The role of ecosystem services from tropical savannas in the well-being of Aboriginal people: A scoping study

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This report is an outcome of a scoping study funded by the Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre (TS–CRC). The aim of the study was to examine the linkages between ecosystem services and well-being of people in the tropical savannas of northern Australia. It was found that both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities of this area depend vitally upon these services. However, the roles of many of these services in well-being of people are often ignored because many services have non-monetary values. This report emphasises the importance of these ecosystem services in terms of well-being, but does not attempt to value these services.

While the non-Aboriginal communities of this region gain most benefits from ecosystem services through the market, the Aboriginal communities gain substantial benefits from non-market behaviour. These include the use of natural resources for bush food, medicine, or cultural values. Some of these values could be even more important in well-being of Aboriginal people than the commonly used materialistic/social-economic values. The standard socio-economic approaches, however, do not measure these or incorporate them in their definition of well-being.

This scoping study explores the ecosystem services available from savannas, develops links between various services and well-being of Aboriginal people, and proposes a socio-economic ecological concept to measure well-being of Aboriginal people. The socio-economic-ecological concept used here, was adopted from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) (2003) which was a project initiated by the United Nations (UN) in 2001. This research applies the MEA framework at a local scale in the context of savannas, with some modifications. This study also examines the ‘Savanna health’ concept, earlier proposed by TS-CRC, that included ecosystem functions and health of people in savanna region.

Chapter 1 of the report describes savannas, land use and land management practices, various ecosystem services and their current status, and trends in human use. Chapter 2 discusses the concept of human well-being, and proposes a change from socio-economic concept of well-being to socio-economic-ecological concept of well-being. Chapter 3 discusses the existing methods and proposes a methodology that can be used to study the linkages between ecosystem services and human well-being. Chapter 4 suggests how the major businesses in savannas are linked to natural resources and how natural resource based businesses can improve well-being of Aboriginal people. 
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDarwin
PublisherTropical Savannas CRC
Number of pages78
ISBN (Electronic)1 920949 34 8
ISBN (Print)1 920949 33 X
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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