Improving the efficiency of biodiversity investment

Focusing on northern Australia, the project addressed the following questions:

  • Is there a trade-off between biodiversity and agriculture?
  • Are there some conservation activities which generate secondary benefits for agricultural productivity?
  • Are there things we can do to promote biodiversity which may not generate secondary benefits, but which are unlikely to impose trade-offs?
  • What cost effective ways can we motivate people to participate in on-farm conservation programs?

Northern Australia is home to some of the most intact ecosystems in the world. There is already a significant agriculture sector in the north and there is a strong desire to promote further economic growth. Therefore, identifying ways to effectively protect biodiversity at the least cost and without imposing undue costs on the agricultural industry is vital.

Researchers analysed a range of social, financial and environmental data for a range of agricultural properties. One hundred and thirty seven properties from across North Queensland (above Rockhampton) and in the Daly catchment (NT) participated in land manager surveys which asked about a wide variety of financial, social and management questions. The land manager survey data was paired with environmental data for each property. This included charactertistics such as soil type, rainfall, vegetation types, and presence of weeds or pests. It also included various indicators of biodiversity.

  • Programs which control weeds or other related pests may be more ‘efficient’ than other programs in that they are likely to generate benefits for both biodiversity and agriculture.
  • Programs promoting on-farm diversification, improved land management practices, or conservation friendly attitudes could generate biodiversity improvements at no cost to agriculture.
  • Social rewards and incentives are likely to be a particularly useful tool (to add to the more common tools such as regulations and financial incentives) that could be used to promote actions or attitudes that support conservation (including those outlined above, or elsewhere).

The project was undertaken by researchers from James Cook University and led by Prof Natalie Stoeckl. Assistance thanks to Taha Chaiechi, Marina Farr, Michelle Esparon, Silva Larson, Diane Jarvis, Adriana Chacon, Lai Thi Tran, Vanessa Adams and Jorge Álvarez-Romeroc.

Project Leader: Professor Natalie Stoeckl

James Cook University
[email protected]
07 4781 4868