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Environmental change: prospects for conservation and agriculture in a southwest Australia biodiversity hotspot

Neil E. Pettit, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Robert J. Naiman, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia; University of Washington
Julia M. Fry, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
J. Dale Roberts, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Paul G. Close, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Bradley J. Pusey, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Geoff S. Woodall, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Colin J. MacGregor, College of Marine & Environmental Sciences, James Cook University
Peter C. Speldewinde, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Barbara Stewart, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Rebecca J. Dobbs, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Harriet L. Paterson, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Peter Cook, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Sandy Toussaint, School of Social and Cultural Studies, The University of Western Australia; Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Sarah Comer, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia; Department of Parks and Wildlife
Peter M. Davies, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07727-200310

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Abstract

Accelerating environmental change is perhaps the greatest challenge for natural resource management; successful strategies need to be effective for decades to come. Our objective is to identify opportunities that new environmental conditions may provide for conservation, restoration, and resource use in a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot in southwestern Australia. We describe a variety of changes to key taxonomic groups and system-scale characteristics as a consequence of environmental change (climate and land use), and outline strategies for conserving and restoring important ecological and agricultural characteristics. Opportunities for conservation and economic adaptation are substantial because of gradients in rainfall, temperature, and land use, extensive areas of remnant native vegetation, the ability to reduce and ameliorate areas affected by secondary salinization, and the existence of large national parks and an extensive network of nature reserves. Opportunities presented by the predicted environmental changes encompass agricultural as well as natural ecosystems. These may include expansion of aquaculture, transformation of agricultural systems to adapt to drier autumns and winters, and potential increases in spring and summer rain, carbon-offset plantings, and improving the network of conservation reserves. A central management dilemma is whether restoration/preservation efforts should have a commercial or biodiversity focus, and how they could be integrated. Although the grand challenge is conserving, protecting, restoring, and managing for a future environment, one that balances economic, social, and environmental values, the ultimate goal is to establish a regional culture that values the unique regional environment and balances the utilization of natural resources against protecting remaining natural ecosystems.

Key words

adaptive management; agriculture and conservation; biodiversity; climate change; land-use change; southwest Australia.

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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