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(Milestone report 1) BENEFITS: Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Net Emissions and Forestry ITemiSation of wool farms


Harrison, MT and Christie, K and Drake, A and Taylor, C and McDonald, S and Mokany, K and Meier, E and Doran- Browne, N and Roberts, G and Fletcher, K, (Milestone report 1) BENEFITS: Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Net Emissions and Forestry ITemiSation of wool farms, Australian Wool Innovation Limited, Australia (2022) [Contract Report]

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Anecdotal evidence suggests a polarising trend between agricultural productivity and environmental conservation, with commodity-based intensification said to diminish biodiversity on the one hand, and with enhanced environmental preservation realised at the expense of food security on the other. The current project - Biodiversity, Ecosystems, Net Emissions and Forestry ITemiSation of wool farms, or ‘BENEFITS’ - aims to elicit pathways enabling both improved environmental sustainability and increased productivity. This work will be conducted by co-designing holistic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mitigation interventions with and for Australian sheep producers. The present Milestone reports outlines (1) proposed analytics to be used in the project, (2) nascent findings from a literature review on the effects of grazing management on natural capital and soil carbon, (3) expressions of interest (EOIs) from sheep producers for participation in BENEFITS and (4) extension associated with promotion of BENEFITS to the Australian wool industry.

Proposed methods were aligned with those underway in Sustainable Pathways to CN30, a sister project focussing on conventionally-managed beef and sheep producers across Australia. This consistency will facilitate comparison of results. Farmers in BENEFITS were selected for their ‘regenerative’ management practices (including but not limited to high intensity long-rotation grazing systems, improved pasture species diversity, interventions to improve biodiversity etc.). For each farm, we will examine spatially-explicit carbon, biodiversity, GHG emissions, livestock and pasture production, and profitability.

The literature review and meta-analysis showed little evidence that grazing intensity consistently influenced soil organic carbon, although there was some indication that grazing strategy (duration) influenced long-term biomass quanta, groundcover and soil structure. Lack of statistically significant differences in soil carbon due to grazing strategy may be a result of high spatial variability masking context-specific changes, or may be because the attributable change in soil carbon associated with an intervention is less than the inherent variability in soil carbon within a sampling zone. Candidate areas for further examination in BENEFITS arising from the literature review include (1) whether short-term intense grazing management influences soil carbon relative to lighter, long-term grazing and (2) whether grazing intensity influences pasture species diversity and thus seasonal pasture productivity.

Four case study "regenerative" and four "conventionally" managed sheep farms were identified from several EOIs received, with farm sizes ranging from 150 ha to over 16,000 ha. As a key aim of BENEFITS is to compare regenerative and conventionally-managed farms, we adopted a ‘paired site’ comparison in which farms nominally practicing each management philosophy were selected from the same agro-ecological zone. Feedback from regenerative and conventional farmers revealed similar aspirations, although regenerative farmers were generally more confined in proposed pathways for improving carbon storage and biodiversity on farm, e.g. shifting from annual to perennial pastures and increasing seasonal ground cover. Proposed pathways for reducing GHG emissions of ‘conventionally’ managed farms were more diversified, including tactical grazing management to improve soil carbon stocks, animal genetic improvements to raise productivity or fecundity, renewable energy, spreading biochar and adaptations for coping with variable weather (droughts). Notably, most EOIs focussed on carbon sequestration for mitigation (e.g. planting trees), rather than emissions avoidance, which could be engendered through low-emissions feed supplements. Communications and extension events in BENEFITS will be ran in a manner consistent with those planned in the Carbon Storage Partnership. We have created a framework for recording all communications events such that outreach and adoption can be monitored.

Item Details

Item Type:Contract Report
Keywords:biodiversity, regenerative agriculture, soil carbon, soil organic carbon, timber, forest, trees, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, co-design, holistic, sustainability, people-centric, participatory, drought, wool, methane, meat, carbon, modelling
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Conservation and biodiversity
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Harrison, MT (Associate Professor Matthew Harrison)
UTAS Author:Christie, K (Dr Karen Christie-Whitehead)
UTAS Author:Mokany, K (Mr Karel Mokany)
ID Code:150366
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:TIA - Research Institute
Deposited On:2022-06-09
Last Modified:2023-01-17

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