Responding to Challenges

Natural Resource Management interventions do not happen if there is no shared vision for what we need to do and why. We need to be technically confident that a management intervention will have the outcome we intended. We need the financial capacity to afford it and most management interventions require human capacity to make it happen on-the-ground. On top of this we need to ensure that enforcing changes to increase resilience in one part of the system does not reduce its resilience in another. The following are important contextual, cultural and capacity related challenges that Natural Resource Management (NRM) will need to embrace within the Avon River Basin.

Embedding a strategic adaptive management approach

The Avon River Basin’s resource issues are complex and interlinked. The big ‘drivers’ of change pushing the system towards a threshold of concern are often slow moving and beyond our control to manage. Establishing system changes will not always be possible, interventions will take time and adjusting how we respond will need to adapt as we ‘learn-by-doing’.

Adapting to climate change

The largest natural ‘driver’ of the system is climate. The future extent of dryland salinity will be largely determined by it, and it affects all system issues. Coping with climate variability ‘shocks’, such as frosts, floods and droughts will require a resilient system. Capacity to adapt and transform vulnerable parts of this system under a changing climate will require innovation.

Adapting to land use change

The increasing mining activities in the Eastern Region presents new challenges and opportunities. The agricultural industry pressure to continually increase production comes at a cost to its resilience through reduced diversity, increased debt, loss of redundancy and declining population. New technologies and climate change will be important future drivers for this industry.

Protecting a biodiversity hotspot

The biodiversity of the region is internationally recognised as iconic and unique to Western Australia. Unfortunately, it will continue to experience an ‘extinction debt’ from the widespread historic land clearing legacy for some decades. Land clearing bans have prevented much further loss of native vegetation, but political pressure is resulting in changes to these policies. Some native species are still little understood or documented. Saving locally threatened species may not be possible given the multiple, historic and emerging stressors affecting native habitats. The impact of some of these, such as aridity, salinity and introduced invasive species have not yet been fully realised. Effective NRM will need to embrace inevitable landscape change.

Embracing multicultural values

Traditional ecological practices have been lost from our current management system, and whilst Aboriginal knowledge still remains, Aboriginal people’s ability to care for country is only slowly being restored in this region. Our cultural and spiritual (and historic) connection and sense of well-being derived from Country (budja) are important community values.

General resilience

Access to human capital is recognised as a constraint to future development of the region. Demographically it is characterised by an aging population, decreasing levels of youth participation and a decline in professional skills.

Managing a major river system

The Avon River is iconic, degraded and responds slowly but directly to land management decisions. Restoration of waterways is only part of the solution to improving the river’s health. This will occur once the other ’big’ resource issues are kept away from critical thresholds.

Embracing desired social & economic development

The Wheatbelt ‘blue print’ for future social and economic growth will require a healthy system and resilient community as a starting point.

Strengthening partnerships

Natural resource challenges are simply too great for anything less than a whole-of-community, whole-of landscape response. Relevant agencies, NGOs, land managers and other organisations within the region will need to work together to achieve the objectives of a shared vision.

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