Conservation and the maintenance of biodiversity in the rangelands

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There has been substantial loss of biodiversity in the Australian rangelands, and evidence suggests that the attrition is continuing. We argue that rangeland users should be more aware of, and concerned about, this problem: that we are sullying an international asset; that we are undermining the basis of a major rangeland industry, tourism; that we are sabotaging the potential for the development of alternative rangeland uses (most notably sustainable use of native wildlife); that such losses provide evidence that we are poor managers; that such losses diminish our lives; that such losses indicate that at least some of our environments are operating at reduced functionality; and that such losses take away or reduce important and wide-ranging environmental services. This loss is due to a complex array of factors, each affecting different components of biodiversity in different ways. Our responses are generally poorly coordinated across rangeland jurisdictions, and there is uncertainty about responsibilities across different land tenures. Given the diffuse but pervasive nature of the problem and the generally poorly coordinated and non-strategic current response, we suggest that biodiversity conservation needs to be far more clearly and systematically operationalised, that a clear goal for biodiversity conservation in the rangelands (maintenance of viable populations of all native species of plants and animals at appropriate spatial and temporal scales) needs to be developed, and that, from this, the community needs to set explicit targets relating to this goal, at continental, jurisdiction, regional and and property scales. While we recognise that our existing knowledge base is imperfect, such limitation should not delay the implementation of these steps. We consider that there is sufficient management expertise to realise a rangeland biodiversity goal. However, there are two more serious impediments in achieving the goal: current lack of resources and of societal agreement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-171
Number of pages15
JournalRangeland Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


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