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

Understanding ecosystem dynamics in South Australia’s arid lands: a framework to assist biodiversity conservation

Allen P. McIlwee A B E , Daniel Rogers B D , Phil Pisanu B , Robert Brandle C and John McDonald B

A Australian Wildlife Research and Monitoring Services, SA 5163, Australia.

B Landscapes Team, Science Monitoring and Knowledge, South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, SA 5001, Australia.

C Sustainable Landscapes, South Australian Arid Lands Region, South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, SA 5700, Australia.

D School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: mcil0024@flinders.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 35(2) 211-224 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ12102
Submitted: 4 December 2012  Accepted: 17 May 2013   Published: 18 June 2013

Abstract

Determining what level of investment is required, and where and how it is used, to maintain biodiversity across vast areas is difficult. In response to this challenge, the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources has developed an information framework known as the ‘Aridlands Landscape Assessment Framework’ (ALAF) to provide a systematic basis for identifying landscape-specific, coarse-filter priorities for conservation investment across the arid zone. The ALAF is an analytical and conceptual framework that seeks to define ecosystem components and ecological processes operating at a landscape level, and understand where these processes are not meeting the requirements of extant biodiversity. This requires a systematic process to identify plant communities that occur in distinct biophysical settings. The next step is to document the dynamic processes that drive change within these communities in space and time. When coupled with knowledge of the requirements of indicator flora and fauna, this understanding will allow identification of those components that are at greatest risk, where, and for what reasons. This paper provides an overview of each step in the ALAF process and outlines how the framework has been used thus far to inform conservation planning across Witjira National Park.

Additional keywords: arid zone, conservation planning, information framework, landscape assessment, pastoral zone, state and transition models.


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