Farmers manage 48% of Australia’s landmass. Through their stewardship they deliver environmental outcomes on behalf of the Australian community. The Box Gum Grassy Woodlands is a critically endangered ecosystem (listed under the EPBC Act in 2006), and much of the woodlands are used for grazing and other productive uses.
The Sustainable Farms project will look at how farming these woodlands sustainably has benefits for farmers as well as maintaining and supporting this ecological community.
To explore the value of farm businesses and their reliance on healthy woodlands, the project will develop what is known as an ecosystem account. An ecosystem account is like a balance sheet for an ecosystem, and the farming system that it supports.
The ecosystem account will provide information to help us understand:
- How the ecosystem supports agricultural productivity and human wellbeing
- What is the value of the programs we implement to support conservation of woodlands on agricultural land.
This is a 2 year study that will commence in mid-2018. It will look at the following benefits derived from sustainable farming practices:
- habitat provisioning
- recreational and aesthetic values
- water yield and quality
- carbon storage and sequestration
- control of erosion
The study will involve several steps:
- Talking to famers, local, state and national agencies, and others in the region about available data and the questions they want answered by the study.
- Collating environmental, spatial, social and economic data.
- Spatial modelling of the extent and condition of ecosystem assets across the region in physical terms.
- Identifying relationships between social, economic and environmental data and change over time..
- Valuation of the ecosystem services.
- Communicating significant findings from the study to farmers and other key interest groups.
By establishing the value of looking after the box gum grassy woodlands ecological community, we expect the project will produce the evidence that farmers need to justify investment in the management of the natural assets on their farms.
Long Term Monitoring on Farms in the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands
Map showing all 309 farms within the Sustainable Farms initiative. There are 270 farms which have been surveyed on multiple occasions for biodiversity data across several different studies. Of these 270 farms, the Sustainable Farms initiative will fund ongoing biodiversity surveys on 132 farms between 2017 and 2022.
A key data set for developing ecosystem accounts for the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands is the high-quality biodiversity and environmental data that has been collected by Professor Lindenmayer’s group at the ANU. Since 1998, Professor Lindenmayer’s group has visited over 309 farms in the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands.
With over 740 research sites, this is one of the largest, long-term monitoring and research studies of its kind in Australia, in which high-quality data on vegetation, reptiles, birds, and arboreal marsupials has been gathered.
Professor Lindenmayer’s group has identified indicators that let us know if sustainable land management practices are working to maintain and improve the biodiversity of farm wildlife.
As part of the Sustainable Farms initiative, ongoing biodiversity data will be collected from 136 farms. These high quality datasets will continue to provide answers to key land management questions that are central to supporting the transition to sustainable farming practices.