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Closing the adaptive management loop: why practical experience is necessary but not sufficient and science is essential but not always right


Lefroy, EC, Closing the adaptive management loop: why practical experience is necessary but not sufficient and science is essential but not always right, Biodiversity: integrating conservation and production, CSIRO Publishing, EC Lefroy, K Bailey, G Unwin and TW Norton (ed), Collingwood, Victoria, pp. 249-270. ISBN 9780643094581 (2008) [Other Book Chapter]

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From the air in summer, inland Australia presents an intricate pattern of creek lines and vegetation over a patchwork of soils, all lying beneath a rigid grid of fence lines and roads. Occasionally, geography dictates that the cadastral grid of the surveyor conforms to the shape of the landscape. Usually it follows the compass, at odds with the movement of water and animals and the ancient patterns of soil and vegetation.

A sign that we are succeeding in making conservation of biodiversity part of everyday land use is where this grid and the disturbance regime it represents becomes more sympathetic to the form and function of the landscape. Fencing to soil type, linking islands of vegetation using creek lines and other natural features, shifting the timing and intensity of grazing, seeding, spraying, mowing, thinning, logging and burning to accommodate the lifecycles of endemic plants and animals are some of the ways this is beginning to happen. The case studies in this book provide a source of hope and a note of caution for this continuing endeavour.

Hope comes from the accounts of dedicated individuals and community groups who have been searching, in some cases over decades, for ways to make nature conservation an integral part of the business of producing food and fibre. Their stories provide inspiration, encouragement and practical experience for others starting out. Common features in these stories are the whole-of-business and whole-of-life changes that families have gone through in their search for more sustainable land use and livelihoods.

Hope is also evident in the accounts of the first wave of the new economics. Tender schemes and reverse auctions have seen landholders competing for public stewardship payments that offset the costs of creating conditions favourable to the survival of target plants and animals (Chapters 12-15). When the Landcare movement of the early 1980s ushered in the current wave of public conservation programs, it was generally felt that awareness, education and inspiration were all it would take to motivate people to 'do the right thing'. Public funds would only be required to prime the pump of goodwill. It is now apparent that most forms of conservation have an opportunity cost, recognised through the emerging markets which match the continuing cost of'doing the right thing' to the growing desire within the broader community to protect species, their habitat and more tangible ecosystem services like water supply.

The cautionary note comes from the realisation that in many cases we are still unsure of the right thing to do, and where and how much we need to do it to prevent and reverse land degradation and the associated decline of species and communities. Many of our case studies reinforce the fact that we still have some way to go on three fronts - being clear about our conservation goals, being able to measure the impacts of our efforts, and being able to account for public and private benefits and costs. This concluding chapter reflects on the hope and caution in these case studies, highlighting the innovation and enterprise of dedicated individuals as well as underlining the things we still need to work on.

Item Details

Item Type:Other Book Chapter
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:Lefroy, EC (Professor Ted Lefroy)
ID Code:57047
Year Published:2008
Deposited By:Centre for Environment
Deposited On:2009-06-15
Last Modified:2014-07-14

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