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E&S Home > Vol. 11, Iss. 2 > Art. 41 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Australian Pastoralists in Time and Space: The Evolution of a Complex Adaptive System

Ryan R J McAllister, CSIRO
Nick Abel, CSIRO
Chris J Stokes, CSIRO
Iain J Gordon, CSIRO

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Newcomers and exotic livestock have displaced indigenous hunter-gatherers from Australia’s drylands over the past 200 yr. This paper seeks to learn from and explain the adaptive process involving the initially naïve newcomers, their stock, and Australia’s ancient landscapes. We review pastoral adaptation at the national, regional, and enterprise scales. These scales are linked, and so we use "panarchy" theory with its concept of "adaptive cycles" as an analytical framework.

Past pastoral adaptation can be summarized by changes in key linkages: pastoralists (1) are now connected to more individuals than when they first moved into the rangelands, but are less reliant on local hubs for these connections; (2) have weaker links to the environment as environmental feedbacks have been reduced; (3) have stronger links to alternate land uses, but weaker links to governance; and (4) have stronger links to the global economy. Further change is inevitable. Pastoralism is likely to remain as the core activity in Australian rangelands, but the dynamic linkages that shape the system will, in future, connect pastoralists more strongly to post-production economies, information and more distant social networks, and to a more diverse group of land users.

Key words

complex systems science; Dalrymple Shire; grazing systems; rangelands; semi-arid.
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087