Monitoring the success of rangelands management

NOTE: The AusPlots Rangelands Survey Protocols Manual has been released and is now available for free download here

There have already been over 550 downloads of the beta version of the AusPlots Rangelands Survey Protocols Manual – and it hasn’t even been formally published yet!

Clearly there’s demand for this TERN product in the Australian ecosystem studies community. As part of making sure AusPlots is meeting the needs of its user community, it’s planning to follow a number of case studies to better understand how people are applying the method to different land-use and monitoring situations. Here we introduce some of the early adopters and their projects.

The Australian Landscape Trust (ALT) is a philanthropic organisation that aims to support and improve the management of regional landscapes by building collaborative partnerships among communities, land managers and technical experts. Among other projects it manages the 242,800 ha Calperum Station in the South Australian Riverland. Dr Grant Whiteman from the ALT said that the property had been declared critical habitat for species conservation under Commonwealth legislation, and incorporates the western portion of the internationally important Riverland Ramsar wetlands. It’s also the home of the Calperum Mallee Supersite, part of TERN’s Australian Supersite Network.

‘All our projects at Calperum rely on the willingness of community members to volunteer their time and effort in support, Grant explains. Over more than a decade of shared management responsibility, volunteers have consistently donated around 10,000 hours a year to looking after Calperum and nearby Taylorville Station – such a spectacular example of successful community engagement that it was cited by internationally renowned ecologist Professor Jared Diamond in his book Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed.

‘Because of this reliance on volunteer effort, anything that increases the efficiency of what we collectively do is really important,’ Grant says. ‘Environmental monitoring is fundamental to the progress of all of our projects here, and adoption of the AusPlots Rangelands methodology, along with the training sessions provided by the AusPlots Rangelands team, is enabling us to get more useful information, more consistently, out of our monitoring efforts.’

Meanwhile, 130 km south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, the privately owned R.M. Williams Agricultural Holdings (RMWAH) is exploring the potential combination of restoration and preservation of private land for nature conservation with a new source of income for land managers: the sale of biodiverse carbon credits. The company bought 516,800 ha Henbury Station  in June 2011 with the support of the Australian Government through its Caring for our Country initiative. Twelve AusPlots Rangelands long-term monitoring sites have since been established on the property.

Ms Rebecca Pearse from RMWAH said: ‘We are aiming to demonstrate that our innovative business model combining rangeland restoration, conservation and carbon credits income is viable, so it’s important that we are monitoring and reporting on the right ecosystem parameters, in ways that are nationally accepted and valid for the calculation of carbon credits. That’s why we’re involved with and using data generated through the AusPlots Rangelands methodology.’

The AusPlots Rangelands team has also been fielding numerous requests for more information and support from environmental consultancy companies and organisations servicing the needs of other industries working in Australia’s rangelands. Among others, the team is currently working with Arid Recovery – a partnership between BHP Billiton, the local community, the South Australian Government and the University of Adelaide – to apply the AusPlots Rangelands methodology to monitoring projects near Roxby Downs and the Olympic Dam mine.

As part of AusPlots Rangelands’s ongoing national support program, it’s running a training course in early October at the Great Western Woodlands Supersite at the Western Australian government-managed Credo Station, 100 km west of Kalgoorlie. Places are limited and filling fast. Email the TERN Adelaide office for more information.

The AusPlots Rangelands manual will soon be available for
download via the TERN website.

Published in TERN e-Newsletter August 2012

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