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The big ecological questions inhibiting effective environmental management in Australia


Moreton, SR and Hoegh-Guldberg, O and Lindenmayer, DB and Harriss Olson, M and Hughes, L and McCulloch, MT and McIntyre, S and Nix, HA and Prober, SM and Saunders, DA and Andersen, AN and Burgman, MA and Lefroy, EC and Lonsdale, WM and Lowe, I and McMichael, AJ and Parslow, JS and Steffen, W and Williams, JE and Woinarski, JCZ, The big ecological questions inhibiting effective environmental management in Australia, Austral Ecology, 34, (1) pp. 1-9. ISSN 1442-9985 (2009) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.2008.01938.x


The need to improve environmental management in Australia is urgent because human health, well-being and social stability all depend ultimately on maintenance of life-supporting ecological processes. Ecological science can inform this effort, but when issues are socially and economically complex the inclination is to wait for science to provide answers before acting. Increasingly, managers and policy-makers will be called on to use the present state of scientific knowledge to supply reasonable inferences for action based on imperfect knowledge. Hence, one challenge is to use existing ecological knowledge more effectively; a second is to tackle the critical unanswered ecological questions. This paper identifies areas of environmental management that are profoundly hindered by an inability of science to answer basic questions, in contrast to those areas where knowledge is not the major barrier to policy development and management. Of the 22 big questions identified herein, more than half are directly related to climate change. Several of the questions concern our limited understanding of the dynamics of marine systems. There is enough information already available to develop effective policy and management to address several significant ecological issues. We urge ecologists to make better use of existing knowledge in dialogue with policy-makers and land managers. Because the challenges are enormous, ecologists will increasingly be engaging a wide range of other disciplines to help identify pathways towards a sustainable future.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Australian ecology, environmental management, knowledge gaps.
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Environmental management
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Lefroy, EC (Professor Ted Lefroy)
ID Code:55953
Year Published:2009
Web of Science® Times Cited:49
Deposited By:Centre for Environment
Deposited On:2009-03-16
Last Modified:2010-10-06
Downloads:7 View Download Statistics

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