Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Repairing and preparing Australian landscapes for global change

In May 2013 Australia21 released a report entitled Repairing and preparing Australian landscapes for global change: Why we must do more. The report, written by Australia21 director Richard Eckersley, was based on the deliberations of an expert roundtable, held at Melbourne University on 21 February 2013, to consider the question:

What are the benefits of large scale reforestation and revegetation, and how can they best be achieved?

The starting point for this work was a paper written by Dr Eckersley and published by CSIRO in 1989, Regreening Australia: the environmental, economic and social benefits of reforestation. The report was a preliminary investigation into a large national program to ‘regreen Australia’ through massive reforestation and revegetation over a period of 10 to 20 years. The report attracted a great deal of public, political and professional interest, and had important influences on government policy at the time, but it was never implemented on the scale envisaged and necessary to realise the potential benefits.

In 2012, the Board of Australia21 agreed to re-examine the topic, using the 1989 report as a benchmark or reference point, given: almost 25 years had passed; greater recognition of the seriousness and urgency of climate change; and heightened global economic instability, making job generation potentially important to maintaining economic and social stability.


Participants in this re-examination were:
-  Mr Jason Alexandra, Consultant, former General Manager, Natural Resources Program, Murray Darling Basin Authority (1)
-  Professor Snow Barlow, Foundation Professor, Horticulture and Viticulture, University of Melbourne (1)
-  Mr Paul Barratt, Chair, Australia21 Ltd and former Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Primary Industries and Energy (1,2)
-  Prof Andrew Campbell, Director, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University (1,2)
-  Mr Paul Dettmann, Managing Director, Cassinia Environmental
-  Mr Ron Dodds, General Manager, Victoria, Greening Australia
-  Dr Michael Dunlop, Senior Research Scientist, Ecosystem Sciences, CSIRO Australia
-  Mr Richard Eckersley, Director, Australia21 Ltd (Chair) (1)
-  Mr Geoff Gorrie , Director Australia21 Ltd and former Deputy Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. (1)
-  Mr Kevin Goss, Senior Honorary Research Fellow, Future Farm Industries Co-operative Research Centre Ltd, University of Western Australia
-  Mr Simon Gould, Planning Coordinator, Soils for Life Program, Outcomes Australia
-  Prof Richard Harper, Alcoa Chair in Sustainable Water Management, Murdoch University
-  Dr Anthony Hooper, Chief Executive Officer, Natural Resources Conservation League of Victoria (1,2)
-  Prof Rod Keenan, Director, Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research and Head of Department of Resource Management and Geography, University of Melbourne
-  Mr Gerry Leach, Chair, Sustainability Committee, National Farmers Federation
-  Assoc Prof Clive McAlpine, ARC Future Fellow, School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Management, University of Queensland
-  Ms Winsome McCaughey, Senior Strategic Adviser, Research Partnerships, University of Melbourne
-  Dr Martin Moroni, Manager, Sustainability Branch, Forestry Tasmania
-  Mr Danny O’Neill, Executive Officer, National Natural Resource Management Regions’ Working Group
-  Ms Claire Parkes, Senior Policy Analyst, Carbon and Landscape Conservation, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists
-  Dr Justin Ryan, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Management, University of Queensland
-  Dr Carla Sgrò, ARC Future Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University
-  Mr Ian Smith, Victorian State Manager, Conservation Volunteers Australia
-  Mr Andrew Stewart, farmer, Member, Australian Landcare Council
-  Dr Hugh Stewart, Director, Natural Resources Conservation League of Victoria
-  Dr John White, Executive Director, Ignite Energy Resources Pty Ltd
-  Mr Mark Wootton, Principal/ Manager of Jigsaw Farms and Chair, The Climate Institute (2)
-  Mr Rob Youl, Consultant (1)
-  Dr Charlie Zammit, Consultant, former Assistant Secretary, Biodiversity Conservation Branch, Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (1)
In attendance: Ms Lyn Stephens, CEO, Australia21 Ltd 1
(1) member of project steering committee
(2) unable to attend roundtable


The roundtable concluded that Australia needs to look at its landscapes in new ways if it is to meet the 21st Century challenges of climate change and food, water and energy security. Without a new vision for creating healthy, resilient landscapes, we will experience continuing environmental decline and degradation. For all the policy developments and practical achievements of the past 20 to 30 years in managing our environments and ecosystems, we are not closing the gap between the magnitude of the challenge and the scale of our response.

The new vision would:
• Embrace all Australian landscapes and all Australians, rural and urban alike. Landscapes are a vital part of local, regional and national identity; all our futures depend on them.
• Acknowledge climate change as a ‘game changer’, in terms of both the role of landscapes in mitigation and adaptation, and the huge, varied, but still uncertain, impacts of climate change on landscapes.
• Move beyond a ‘regreening’ conservation ethic to embrace multiple functions and values to achieve the best combination of environmental, economic and social benefits.
• Build on the synergies and convergences between these functions, as well as acknowledging potential tensions and conflicts. Many industries, resources and communities would benefit from expanded landscape revegetation and regeneration.
Specific objectives include to:
• Stimulate the growth of a landscape regeneration and management industry to produce the capacity to use available funding and meet policy objectives.
• Generate more private-sector involvement, including investment in traditional products and new markets for carbon, water or biofuels, using instruments such as carbon credits and ‘patient’ investment by superannuation funds.
• While being national in scope and ambition, devolve governance and design to the local level, so that landscapes are managed by farmers and other landowners, and interventions meet the needs and harness the resources of local environments and communities.
• Encourage better integration of policy and science, including effective, early evaluation and long-term monitoring.
• Build on existing policy, such as the Biodiversity Fund and Carbon Farming Initiative, and present institutional structures such as Landcare groups and regional natural resource management bodies.
The benefits of large-scale landscape regeneration, reforestation and revegetation, include: preserving biodiversity; reducing soil and water loss and degradation; providing shelter, shade and fodder; a cooler regional climate; carbon sequestration; increasing soil fertility and productivity; more sustainable agriculture; more timber and other tree products; better pollination; production of biofuels; enhanced food, water and energy security; benefits to tourism; supporting rural communities; creating employment; bridging the cultural divide between city and country; promoting national reconciliation; improving people’s wellbeing; and higher civic morale.
Full report
A copy of the full report may be downloaded free of charge from the Australia21 website here.
Please remember that as a small non-profit research organisation Australia21 is dependent upon public donations to carry out its work. If you wish to make a contribution you may do so by clicking the Donate button on the webpage.

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