Australia's landscapes in a changing climate—caution, hope, inspiration, and transformation

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<ul><li><p>Australias landscapes in a changing climatecaution,hope, inspiration, and transformation</p><p>Jason Alexandra</p><p>PO Box 477, Dickson, ACT 2602, Australia. Email: jason.alexandra@mdba.gov.au</p><p>Abstract. Australias future landscapes will be shaped by global climatic, economic, and cultural drivers. Landscapesevolve. They are manifestations of the complex negotiations between nature and cultures, over millennia. In theAnthropocene, humans are the dominant evolutionary force reshaping the biosphere.</p><p>Landscape management involves all human activities and interventions that change the forms and functions oflandscapes. It also involves the ways we learn about, and understand the world, and our place in it. Responses toclimate change are driving changes in natural resources policy, research and management. Building capability for large-scale, adaptive management is critical in an era of global change. By rigorously examining and learning from recentexperiencebioregional conservation planning, natural resource management (NRM), landcare, and water reformAustralia can build capacity for integrated and adaptive resource management.</p><p>Climate change compounds existing stressors on ecosystems. It adds complexity and presents new challenges forintegrated assessment, planning, and management of natural resources. Given the dynamic nature of the ecosystems, staticconservation paradigms and stationary hydrology models are increasingly redundant. In the face of inherent complexityand uncertainty, predict and control strategies are likely to be less useful. Adaptive approaches are called for, due to thecomplex relationships and non-linear feedbacks between social, ecological, and climatic systems. Australia should investin building professional and community capacity. Australias scientific and professional capacity in natural resourcesprovides useful foundations, but substantially increased investment is called for. Research should be focused on guidingand influencing management at large scales and on avoiding undesirable thresholds or tipping points in complex ecologicalsystems.</p><p>Cultural and governance aspects are emphasised as central to effective adaptation strategies, because landscapemanagement is an intergenerational, societal challenge that requires participatory, adaptive learning approaches.</p><p>Additional keywords: bioregional planning, climate adaptation, integration, landscape management.</p><p>Received 19 July 2011, accepted 20 March 2012, published online 28 May 2012</p><p>Introduction</p><p>Australias vulnerability to extreme eventscatastrophic fires,floods, and droughtsmay constrain future settlement patternsand economic activities. Abandoned farm lands, new generationsof ghost towns, and coastal cities protected by sea walls areplausible landscapes of the future (Palutikof 2010).</p><p>This paper provides a broad assessment of the challenges andoptions for Australian landscape management in the face ofclimate change. Three questions guided my investigations andpersist as legitimate areas for further research:</p><p>* What are the critical capabilities and relationships thatdetermine capacity to actively manage landscapes, naturalresources, and environmental systems?</p><p>* Whathas been learnt aboutmanaging at a landscape scale that isrelevant to climate change adaptation?</p><p>* How equipped is Australia to proactively shape its landscapeunder a changing climate?</p><p>Australias ability to influence the trajectories of its diversebioregions, under changing climatic conditions, will depend onthe way our scientific, economic, and governance processesinteract within what are already inherently complexinstitutional systems (Wallis and Ison 2011).</p><p>Asa startingpoint, itmust be accepted that regional landscapesare rarely designed in a deterministic or architectural way, butevolve through dynamic interrelationships between the naturalendowments of climate, geology and evolutionary biology, andthe cultural and economic factors such as social institutions, andgenetic and technological resources (Diamond 1997; Hobhouse1999). While there are many technical aspects of landscapemanagement applicable to specific locations, bioregions, andmanagement objectives, for this paper a broad view oflandscape management as a challenge of governance andculture is adopted. The nature of landscape management andland use in Australia is briefly outlined. Landscape managementis used as an inclusive and integrative term that respectfully</p><p>Journal compilation CSIRO 2012 Open Access www.publish.csiro.au/journals/cp</p><p>CSIRO PUBLISHING</p><p>Crop &amp; Pasture Science, 2012, 63, 215231http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/CP11189</p></li><li><p>includes humans and their role in managing and shaping theenvironment (Campbell 2006).</p><p>All societies transform their environmentsthere is nowilderness (Gammage 2011) except due to blind or deliberateignorance of history (Reynolds 2011). Australias diverseecosystems were shaped by &gt;50 000 years of indigenousoccupation (Mulvaney 1969; Gammage 2011) and the300million years of separate evolution (Keating and Harle2004; Steffen et al. 2009) that laid the foundations for thecontinents contemporary landscapes, including the urban,agricultural, and conservation estates fashioned over the pasttwo centuries (Lines 1994).</p><p>Climate change is likely to compound the magnitude, extent,and impact of Australias natural resource and conservationproblems. Continental-scale land and water degradation andthe loss of priceless evolutionary treasures are welldocumented, with further losses of biodiversity expected fromclimate change (NLWRA 2002a; Steffen et al. 2009). Climatechange impacts and possible responses are many and varied andwill depend on many factors.</p><p>A brief assessment of current settings and capacity is providedhere. By looking to the past for lessons, the experience ofoperating in Australias diverse and highly variable climateprovides some basis for preparing for a changing climate.Much can be learnt by critically examining Australiasapproaches to the challenges of securing reliable watersupplies and minimising the social and economic impacts offires, floods, and droughts. Stress-tested by recurrent droughts,the nation has demonstrated a persistent reluctance to fullyaccept the reality of the continents drought-proneness (Lake2008) and the severity of the climatic constraints to European-style settlement (Taylor 1940).</p><p>Scenario planning is an established technique used to exploreand articulate possible, alternative futures which can be appliedto the long-range concerns of our civilisation (Slaughter 2002). Inthis paper, a future scenario is used to illustrate a range of possibleclimate responses and the way the dynamic interplay betweengovernance arrangements, policy settings, scientific endeavours,and business investments could accelerate their adoption.Cultural and governance dimensions of landscape managementare emphasised because the challenges faced are local andglobal, and immediate and intergenerational. Capacity to adaptis dependent on the capacity of societies to learn, to organise,and to institutionalise useful rules, practices, and systems oflearning. It is a case of learning to adapt and adapting to learn.Simple prescriptions are dangerous. Long-term, systems-wideperspectives are required.</p><p>Global challenges</p><p>Aswe enter the Anthropocene, humans have become the worldsdominant evolutionary force, rapidly altering the atmosphereand the biosphere. Technology, consumption patterns, andgrowth in populations are delivering unprecedented rates ofchange to global systems, placing future social cohesion andwellbeing at risk (IGBP 2001; Millennium EcosystemAssessment 2003).</p><p>Evidence from the ecological, climate, and earth sciencesforms the basis of powerful precautionary warnings about</p><p>curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and the severity ofplanetary-scale consequences if these warnings are not actedupon (Richardson et al. 2009). Acceptance of sharedresponsibility to act on this knowledge is the basis of a newglobal agenda, with new sets of rules that are redefining therelationships of societies with the Earth (Stiglitz 2006;Richardson et al. 2009)</p><p>The increased frequency, costs, and consequences ofweather-related disasters provide a stark backdrop to global treatynegotiations on responses to climate change. Warnings fromthe science community are reinforced by the global re-insurance company, MunichRE, which states that the impacts,frequency and intensity of weather-related natural disastersemphasises the vulnerability of societies to extreme climaticevents, such as the 2010 Russian forest fires which killed56 000 peoplethe most deadly natural disaster in Russiashistoryand that the high number of weather-related naturalcatastrophes and record temperatures . . . provides furtherindications of advancing climate change (MunichRE 2011).The evidence of rising temperatures throughout the secondhalf ofthe 20 Century is incontrovertible (IPCC 2007; CSIRO 2010),with sobering predictions of the impacts of further increasedtemperatures on countries prone to drought and fire (Richardsonet al. 2009).</p><p>Every nation and every sector will be impacted by changingclimatic conditions and by the scale of mitigation and adaptationendeavours. Increasingly severe droughts in the mid-latitudesand the intensification of tropical monsoons will affect billionsof people, justifying decisive adaptation interventions. Humanvulnerability to climate change emphasises the need toproactively integrate climate adaptation into all spheres ofeconomic and natural resources policy, particularly in waterresources management and agricultural systems (Howdenet al. 2007; Richardson et al. 2009).</p><p>Adapting to climate change is one of the great challengesfacing water resources management, with links to povertyreduction, economic development, food security, andgeopolitical stability. The Himalayas are the source of themajor rivers of Asia, supplying water and food to billions ofpeople. Pomeranz (2009) argues that glacial retreat could inducewater stresses in the greater Himalayan region that may inflatehistoric disputes.</p><p>Preparing for and mitigating the adverse effects of climatechange is a pressing, global concern for river basin managers,who are attempting to plan for a range of impacts including:increased water scarcity and more severe drought; changingprecipitation patterns; reduced snow pack and glacier retreat;and increased frequency and intensity of flooding. Furthermore,the complexity of this planning is exacerbated by the need torethink the fundamentals of hydrology, due to the death ofstationarity (Milly et al. 2008). To cope with changing globalconditions, new social demands, and climate uncertainty, watermanagement systems needs a paradigm shift from regimes basedon predict and control to adaptive governance models (Pahl-Wostl 2007; Wallis and Ison 2011).</p><p>While the European Union recognises the integrated nature ofthe policy challenges and the need to promote strategies whichincrease the resilience to climate change of health, property andthe productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the</p><p>216 Crop &amp; Pasture Science J. Alexandra</p></li><li><p>management of water resources and ecosystems (EU 2009),the water sector often lacks capacity to change to adaptivegovernance because historic models reinforce the status quoand other factors stabilise and buffer current regimes againstchange (Pahl-Wostl 2007).</p><p>Globally, the challenges of resource management remainprofound, with a growing acceptance of the need to decoupleproduction, resource use, and pollution intensity. Furthermore,because economic development, biodiversity conservation,water and land use, energy production, carbon intensity, andglobal food supplies are intimately linked, these challengesneed to be conceived of and addressed together rather than inisolation (IGBP 2001). Research and innovation systems arerequired to accelerate the development and implementation ofintegrated and scalable solutions, given the constraints toincreasing resource use and intensity (Weaver et al. 2000).</p><p>Landscape management and climate change adaptationintersect with a range of societal concerns, including fire,flood, and disaster management; food and water security;resilient settlement patterns; and biodiversity conservation.With climate change likely to induce a wave of extinctions(Thomas et al. 2004) and erode the planets capacity to deliverecosystem services (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2003),more rigorous vulnerability and risk assessment methods arecalled for (Wilson et al. 2005). Management and scienceparadigms are required which deliver capacity to understandand manage ecosystems at larger scales (Folke et al. 2002;Likens et al. 2009).</p><p>Climate policy responses can also induce perverseoutcomes. For example, the creation of carbon offset marketsand subsidies for biofuels have provided incentives for theexpansion of palm oil plantations and carbon forests thathave displaced traditional land owners and destroyed highvalue ecosystems (CCB 2011). Recognition that carbonsequestration can be integrated with other landscape valuessuch as production and conservation, rather than displacethese, has led to the development and adoption of variouscarbon standards and quality assurance initiatives. TheCarbon, Community and Biodiversity Standards aim to informand guide multi-functional carbon sequestration projects sothe investment derived from carbon markets achieves multipleaims (CCB 2011).</p><p>There are inherent risks in attempting to apply simplisticapproaches to climate adaptation in river basin planning andecosystem management. Instead, approaches to understandingand working skilfully with the dynamic social, economic,and ecological systems are required. Investments in large-scalescience, monitoring, and professional capacity building need tocomplimented with commitments to deliberative governance,participatory management, and social learning (Walker et al.2002; Everard et al. 2009; Alston and Whittenbury 2011, Wallisand Ison 2011).</p><p>In summary, both landscape management and climateadaptation require long-term, systemic approaches. Whilecoordinated global action on mitigation is called for(Richardson et al. 2009), regional diversity must beaccommodated and simplistic policy prescriptions avoided inadaptation. Adaptive governance arrangements are requiredthat actively steer policy, govern systemic change, and build</p><p>capacity for transformation (Walker et al. 2002; Folke et al.2002; Ryan et al. 2010).</p><p>Landscape management</p><p>Definition and connections</p><p>Landscapes give tangible expression to cultures negotiationswith nature, reflecting in the longer term peoples dominantvalues, capabilities, technologies, and resources, includinggenetic resources (Diamond 1997; Hobhouse 1999). Manycultures have holistic terms for the integrated and intimateevolution of human societies and their landscapes. TheJapanese use the word fudu to describe the co-evolution oftheir culture and their landscapes (Nogyodoboku and Kenkya-Kai 2004). In Australia, the...</p></li></ul>