Biodiversity conservation in the Top End: pastoralists perspectives

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New research is underway to better understand how pastoralists and graziers could complement the national reserve system through voluntary contractual biodiversity conservation activities.

Very little of Australia’s tropical savannas, which cover around a quarter of the continent, are protected in the formal reserve system. Contributions by the pastoral sector are critical to safeguard endemic species, as well as rare and endangered plants and animals.


The iconic Australian kangaroo

Northern Australia is home to an incredible diversity of bird species

Pastoralists manage vast tracts of land – the average size of pastoral stations is around 250,000 hectares – and individual decisions can have long-ranging impacts for the region’s natural assets, including biodiversity. In the Northern Territory for example, low-intensity pastoralism comprises three quarters of the total land area, while Indigenous lands and conservation reserves make up 15 and 6 per cent respectively. This research explores the willingness of the pastoral sector to undertake conservation activities in exchange for stewardship payments. The findings have important ramifications for the design and development of new conservation programs in northern Australia and will also inform non-government offset programs and investment in biodiversity conservation.

The vast landscape typical of Northern Australia

Stunning waterhole with fringing vegetation

Charles Darwin University Professor Romy Greiner has recently driven more than 25,000 km across northern Australia, conducting research meetings and visiting remote stations to gain a better understanding of how potential conservation contracts might work. This has enabled more than 100 pastoral businesses to participate in the research, including family farms, Indigenous-owned stations and corporate land managers. Between April and July 2013, scoping meetings were held in Charters Towers, Croydon, and Katherine; and research workshops in Broome, Katherine, Cloncurry, Tennant Creek, Mount Surprise and Kooroorinya. Professor Greiner’s individual property visits between Charters Towers and Broome accounted for about half the responses.

Pastoralists and researcher working together on valuing biodiversity conservation

The survey explored in detail how pastoralists manage their operations and make decisions. It also included a choice experiment: participants were presented with a series of choice tasks involving hypothetical conservation contracts. After picking their favourite options they were asked a series of questions about the factors that would influence their involvement. The large number of survey responses from the pastoral industry has allowed Professor Greiner to gain a good understanding of:

  • Pastoral willingness to undertake contractual biodiversity conservation;
  • Pastoral preferences for different contract features and trade-offs;
  • The amount of land potentially available for contractual biodiversity conservation; and
  • A whole-of-industry response to the concept.

To find out which biodiversity activities were investigated head to the Rivers of Carbon website…

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