Regional planning in Queensland's rangelands: challenges and prospects for biodiversity conservation
McAlpine, CA, Heyenga, S, Taylor, B, Peterson, A & McDonald, G 2004, Geographical Research, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 27-42.
Natural resource management (NRM) responsibilities have gradually shifted from the Commonwealth and State governments to regional NRM bodies. In Queensland, regional NRM targets for the rangelands vary greatly in level of specificity and comprehensiveness due to informational gaps. Furthermore, targets are typically asset-based and there is poor linkage between the scientific information base and target development, as well as among targets. There is, therefore, a need to expand the information base through active research, information sharing among different sectors, and increased community involvement.
A comprehensive review of regional NRM plans for Queensland’s rangelands highlighted a number of challenges facing regional bodies. Firstly, there exists a gap in the resource condition information base, which is reflected by the high number of targets proposing investment in data collection. Lack of knowledge and information can prevent managers from developing effective strategies for biodiversity and native vegetation management. This can be resolved by increasing input from scientists and encouraging data sharing between state government agencies and scientific bodies, as well as securing long-term funding for ongoing research. It was also found that despite all plans having targets for managing biodiversity, the specificity and comprehensiveness of the targets vary greatly, leading to their weak integration in the planning framework. Moreover, due to gaps in the knowledge base, linkages between threatening processes and targets, and among targets, were not always explicit. These findings, again, highlight the importance of collaboration between regional bodies, state government agencies and scientific communities to ensure regional management frameworks are effectively integrated with one another. Similarly, existing management plans also require adequate review and monitoring processes, and although these responsibilities lie primarily with regional bodies, it is essential that scientific communities also provide recommendations.
Despite the issues identified, it is important to recognise the positive opportunities that regional NRM planning can generate for regional biodiversity conservation as well as its importance in tackling complex multi-scale conservation problems in Queensland’s rangelands. As it is inevitable that social and economical issues influence land management, the authors of this study emphasised the importasnt role that education and community involvement will play in the future of Australian rangeland conservation.
Summarised by Cherie Chan
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