NERP Northern Australia Hub

The projects in this theme consider the role of environmental, social and economic factors in conservation of biodiversity.  The outcomes of this research are particularly relevant to a number of areas in the Australian Government, to state and territory government, and NRM organisations.

In particular projects: delivered planning frameworks which can be used to achieve multiple objectives and to compare different scenarios and trade-offs; an evaluation of the willingness of the pastoral industry to participate in on-farm conservation and their preferences in financial incentives and contracts; an evaluation of which types of activities can conserve biodiversity with the least costs to the agricultural industry; new knowledge on how the high biomass week grass impacts on carbon farming initiatives; and new knowledge on the risks and challenges faced by irrigated agricultural developments in northern Australia.

This theme supported Indigenous biodiversity management and improved our understanding of the full-range of private and public benefits derived from Indigenous community-based natural resource management.

In particular projects: looked at the full range of economic, social and cultural benefits from Indigenous ranger programs both within Indigenous communities and within the broader Australian community; and used participatory action research to enable adaptive management of key environmental challenges for Indigenous Rangers on Cape York such as the managing the impact of feral pigs on marine turtle nesting and wetland health.

This theme significantly advanced the state of knowledge on freshwater biodiversity in northern Australia.  All projects were undertaken within Kakadu National Park.

In particular projects: identified key processes and locations supporting the high levels of biodiversity and productivity found in Kakadu’s aquatic ecosystems; undertook a comprehensive inventory of Kakadu’s estuarine fish species; identified the freshwater fish within Kakadu that are most at risk from climate change related sea level rise over the next century; identified how invasive grasses are impacting on environmental and Indigenous values of Kakadu floodplains and proposed costed management strategies; and developed comprehensive hydrological models of Kakadu estuaries which are valuable to underpin other environmental research or management strategies for the region.

This theme focused on issues and responses to the widespread decline of mammals across northern Australia.

In particular projects: examined trends in mammal populations and their correlation with feral cats, fire, grazing and disease; worked with Indigenous land managers in Arnhem land to increase our understanding of feral cat densities, behaviour and ecology; and trialled methods to survey cat presence and abundance and to suppress cat numbers using hunting, trapping and cat-detection dogs.   The research has contributed to the Kakadu National Park Threatened Species Strategy.  A number of methods developed by projects in this theme are now being used by ecologists and land managers across the Top End of Australia.

This theme developed a broad range of biodiversity monitoring tools and programs.

Practical tools were developed in collaboration with Indigenous land and sea managers to monitor: turtles, dugongs and sea grass feeding grounds; freshwater wetlands; wetland response after pig control; mammals; and feral cats.   Advances were made in the use of satellite imagery analysis to map both floodplain vegetation and estuarine and coastal water quality.  Ecogenomics has been used to advance our ability to identify a far more comprehensive range of floodplain soil biota than has previously been possible.  These soil communities have been compared with floodplain salinity gradients, knowledge that could underpin future sea level impact detection tools.