning module, the material has  reached 1543 landholders and has changed perceptions of conservation management in 942 landholders. This substantially exceeds the set objective of 500.

5. Communication

Communication activities aimed at building the capacity of extension personnel to promote practices to maintain biodiversity and sustainability.

Our evaluation has shown that through communications with extension networks, we have been effective in reaching producers and promoting awareness of issues relating to biodiversity and sustainability. As described above, the use of the project outputs by Queensland extension officers have resulted in the material reaching over 1500 producers, has produced considerable changes in perceptions and has influenced management actions amongst producers. A specific example of usage of the material by an extension officer is given in Appendix 6. This activity was a contribution to NAP3.213.

A major strength behind our communications has been the timely publication of the technical underpinning of our work in scientific papers. This has provided a strong supporting base for the material amongst our specialist stakeholders and has added considerably to the credibility of our work.

We have been innovative in our translation of technically difficult material into easily understood text, graphics and spoken presentations. The development of a board game to demonstrate a key aspect of landscape ecological theory is another example of innovation. This game was incorporated into our workshops and was crucial in demonstrating the importance of thresholds in land use and the impacts of vegetation clearing.

In addition to the communication activities targeted specifically to extension networks in Queensland, our work has appeared in 29 press and popular articles and we have presented material in 19 invited oral presentations. These communications have attracted interest from all over Australia.

The learning module and landscape game were selected by Land & Water Australia in June 2001 to be included in their Innovations Database, which describes the 'Top 50' innovations in natural resource management.