The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System: preparing for a climate of change

G. N. Bastin A E , D. M. Stafford Smith B , I. W. Watson C and A. Fisher D

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and Desert Knowledge CRC, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

B CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and Desert Knowledge CRC, PO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

C CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB Aitkenvaile, Qld 4814, Australia.

D NT Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts & Sport, PO Box 496, Palmerston, NT 0831, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: Gary.Bastin@csiro.au

The Rangeland Journal 31(1) 111-125 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ08072
Submitted: 17 December 2008  Accepted: 10 February 2009   Published: 26 March 2009

Abstract

Change is a constant in Australia’s rangelands. Appropriate management of this change requires a sound knowledge of drivers (e.g. climate variability, livestock grazing), their impacts on natural resources (state and trend), socio-economic outcomes, and how these feed back through learning and adaptive management to affect drivers and their impacts. Information is required at scales from enterprise to national, with regional and broader level information serving to influence rangelands governance through institutional arrangements, policy and funding programs. The Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System (ACRIS) collates and analyses data from national sources and from its State and Territory jurisdictional partners to track and understand change at regional to national scales. ACRIS has recently reported changes between 1992 and 2005 in several biophysical and socio-economic themes at bioregional resolution. This paper describes the processes used to collate and analyse the often disparate data, to synthesise information across data types and to integrate emergent higher order information across drivers, impacts and outcomes to provide more complete understanding of change. Data gaps and inconsistencies were a major challenge, and we illustrate how some of these issues were addressed by using indicators to report changes in biodiversity. ACRIS now needs to foster increased coordinated monitoring activity and develop its reporting capacity to become the valued information system for Australia’s rangelands. We propose that future improvements will be best structured within a hierarchically nested framework that provides consistent overarching data at national scale relevant to the variety of rangeland values (e.g. change in ground cover) but focuses on regionally-relevant ecosystem services, and their appropriate measures, at the regional scale. A key challenge is to implement consistent and systematic methods for monitoring biodiversity within this hierarchical framework, given limited institutional resources. Finally, ACRIS needs to develop a dynamic web-based delivery system to enable more frequent and flexible reporting of interpreted change than is possible through periodic published reports.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, institutions, landscape function, livestock, rangeland monitoring, seasonal quality, socio-economics.


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