More than 100 pastoral businesses participated in the research, including family farms, Indigenous-owned stations and corporate land managers. They managed a combined area of more than 250,000 square kilometres.
The conservation reserves in north Australia’s tropical savannas are insufficiently large or connected to safeguard the region’s diversity of animals, plants and ecosystems for future generations. Pastoralists manage vast tracts of land. The average size of a pastoral station is around 250,000 hectares, with many stations exceeding one million hectares (larger than greater Melbourne). Consequently, individual decisions can have long-ranging impacts for the region’s natural assets, including biodiversity. Pastoralists can therefore make significant contributions to the conservation effort.
In northern Australia, pastoralists do not receive financial recognition for looking after biodiversity on their land, but other countries and Australia’s southern states have implemented agri-environmental schemes that make biodiversity conservation attractive. Suitable conservation contracts could help pastoralists make a strategic and valuable contribution to reversing the decline of northern Australia’s biodiversity.
Research meetings and visits were undertaken on pastoral stations from Broome to Charters Towers. A survey was used to investigate how pastoralists managed their operations and made decisions. In the survey pastoralists were presented with a series of choices involving hypothetical contracts for paid biodiversity conservation, and asked whether any of the options were attractive to them and what factors would influence their involvement.
The hypothetical conservation contract options investigated included:
Northern pastoralists have a strong stewardship ethic towards the land, biodiversity and cattle. They are usually dependent on one income stream (beef cattle) so the opportunity to diversify enterprises and receive income from a range of sources is highly desirable. The vast majority of pastoralists are willing to participate in contractual biodiversity conservation on parts of their properties, provided suitable contracts are available.
A diversity of contract options will help address biodiversity needs, while matching contract conditions with pastoralists’ business conditions and personal preferences. In general the project found that pastoralists are more likely to engage in contractual biodiversity conservation if:
The research happened across the tropical savannas of northern Australia. Case study areas were identified in collaboration with industry associations and regional NRM groups, taking regional needs, research priorities and willingness to participate into consideration.
The Journal of Choice Modelling, Greiner, R, Bliemer, M, Ballweg, J, March 2014
The Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Greiner, R, 01/2015
The project was led by Professor Romy Greiner at Charles Darwin University. Romy is an ecological economist who contributes research to the solution of sustainability problems in natural resource based industries, including agriculture, grazing, tourism and fishing.
Prof Romy Greiner
Charles Darwin University