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Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

Discussion paper prepared for the Victoria Naturally Alliance, December 2008 Ann McGregor, Brian Coffey, Carrie Deutsch, Geoff Wescott and Jim Robinson


Ecological processes in Victoria: Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity Discussion paper prepared for the Victoria Naturally Alliance, December 2008. Ann McGregor, Brian Coffey, Carrie Deutsch, Geoff Wescott* and Jim Robinson. *Corresponding address: School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125.

Acknowledgements This project has been supported by the Dara Foundation through the Dara WildCountry small grants program (established by The Wilderness Society and Dara Foundation) and the Exchange Incentive Fund (Exchange was supported by the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust, and delivered by Greening Australia and Land & Water Australia). The Project Advisory Group, interviewees and workshop participants contributed many ideas and other valuable inputs to the project. The names of the individuals who contributed are listed at the end of the report. Workshop planning and facilitation was undertaken by Natalie Moxham, Clear Horizon consultants. Thank you to Kimberley Rawlings (Greening Australia/Exchange) for contributing to the literature review. Please note that this discussion paper was prepared and written by the members of the project Steering Committee. This discussion paper does not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors to this project, including the Project Advisory Group, interviewees and workshop participants, Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences or the Victoria Naturally Alliance. The cover photo of a Brolga was taken by Chris Tzaros. Sadly, this beautiful bird is just one of hundreds of species threatened with extinction in Victoria. The report was designed by John Sampson.

Revised edition: February 2010 This report was updated in February 2010 to include publication details of a paper that resulted from the first phase of this project. The paper, Ecological processes: A key element in strategies for nature conservation was published in Ecological Management and Restoration, Vol 10 No 3 December 2009, pp 102-199. The paper’s authors are Andrew F. Bennett, Angie Haslem, David C. Cheal, Michael F. Clarke, Roger N. Jones, John D. Koehn, P. Sam Lake, Linda F. Lumsden, Ian D. Lunt, Brendan G. Mackey, Ralph Mac Nally, Peter W. Menkhorst, Tim R. New, Graeme R. Newell, Tim O’Hara, Gerry P. Quinn, James Q. Radford, Doug Robinson, James E. M.Watson and Alan L. Yen.

2Ecological Ecologicalprocesses processesin inVictoria Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Contents Summary............................................................................................................................. 2-3 1. Introduction........................................................................................................................ 4 1.1 Background to this project............................................................................................ 4 1.2 Project aims................................................................................................................... 4 1.3 Project governance....................................................................................................... 5 1.4 Project methodology..................................................................................................... 5 1.5 Report structure............................................................................................................ 5 2. Ecological processes and their importance......................................................................... 6 2.1 What are ecological processes?..................................................................................... 6 2.2 Why ecological processes are important...................................................................... 6 2.3 Ecological processes in environmental policy, planning and management................... 9 3. Ecological processes in Victoria: How are we doing?........................................................ 10 3.1 A brief status report.................................................................................................... 10 3.2 Drivers of change........................................................................................................ 11 3.3 Current approaches to policy, planning and management: what’s working and what’s not............................................................ 12 3.4 The nature of the challenge........................................................................................ 16 4. A framework for incorporating ecological processes into policy, planning and management.................................................................................... 18 4.1 Vision, goals and targets.............................................................................................. 18 4.2 Principles..................................................................................................................... 19 4.3 Assessing how well ecological processes are considered in policy making................. 20 5. Action agenda................................................................................................................... 22 5.1 Maintaining and enhancing ecological processes in relatively-intact ecosystems...... 22 5.2 Landscape restoration and connectivity conservation................................................ 24 5.3 Climate change: threat and opportunity for ecological processes.............................. 27 5.4 Sustainable rural land: commodity production in multifunctional landscapes........... 28 5.5 Gaining and sharing knowledge for adaptive management........................................ 29 5.6 Vision building, target setting and strategic planning.................................................. 31 5.7 Public institutions, policy and legislation..................................................................... 33 5.8 Increasing the profile of ecological processes and improving ecological literacy........ 35 5.9 Priority actions for specific ecological processes........................................................ 36 Appendix 1. Submission to land and biodiversity White Paper............................................. 38 List of contributors............................................................................................................... 41 Glossary................................................................................................................................ 44 References............................................................................................................................ 45

Ecological processes in Victoria 1 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Summary

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cological processes have major implications for the success of efforts to sustain biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. Actions that focus solely on particular species, vegetation communities, habitats or sites are unlikely to be effective over the long term unless the ecological processes that support these ‘assets’ are sustained. A focus on ecological processes is therefore a necessary part of effective biodiversity policy, planning and management. However, this will not automatically protect individual species and places. This means that efforts to sustain biodiversity must embrace both ‘assets’ and ‘processes’ approaches. Ecological processes can be defined as: “The interactions and connections between living and non-living systems, including movements of energy, nutrients and other chemical substances such as carbon, and organisms and propagules” (adapted from Traill 2007). Ecological processes that are fundamental to life include nutrient cycling, flows of water, dispersal of animals and seeds, local adaptation by species to changing climatic conditions, disturbance regimes associated with fires and flooding, and interactions between soils, plants and animals such as pollination, decomposition, predation and competition. Ecological processes also contribute to human wellbeing through the provision of ecosystem services valuable to humans. Existing knowledge is limited about the specific workings of ecological processes in the variety of ecosystems in Victoria. Knowledge about their current condition, trends, and how they might respond to the major threat of climate change is also lacking, but the indicators point to existing severe degradation and disruption of processes. To learn more about ecological processes, active engagement between researchers and land/resource planners and managers is required, as well as more long-term ecological monitoring. While it is recognised that knowledge about ecological processes is incomplete, it is also apparent that what knowledge exists has not been adequately considered in government policy, planning and management. It is therefore necessary to proactively and systematically build the full consideration

2 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

Natural flooding at Hattah Lakes.

Photo: courtesy Le Feuvre family

of ecological processes into legislative and institutional frameworks, policy and planning processes, and on-ground management of land, environment and natural resources across Victoria. This requires not only significantly more resources, but also a significant shift in mindset. In broad terms, priorities for protecting ecological processes in Victoria are to: maintain extensive areas of natural or near-natural landscapes and seascapes with relatively intact ecological processes;

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restore and reconnect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as far as is possible in production and settlement landscapes to sustain and restore functioning ecological processes;

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manage human activities and human-caused impacts that threaten ecological processes, particularly water extraction, clearing and decline in native vegetation condition, invasive species, fire, and greenhouse gas emissions.

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To be effective, action must be multi-scale, integrated, well-resourced and sustained. It should involve a wide range of players including all levels of government, landholders, nongovernment organisations and the corporate and philanthropic sectors. The need for action is urgent. Such an approach is necessary if we are to sustain biodiversity, ecosystem services and our human life support systems. It also ensures that value for money is achieved from current biophysical asset-focused conservation efforts. The investigations for this project have produced many specific proposals for action to protect and repair ecological processes. The recommendations are summarised below.


Action agenda for ecological processes in Victoria Action agenda theme

Major recommendations

1. Maintaining ecological processes in relatively-intact ecosystems

8 Complete a comprehensive, adequate and representative conservation reserve system across public and private land, freshwater and marine communities by 2015. 8Manage relatively-intact landscapes to sustain ecological function, particularly in relation to ecologically appropriate fire regimes, and invasive species control.

2. Landscape restoration and connectivity conservation

8 Scale up the implementation of cross-tenure connectivity conservation projects to link conservation reserves and other relatively intact environments. 8 Achieve a net gain in the extent and condition of native vegetation across Victoria by 2010, and continue the net gain in subsequent years. 8 Reduce the volume of water extracted from stressed river systems and deliver environmental flows to rivers, wetlands and estuaries. 8 Undertake extensive ecological restoration of riparian zones as key components of connectivity conservation projects.

3. Climate change: threat and opportunity for ecological processes

8 Protect and manage all native vegetation as very large, effectively permanent stores of carbon. 8 Substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the threat of climate change to ecological processes. 8 Use funds from carbon offset schemes to increase carbon uptake by 1) protecting remnant native vegetation from degrading processes such as grazing, and encouraging regeneration, and 2) replanting biodiverse indigenous vegetation to enhance connectivity, not monoculture plantations. 8 Reduce stresses on ecological processes to enhance resilience in the face of climate change.

4. Sustainable rural land: commodity production in multifunctional landscapes

8 Assist the conversion of marginal farmland to biodiverse perennial vegetation that sustains ecological processes and provides a financial return to the landowner (e.g. from carbon offsets, farm forestry, payments for ecosystem services). 8 Using a range of measures, support landowners to protect and restore native vegetation, rivers and wetlands, and associated ecological processes.

5. Gaining and sharing knowledge for adaptive management

8 Increase the funding for research, data management and exchange of knowledge relating to ecological processes, ecological restoration and connectivity conservation science. 8 Establish a long-term ecological monitoring network to monitor and report on condition and trends in ecosystem components and processes.

6. Vision building, target setting and strategic planning

8 L egislate for a comprehensive, nested and time-bound vision and science-based targets for conservation of biodiversity and ecological processes. 8 Ensure that ecological processes are fully integrated into core elements of the Victorian Government White Paper on land and biodiversity, and in the renewed Victorian Biodiversity Strategy. 8 Consider all relevant ecological processes in conservation planning, including the next round of strategic plans for each catchment management authority region. 8 Design and implement a marine planning and management system for Victorian coastal waters.

7. Public institutions, 8 Reform the state’s environment-related public sector organisations to deliver policy and legislation ecological outcomes and establish a ‘whole of government’ approach to integrated environmental policy, planning and service delivery at statewide and regional levels. 8 Review Victorian legislation to identify opportunities for greater inclusion of ecological processes. 8. Enhancing ecological 8 Train public and private sector leaders, managers and professionals in ecological literacy. awareness and 8 Increase understanding and appreciation of ecological processes as part of literacy community and schools-based environmental education programs.

Ecological processes in Victoria 3 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Introduction chapter 1

1.1 Background to this project

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his investigation builds on the project ‘Ecological Processes in Victoria: Priorities for Sustaining Biodiversity’. The initial project was developed with funding to the Victoria Naturally Alliance from the Dara WildCountry Small Grants Program in 2006, to undertake an independent expert scoping of biodiversity priorities and management options for south-eastern Australia. The initial project was hosted by Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences. It brought together a number of senior ecologists (led by Associate Professor Andrew Bennett) with knowledge of Victorian ecosystems, in order to assess the current status and risks to ecosystems and ecological processes1, and identify management directions and responses to enhance the protection of biodiversity and ecological processes. This work was published in the journal Ecological Management and Restoration, December 2009. Its findings are summarised in Appendix 1.

The Mountain Pygmy Possum is one of Victoria’s most threatPhoto: Glen Johnson ened species.

1.2 Project aims Overall objective To identify policy directions and priorities to sustain biodiversity in Victoria, based on the findings from the previous ecological processes project and other advances in environmental policy, ecology and ecological management. The project aimed to:

Whereas the previous project focused on the science and management of ecological processes, this project focuses on policy priorities that arise from recognising the importance of ecological processes. This project probably represents the first comprehensive attempt in Victoria and Australia to consider the policy priorities associated with ecological processes. Scientists, policy specialists, and practitioners were consulted to generate a suite of policy, planning and program recommendations to drive the implementation of the ecological management responses identified in the first project.

undertake a consultative process that engaged a range of policy makers, natural resource planners and managers, and scientists;

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explore what order of policy change is required to sustain biodiversity in the long term;

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formulate, compile and discuss creative and innovative ideas about practical ways and means of achieving biodiversity outcomes;

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encourage a broadening in thinking about biodiversity conservation strategies from a focus on individual species/communities, threats and sites to one that also includes a more dynamic and integrated perspective, with systemic, large-scale responses that protect and enhance the ecological processes that sustain biodiversity;

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The project was initiated by the Victoria Naturally Alliance. This alliance of groups involved in environmental protection and restoration aims to encourage real progress towards restoring the health of the state’s biodiversity. The nine partners are the Victorian National Parks Association (which acts as host), the Australian Conservation Foundation, Environment Victoria, The Wilderness Society, Bush Heritage Australia, Trust for Nature, the Invasive Species Council, Greening Australia Victoria and Bird Observation & Conservation Australia.

generate a suite of measures to implement the strategic responses, including policy, planning, legal and institutional frameworks, research, monitoring, community engagement and onground programs;

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raise awareness of the direction, scope and scale of action needed to secure Victoria’s ecological health;

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The project was hosted by Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, and was led by Associate Professor Geoff Wescott.

4 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

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a document that articulates policy priorities informed by ecological science, for the

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Underlined words are defined in the Glossary at the end of this report.


protection and restoration of ecological processes and biodiversity in Victoria; disseminate the findings to a broad audience, including contributions to natural resource management research and resource guides, and

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contribute to the Victorian Government’s Land and Biodiversity at a Time of Climate Change White Paper and other policy-making processes.

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1.3 Project governance The project was delivered by a Steering Committee, chaired by Associate Professor Geoff Wescott. The Steering Committee comprised representatives with expertise in environmental policy, planning and management. A 15-member Project Advisory Group was established to broaden involvement in the project, and included members from universities, government departments and non-government organisations. The group was used to test ideas and review findings. Members were also invited to the project workshop, and many were interviewed individually. A list of contributors, including Steering Committee and Project Advisory Group members, is provided at the end of this report.

1.4 Project methodology Three major sources of information were drawn on in undertaking the project: interviews, a literature review and a facilitated workshop. Twenty-four extended interviews were conducted with scientists, natural resource planners and managers, policy analysts from government, nongovernment organisations and academia. They were asked about their vision for biodiversity conservation in Victoria, current management of key ecological processes, suggestions for improvement and innovation, policy instruments for governments, knowledge gaps, monitoring, reporting and evaluation frameworks relating to ecological processes and biodiversity. Interview extracts were used at the project workshop. A literature review was undertaken with a

Disturbance regimes associated with fires and flooding are an example of the Photo: Richard Hughes many ecological processes fundamental to life.

focus on both ecological and policy-oriented documents. An annotated bibliography has been prepared, and excerpts were used at the project workshop. A one-day facilitated workshop was held on 6 December 2007, attended by 60 invitees from national, state and local government and non-government organisations, academia, and natural resource management agencies. The purpose of the workshop was to draw on the knowledge and experience of respected academics, policy makers, and community representatives to inform the identification of policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity. This report has been prepared using the findings from the interviews, workshop and literature review, with additional input from Steering Committee and Project Advisory Group members.

1.5 Report structure This report has four major sections which: l

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outline what is meant by ecological processes, and why they are important; summarise the state of ecological processes in Victoria and provide an assessment of the adequacy of responses; outline a policy framework for integrating ecological processes, and propose an action agenda to improve the understanding and management of ecological processes in Victoria.

Ecological processes in Victoria 5 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Ecological processes and their importance chapter 2

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his section provides an introduction to the concept of ecological processes. It outlines some major types of processes and why they are important, and discusses the need to incorporate them into environmental management.

2.1 What are ecological processes? Ecological processes are fundamental to life. Yet the term ‘ecological processes’ is not in common public usage, nor is it widely understood. When used, it is often not clearly defined. The Commonwealth Government in 1990 defined Ecologically Sustainable Development in Australia as: “using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased.” (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2008). The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (Ecologically Sustainable Development Steering Committee 1992) also recognised the importance of ecological processes in its goal: “Development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends” and in one of its three core objectives: “to protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems”. While these documents recognise the importance of ecological processes,

neither document defines or explains the term. For this project, ecological processes are defined as: The interactions and connections between living and non-living systems, including movements of energy, nutrients and other chemical substances such as carbon, and organisms and seeds (adapted from Traill 2007). Expressed in more poetic terms: ecological processes are “the natural machinery that connects living and non-living things and keeps nature healthy” (Traill 2007).

2.2 Why ecological processes are important The interactions and connections of ecological processes maintain populations, species, and ecosystems in many different ways. When ecological processes degrade or are destroyed, environmental ‘assets’ or values that depend on them are also degraded, reduced or lost. This means, for example, that establishing a conservation reserve may not be enough to protect the plants and animals that live there over the long term, because essential processes that sustain these plants and animals are very likely to extend beyond the reserve. Soulé et al. (2004) identify seven ecologically extensive processes in Australia that are highly important to the conservation of biodiversity: critical species interactions, long distance biological movement, disturbance at local and regional scales, global climate change, hydroecology, coastal zone fluxes, and spatiallydependent evolutionary processes. Bennett et al. (in prep.) identify a broader set of seven themes, each incorporating multiple processes, which together underpin the maintenance of biodiversity: climatic processes, primary productivity, hydrological processes, formation of biophysical habitats, interactions between organisms, movements of organisms, and natural disturbance regimes.

Red mallee in flower.

6 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

Photo: Bernie Fox

Table 1 lists some of the major themes or categories of ecological processes, why they are important, and provides some specific examples of ecological processes.


Table 1. Categories of ecological processes and their significance Process theme

Importance

Example of ecological process

Climatic processes: flows of energy and matter through the atmosphere that drive precipitation, air temperature cycles and atmospheric pressure systems

Influence the geographic distribution of plant communities and therefore habitat. Current rapid changes in global climate will have significant impacts on other ecological processes and biodiversity.

Frequency of drought.

Land system productivity: the rate of energy flows through ecosystems, beginning with conversion of solar energy through photosynthesis, into chemical energy in plant tissues

Sustains all living systems, including our food production. Uptake of carbon from the atmosphere by plants mitigates the greenhouse effect. Variations in availability of water and nutrients across Victoria lead to variation in productivity of ecosystems. Rainforests, tall moist eucalypt forests, lowland streams (and associated riparian zones) and coastal estuaries are typically highly productive.

Energy flows through the food chain: plant growth to herbivores to carnivores or decomposers. Uptake of carbon (CO2) from the atmosphere via photosynthesis for plant growth.

Hydrological processes associated with surface and sub-surface water flows

Create and modify habitats in river channels and floodplains; maintain lateral and longitudinal connectivity, which is essential to riverine species; provide refuges, nutrients, cues to breeding and dispersal.

The variable flows of water that shape a river’s banks and channel, and provide cues for fish migration and spawning.

Formation of biophysical habitats through processes involving geological substrates, soils, vegetation and water

Creates habitats for plants and animals. Soil formation, development of soil structural properties, nutrient cycling, etc are essential functions for natural systems, and for crops and pastures.

Breakdown of plant material and nutrient cycling in soil by fungi, bacteria and invertebrates. Formation of tree hollows, which are used by fauna for nesting and roosting.

Interactions between species in food webs and in competition for space and resources

Fundamental influence on structure of plant and animal communities. Facilitate pollination, seed dispersal, decomposition, nutrient cycling and regulation of population densities. Some species, e.g. predators and nectivorous birds, have a disproportionate impact.

Predation by dingoes controlling populations of kangaroos and other animals. Competition for light, space, water and nutrients between plants. Pollination of plants by nectarfeeding birds such as honeyeaters.

Movement of animals and seeds

Movement pathways are required for the dispersal of juveniles and adults of many plants and animals, for migratory and nomadic species (e.g. half of Australia’s bird species move regularly or irregularly), and for movement to more suitable habitat in response to climate change.

Long distance movement of birds to pursue food, e.g. Swift Parrot breeds in Tasmania’s Blue Gum forests in summer and feeds in Victoria’s Ironbark forests in winter. Daily movements of bats between roost sites and foraging areas. Seed dispersal aided by wind, animal vectors or water flow.

Coastal zone fluxes: movements of energy and nutrients between land and sea, and sea and land

Movements of inorganic and organic materials support estuarine and marine species, provide sand and sediments for beaches and bays.

Flows of nutrients and freshwater from land to coastal waters maintain the health and productivity of estuaries and estuarine species.

Ecological processes in Victoria 7 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 2 Process theme

Importance

Example of ecological process

Natural disturbance regimes: sequences or combinations of disturbance events including fire, flood, wind storms and severe frosts

Influence the structure, function and composition of ecosystems. Roles in maintaining ecosystem diversity and function, such as plant germination, fish spawning, influx of water into ephemeral wetlands and floodplains. Many natural disturbances that can benefit biodiversity can have adverse impacts on human uses (e.g. forestry, agriculture), utilities and public safety.

Fires in heathlands and grasslands maintain the diversity of plant species, and mosaics of habitats for animal species such as the Silky Mouse, which needs patches of regenerating heathland in a range of age classes. Seasonal floods in lowland rivers provide nutrients and water to fuel a major ‘boom’ in productivity and biodiversity on the floodplain, and sustain species such as River Red Gum and Murray Cod. Some species, e.g. Mallee Fowl, need big patches of longundisturbed habitat.

Spatially-dependent evolutionary processes based on genetic variability across the range of a species provide potential for differentiation and speciation at local and continental scales

Continuing evolution provides the potential for adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Intraspecies diversity and actual or potential local adaptations in populations are major attributes that give species resilience in the face of climate change.

Range expansion of a species across a landscape, followed by isolation of populations and differentiation (e.g. frogs in southwestern and southeastern Australia). Over geological time, during dry periods, cool-temperate rainforests in Victoria contracted to small refuge areas. Maintaining these areas is important to ensure survival and long term evolutionary potential.

Derived from: Bennett et al. (in prep.), Soulé et al. (2004) and Newell et al. (2006) and Traill (pers. comm. 2008).

It is evident from Table 1 that ecological processes are fundamentally important to sustaining life and its diversity. These processes include nutrient cycling; seasonal flow patterns of rivers; dispersal of animals and seeds; local adaptations by species to changing environmental conditions; floods that cue fish spawning; ecological disturbance by wildfire, flooding and storms; and functional interactions between soils, plants and animals such as pollination, decomposition and predation and competition. Ecological processes are also crucial to human survival and perform functions that contribute to human wellbeing and underpin much economic activity (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). These ecosystem services include cleansing of water and air, pollination of crops, pest and disease control, soil formation, mitigation of environmental hazards such as erosion and flooding, and maintenance of scenic natural environments for recreation. These services are

8 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

generally not valued or undervalued, and are taken for granted until they break down. However, in making use of ecosystems services, human activities have implications for ecological processes. For example, in natural resource management (including agriculture, forestry, aquaculture) Wallace argues that “we manage ecological processes with the goal of re-organising ecosystem elements to deliver ecosystem services that better meet human values” (2007, p236). In many landscapes, a large proportion of primary and secondary productivity has been redirected to the human foodchain or other human uses. Berry and Mackey (2007) estimate that almost 70 per cent of Australia’s gross primary productivity is on freehold and leasehold lands, where a significant proportion is appropriated for human use. This means that there is much less ‘fuel’ to support natural ecosystem dynamics and wildlife. In addition, nature conservation reserves are generally on less-productive land.


2.3 Ecological processes in environmental policy, planning and management Existing approaches to nature conservation have primarily focused on protecting individual species, or natural areas (reserves and other sites). These approaches are a crucial component of biodiversity conservation. Some of the advantages of ‘assets-based’ approaches to conservation management are that they are often spatially explicit, localised and able to be linked to purposeful monitoring of the effectiveness of management interventions. These approaches are essential components of any conservation strategy, but they are not sufficient, because “in the long term, protecting natural ‘assets’ will not be an effective approach unless the ecological processes that sustain them are also maintained” (Bennett et al., 2007). What flows from this insight is the need for an expanded approach to biodiversity management, with the broad focus of this approach evident in the observation by Poiani et al. (2000, p133) that: “More recently, biodiversity is being viewed more expansively, to include genes, species, populations, communities, ecosystems, and landscapes...As a result, current recommendations for biodiversity conservation focus on the need to conserve dynamic, multiscale ecological patterns and processes that sustain the full complement of biota and their supporting natural systems.” However Poiani et al. (2000, p133) recognise that “Translating expanding perceptions into pragmatic guidelines and appropriate action is a challenge for conservation organizations and natural resource agencies.” While ecologists generally appreciate the importance of ecological processes, scientific understanding is still very limited about the detailed workings of processes, the complex interactions of living and non-living components of ecosystems, and the outcomes of change. There is even less understanding and consideration of ecological processes among policy makers, planners and natural resource managers.

Farmers would soon be out of business without essential ecosystem services such as crop pollination, soil formation, Photo: David Fletcher pest and disease control.

Although we are not able to deliberately and directly manage many ecological processes, human activities certainly have major impacts on them. In general, it is the human activities and secondary anthropogenic impacts (such as invasive species and altered fire and water flow regimes) that are the focus of management efforts to sustain ecological processes. The following sections of this report explore what might be involved in a systematic approach to sustaining ecological processes, as a complement to, and extension of the more established ‘assetsbased’ approach to biodiversity conservation.

Ecological processes in Victoria 9 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Ecological processes in Victoria: How are we doing? chapter 3

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revious sections have introduced the concept of ecological processes, established its importance, and considered the need for it to inform biodiversity conservation efforts. This section focuses on how well ecological processes are being dealt with in Victoria. To do so, a brief overview of what is known about the current status of ecological processes in Victoria is provided.

of Sustainability and Environment 2008). Extensive extraction of surface water, modification of stream flow regimes and salt and nutrient pollution has affected many aquatic environments: 35 per cent of major rivers in Victoria are in poor or very poor condition with only 22 per cent in good or excellent condition (Dunlop et al., 2004).

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Streamside zone condition is moderate to poor across much of Victoria, where extensive clearing has occurred (Victorian Catchment Management Council 2007).

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3.1 A brief status report The state of Victoria encompasses a diverse range of ecosystems from semi-arid deserts in the northwest to warm-temperate rainforests in East Gippsland, alpine snowfields, grassy plains, and marine environments with a high level of endemism. In the Australian context, this diversity occurs in a relatively compact land area with a relatively high human population (Department of Natural Resources and Environment 1997). The current state of knowledge of the condition of ecological processes in Victoria is very limited, and very little long-term ecological monitoring is being undertaken to identify, and track trends. Nevertheless, the indicators are pointing to severe degradation and disruption of processes: l The National Land and Water Resources Audit assessment of landscape health suggests that overall, Victorian landscapes are probably the most stressed in the country (Morgan 2001). In both extent and intensity the state rates very poorly for current extent of native vegetation, connectivity in native vegetation, ecosystems at risk, number of threatened species, future dryland salinity risk and condition of riparian zone (Dunlop et al., 2004).

Despite the introduction of native vegetation retention controls and a policy commitment to achieving a Net Gain in the quality and quantity of native vegetation in Victoria, the quality and quantity of native vegetation continues to decline. Approximately 3,200ha/year of grassy native vegetation was lost between 1994 and 2004, and woody vegetation showed a net loss of approximately 800ha/year. Using the Net Gain accounting approach, a net loss of 9,990 habitat hectares/year (a measure of native vegetation extent and quality) occurred on private land 1994-2004, mainly due to declining vegetation condition (Department

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10 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

Minimal data are available across Victoria on soil condition, but “the future for our soils does not look optimistic” (Victorian Catchment Management Council 2007).

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Victoria’s State of the Forests Report (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2003) lists 13 types of invertebrate pests and seven types of mammals that are widespread and/or having adverse or severe adverse impacts on ecosystem health and vitality in forest areas.

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44 per cent of Victoria’s native plants and 30 per cent of native vertebrate species are thought to be extinct, threatened or vulnerable to extinction (Dunlop et al., 2004). Populations of many more are declining. There are no data for most invertebrates and species living in the soil that are critical for soil formation, nutrient cycling and many other ecosystem processes.

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A number of bioregions in Victoria have more than 50 per cent of ecosystems threatened, including the Southeast Highlands, Victorian Volcanic Plain and Murray Darling Depression (National Land and Water Resources Audit 2002).

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Marine environmental condition reporting does not happen, and little information is gathered on the condition of coastal land and water.

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“Modelling and other analyses suggest widespread impacts [of climate change] on biodiversity, due to direct impacts (e.g. changed snow cover) and indirect affects (e.g. changed species interactions and disturbances). Other anthropogenic stresses (e.g. habitat fragmentation, grazing, altered fire regimes) have reduced ecosystem resilience and will limit the ability of species to autonomously adapt to climate change.” (Dunlop et al. 2004).

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Reed and weed infestation on the Wimmera River in Victoria’s Little Desert National Park.

Photo: courtesy Environment Victoria

3.2 Drivers of change

summary of major direct and indirect drivers of ecosystem decline is provided in Table 2.

Given the compelling evidence about the poor state of Victoria’s biodiversity and underlying ecological processes, it is important response strategies deployed are capable of addressing the issues faced. While the most effective strategy in some circumstances may be to ‘manage’ or ‘adapt to’ the effects or symptoms of some issues, it is also imperative that the causes or ‘drivers’ of problems are also addressed. This is made clear in the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, which emphasises that “Understanding the factors that cause changes in ecosystems is essential to designing interventions that capture positive impacts and minimise negative ones” (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment 2003, p32).

The need to direct increased attention towards identifying and addressing the factors that drive the loss of biodiversity and decline of ecological processes was also highlighted by Bennett and colleagues (2007; see Appendix 1) who consider that there is “a need for careful consideration of the kinds of drivers of change that may be experienced in coming decades and the kinds of threats they will impose.”

A straightforward, yet comprehensive approach to defining and categorising different drivers of environmental decline is provided in the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment. Drivers are defined as “any natural or human factor that directly or indirectly causes a change in an ecosystem”, where direct drivers unequivocally influence ecosystem processes, while indirect drivers operate more diffusely, by altering one or more direct drivers (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment 2003). A

Limited evidence is available about the relative effects of direct and indirect drivers of ecosystem decline in contributing to the decline and loss of biodiversity in Victoria. A notable exception is the Drivers of Land Use Change project, undertaken within the Department of Sustainability and Environment (Farmar-Bowers et al., 2006). However, this project primarily focused on the factors that influence farm-level behavioural change, rather than a statewide analysis. To identify which important drivers of change might affect ecological processes and the way they are managed over the next 20 years, the views of a range of ecological scientists, policy practitioners, and environmental management

Ecological processes in Victoria 11 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 3 Table 2. Summary of direct and indirect drivers of environmental decline Direct

Indirect

8 Changes in land use and cover 8 Species introduction or removal 8 Technology adaptation and use 8 External inputs (e.g. fertiliser, pest control, irrigation) 8 Harvesting and resource consumption 8 Climate change 8 Natural, physical and biological drivers (e.g. evolution, volcanoes)

8 Demographic: human fertility, mortality and migration 8 Economic drivers: consumption, production and globalisation 8 Sociopolitical factors 8 Cultural and religious drivers 8 Scientific and technological drivers

specialists were sought for this project. While the views provided do not represent a systematic assessment, respondents clearly identified a number of important drivers that warrant greater attention, including: climate change and its consequences, and responses to climate change;

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socio-demographic factors operating in rural areas, and

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growth. Other drivers identified by individual respondents were pest plants and animals; the legacy of past broad-scale clearing; leadership by government or by champions in the community. What this highlights is that much greater, and more systematic attention needs to be directed towards identifying and assessing the impact of different drivers of decline in ecological processes as the basis for formulating responses to them.

economic factors.

Nearly all respondents referred to climate change, and its consequences such as water shortages and changes in agricultural land use. Climate change will exacerbate existing threats – it will have synergistic effects with invasive plants, fires, and water availability, thereby increasing stresses on vegetation and aquatic habitats. It will also have direct impacts on ecological processes such as land system productivity (where water is commonly the limiting factor in Victoria). Responses to climate change will be another important driver of change – with the potential to be beneficial or perverse with regard to biodiversity and ecological processes. A commonly-mentioned driver was the changes in Victoria’s rural landscape due to sociodemographic factors that result in changes in land use and cover: the ageing of farmers, depopulation in parts of rural Victoria and increasing numbers of ‘lifestyle’ or absentee amenity landowners in other parts. While some rural areas are changing from production to non-commercial land uses, intensification and corporatisation are occurring elsewhere. Economic factors were identified by many respondents as major drivers, particularly international markets for primary production commodities and oil, and continuing economic

12 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

3.3 Current approaches to policy, planning and management: what’s working and what’s not To identify areas for improvement, the effectiveness of current approaches to protection and management of ecological processes in Victoria was investigated. Documentary evidence about the effectiveness of current approaches is severely limited. While there are numerous assessments of individual projects, there is very little independent public evidence about the effectiveness of conservation programs and policies. The Victorian National Parks Association’s nature conservation reviews (Frankenburg 1971, Traill and Porter 2001), and the Victorian Catchment Management Council’s (VCMC’s) catchment condition reports (1997, 2002, 2007) stand out as notable exceptions. Within this context, the VCMC’s benchmark assessment is revealing: “Our natural resources are under pressure and, in many cases, will not be passed on to the next generation in good condition. …under current resourcing and management paradigms our efforts to protect and sustainably manage natural capital are not


keeping pace with the breadth of degradation symptoms depreciating the natural capital base” (VCMC 2002, p vi). Not only is Victoria’s environment not in good shape, it is apparent that overall, current approaches and levels of resourcing are inadequate. To extend the limited documentary evidence about what is working and what is not, the views of a range of relevant individuals were sought during interviews and as part of a facilitated workshop. These fora provided scientists, natural resource planners and managers, and policy analysts with the opportunity to make their observations on current approaches to the protection and management of ecological processes in Victoria. Overall, there were many more negative than positive assessments.

Strengths Some respondents suggested that the ecological processes on public land are in better shape than they are on private land. This is reflected by views such as: 8 “Ecological processes are OK on a lot

of public land – by default because we haven’t interfered. There are no examples of managing ecological processes well by design.”

Other areas that attracted positive comments were aspects of the legal and institutional frameworks, where comments were made that Victoria is doing reasonably well: 8 “The catchment management model

seems to be fundamentally right.”

8 “Integrated coastal zone management

policy (the Coastal Strategy) and structures are in place.”

8 “Victoria has done a good job at

conserving what is left, with…laws against broadscale clearing, and offsets if clearing cannot be avoided.”

Positive comments were also made about the general awareness of environmental issues, and the willingness of key sector participants to contribute to biodiversity conservation and environmental management: 8 “There is broader environmental

awareness – Landcare, Greening Australia,

Trust for Nature, etc have all helped.” 8 “Farmers want to work to reverse the

biodiversity crisis – when programs are in place, community response is overwhelming. Some farmers are experimenting with restoring native habitat and setting aside large tracts of native vegetation.”

However, many more comments were made that indicate areas where Victoria’s approach is lacking, at both the general level and in specific areas. These comments fell into a number of themes, as illustrated by the examples below.

General weaknesses and limitations Narrow mindsets and inappropriate paradigms Many responses highlighted that the mindset or paradigm that informs approaches to biodiversity are dated and narrow. For example: 8 “We tend to view biodiversity as sets

of static assets – but it is really very dynamic.”

8 “The lack of a whole of landscape

approach is a big issue.”

8 “Not many active policies address

ecological processes – it needs a shift in mindset to deal with them.”

8 “The scale of the solutions doesn’t match

the scale of the problems.”

Lack of statewide policy and policy failures The lack of effective statewide policy was viewed as a clear weakness in Victoria’s approach: 8 “State direction is lacking; things

are left to the regional level. There is no overarching strategy. Politicians appeal to people’s hip pockets instead of having a vision for a sustainable natural environment.”

8 “There is a lack of implementation

of policy at all levels of government. Planning is becoming a displacement behaviour, an excuse not to do something. It is not useful unless it is linked to substantial investment. We have glorious blueprints with no money behind them.”

8 “Decisions are being made in terms of

Ecological processes in Victoria 13 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 3 short-tem political imperatives. Shorttermism is a problem for managing ecological processes, which need 15-20 years. The short-termism of management is a problem.” 8 “A lot is expected to be voluntary, but this

won’t do the job of restoring ecological processes.”

8 “A lot of valuable areas for conservation

or restoration are on private land, but the authorities run away from action there.”

Inadequate resourcing The inadequacy of resourcing was a common theme in the responses provided: 8 “Current budgets are an order of

magnitude too small. Victoria can afford it if it wants to – if it sees it as an investment.”

8 “There is limited investment in natural

resource management and connectivity conservation across the landscape. It’s no good getting more tax cuts when we need to invest in our future – the maintenance of natural infrastructure.”

Lack of community understanding and awareness Some respondents considered that the level of community awareness and involvement is inadequate. Comments included: 8 “The community is not aware of how they

depend on ecosystems.”

8 “Ecosystem-based management? People

don’t know what ecosystems are, including most land managers. Almost no-one knows what ecological processes mean.”

8 “Environmental education has dropped

off. Kids have spent their whole life in cities and think a good time is a shopping mall.”

Disconnect between science and on-ground action Comments were also made about the disconnect between developments in scientific knowledge

14 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

and its uptake in policy and practice: 8 “There is a lot of good expertise and

scientific thinking in Australia. We have some of the best science in the world. A lot of Australian scientists’ work has global impact, and they are working internationally. What we don’t do well is the application/translation of science to on-ground outcomes.”

Lack of accountability and monitoring 8 “There is a lack of accountability for environmental policy generally – targets and policy objectives are expressed in such a way that you can’t hold anyone accountable.” 8 “ Very little monitoring is done anywhere.

Some of the best is done by amateurs. The government needs a monitoring system that works, in conjunction with researchers, and the public.”

8 “ We still don’t know very much about

what is happening to threatened species and vegetation condition.”

Specific weaknesses and limitations In addition to the above general weaknesses and limitations, many respondents also provided insights into specific areas they thought were lacking. 8 “Ecological processes cross over all

tenures, but agencies have been set up for one type of tenure.”

8 “There is a false dichotomy between

aquatic and terrestrial systems – they are linked closely but we don’t manage them that way. For example, we build on floodplains, so stop flooding.”

8 “There are draft (Parks Victoria)

management plans for Ramsar wetlands with no mention of water.”

8 “There are interesting things happening

with private land management. Many owners are committed to doing things differently but don’t necessarily know what to do.“

8 “We are managing our ecological

processes pretty badly. We are not very


St Francis Xavier Primary School in Ballarat runs an extraordinary environmental education program called Harmony Dreaming, Photo: courtesy Anna Schlooz which teaches students about the importance of healthy biodiversity.

cognisant of maintaining ecological processes at all. Cropping and grazing farming systems basically work against natural ecological processes. They are propped up with high levels of inputs, and use pesticides and herbicides to control weeds and animal pests, not native habitat-associated pest management systems.” 8 “It will require a fundamental rethink of

the way our production landscapes are managed. We will need to give over more of the landscape to ecological services, or the production systems will collapse because the landscape is completely out of balance hydrologically, and in other ways.” 8 “The current reserve system may be

inadequate for one of its key purposes: long-term conservation of biodiversity assets and ecological processes.” 8 “Fire regimes in public forests are reducing

biodiversity; they are driven by asset protection and safety considerations, more

ecological input is required.” 8 “Ecological processes are not being

managed in the marine environment. Marine national parks are oases, but probably not being managed at present, not even basic surveillance. Catchment based impacts are not managed for the receiving waters. Individual fisheries are managed, but not cumulative impacts.”

8 “Threatened species plans have failed

because they didn’t fix the underlying landscape-scale processes, which are in very poor shape.“

8 “Assets-based approaches have been

taken for too long at the expense of the systems. Ecosystems are on a knife edge – the next shock could knock out some elements. The assets-based approach to rivers is worrying. It means that we provide as little water as possible to sustain the assets, so drought pushes it all over.”

8 “In our CMAs we are spending enormous

Ecological processes in Victoria 15 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 3

Habitat restoration projects in regional Victoria are proving that it is possible to bring back declining populations of the Photo: Dean Ingwersen Grey-Crowned Babbler, which once common throughout the state is now listed as a threatened species.

amounts to fence 10m either side of the river, but we should be setting aside hundreds of metres along major rivers. We need to think at this scale and undertake bold landscape-scale projects.” The lesson that emerges from the above assessments is that policy, planning and management for ecological processes in Victoria are not as effective as they need to be. This resonates with Dovers’ characterisation of environmental policy making in Australia as suffering from policy ad hocery and amnesia, unco-ordinated efforts and a lack of accumulated understanding and capacity (Dovers 2005, p.v).

3.4 The nature of the challenge To summarise the findings so far, the limited data available indicate that Victoria’s ecological processes across most of the state are generally in poor and declining condition. Broadly, ecological processes in the largely-intact landscapes and seascapes are very likely to be in better shape than those of altered environments. Climate change is likely to have severe impacts on processes, both directly (declining rainfall, increasing temperatures) and indirectly as

16 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

changes occur in land and resource use, and in threatening processes in response to climate change. As one interviewee put it, “Ecological collapse is possible”. The ‘assets-based’ approach, which focuses on species and sites, is the predominant approach to environmental conservation in Victoria. This approach has achieved much, and is an essential major component of future management strategies. We need to continue to target threatened species and ecosystems, and to manage sites for nature conservation. However, the evidence of substantial ongoing decline in biodiversity and ecosystem health in Victoria points to a need for something more. Recent developments in conservation ecology indicate that attention and investment should also be directed to the protection, rehabilitation and restoration of ecological processes. Even when the focus is on a threatened species, it is necessary to consider the ecological processes that sustain the species, as part of conservation efforts. Nevertheless, a focus on ecological processes does not automatically protect individual species and places, and both ‘assets’ and ‘process-oriented’ approaches are needed. The workshop for this project in December 2007 produced the following synthesis describing


the nature of the challenge faced: quick fixes won’t work: the problems are complex, and the solutions are not necessarily simple;

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a clear, long-term vision is needed: what we want to achieve; how we will get there, and how we can track progress;

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a shift in mindset is required to incorporate ecological processes;

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integration is needed: planning across the whole landscape (public and private land); across marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments; and governments, environmental non-government organisations, private sector and scientists working together;

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instruments of policy, as well as their settings are changed, although overall goals remain the same (moderate change), and third order policy change – where there is change across all three components of policy: instruments, settings, and the hierarchy of goals behind the policy.

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Based on the available evidence assembled in this report, third order policy change in Victoria would offer the best prospects over the long term for sustaining the ecological processes that underpin biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. The following chapter provides some insights into what this type of change may involve.

community awareness of, and political engagement with, the issues is low; ecological literacy is poor;

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conflicting expectations must be managed relating to biodiversity and use of the landscape;

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drivers for improved biodiversity outcomes need to be strengthened and perverse incentives removed;

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we have good science and planning capabilities, and in many cases solutions are known; but

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implementation requires political and community will and appropriate investment that matches the scale of need.

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In policy terms, what this means is that policy responses that treat biodiversity as a microlevel problem (able to be resolved on a projectby-project basis through existing institutional arrangements and policy processes) will be ineffective over the long term, because they do not consider the broader context within which biodiversity loss occurs (Dovers 1995). Being clear about the nature of the problem at stake is useful for identifying what type of policy change may be required. Hall (1993) proposes three distinct levels of policy learning or change: first order policy change – where all that is required is a change in the settings of the existing policy instruments in light of experience and new knowledge (minor change);

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second order policy change – where the

Ecological processes in Victoria 17 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


A framework for incorporating ecological processes into policy, planning and management chapter 4

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his chapter proposes guidelines for incorporating the consideration of ecological processes into planning, decision-making, organising and regulating activities, and managing natural resources and the environment. First, vision building that recognises ecological processes, with associated goals and targets, is presented as an important component of this approach. A number of principles are then proposed to guide policy making. This is followed by a set of generic criteria for assessing the degree to which ecological processes have been included in policy making. This focus on ecological processes does not replace existing approaches to nature conservation; rather it builds on and complements them. Neither should it divert resources away from existing programs. The protected area network should continue to expand to adequately cover all ecosystems and have adequate funds for its ecological management, and serious efforts should be made to retain all of Victoria’s native species. Achieving these depends on adequate funding being provided. Addressing the issues facing ecological processes will require a substantial additional investment, from the public and private sectors.

4.1 Vision, goals and targets Victoria’s ecological future is being created now, by default if not by design. Deliberately work towards a desired future state for Victoria’s biodiversity, a shared vision needs to be established that describes this desired state, together with a plan to achieve it, and measurable targets to be met along the way. The vision (and associated goals and targets) should explicitly recognise ecological processes, seeking to sustain them and enhance or restore their functionality in the face of identified threats. A restoration vision should include reinvigorating or repairing ecological processes as well as ecosystem components such as threatened species. Having a clear vision and targets establishes and clarifies expectations and provides a sense of direction within which action can be undertaken. Vision-building and strategic planning can be used to guide development and set limits, instead of allowing continued incremental changes that

18 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

degrade ecological processes and ‘too little too late’ reactive management responses. Scenario planning is a useful technique for systematically thinking about complex and uncertain futures. The scenarios generated can be used to assess existing conservation policies, and develop more resilient policy. “A strong focus on ecological processes during scenario development will emphasise the dynamism and inter-connectedness of ecosystems, and the wider implications of potential future changes.” (Bennett et al., in prep.) Backcasting is a technique where a desired end point is visualised, then a pathway to that end point is worked out retrospectively. It contrasts with forecasting, which is used to predict the future based on existing trends (however these trends are often part of the problem, as is the case with many issues relating to ecological processes). For Manning et al. (2006, p490) “The use of backcasting and scenario planning to generate stretch goals with the community offers great promise for overcoming community concerns about ambitious restoration projects. This in turn can allay fears of decision makers and policy makers about pursuing large-scale, longterm projects.” Related to backcasting is the concept of transition management, which has been proposed as a means of achieving a gradual yet fundamental structural change of a complex subsystem towards sustainability (Rotmans et al., 2001). Transitions involve technological, economic, ecological, socio-cultural and institutional development at various scales that all influence and reinforce each other, over a time span of at least one generation. Transition planning provides a structured means for achieving structural change without the need for sudden disruption. As part of the vision-building process, ambitious long-term, interim and short-term goals and targets must be identified to inspire and drive the creativity and innovation to achieve outcomes that currently seem impossible. For example, Sweden’s aim to achieve sustainability within a single generation, and articulate in legislation corresponding environmental objectives and interim targets, offers a promising approach (Australian Conservation Foundation 2006; Coffey and Major 2005). It offers the potential for full


The protected area network should continue to expand to adequately cover all ecosystems and have adequate funds for its ecological management, and serious efforts should be made to retain all of Victoria’s native species.

The Razor-Viking Wilderness provides a stunning backdrop to the Devil’s Staircase in Victoria’s Alpine National Park.

consideration of ecological processes in future policy and planning. Long-term goals should reflect the desired state of natural assets and processes (e.g. viable populations of native species of flora and fauna). Shorter-term interim targets would refer to steps towards the longer term goals. For example, the Victorian Catchment Management Council (2002) proposed that by 2020, there will be 40 per cent coverage of native vegetation across Victoria’s mosaic2 landscape. Trust for Nature aims to work with landholders for the protection of one million hectares of private land by 2020 (Trust for Nature 2007). It is important that targets and associated indicators be scientifically informed (e.g. work by Radford et al. (2004) on woodland birds and the effects of different levels of native vegetation loss; and the approach of the IPCC to determining greenhouse gas reduction targets). The specific actions required to deliver goals and targets will include some directed at natural assets, and others directed at ecological processes. As an example of the latter, the Murray Darling Basin Commission’s Native Fish Strategy (2004) has the goal of rehabilitating native fish communities in the Basin back to 60 per cent of their estimated pre-European settlement levels

The ‘mosaic’ of land uses would include intensive agriculture, as well as land used for farming ecosystem services, supporting rural lifestyles and nature conservation.

2

Photo: Alison Hetherington

after 50 years of implementation. The Strategy identifies a number of actions that relate to ecological processes, including provision of environmental flows and rehabilitating and protecting the natural functioning of wetlands and floodplain habitats. Another example is the recent Victorian Environmental Assessment Council recommendations (2008) that map required flood frequency to maintain floodplain vegetation communities as well as threatened species in the River Red Gum study area. Setting and working towards long term visions, goals and targets requires a long term commitment, and therefore, such approaches need to be institutionalised in legislation, to ensure that governments, businesses, communities, and individuals do not lose sight of them. Such visions, goals and targets are a necessary element of an outcome-oriented approach to policy (Adams 2002, p95).

4.2 Principles The following statements of principle are suggested as guides to policy-making relating to ecological processes. l

Protection and reinstatement of ecological

Ecological processes in Victoria 19 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 4 processes must be given a high priority in public policy-making, planning and management. Integration: Consideration of environmental objectives, and the condition of ecological processes required to deliver those objectives, should be integrated into all decisions and actions with implications for the environment and natural resources. Legislation, policy, governance, investment and delivery relating to ecological processes should be aligned.

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Drivers of decline (causes of degradation/ destruction of ecological processes) should be tackled, as well as symptoms or effects.

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A sustained effort over the long term is required to sustain ecological processes.

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Management action should be based on sound science, and/or include active engagement between management and research to develop a scientific basis for action.

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Precautionary: Where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.

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Priority should be given to protecting and enhancing ecological processes and ecosystems in relatively good condition, over restoration.

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The full range of reasons for environmental protection, from the utilitarian to the ecocentric, should be recognised in policy development.

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4.3 Assessing how well ecological processes are considered in policy making Policy oriented criteria can be used to provide an indicative assessment of how well ecological processes have been considered in policy and planning efforts. Suitable criteria are provided by Crowley and Coffey (2007), who compared the potential of two state policy frameworks to progress environmental sustainability, focusing on integration; institutional reform and institutionalisation; information and interactivity.

Integration Lafferty and Hovden (2002, p1) emphasise the

20 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

importance of environmental policy integration: “One of the key defining features of ‘sustainable development’ is the emphasis on the integration of environmental objectives into non-environmental policy sectors. This entails a fundamental recognition that the environmental sector alone [i.e. environmental agencies] will not be able to secure environmental objectives, and that other sectors must therefore take on board environmental policy objectives if these are to be achieved.” (p.1) Two different forms of integration are typically identified: Horizontal (or inter-sectoral) integration pursues a co-ordinated and coherent strategy across different sectors (e.g. whole of government approaches).

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Vertical (or intra-sectoral) integration focuses on the integrated management of a single natural resource (legislation, policy, governance, investment and delivery aligned) (adapted from Carter 2001).

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What this means for ecological processes, is that there needs to be adequate consideration of them in other (non-environmental) areas of policy, planning and management. For example, the ecological processes occurring on private land used for agriculture will not be sustained if agricultural policies, plans and practices do not give them adequate consideration. Similarly, the consideration of ecological processes must be integrated into fisheries and coastal planning policies.

Institutional reform Victoria’s capacity to effectively plan for and sustain the ecological processes that underpin biodiversity is directly influenced by the institutions and organisational arrangements that operate within the state3. Given the limited exposure and understanding of the concept of ecological processes, it is not surprising that their importance has not been recognised in the design and operation of the many relevant institutions and organisations. According to Dovers (2001, p3), “Without institutional change little will be achieved or, if positive changes are attempted, they are unlikely to persist. Change in human societies 3

Where institutions are defined as the “customs, laws, underlying rules and persistent organisations that shape our individual and collective behaviour” (Dovers 2001, p3).


Consideration of environmental objectives, and the condition of ecological processes required to deliver those objectives, should be integrated into all decisions and actions with implications for the environment and natural resources.

An old River Red Gum on the Murray River at Ned’s Corner, northwest Victoria.

Photo: Paul Sinclair

occurs within, is carried through, and affects institutions.” Efforts to sustain biodiversity and ecological processes will not be successful unless institutional arrangements are appropriate and have the necessary charters, capacities and organisational cultures. While institutional change takes time, it can be progressed in incremental yet systematic ways.

It is also important to ensure that responses are informing, with this informing role operating at a range of scales. For example, are communication programs being undertaken to improve ecological literacy (of policy makers and the wider community) and is knowledge and management expertise about ecological processes shared between practitioners?

Another aspect of institutional reform, or institutionalising the inclusion of ecological processes, is the degree to which consideration of ecological processes becomes mandatory. The establishment of legislated visions, targets, and goals provides a means for ensuring that ecological processes are considered, as do requirements for periodic reviews of progress. Such approaches help to ensure that a long term commitment is maintained.

Interactive

Informed and informing approaches Policies, plans and practices need to be informed by the best available scientific evidence, while also being cognisant of the limitations of existing knowledge about ecological processes. In recognition of the limited state of knowledge, another way for assessing the effectiveness of policy responses is to consider the extent of commitments to generating, synthesising, and sharing knowledge about ecological processes, their status and importance, and what needs to be done to sustain them.

The very nature of ecological processes means that co-operation and collaboration is required for them to be sustained. This means that ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ approaches are unlikely to be effective for policy development and implementation. Instead, efforts with respect to ecological processes should be interactive. For example, to what extent are central agencies brought into dialogue about ecological processes? To what extent are scientists, non-government organisations, and the wider community embraced as partners in developing and implementing policies for sustaining ecological processes?

Ecological processes in Victoria 21 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Action agenda chapter 5

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he recommendations for action in this chapter have been identified and developed from interviews, review of the literature, contributions from the Project Advisory Group and Steering Committee discussions. The recommended actions are considered to be high priorities in Victoria for the protection, reinvigoration and repair of ecological processes and the species that depend on them. The recommendations are grouped under eight broad themes: maintaining ecological processes in relatively intact ecosystems;

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landscape restoration and connectivity conservation;

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climate change: threat and opportunity for ecological processes;

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sustainable rural land: commodity production in multifunctional landscapes;

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gaining and sharing knowledge for adaptive management;

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vision building, target setting and strategic planning;

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public institutions, policy and legislation;

increasing the profile of ecological processes and improving ecological literacy.

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Each theme has an introductory section, several strategic directions, and a number of component projects that are recommendations for action. A table lists priority actions for specific ecological processes in section 5.9.

General strategic directions Use systems thinking to tackle the complex and inter-related issues associated with ecological processes.

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Substantially increase the investment of funds and effort in protection, enhancement and restoration of ecological processes.

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jurisdictions, public and private land.

5.1 Maintaining and enhancing ecological processes in relatively-intact ecosystems The relatively intact environments of Victoria include national parks and public and private conservation reserves, old growth forests, rivers and streams in good condition, and offshore waters. They can be expected to have a suite of natural ecological processes functioning in better condition than the modified environments such as urban and intensive agricultural landscapes that make up a large proportion of the state. Ecological condition and land system productivity provide important modelling surrogates of ecological processes. However, ecological processes in relatively intact areas are subject to a variety of threats and human-caused disturbances such as altered fire and flow regimes, invasive species, and harvesting of natural resources. If these environments are to continue functioning as dynamic ecosystems that provide ecosystem services, species habitat for species survival, recreational, tourism and aesthetic values, reference areas and gene pools for restoration and evolution, then the ecological processes need to be better understood as a basis for deliberate protection and management of anthropogenic impacts. Bennett et al. (in prep.) highlight natural disturbance regimes, interactions between species and the movements of biota as key processes to be maintained or promoted in relatively-intact ecosystems. Protection of functioning natural ecosystems is far preferable to attempts at restoration, on both ecological and economic grounds.

Strategic directions As a high priority, protect areas that have relatively intact ecosystems and ecological processes, and manage them primarily for nature conservation and carbon storage.

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In threatened species and communities management, include protection/restoration of ecological processes that sustain the species and communities.

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Protect and restore ecological processes across boundaries between ecosystems, landfreshwater-coastal-marine environments, tenures,

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22 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

As a priority, incorporate areas of high land system productivity into the protected area network.


Minimise the introduction and spread of nonnative species, because non-native species often have negative effects on native species and the structure and functioning of ecological systems.

and autumn fuel reduction burns.

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Maintain or restore natural disturbance regimes, particularly flooding and fire.

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Component projects CAR reserve system: Completion of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system, covering terrestrial, freshwater and marine communities, by 2015. For example, increase the number, extent and connections between marine protected areas in Victoria to meet the international target of 20-30 per cent by 2012 (to which Australia is a signatory); increase the reservation of grasslands and red gum communities. Review CAR reserve design criteria to incorporate ecological process considerations such as primary productivity.

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Ecologically appropriate fire regimes: Fire management currently targets the protection of property, plantations and other human assets, and human safety. Ecologically appropriate fire regimes are a vital factor in maintaining biodiversity in native vegetation. Ecological burning should underpin fire management practices. For example, fire regimes should relate to the time for all plants to reach maturity and set seed before burning again, and to the specific requirements of fauna. Undertake applied research, trials and monitoring to establish the burning patterns that sustain ecological processes in Victorian vegetation communities; ecological monitoring of current burning programs and impacts of enlarged firebreaks.

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Ecological burning research: Conduct research into:

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8 the fire regime (including frequency, season, size, intensity and patch spatial arrangement in the landscape) required to sustain viable fauna populations in each major Victorian vegetation community; 8 fire regimes applied by Aboriginal people; 8 the role of fire in less fire-prone communities such as River Red Gum and boxironbark forests; 8 the ecological costs and benefits of spring

Delivery of environmental flows: Reduce the volumes of water extracted from the MurrayDarling Basin and other stressed river systems through buyback of water use entitlements, and actually deliver environmental flows that have already been identified, and in many cases committed, to rivers, wetlands and estuaries. Environmental flows should incorporate the risk of future flow reductions under climate change scenarios.

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Environmental weeds: Increase weed management and control efforts targeted at pest plants that invade native vegetation, with a focus on conservation reserves and other natural areas where ecological processes are relatively intact.

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Preventing new invasive species: Establish tighter controls to prevent the introduction of new invasive flora and fauna to Australia. Establish ‘emergency response’ invasives teams to quickly tackle new outbreaks of invasive species before they become established.

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Fox control: Fox control programs on public land such as Southern Ark (East Gippsland) and Glenelg Ark should be adequately resourced on an ongoing basis and expanded strategically to other parts of Victoria with large intact areas of remnant vegetation and known grounddwelling native mammal and other vulnerable native fauna (such as Brolga) populations; for example, Grampians Ark, Box-ironbark Ark, Victorian Wetlands Ark. This will aid in the recovery of native predator populations as well as native mammals that play important roles in ecological processes such as dispersal of seeds and fungal spores. In these areas, regular districtwide fox baiting programs involving private landholders should be promoted and facilitated to complement public land programs.

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Cat control: Identify areas where eradication of feral cats is feasible (e.g. French Island) and undertake cat eradication in conjunction with rat control, prior to re-introduction of indigenous mammals. Continue applied research into techniques for cat control, including studies of interactions between dingoes and cats. Introduce or maintain bans or curfews on pet cats in residential areas near high conservation value vegetation.

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Ecological processes in Victoria 23 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 5 Return of native predators: Investigate the feasibility, risks and likely ecological benefits and costs of returning native predators to relativelyintact and remote areas of Victoria.

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Plant and animal pathogens: Maintain surveillance and monitoring networks for existing and potential plant and animal pathogens such as Phytophthera cinnamomi, to provide information on the location and need for control programs.

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See also recommendations for natural flooding regimes and other projects in 5.2.

5.2 Landscape restoration and connectivity conservation Two thirds of Victoria has been largely cleared and modified for settlement, agriculture and wood production, creating a fragmented landscape with disrupted ecological processes. Many of the preferentially-cleared ecosystems are underrepresented in reserves and are now threatened. Landscape repair involves not only replacing components such as trees and animal species; ecological processes that sustain the system must also be reinvigorated or reinstated to achieve ecologically-functional landscapes that are viable into the foreseeable future. Such restoration builds on natural remnants such as paddock trees and road reserves by encouraging regeneration around them. Riparian zones along waterways are naturally productive systems that are a priority for rehabilitation. Connectivity can be considered as the maintenance or restoration of key large-scale ecological phenomena, flows and processes critical to the long-term conservation of biodiversity (Mackey 2007). Connectivity is required at multiple scales, and depending on the species can include contiguous habitat, stepping stones, resting points, networks of habitat patches, and refugia. Connectivity conservation refers to large-scale programs to buffer and link core protected areas (parks and other public and private conservation reserves) across a complementary mosaic of lands and seas that native animals and plants, as well as people, can live in and move through. The WildCountry Science Council (Soule et al. 2004) has identified

24 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

seven extensive ecological processes that are critical to the maintenance of biological diversity and ecological resilience in Australia; all these processes require connectivity at landscape, regional and continental scales to function effectively. Connectivity conservation can assist in managing significant threats including climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, the spread of feral pests and pathogens, and changed fire regimes (Worboys et al. in press.) Large-scale restoration and connectivity projects have many social and economic benefits, providing a ‘big picture’ vision to which individual landholders and local groups, NGOs, corporations and government agencies contribute, creating regional employment and skills development in ecological restoration, enhancing tourist routes and attracting investment. This type of approach, aimed at strategic, landscape-scale projects requiring multi-agency, landholder and organisational partnerships and support from government, corporate and philanthropic sources, is in line with the priorities of the new Commonwealth ‘Caring for Our Country’ program. Major connectivity projects underway in Australia include GondwanaLink in WA, Alps to Atherton (mainly NSW-Qld, extending into Victoria), Kosciuszko to Coast (NSW) and Naturelinks (SA). The three-state Habitat 141 project from Broken Hill south to the sea (Victoria, NSW, SA) is Victoria’s first such project. Other smaller-scale, community-based projects are successfully under way. It is time to embark on a major effort for connectivity conservation across Victoria.

Strategic directions Enhance ecological integrity and connectivity, building on relatively intact areas. l

Harness and support the natural regenerative capacity of ecosystems in repair and restoration projects.

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Component projects A strategic plan for connectivity conservation to assess and prioritise potential linkages across Victoria and into NSW and SA, based on core conservation reserves, other relatively intact environments, waterway corridors and movement

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Habitat 141 l

Murray-Sunset National Park

Victoria’s own outback, the Murray-Sunset National Park, protects a wide range of dry-country flora and fauna. Photo: Murray-Sunset dune, by David Neilsen

Mildura

Little Desert National Park

Focus of Victoria’s first major conservation campaign, the park has mallee, heathland and abundant wildlife. Photo: Buloke Mistletoe, by Steffen Schultz

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Grampians National Park

Horsham

A botanical wonderland and rich in fauna, GrampiansGariwerd is of great significance for Indigenous people. Photo: Wedge-tailed Eagle, by Steffen Schultz

l Wyperfeld National Park

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Hamilton Lower Glenelg and Cobboboonee national parks

Portland

The stringybark woodlands, heathlands and river landscapes of Lower Glenelg are complemented by the forests of Cobboboonee, Victoria’s newest national park.

There are about 520 plant species native to Wyperfeld National Park.

Habitat 141 – Connecting the Outback to the Ocean Stretching more than 500km from the NSW outback down through Victoria’s Murray-Sunset National Park and all the way south to the coast, Habitat 141 – Connecting the Outback to the Ocean, is the largest environmental restoration project ever attempted in Victoria.

The key aim is to reconnect the heathlands and mallee bushlands of the Murray-Sunset, Big Desert, Wyperfeld and Little Desert parks, the threatened Buloke Grassy Woodlands, red gum country, wetlands and limestone coastal plains of Portland.

pathways for organisms along longitudinal and altitudinal gradients4. The plan should include actions, implementation mechanisms and responsibilities, sources of funding, restoration targets and timelines, and monitoring requirements. Guidelines for connectivity projects: Preparation of a set of ecological and community development principles and guidelines for connectivity projects, applicable at a range of scales from local to continental.

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Habitat 141: Additional resources to scale up implementation of the current project, which involves local and national non-government

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Movement in response to climate change will generally need to be southwards or to higher elevations in Victoria.

4

The project will not only attempt to restore natural connections between national parks and other areas of native vegetation but will also tackle pest and weed pressures and restore the health of ecosystems to help species cope with climate change.

organisations, catchment management authorities, government agencies, local government and others. Network of connectivity projects: A network of community-based, long-term ecological restoration projects that link protected areas and patches of native vegetation, harness natural regeneration capacity, reestablish ecological processes such as nutrient cycling and biomass decay by soil biota, regenerate understorey flora as well as trees, and develop structural diversity. Aim for 30 per cent or more of each subcatchment to be covered in native vegetation.

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Ecological processes in Victoria 25 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 5 Protection, enhancement and restoration of native vegetation: Native vegetation is fundamental to many ecological processes, including soil-plant interactions, hydroecology, and movements of organisms, as well as formation of habitats. Ensure that adequate expertise, information and enforcement resources are available to rigorously implement the Victorian Native Vegetation Management Framework, particularly the first priority to avoid removal of native vegetation.

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Portfolio approach to conservation on private land: Active management is required to enhance vegetation condition and sustain or reinvigorate ecological processes in many patches of native vegetation, for example through reduction of grazing pressure, weed control, and appropriate ecological burning. Provide more support for native vegetation management and habitat protection on private land, using a portfolio of approaches. Significantly increase the resources available for acquisition of sites with highly significant habitats to become conservation reserves, and expand the revolving funds for purchase, covenant and resale. Provide financial assistance, technical advice, market-based instruments etc for landowners to retain and improve the condition of native vegetation, streams and wetlands, including a commitment of resources provided in perpetuity to landholders for sites of highest priority conservation value that are given protective covenants.

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Riparian zone restoration: The high rates of primary productivity in riparian zones make them sites of high species diversity, as well as very important movement corridors and refugia. They are therefore a high priority for protection and restoration. A major expansion in stream frontage fencing and revegetation is required, along waterways adjacent to private land. Off-stream water points for livestock should be provided as necessary. The revegetated corridors should be wide enough to maintain relevant ecological processes such as dispersal and migration of native fauna. An adaptive management approach should be adopted to maximise effectiveness and efficiency of ecological restoration in riparian zones. Riparian corridors should be seen as key structural components of connectivity conservation projects.

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26 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

Conversion of marginal farmland within identified links to multi-purpose biodiverse perennial vegetation (see also 5.4 Sustainable rural land).

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Parkway Victoria: large-scale revegetation along roads linking the major parks, MelbourneGeelong-Otways-Grampians-Ballarat-BendigoShepparton-Benalla-Alpine Way-Gippsland LakesWilsons Promontory-Phillip Island-Melbourne. This has a tourism focus as well as connectivity conservation, as it will make the travel routes more attractive to visitors and hence benefit regional economies. The Hume road/rail corridor is also a candidate for this sort of project.

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A Green Web for Victoria: The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council is currently investigating remnant native vegetation on Crown land and public authority land outside largely-intact landscapes across Victoria to identify opportunities for management to achieve improved ecological connectivity. There should be a rapid State Government response to adopt and implement the final recommendations of the investigation. Complementary actions on adjoining private land should be strongly supported.

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Linking marine and terrestrial reserves: Ensure that the network of Marine Protected Areas is integrated with the terrestrial and estuarine protected area network, taking advantage of the public coastal foreshore reservations and Crown frontages to provide physical connections between the larger protected areas. Provide more connectivity in coastal environments to enable ecological communities to move inland in the face of sea level rise.

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Natural flooding regimes: Severe reductions in natural flooding frequencies have occurred on Victoria’s regulated rivers. This has affected waterway morphology, nutrient availability, in-stream and floodplain habitats and riparian plant and animal communities. Where possible, the restoration of flood events should be incorporated into delivery of environmental flows, with consideration of magnitude, duration and timing to provide maximum ecological benefit. New development and infrastructure on floodplains should be minimised, as they would inhibit environmental flooding.

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Natural regeneration: Identify and promote suitable opportunities to encourage natural regeneration of indigenous species on degraded and cleared land, through exclusion of grazing by livestock, judicious ecological burning, weed control and topsoil scalping, and management of macropod populations. There is a ‘window of opportunity’ in some land systems where agricultural disturbance has been minimal and native seed banks remain viable. Restoration through natural regeneration in such landscapes is a cost-effective option, but with a limited shelf-life as seed banks age and diminish over time.

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Retention of woody debris, rocks and litter: Fallen logs, branches, bark and leaves provide nutrients and shelter to sustain various terrestrial and instream ecological processes in forests and woodlands. Firewood collection, ‘cleaning up’ of debris and frequent fuel reduction burning keep removing woody debris and litter, particularly on roadsides and in forests near population centres. This also applies to the removal of rocks in areas with basalt, granitic and other soils. These practices need to be carefully controlled to reduce impacts on ecological processes and biodiversity. Re-instatement of rocks and logs by landholders should also be encouraged.

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Barriers: Remove, or assist movement of target species across constructed barriers such as dams, weirs and major roads by use of fauna tunnels, fish ladders and similar devices.

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Aquatic-terrestrial links: Maintain or reestablish longitudinal, lateral and vertical pathways between landscapes and waterscapes, to allow water, nutrients, sediments, biota and energy to move from catchments to streams, from rivers to floodplains and back, as well as from rivers to the sea.

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Urban habitat networks: Re-establish a network of continuous habitat for fauna across Melbourne and other urban areas, using river and creek valleys as the main branches of the network. Many volunteer groups and management committees have been undertaking this for over twenty years, constrained by limited resources. Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and local government should be encouraged to assist and accelerate this work. While significant in themselves, these activities are also a key to increasing the understanding of ecological

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processes and ecological literacy among urban residents. Water quality in estuaries and bays: Improve the management of catchments and point sources to reduce inputs of nutrients and other pollutants to estuaries and embayments along the coast.

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See also recommendations for delivery of environmental flows (5.1), ecologically appropriate fire regimes (5.1), Crown land stream frontages (5.7), environmental weeds (5.1), fox and cat control (5.1), plant pathogens (5.1).

5.3 Climate change: threat and opportunity for ecological processes Climate change modelling indicates a warming, drying climate in Victoria. This will have major impacts on ecological processes including increased fire frequency and extent, lower water flows, altered movements of wildlife and invasive species interactions. Climate change will also exacerbate other threatening processes affecting biodiversity. Australian ecosystems evolved to cope to some degree with climate change. However, in today’s landscapes the fragmentation of ecosystems and additional degrading stresses have impaired ecological processes and reduced resilience. We need to identify and anticipate the impacts of climate change on ecological processes now, planning and acting for mitigation, resilience and assisted adaptation. Any delay in investment will escalate the ecological and financial costs. Of course, mitigation measures are of the utmost urgency, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the levels of these gases in the atmosphere in an effort to avoid catastrophic climate change. Biodiverse native vegetation is more resilient to climate change and disturbance than monoculture plantations, which means their carbon stocks are more secure. Emerging carbon offset schemes present an opportunity for resourcing long-term protection of native vegetation, and ecological restoration on a large scale. This opportunity has to be guided to maximise the outcomes for native biodiversity and enhancement/ restoration of ecological processes, and to avoid

Ecological processes in Victoria 27 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 5 perverse outcomes such as the clearing of native vegetation for plantations.

security of carbon storage in comparison with monoculture plantations.

Strategic directions

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 l Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. Develop strategies for enhancing resilience and ability of key ecological processes to adapt to the likely impacts of climate change.

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Protect and manage native vegetation, wetlands and soils as permanent, biodiverse carbon stores.

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Component projects Climate change mitigation: Focus on reducing emissions and reducing atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases in an effort to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Full carbon accounting: Ensure that carbon accounting incorporates emissions as well as uptake from agriculture, forestry and land use change (unlike Kyoto Protocol accounting, which does not look at emissions from land use activities such as forestry). See also recommendations for revegetation and restoration in 5.2, environmental flows, ecologically appropriate fire regimes and invasive species in 5.1, which will reduce stresses and enhance the resilience and ability of ecosystems to adapt to climate change.

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Climate change impacts and adaptation investigation: Undertake a major investigation into the likely impacts of climate change on key ecological processes and ecosystems in Victoria, and recommended strategies for adaptation, including the reduction of ecosystem and habitat fragmentation.

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Planning for surface water under climate change: Model, predict and proactively plan now for the short to medium-term effects of climate change on surface water flows. Climate change will alter the hydrology of catchments and rivers. It is necessary to start planning for this immediately, to provide for guaranteed secure environmental flows as well as irrigation and urban supplies in the future.

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Protecting native forests as carbon stores: Rapidly phase out the logging of native forests, and manage the forests as very large, effectively permanent stores of carbon.

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Biodiverse carbon sequestration: Utilise funds from carbon offset schemes to increase carbon sequestration by 1) protecting remnant native vegetation from degrading processes such as grazing and encouraging regrowth; and 2) replanting biodiverse native vegetation in strategic locations (both uplands and lowlands) that enhance connectivity and ecological functioning of patches of existing native vegetation. This biodiverse native vegetation will have greater overall resilience and therefore

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28 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

5.4 Sustainable rural land: commodity production in multifunctional landscapes Two major transitions in rural Victoria present opportunities to reinvigorate ecological processes and biodiversity: the conversion of farmland within an hour of the coast or urban centres and along the Hume corridor to ‘lifestyle’ properties, and the likely continuing climate-related and socio-economic pressures on drought-affected regions. Where it is a social and ecological priority to keep existing landholders on the land and maintain rural communities, then industry restructuring should assist the retirement of marginal farmland and conversion to biodiverse perennial vegetation for multi-purposes that provide a financial return, including carbon sequestration, farm forestry and other products, and ecosystem services. Lifestyle landowners who earn their income elsewhere should be assisted to enhance and restore native vegetation and associated ecological processes on their properties. In parts of the state where commercial farming, plantations and other primary industries based on plant growth are going to continue, it is not sufficient to manage solely to maximise production. Deliberate efforts are required to maintain and/or reinvigorate the ecological processes that maintain assets and ecosystem services such as soil health, water supply and


quality, pest control, and native biodiversity. This is essential to the achievement of sustainable farm businesses as well as to human and other life support systems. Multifunctional landscapes could support intensive and extensive agriculture, farm forestry and other commercial products, ecosystem services, nature conservation, rural lifestyles, recreation and tourism.

Strategic directions Manage and adapt land uses to support ecological processes; move towards multifunctional landscapes that sustain native biodiversity and provide ecosystem services as well as producing commercial products.

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Avoid land uses that deplete natural resources over a broad area, because depletion of natural resources disrupts natural processes in ways that are often irreversible over long periods of time.

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Component projects Financing land use adjustment: Redirection of drought relief funding combined with ongoing stewardship payments to assist farmers/ land managers to de-stock to allow natural regeneration, or convert marginal cropland and previously irrigated land to biodiverse perennial native vegetation.

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Supporting amenity land management: Establishment and delivery of a portfolio of measures including property management planning, tax and other financial incentives, regulations, advisory and technical services to assist lifestyle landholders to manage their land in a way that sustains ecological processes.

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Land restoration for ecosystem services: Encouragement of more investment by governments, corporations, the financial services and philanthropic sectors in land restoration projects that will produce revenue from a range of ecosystem services as well as restoring ecological processes.

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Major firewood lot initiative: Promotion and support for the establishment of firewood lots on private land by landholders and on cleared public land by local government to, over time, provide ready sources of firewood and to remove as much as possible the current collection pressure from forests, woodlands and road reserves.

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Native species industries integrated into farmland: As identified in the State Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into the commercialisation of native species, there are many opportunities for the commercialisation of native plant species on farmland. This applies particularly in northern Victoria, where climate change is progressively making the annual cropping-livestock farming systems non-viable. The CRC for Future Farming is helping develop native plant industries, based principally on perennial woody species. Species with potential include Broombush, Oil Mallees, Sandalwood, conventional Eucalypt forestry for sawlog products and firewood, native flowers such as Banksia, Maireana and Thryptomene, bushfoods such as wattle seed, Dillon bush and Muntries. While management of these crops will be sub-optimal for nature conservation and ecological processes, they will provide some habitat, take the pressure off harvesting from the wild, make up major components of large-scale connectivity conservation projects and provide an income stream for these projects, contribute to regional economies and be part of the long-term restructuring of farmland in now very marginal areas.

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Paddock tree succession: Initiate a statewide project to encourage and support rural landholders to supplement senescing and dead paddock trees with natural regeneration and patches of indigenous trees and understorey vegetation.

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See also recommendations for riparian zone restoration and natural regeneration in 5.2, and for Crown land stream frontages in 5.7.

5.5 Gaining and sharing knowledge for adaptive management There is a clear need for more scientific research to improve our understanding of the roles, functioning and condition of ecological processes that sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services. The relatively intact environments are key places for learning about basic processes. At the same time, we need to use the best available science and undertake more applied research for ecological management and restoration. “There is enormous scope for co-operation between

Ecological processes in Victoria 29 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 5 managers and scientists to integrate management actions with monitoring and research, in the form of management ‘experiments’. Manipulative and observational experiments are powerful tools for gaining new insights into process…” (Bennett et al., in prep.). Long-term ecological monitoring programs that systematically record changes through time are essential to understanding the status of ecological processes. Baseline information, followed by monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of management interventions, is also necessary. Regular public reporting of the results is one aspect of sharing knowledge with resource managers to enable adaptive management. Also needed are good, up-to-date information systems that make spatial data and conservation management knowledge readily accessible to planners, landholders and other resource managers.

Strategic directions Undertake significantly more research and monitoring of ecological processes to better understand processes, their condition, and changes through time.

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Use an experimental, adaptive approach to environmental and natural resource management.

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Communicate the results of monitoring and research to other environmental and natural resource managers.

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Component projects Better spatial information: Make readily available on a statewide basis, high quality spatial information tools (such as eFarmer) to support improved environmental management at property, catchment and bioregional scales.

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Institute for Ecological Processes: Establish a centre of excellence/collaborative research hub for ecological restoration and connectivity conservation science in southeastern Australia. This would ensure that Victoria’s efforts to sustain biodiversity and valued ecosystem services are underpinned by world-class science.

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Research: Conduct research into major ecological processes, how ecosystems work, ecological condition and functioning, how to rebuild ecosystems and restore ecological processes.

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30 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

Considered common across much of southeast Australia as recently as the early 1980s the Growling Grass Frog is now a Photo: Michael Williams nationally threatened species.

Science funding: Funding for scientific research needs to broaden in focus and support long-term projects relating to ecological processes, including adaptive management projects and monitoring of trends as well as basic research to increase understanding of processes.

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Evaluation of the ecological outcomes of management interventions including restoration projects, control of invasive species, and prescribed burning programs, with reporting to funding bodies and relevant practitioners/ managers to learn from experience and improve future practice.

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Monitoring network: Establish a long-term ecological monitoring and research network to monitor and report on the condition and trends in ecosystem components and processes. There is a major role for our universities and their students, as well as volunteer field naturalists, to assess the current state of ecological processes throughout Victoria and to provide information to assist management.

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State of Environment reporting: Include indicators relating to key ecological processes in State of the Environment data collection and reporting at local/catchment, state and national scales. Undertake regular reviews by an expert taskforce, and report on the available evidence about the status, threats and drivers of decline, and long-term challenges facing ecological

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processes. Disseminate such information in ways that contribute to creating a broad public awareness about the ecological processes that are relevant to Victoria. Landholder networks for conservation: Encourage networks of adjoining/nearby landholders (including Conservation Management Networks and Land for Wildlife) with a focus on ecological processes in their region, for example connectivity conservation projects and co-ordinated regional mosaic ecological burns in grassy vegetation communities. Provide more resources for communications and regional staff positions to extend the stewardship information services provided to landholder participants and recruit additional participants who are managing habitat on their properties.

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5.6 Vision building, target setting and strategic planning A defined vision and associated targets provide a clear and tangible focus for efforts to sustain biodiversity, as discussed in Section 4.1. Without such a vision and targets, policies, plans and management practices lack direction and a sense of impetus. The articulation of a vision provides a shared sense of purpose to guide future action, as well as highlight the magnitude of the challenges to be addressed. Setting targets provides a clear sense of what is to be achieved, by when, in working to achieve an agreed vision.  Within this context, targets focus attention, provide a means for assessing progress, and provide a sense of shared milestones that have been achieved. Targets should be SMART (Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound) and be comprehensive in coverage (covering all relevant areas) and scale (nested at national, state, regional and local levels). Care needs to be taken in the setting of targets to avoid the risk that the identification of targets narrows the focus of activity onto selected high profile areas, while other important areas are missed. Targets must be science-based. The preparation of strategic plans provides the means for harnessing efforts to achieve the vision

and targets established. The implementation of plans through specific actions and reforms is a necessary part of biodiversity conservation – without the implementation of plans, visions and targets are disconnected from practice. The actions proposed below provide a means for clarifying what needs to be achieved with respect to biodiversity and ecological processes in Victoria, as well as outlining a practical and robust set of targets and review processes to ensure that real progress is being made.

Strategic directions Develop a shared vision or ‘guiding image’ of the sort of landscapes we want to achieve that will deliver secure, protected ecological processes.

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Plan and manage at multiple scales to sustain and repair ecological processes. The scale of operation should be appropriate to the processes. Examine the impacts of local decisions at a larger (e.g. regional) scale and vice versa.

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Take a long term rather than a short term view when taking decisions and actions, including the consideration of delayed impacts and cumulative impacts.

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Engage all stakeholders (including public sector, non-government organisations, landholders, corporations) in vision-building, planning, investment and action for nature conservation.

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Component projects Natural Victoria’s future: A statewide visionbuilding project that draws in diverse participants, is informed by the best available science, and stimulates constructive, creative thinking and dialogue in articulating a desired state for Victoria’s ecological processes and biodiversity in 50 years’ time, along with shorter-term targets to be achieved in moving towards this state. The statewide vision, targets and timelines should be enshrined in Victorian legislation that applies to all agencies of state and local government.

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Systematic target-setting: Establish statewide targets to be achieved in moving towards the desired 50-year vision for Victoria’s biodiversity and ecological processes. Link these to national targets.

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White Paper and Victorian Biodiversity Strategy: Incorporate a comprehensive suite

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Ecological processes in Victoria 31 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 5 of measures to sustain and repair ecological processes in the Victorian Government White Paper on land and biodiversity, and in the renewed Victorian Biodiversity Strategy. Improving sectoral responses: Undertake a review of the impact of various industry sectors and land uses on Victoria’s ecological processes, and then require the development of detailed sectoral response strategies, starting with the agriculture sector. Victoria’s industries (including irrigated and dryland agriculture, forestry, energy, fisheries, urban development and mining) and settlements need to be undertaken with due consideration to ecological processes, so that in creating wealth and providing for human needs we do not undermine the ecological processes on which our environment, our quality of life, and our capacity to make use of and enjoy these benefits depends.

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Whole-of-landscape approach to strategic environmental assessment and land use planning: Refocus the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council as the statutory body for undertaking strategic environmental assessment and planning in Victoria. VEAC’s current focus on public land severely limits its potential to inform government on ecologically sustainable management issues. The need for a broadening of VEAC’s role was recognised in the ALP 1999 election platform. The reforms would: provide VEAC with a whole of land and seascape focus (not just public land); strengthen its focus on strategic environmental assessment; and provide government with an independent source of advice on the adequacy and effectiveness of policy and management.

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Maintaining genetic diversity across species’ ranges: Intraspecies diversity and actual or potential local adaptations in populations are a major attribute that gives species resilience in the face of climate change. In species conservation planning and management, aim to maintain populations and gene flow across the geographic range of the species, in order to maintain genetic diversity and allow evolution to continue.

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Marine planning system: Design and implement a marine planning system for Victorian coastal waters. Ensure this planning approach is fully integrated with the terrestrial planning system, the Commonwealth and Tasmania’s marine

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32 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

planning system and land and sea management systems. Planning in coastal areas: The natural flows and movements of matter and energy (including nutrients, freshwater and inorganic materials) between sea and land along the coast can be disrupted by structures for urban settlement, utilities, industry, transport and recreation facilities. Coastal zone planning needs to identify and protect these flows, which are critical to survival and reproduction of estuarine and marine species. Effective coastal environmental planning and management embraces the water catchment and adjacent shorelands to the extent that they have a significant influence on coastal waters. Where natural fluxes are impeded (e.g. by a pier, or boat ramp interrupting longshore sediment movement), aim to re-establish flow patterns either side of the impediment.

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Biodiversity risk assessment: A Victoria-wide assessment of current and projected risks to biodiversity as the basis for developing strategy.

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Strategic planning and zoning for biodiversity and ecological processes: Improved connections are required between land use planning, catchment and coastal management, specifically aimed at conserving biodiversity and ecological processes. Prepare and implement strategic plans at bioregional, landscape and local scales, with major roles for landscape ecologists and landscape planners. Zoning of land, based on the strategic plans, should identify land as suitable either for production, restoration or priority for conservation. On non-productive land, the owners should be rewarded for providing ecosystem services.

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Ecological processes in catchment plans: Consider all relevant ecological processes (as identified by Bennett et al. 2007 – see Appendix 1) in the preparation of the next round of catchment strategies for each CMA region.

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Environment effects assessment: Environment effects assessment of development proposals should include assessment of impacts on ecological processes, including cumulative, long term and off-site effects.

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The natural flows and movements of nutrients, freshwater and inorganic materials between sea and land can be disrupted by urban settlement, utilities, industry, transport and recreation facilities. Photo: Glenn Ehmke

5.7 Public institutions, policy and legislation As explained in Section 4.3 Victoria’s capacity to effectively identify, plan for, and sustain the ecological processes that underpin Victoria’s biodiversity and the benefits that humans obtain from the environment is directly influenced by the institutions and organisational arrangements that operate within Victoria.  Given the limited exposure and understanding of the concept of ecological processes, it is not surprising that their importance has not been recognised in the design and operation of the many institutions and organisations associated with Victoria’s efforts to sustain biodiversity. Without close attention to ensuring that institutional arrangements are appropriate and have the necessary charters, capacities and organisational cultures, efforts to sustain biodiversity, and the ecological processes that underpin it, will not be successful over the long term.  While institutional reform is a long term undertaking, the actions outlined below provide an incremental, yet purposeful, approach to ensuring that the institutions responsible for governing Victoria’s environment have the right mandate and are capable of delivering upon this mandate.  Without such a reform process, there is strong potential for the good work of individuals, communities, businesses and some government agencies to be undermined by agencies working towards narrow and/or contradictory objectives.  

Strategic directions l

Introduce systemic policy change to sustain

ecological processes and biodiversity, including the instrument settings, the instruments themselves, and the hierarchy of goals behind the policy. Establish conservation of ecological processes and biodiversity as a whole-of-government priority.

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Pursue a new approach to development that is genuinely ecologically sustainable such that ecological processes and biodiversity are fully considered and protected.

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Adopt a policy portfolio approach to biodiversity conservation so that programs and response strategies make the best use of the full range of policy instruments, avoiding overreliance on one mechanism.

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Component projects COAG as the home for biodiversity and ecological processes: As the principal mechanism for intergovernmental co-operation in Australia, the Council of Australian Governments should become the home for the strategic consideration of biodiversity and ecological processes, because of the important social, economic, and environmental consequences that will arise from a failure to effectively sustain them. COAG has already taken a leadership role on the important issues of climate change and water – the concept of ecological process is central to both of these issues. Because of this, and because of the need for interstate co-operation, COAG is particularly well-suited to also addressing the multi-scale issues relating to biodiversity and ecological processes.

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Environment bodies review: Either as part of the current Victorian land and biodiversity

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Ecological processes in Victoria 33 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 5 NRM Ministerial Council in 2002 being a useful starting point, whereby aspirational targets, resource condition targets and management action targets are developed);

White Paper process, or immediately following its completion, establish an independent taskforce of experts in public administration, environmental policy and planning, and ecological science (or a Parliamentary Committee with advice from such experts) to investigate and develop options to achieve the most effective and efficient arrangements reforming and integrating Victoria’s public sector environmental organisations. This initiative would seek to do for biodiversity and ecological processes what the Public Bodies Review Committee did for water governance in the 1980s. The review would consider options to improve coordination and effectiveness for example of:

8 outline requirements for the preparation and five-yearly review of a statewide sustainability strategy, and specified sectoral strategies; 8 establish co-ordination and advisory bodies with audit and review powers to measure performance against targets to improve transparency and accountability; 8 provide standing provisions that allow for

appeals or review of administrative decisionmaking and other accountability mechanisms; and

8 CMAs, coastal boards, regional service

delivery agencies;

8 public sector departments, such as DSE and DPI or whether other models may be more suitable; and 8 statutory bodies and their relationship to public sector departments.

Cabinet decisions: Major policy and infrastructure decisions can have serious implications for ecological processes (e.g. flow regimes). Provide for enhanced consideration of the implications of major proposals on ecological processes in Cabinet decision-making processes. Implementation of this initiative could be through the introduction of trigger thresholds, beyond which close scrutiny of proposals would be required.

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Consolidated environmental sustainability legislation: Create a consolidated Act that provides for a statewide vision, defined outcomes, targets and agreed planning and review processes. Such an Act could:

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8 establish a vision for environmental sustainability (see, for example, the Swedish approach, which has a goal of achieving sustainability within a single generation); 8 identify agreed outcome areas to provide

a coherent focus for policies and programs (possibly aligning with the broad themes used in Australia’s national State of the Environment reporting);

8 set clear targets and goals, or require them to be set (the methodology developed by the

34 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

8 establish a robust process for undertaking

a systematic assessment of the environmental implications of all legislation in Victoria. Modernising the legislative framework: a wide-ranging review of legislation to recommend changes to laws that hinder or do not give appropriate consideration to ecological sustainability and ecological processes. An example of modernisation is the incorporation of the principles of ecologically sustainable development into all relevant Victorian legislation. The recent emergence of the concept of ecological processes has important implications for Victoria’s legislative framework. The review would assess all relevant legislation in Victoria to identify opportunities for greater consideration of ecological processes, including (but not limited to) the:

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8 Environment Protection Act; 8 Planning and Environment Act (e.g. use of overlays cumulative impacts, buffers and nogo areas and review of planning functions and at which level they are applied); 8 Environment Effects Act (to increase potential consideration of cumulative impacts etc); 8 Water Act; 8 Catchment and Land Protection Act (e.g. use of strategic area planning); 8 Land Act and Crown Land (Reserves) Act (review categories of public land).


Administration of native vegetation retention provisions: Review governance arrangements for implementation of the Native Vegetation Management Framework, and assign responsibilities (for assessment of proposals to clear, appeals, auditing and enforcement of compliance) to the appropriate level of government to deliver Net Gain outcomes. Strengthen the legal basis of the policy to reduce its contestability in VCAT, and undertake more effective compliance measures.

l

Crown land stream frontages: The review of frontage licences due in 2009 provides an opportunity to reform management of some 22,000km of Crown land stream frontages (The Public Land Consultancy 2008). In future they should be managed in the public interest for conservation, and revegetated with indigenous species. Licensing for ‘agricultural purposes’ should be abolished, and if licences continue, the purpose should be ‘stewardship of the riparian environment’. Public funds will be required to support this reform, including for fencing, weed control and off-stream water points, and stewardship payments.

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That there is a lack of understanding and awareness of ecological processes, and more broadly biodiversity, is not surprising given that the development of ecology as an area of scientific endeavour is a relatively recent phenomenon. Very few people are exposed to these concepts through the community education campaigns that have been undertaken, or their primary, secondary or tertiary education studies. This means that while there are many highly trained and skilled people, there are relatively few who have literacy in ecological processes, or more broadly, ecology or environmental management. This lack of ecological literacy matters because people are involved in making decisions in their work and personal lives that can have major implications for biodiversity and the ecological processes that underpin it. As a way of giving as many people as possible the necessary knowledge and understandings to make the right decisions, the following actions are proposed as a way of increasing the ecological literacy of all Victorians, including our political, public sector, and business leaders and advisers.

Strategic directions Encourage an increased appreciation by policy makers, natural resource managers, rural landowners and the broader community of the importance of ecological processes.

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5.8 Increasing the profile of ecological processes and improving ecological literacy For the Victorian Catchment Management Council, knowledge is the difference between informed and uninformed decision-making (VCMC 2002, p7). What this means is that the capacity of people to make informed decisions about biodiversity, the environment and ecological processes is strongly influenced by the knowledge and understandings that they bring to bear in making policy, planning, management or consumption decisions in their work and personal lives. The importance of informed decision-making is highlighted by the fact that most, if not all people want to, and are willing, ‘to do the right thing’ when it comes to the environment. However, what often prevents people from doing ‘the right thing’ is a lack of awareness or knowledge about the environment, or the effects of their actions.

Component projects Leadership and ecological literacy: The culture of organisations influences how well an organisation can identify and respond to the challenges and opportunities it faces. Public and private sector leaders have a critical role in ‘modelling’ the desired cultures. Components of this recommendation5 include:

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8 a Leadership Retreat that explores basic ecological literacy, and is targeted directly towards departmental heads and deputy secretaries, Members of Parliament and ministerial advisers, heads of all statutory bodies (e.g. Port of Melbourne Corporation, water authorities, etc). 8 an Executive Retreat that teaches basic

ecological literacy, and is targeted directly towards CEOs and senior managers of all major corporations operating within Victoria,

This initiative is inspired by some of the innovative professional initiatives that have been offered in recent years, such as the ANZOG Master of Public Administration and the Triple Bottom Line+1 course developed by Global Sustainability@RMIT.

5

Ecological processes in Victoria 35 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


chapter 5 particularly major property development corporations. Attendance could be made as a threshold condition for receiving government contracts etc. 8 a Professional Development Course that

teaches basic ecological literacy, and is targeted directly towards public servants with leadership potential – such a course could be offered through the public service training bodies (e.g. Australian & NZ School of Government), or by third party providers, and there could be targets established – e.g. 2 per cent of all VPS and EO2 staff within 10 years.

Environmental accounts: Establish an Environmental Accounting unit within the Department of Treasury and Finance to develop and report on broader notions of ‘standard of living’ and ‘wealth’. The Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance is Victoria’s principal institution with responsibility for maintaining and promoting Victoria’s overall ‘standard of living’. It is increasingly recognised that notions of ‘wealth’ and ‘wellbeing’ need to take account of factors that have traditionally not entered into Treasury’s ledger, such as the contribution to wealth and our ‘standard of living’ provided by the environment (i.e. the value of natural capital). Data on stocks and flows of energy, water, carbon and biodiversity should be recognised in analyses of the economy and society. This recommendation is informed by the need for the contribution of biodiversity (and the ecological processes that underpin it) to be fully accounted for when Victoria’s net worth is calculated. An alternative to accounting at the state level is for environmental accounting to form part of national accounts. Alongside statements of Victoria’s financial situation, Treasury should prepare and release statements on the status of Victoria’s environmental debt and recovery.

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readily-accessible training and ongoing technical support to all landholders to enable them to prepare property management plans with a strong component of biodiversity, ecological processes and natural resource conservation. ‘eFarmer’ is a useful web-based mapping and planning tool that should be extended across Victoria to assist management planning at property and larger scales. Training delivery on a sub-catchment basis and encouragement of planning in conjunction with neighbouring landholders (e.g. through local natural resource management groups) would facilitate consideration of ecological processes. Community environmental education: As part of multi-media community and schools-based environmental education programs, explain what ecological processes are, why they are important and how they underpin things that people value, e.g. productive farmland, native wildlife, and catchment processes that cleanse water. Use simple, tangible examples of processes that are relevant to the target audience.

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5.9 Priority actions for specific ecological processes Most of the recommended actions in sections 5.1 – 5.8 above will provide benefits for multiple ecological processes. So, for example, extending the conservation reserve system will assist in sustaining all the ecological processes that occur within the new reserves. Some actions, however, are focused on a particular type of process. Table 3 lists a selection of the component projects from the foregoing sections, which are considered to be priority actions for protecting or repairing the specified types of ecological processes.

Online professional education: A curriculum development project to produce online modules about ecology and ecological processes at introductory, intermediate and detailed levels, for engineers, agronomists, planners and other relevant professionals. These modules would be in the public domain, and could be utilised by individuals or by staff teaching professional courses6.

l

l

Property management planning: Deliver

36 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

6

The idea is based on modules on energy efficiency produced by ANU, Natural Edge and CSIRO.


Table 3. Priority actions that relate to specific ecological processes Ecological process

Recommended action

Climate processes

8 Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (5.3). 8 Protection of native vegetation as carbon stores (5.3). 8 Investigation of climate change impacts and adaptation measures, including reduction of ecosystem/habitat fragmentation, protection of refugia (5.3 & 5.2). 8 Biodiverse carbon sequestration (5.3).

Land system productivity

8 Riparian zone restoration (5.2). 8 Crown land stream frontage review (5.7). 8 Natural regeneration (5.2). 8 Protected area network (5.1).

Hydrological processes

8 Delivering environmental flows (5.1). 8 Planning for surface water under climate change (5.3). 8 Reinstatement of natural flooding regimes and restriction of development on floodplains (5.2).

Formation of biophysical habitats

8 Protection, enhancement and restoration of native vegetation (5.1). 8 Retention of woody debris and litter (5.2).

Species interactions

8 Environmental weeds (5.1). 8 Fox control (5.1). 8 Cat control (5.1). 8 Plant pathogens (5.1).

Movements of animals and 8 A strategic plan for connectivity conservation (5.2). seeds 8 Network of connectivity projects (5.2). 8 Riparian zone restoration (5.2). 8 Removal of barriers (5.2). 8 Aquatic-terrestrial links (5.2). 8 Linking marine and terrestrial reserves (5.2) Coastal zone fluxes

8 Planning in marine and coastal areas (5.6). 8 Better management of pollutant inputs to estuaries and bays (5.2).

Natural disturbance regimes

8 Ecological burning research (5.1).

Evolutionary processes

8 Maintaining genetic diversity across species’ ranges (5.6).

8 Ecologically appropriate fire regimes (5.1). 8 Reinstatement of natural flooding regimes and restriction of development on floodplains (5.2).

Ecological processes in Victoria 37 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Submission to land and biodiversity White Paper appendix 1 NOTE: This work was published in the journal Ecological Management and Restoration in December 2009. See inside cover page of this report for details.

Ecological processes: a key element in strategies for conserving biodiversity in Victoria A submission to the Land and Biodiversity White Paper Project Team, June 2007 Assoc Prof Andrew Bennett1, Mrs Angie Haslem1, Dr David Cheal2, Assoc Prof Mike Clarke3, Dr Roger Jones4, Dr John Koehn2, Prof Sam Lake5, Dr Lindy Lumsden2, Dr Ian Lunt6, Prof Brendan Mackey7, Mr Peter Menkhorst8, Prof Tim New3, Dr Graeme Newell2, Dr Tim O’Hara9, Prof Gerry Quinn1, Dr Jim Radford1, Dr Doug Robinson10, Dr James Watson11, Dr Alan Yen12 School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University 1

Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Sustainability & Environment 2

3

Department of Zoology, La Trobe University

4

CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research

5

School of Biological Sciences, Monash University

School of Environmental Sciences, Charles Sturt University 6

School of Resources, Environment and Society, Australian National University 7

Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria 8

9

Museum Victoria

10

Trust for Nature, Victoria

The Wilderness Society

11

12

Department of Primary Industries, Victoria

This submission is presented by a group of 19 ecologists from five Universities, three government departments, a CSIRO Division and several conservation agencies. Collectively we have extensive experience in Victoria, across terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems.

38 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

The group met for two one-day workshops at Deakin University, in Dec 2006 and Feb 2007, to discuss the status of biodiversity conservation in Victoria and to consider potential new directions and approaches to enhance the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in this State. The main elements of our submission are summarised in the points below. We would like to have the opportunity to present further information to the Project Team and Scientific Reference Committee in relation to this submission.

1. Approach Conservation of biodiversity poses a formidable challenge in Victoria, and throughout the world. A common approach to conserving biodiversity is to develop priorities based on protecting natural ‘assets’, such as ecosystems and species. This occurs mainly by setting aside and managing protected areas, including national parks and conservation reserves; and by conservation actions based around threatened species. Essentially, this approach is about protecting natural ‘assets’. This is an essential component of conservation, and Victoria can be proud of its reserve network across the state. However, in the long term, protecting natural ‘assets’ will not be an effective approach unless the ecological processes that sustain them are also maintained. In this submission, we emphasise the essential role of ecological processes in sustaining biodiversity, and of developing policy and management approaches that are directed toward sustaining such processes. Thus, we are calling for a new emphasis in the approach to land management and biodiversity conservation in this state.

2. Key ecological processes Key ecological processes that sustain biodiversity can be grouped into seven main themes: (1) climate, (2) primary productivity, (3) hydrological processes, (4) biophysical habitats, (5) interactions between organisms, (6) movements of organisms, and (7) natural disturbance regimes. These themes encompass fundamental ecological processes that determine the distribution and abundance of species, the structure of ecological communities, and the functioning of ecosystems (e.g. energy flow, nutrient cycling).


3. Threats Many threats to the natural environment in Victoria have been identified. For example, some 36 ‘Potentially threatening processes’ have been listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. We have identified six major categories of threat as being particularly important: l

climate change

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degradation and loss of biophysical habitats

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altered hydrological flows

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nutrient and chemical additions to ecosystems

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unsustainable harvesting of natural resources

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introduced species.

These threats are important because: (1) they each extend across terrestrial, freshwater and marine systems, and (2) they each interact with, or modify multiple ecological processes.

4. Implications for the way in which threats affect processes Threats, such as those outlined above, are often highlighted for their impacts on particular species or particular ecosystems. We wish to emphasise their effect on ecological processes. Further, when considering the ways in which threats act on ecological processes, there are a number of issues that must be recognised and incorporated into conservation and management programs: Time-lags; the full consequences of threats may not be experienced for lengthy periods

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Effects often extend across land tenures (and across land-water boundaries)

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Off-site effects (i.e. distant from the site of intervention) may occur

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There may be interactions among threats that exacerbate the effect of each

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Many changes may be irreversible.

5. New emphases in conservation We argue that greater attention needs to be given to policy and management approaches directed toward maintaining or restoring ecological processes. Thus, we call for a new emphasis in the way in which conservation of biodiversity is undertaken in Victoria: to build upon, and

extend the achievements made in protecting our natural assets. We briefly outline several kinds of activities in relation to a) land and natural resources and b) human dimensions. a) Land and natural resources l

Inventory and monitoring.

Knowledge of the status of the environment is essential for effective management. Victoria has some valuable data sets (e.g. flora and fauna data bases, GIS data layers on vegetation, wetlands, forest zones, soil types etc), but these primarily represent a static view of assets. To understand the status of ecological processes, we need to have quantitative measures of change through time. There is an extraordinary scarcity of systematic long-term data sets on the status of flora, fauna and natural resources in Victoria. This stands in marked contrast to the availability of systematic data collection on agricultural crops, climatic measures, human population etc. There is a clear need for systematic, long-term monitoring of biodiversity across the state. Likewise, there is a clear need for systematic monitoring of the responses of biota to management programs and natural disturbance events (e.g. bushfire). l

Maintaining processes in ‘intact’ systems

In extensive areas of ‘relatively intact’ systems (parks and reserves, marine parks, unregulated rivers, extensive forests etc), the challenge is to maintain the ecological processes that sustain these systems. These include natural disturbance regimes (floods, fire, etc), movement patterns and pathways of species and interactions between species. For example, knowledge of key refuge habitats and the maintenance of connectivity are important for enhancing the resilience of such systems to perturbations. In general, much current management of natural environments relates to protection of assets and countering specific threats (e.g. weeds, pests). We propose a greater emphasis on activities to understand and manage processes; for example, experimental management and monitoring programs relating to successional processes like fire or regeneration. l

Restoration in degraded systems

Changes to natural environments across large areas of the state involve loss of habitat

Ecological processes in Victoria 39 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


appendix components and breakdown of ecological processes. In these areas and ecosystems, restoration is a priority. Restoration is more than putting components back into the system: the greatest challenge is the restoration of processes (e.g. plant regeneration, timing and volume of water flows, recolonisation of animals). There is great scope for closer integration of management and research (experimental design and monitoring) in this field, with a strong emphasis on large scale and long term restoration projects. b) Human dimensions l

A vision for the future

Long-term strategic planning for land health and biodiversity conservation in Victoria is difficult without a vision for Victoria’s environment in the future. What do we (the Victorian community) want Victoria’s environments to be like in the future? As ecologists, we argue that such a vision must be framed to incorporate ecological processes. However, the reality is that there will be multiple points of view within the wider community about priorities for use of land and natural resources. We propose the development of alternative ‘scenarios’ as a way of envisaging the long-term outcomes of different ‘choices’ that the community might make. It is essential that the trade-offs implicit in alternative uses of land and water are recognised and incorporated in the scenarios (e.g. urban expansion and maintaining intact communities of plants and animals are incompatible). l

Drivers of change

Victoria’s environments will be exposed to pressures and changes over the next century that differ in type and/or extent from those experienced to date. There is a need for careful consideration of the kinds of ‘drivers of change’ that may be experienced in coming decades and the kinds of threats they will impose. These may be, for example, relate to socioeconomic change, energy, climate change, cultural change and new exotic species. l

Appreciating ecosystem services

In general, the Victorian community has limited appreciation of the extent to which their basic requirements (food, clean water, clean air, shelter) and quality of life (aesthetics, space, recreation, cultural values) depend upon the natural

40 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

environment and the maintenance of ecological processes. An important role for the White Paper process (and its recommendations) will be to stimulate greater understanding of the critical role of ecological processes in the health and well being of the Victorian people, the economy and the quality of life that Victorians experience now and into the future. In summary, we conclude that the greatest potential to sustain biodiversity and evolutionary processes in Victoria in the long-term (and their concomitant benefits for people), will come from conservation strategies that are directed toward maintaining, or re-establishing, the integrity of ecological processes.


List of contributors Steering Committee Assoc. Professor Geoff Wescott

School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Carrie Deutsch

Victoria Naturally Alliance, Victorian National Parks Association

Ann McGregor

Environmental planning consultant

Brian Coffey

Environmental policy consultant

Jim Robinson

Statewide Revegetation Support Officer, Greening Australia Victoria

Project Advisory Group Brendan Sydes

Environment Defenders Office

Professor Brendan Mackey

Fenner School of Environment & Society, ANU

Christine Forster

Victorian Catchment Management Council

Dr David Freudenberger

Greening Australia

Geoff Park

North Central Catchment Management Authority

Ian Pulsford

NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change

Dr James Fitzsimons

School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Dr Jim Radford

Bush Heritage Australia

Michael Looker

The Nature Conservancy (Australia)

Patricia Geraghty

Victorian Catchment Management Council

Professor Nigel Stork

School of Resource Management, University of Melbourne

Richard Hughes

The Wilderness Society

Dr Roger Jones

CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research

Dr Sarah Bekessy

School of Global Studies, Social Science & Planning, RMIT University

Interviewees Jason Alexandra

Murray-Darling Basin Commission

Tim Allen

Australian Government NRM Facilitator (Vic) – Coastal and Marine

Cr Daryll Argall

Hindmarsh Shire Council

Dr Sarah Bekessy

School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University

Assoc. Professor Michael Buxton

School of Social Science and Planning, RMIT University

Professor Chris Cocklin

Faculty of Science, Engineering and Information Technology, James Cook University

Jim Donaldson

Land and Water Australia

Dr James Fitzsimons

School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds

CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems

Professor Steve Dovers

Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University

Tim Fisher

Marsden Jacob Associates

Christine Forster

Victorian Catchment Management Council

Dr David Freudenberger

Greening Australia

Mike Gooey

Trust for Nature

Professor Sam Lake

Australian Centre for Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University

Michael Looker

The Nature Conservancy

Ecological processes in Victoria 41 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


contributors Interviewees Professor Brendan Mackey

Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University

Geoff Park

North Central Catchment Management Authority

Joan Phillips

Victorian Environmental Assessment Council

Ian Pulsford

NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change

Jim Robinson

Greening Australia Victoria

Professor Nigel Stork

School of Resource Management, University of Melbourne

Brendan Sydes

Environment Defenders Office, Victoria

Virginia Young

The Wilderness Society

Workshop participants (6 Dec 2007) Karen Alexander

Victoria Naturally Alliance

Cr Daryll Argall

Hindmarsh Shire Council

Tim Barlow

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority

Dr Sarah Bekessy

School of Global Studies, Social Science & Planning, RMIT University

Jenny Boshier

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts

Sean Butters

EWR Consulting

Ellie Clark

Greening Australia

Megan Clinton

Victorian National Parks Association

Brian Coffey

Steering committee member

TIm D’Ombrain

Ballarat Environment Network

Carrie Deutsch

Victoria Naturally Alliance

Jim Donaldson

Land and Water Australia

Dr James Fitzsimons

Deakin University

Paul Foreman

Bush Heritage Australia

Christine Forster

Victorian Catchment Management Council

Trish Geraghty

Victorian Catchment Management Council

Cullen Gunn

Consultant

Richard Hughes

The Wilderness Society

Phil Ingamels

Victorian National Parks Association

Sam Lake

Monash University

Janet Leversha

Ballarat Environment Network

Carmen Lindemann

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Kevin Love

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Kim Lowe

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Jo McCoy

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Gavan McFadzean

The Wilderness Society

Warrick McGrath

Department of Primary Industries

Ann McGregor

Steering committee member

Karen McGregor

Workshop assistant

Ian Mansergh

Department of Sustainability and Environment

42 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Workshop participants (6 Dec 2007) Natalie Moxham

Workshop facilitator

Luke Murphy

Municipal Association of Victoria

Mick Murphy

Victorian Catchment Management Council

Dr Graeme Newell

Arthur Rylah Institute

Geoff Park

North Central Catchment Management Authority

David Parkes

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Phil Pegler

Parks Victoria

Joan Phillips

Victorian Environmental Assessment Council

Steve Platt

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Kathy Preece

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Ian Pulsford

NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change

Dr Jim Radford

Deakin University

Sarah Rees

The Central Highlands Alliance

Jim Robinson

Greening Australia

Matt Ruchel

Victorian National Parks Association

John Sampson

Victoria Naturally Alliance

Mark Smith

Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority

Chris Smyth

Australian Conservation Foundation

Brian Snape Nigel Stork

University of Melbourne

Kate Stothers

Department of Primary Industries

Brendan Sydes

Environment Defenders Office

Glen Terry

Greening Australia

Tim Read

Trust for Nature

Lynlee Tozer

Trust for Nature

Nicola Ward

Department of Sustainability and Environment

Assoc. Professor Geoff Wescott

Deakin University

Malory Weston

Consultant

Marty White

Yarra Ranges Shire

Peter Wilcock

Australian Government NRM Facilitator

Ecological processes in Victoria 43 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


Glossary Anthropogenic: Relating to or resulting from the influence that humans have on the natural world. Biodiversity: The variety of all life forms – the plants, animals, micro-organisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystems of which they form a part. Connectivity: The extent of interconnectedness between habitat units and subpopulations in a landscape. Ecological integrity: The ability to maintain component species and processes over long time frames (Poiani et al., 2000). Ecological processes: The interactions and connections between living and non-living systems, including movements of energy, nutrients and other chemical substances such as carbon, and organisms and seeds (adapted from Traill 2007).

Endemism: Being confined to a particular geographical region, not found (naturally) elsewhere. Gross primary productivity: A currency for the total amount of energy from sunlight absorbed by green plants through photosynthesis, which fuels the metabolic needs of all biota. Expressed in units of carbon dioxide absorbed per square metre per year (Berry & Mackey 2007). Hydroecology: The role that vegetation plays in regulating surface and subsurface flows at local and regional scales, and the importance of water availability to ecosystems and animal habitat (SoulĂŠ et al., 2004). Hydrological: Relating to water on or under land. Propagule: A part of a plant or fungus that becomes detached from the rest and forms a new organism.

Ecosystem: A dynamic complex of plant, animal, fungal and micro-organism communities and the associated non-living environment interacting as an ecological unit.

Revegetation: Re-establishment of vegetation with species indigenous to the locality, approximating the structure and composition of the natural vegetation community.

Ecosystem services: The benefits people obtain from ecosystems, including food, water, timber, cultural values, etc. (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment 2005 p1, cited in Wallace 2007).

Refugia: Areas where climate remains habitable, when that of the surrounding areas has changed.

44 Ecological processes in Victoria Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity

Riparian: Along or near the bank of a river.


References Adams, D. (2002) Poverty – a precarious policy idea, Australian Journal of Public Administration, 61(4), pp89-98. Australian Conservation Foundation (2006) Submission to House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage Inquiry into a Sustainability Charter. ACF, Melbourne. Bennett, A., A. Haslem, D. Cheal, M. Clarke, R. Jones, J. Koehn, P.S. Lake, L. Lumsden, I. Lunt, B. Mackey, P. Menkhorst, T. New, G. Newell, T. O’Hara, G. Quinn, J. Radford, D. Robinson, J. Watson, A. Yen (2007) Ecological processes: a key element in strategies for conserving biodiversity in Victoria. Submission to the Land and Biodiversity White Paper Project Team. Bennett, A., A. Haslem, D. Cheal, M. Clarke, R. Jones, J. Koehn, P.S. Lake, L. Lumsden, I. Lunt, B. Mackey, R. MacNally, P. Menkhorst, T. New, G. Newell, T. O’Hara, G. Quinn, J. Radford, D. Robinson, J. Watson, A. Yen (in prep.) ‘Ecological processes: a key element in strategies for nature conservation.’ Unpublished manuscript. Berry, S. & B. Mackey (2007) ‘Habitat productivity, connectivity and bird conservation.’ In P. Olsen (ed) The State of Australia’s Birds 2007: Birds in a Changing Climate. Birds Australia, Carlton. Coffey, B. and Major, A. (2005) ‘Towards more integrated natural resource management in Victoria: possible elements of a state-wide policy framework.’ Australian Journal of Environmental Management, 12 (supplementary edition), pp2938. Crowley, K. and Coffey, B. (2007) ‘Tasmania Together and Growing Victoria Together: can state plans deliver environmental sustainability’, Public Administration Today, 10, pp48-60. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts website http://www.environment. gov.au/esd/national/nsesd/index.html, accessed May 2008 Department of Sustainability and Environment (1997) Victoria’s Biodiversity: Directions in Management. NRE, Melbourne. Department of Sustainability and Environment (2003) Victoria’s State of the Forests Report. DSE, East Melbourne. Dovers, S. (1995) ‘A framework for scaling

and framing policy problems in sustainability’. Ecological Economics, 12, pp93-106. Dovers, S. (2001) Institutions for Sustainability. TELA Series, Canberra. Dovers, S. (2005) Environment and Sustainability Policy: Creation, Implementation, Evaluation. Federation Press, Sydney. Dunlop, M., F. Poldy, & G. Turner (2004) Environmental sustainability issues analysis for Victoria. Report prepared for Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria. CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra. Ecological Society of America Committee on Land Use (2000) Ecological principles for managing land use. Ecological Society of America, Washington. Ecologically Sustainable Development Steering Committee (1992) National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development. Endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments. Canberra. Farmar-Bowers, Q., J. Crosthwaite, J. Callaghan, C. Hollier, A. Straker (2006) Drivers of Land Use Change final report – Matching Opportunities to Motivations. Ideas for biodiversity and NRM policy based on understanding the drivers of land use change that matter to farmers. Ecologically Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, Project 05116. Dept. of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne. Frankenburg, J. (1971) Nature Conservation in Victoria: A Survey. Victorian National Parks Association, Melbourne. Hall, P. (1993) ‘Policy paradigms, social learning and the state.’ Comparative Politics, 25, pp275296. Lafferty, W. & W. Hovden (2002) Environmental Policy Integration: Towards an Analytical Framework. Report No. 72. Program for Research and Documentation for a Sustainable Society, University of Oslo, Oslo. Mackey, B. (2007) Climate change, connectivity and biodiversity conservation. In Taylor, M. & P. Figgis (eds) Protected Areas: buffering nature against climate change. Proceedings of a WWF & IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas symposium, Canberra, pp90-96. WWF-Australia, Sydney.

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references Mackey, B., H. Keith, S. Berry & D. Lindenmayer (2008) Green Carbon: The role of natural forests in carbon storage. Part 1. A green carbon account of Australia’s south-eastern eucalypt forests, and policy implications. ANU E-Press, Canberra.

The Public Land Consultancy (2008) A Review of the Management of Riparian Land in Victoria. Report for the Department of Sustainability and Environment. Melbourne. Available at www. ourwater.vic.gov.au/.

Manning, A., D. Lindenmayer & J. Fischer (2006) ‘Stretch Goals and Backcasting: Approaches for Overcoming Barriers to Large-Scale Ecological Restoration.’ Restoration Ecology Vol.14, No.4, pp487-492.

Traill, B. & C. Porter (2001) Nature Conservation Review 2001. Victorian National Parks Association, Melbourne.

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2003) Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Current State and Trends, Volume 1. Island Press, Washington. Morgan, G. (2001) ‘Landscape health in Australia. A rapid assessment of the relative condition of Australia’s bioregions and sub regions.’ National Land and Water Resources Audit, Canberra, cited in Dunlop et al. (2004). Murray Darling Basin Commission (2004) Native Fish Strategy. Released by Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council, Canberra. National Land and Water Resources Audit (2002) Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002. National Land and Water Resources Audit, Turner, ACT. Newell, G. et al. (2006) Individual written contributions to workshop ‘Ecological processes in Victoria: Priorities for sustaining biodiversity’. Held at Deakin University, Burwood. Unpublished. Poiani, K., B. Richter, M. Anderson & H. Richter (2000) ‘Biodiversity conservation at multiple scales: Functional sites, landscapes and networks.’ BioScience Vol. 50, No. 2, pp133-146. Radford J., A. Bennett and L. MacRaild (2004) How much habitat is enough: planning for wildlife conservation in rural landscapes, School of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University, Melbourne. Rotmans, J., R. Kemp & M. van Asselt (2001) ‘More evolution that revolution: Transition management in public policy.’ Foresight Vol. 3, No. 1, February, pp015-031. Soulé, M., B. Mackey, H. Recher, J. Williams, J. Woinarski, D. Driscoll, W. Dennison & M. Jones (2004) ‘The role of connectivity in Australian conservation.’ Pacific Conservation Biology Vol 10, pp266-279.

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Traill, B. (2007) ‘Making ecological processes iconic.’ Unpublished paper. Trust for Nature (2007) Conservation Bulletin, no37, p1. Victorian Catchment Management Council (1997) Know your catchments: an assessment of catchment condition using interim indicators, The State of Victoria, Victorian Catchment Management Council, Melbourne. Victorian Catchment Management Council (2002) The health of our catchments: a Victorian report card. VCMC, Melbourne. Victorian Catchment Management Council (2007) Catchment condition report 2007. VCMC, Melbourne. Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (2008) River Red Gum Forests Investigation Final Report. Melbourne. Wallace, K. (2007) ‘Classification of ecosystem services: Problems and solutions.’ Biol. Cons. 139, pp235-246.


Ecological processes in Victoria 47 Policy priorities for sustaining biodiversity


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The Victoria Naturally Alliance is a coalition of nine environment groups that want to see concerted action taken to protect Victoria’s biodiversity from a range of threats including climate change, habitat fragmentation and species extinction. Led by the Victorian National Parks Association, the alliance includes the Australian Conservation Foundation, Environment Victoria, Greening Australia (Vic), The Wilderness Society, Trust for Nature, Bush Heritage Australia, Invasive Species Council and Bird Observation & Conservation Australia. For more information please visit our website at www.victorianaturally.org.au.


Ecological processes in Victoria