Last stand for temperate woodlands in Western Australia

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Australia/New-Zealand > Australia

Annual wildflowers in privately-owned York Gum woodland, Wheatbelt of the Northern Agricultural Region, Western Australia - part of the Southwest Australia Ecoregion - a global biodiversity hotspot.
© WWF Australia / Chris Curnow

Summary

Protecting temperate woodlands in Australia is a national priority. In the wheat belt of Western Australia temperate woodlands have been massively cleared over the years for agriculture. What remains is fragmented native vegetation covering approximately only 3% of their original range.

This WWF project helps communities in rural areas protect and manage threatened temperate woodlands on private and non-state managed lands. It also aims to increase public awareness of the importance of temperate woodlands and the biodiversity that is found there.

Background

The need for improved temperate woodlands conservation is recognised as a national priority. The temperate woodlands were previously massively cleared to make way for agriculture. What remains is fragmented native vegetation which continues to experience degradation as threats are not currently addressed.

Australia's temperate woodland communities with herbaceous (including chenopod) understories have been heavily cleared. In Western Australia approximately 3% of their original range remains in the Western and Central Wheatbelt. Temperate woodlands are poorly represented in existing conservation reserves.

A suite of options for management and conservation on private land, as well as increased representation in the National Reserve System, will be necessary to protect these ecosystems for the future. Detailed knowledge of the different woodland types and their distribution on private land is lacking, therefore examples on private land need to be identified before management options can be negotiated.

Many woodland remnants have severely disrupted ecological processes and are no longer viable ecosystems. They therefore require adaptive management to be sustainable in the future.

Objectives

- Negotiate, via incentives such as ecosystem service payments, acquisition, covenants, recovery plans and other cooperative mechanisms, for the conservation of the biggest and best (where possible) examples of each type of woodland, especially those that are threatened. Improve management of priority woodland remnants.

- Raise awareness amongst rural and urban communities, of the diversity of woodlands (and other priority ecosystem), their intrinsic values, their current and future health, and the options for their long-term management.

- Clarify what distinct types of temperate woodlands communities exist on private and non State-managed land in the heavily cleared Western and Central Wheatbelt.

- Assess the conservation status of each identified community and submit threatened ecological communities to the State TEC database and nominate them for listing under the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Solution

- Behavioural change takes time and is more likely to occur as a result of face-to-face relationships with professional field extension staff over time.

- Many landholders hold incorrect assumptions or outdated concepts regarding legal conservation covenants regardless of incentive packages offered.

- Building face-to-face relationships is key to achieving biodiversity outcomes through public natural resource management (NRM) investment.

- Changes in community capacity support the achievement of biophysical outcomes.

- Linking ‘coordinator’ services (or ‘social’ investment) to targets set for community capacity-building increases the probability of achieving the desired biophysical asset improvements (resource condition targets).

- Providing a participatory learning experience and leaving management choices to the farmer provides an empathetic and effective entry point for (Woodland Watch) field staff (and other partners) to progress biodiversity conservation opportunities on farms.

- Providing ecological and cultural information and knowledge about what is in the bushland is a fundamental driver of positive change in farmer’s values and management actions for bushland.

- Increased knowledge/data and extension advice leads to improved/more informed decision-making about remnant vegetation management and conservation.

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