In the face of the findings and challenges described in this section of the report, there are a number of opportunities to further improve the management and protection of our land and biodiversity.
Implement new commitments
The SA Government has recently commited to:
- reform legislation relating to natural resources management
- establish a new metropolitan national park spanning 1,500 ha
- increase the number of park rangers by 20, which includes dedicated capacity for the coast and the proposed new Glenthorne National Park
- invest in improved coastal protection, including sand replenishment, restoration of seagrass meadows, limiting stormwater runoff and creating three artificial reefs
- funding local government for greening neighbourhoods (increased tree cover)
- protect underground water resources by imposing a moratorium on unconventional gas exploration in the Limestone Coast region.
Implement planned reforms
The following proposed initiatives provide opportunities to further improve protection and management of our land and its biodiversity:
- a new biodiversity conservation strategy – Nature of SA
- biodiversity policy under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (s62A)
- adaptive management for climate change – for example evaluate new assemblages of species better adapted to future climatic conditions and optimise synergies between responding to urban heat island effect and biodiversity opportunities
- environmental accounting – for example, through an inventory of vegetation cover and condition with regular updates on clearance, revegetation and value of ecosystem services provided
- early warning alarm system for excessive extraction of groundwater
- implementation of the Environment, Resources and Development Committee of SA Parliament’s recommendations following its biodiversity inquiry. This includes improvements in the areas of:
- legislative reform
- conservation and planning interface
- identification and management of threatened species and ecosystems
- protection of native vegetation, including revegetation and formal protection
- fire management and its impacts on biodiversity
- climate modelling to inform conservation planning
- private land stewardship
- mechanism for prioritisation of conservation across the landscape
- Aboriginal involvement in land and water management
- filling knowledge gaps, including for land managers and planners
- management of overabundant species
- community engagement.
In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught’. – Baba Dioum, Senegalese forestry engineer (1968)
Review the effectiveness of conservation policies and programs
Flowing from the recommendation of the parliamentary inquiry into biodiversity for prioritisation of conservation across the landscape, there is a need for a systematic review of the effectiveness of conservation policies and programs, starting with those aimed at protecting our native vegetation and threatened species.
As part of that, we should undertake monitoring, evaluation and reporting of the ecosystem services and public benefits of our environmental assets to improve appreciation of the reliance of our wellbeing on the environment, and to better identify and balance trade-offs when making and communicating decisions.
Consider international good practice
The Intergovernmental Science – Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) identified the following requirements to halt decline of our land resources:
- Restoration – the benefits of restoring land are about 10 times the cost. Restoration measures include reflooding drained wetlands, replacing lost trees and halting pollution at its source. In urban areas, replanting of native species, developing parks, rehabilitating soil sealed under asphalt, treating and reusing wastewater and restoring river channels are proposed
- Farming – as a main usurper of natural land, the farming sector must take the lead, including using no-till farming methods. Ploughing leaves the soil vulnerable to erosion, and releases soil-locked carbon as planet-warming carbon dioxide. For IPBES Chairperson Robert Watson, part of the answer lies in precision agriculture:
We have to learn how to appropriately use fertilisers, pesticides and water ... give the crops exactly what they need and no more.
- Labelling – a dramatic shift in consumer behaviour is needed. Most consumers live far from the ecosystems producing their food. This has resulted in a growing lack of awareness and understanding of the implications of their purchasing choices. To correct this, merchants must know where products come from and under what conditions they were produced, and inform consumers accordingly
- Incentives – ‘perverse incentives’ promoting land degradation should be replaced with positive ones rewarding sustainable land management. One example is subsidies for fertilisers, which leads to overuse and more runoff into rivers. In addition, agricultural subsidies lead farmers to overproduce at the expense of nature
- Policy – governments must take nature into account in developing policies across all sectors, not only agriculture and the environment, but also the economy, energy and infrastructure. The issue must also be part of the global debate on human development and climate change.
Land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impacts of our choices on the health of our natural environment. – IPBES
Recognising that species and their habitats are not contained within jurisdictional boundaries, there are opportunities for better outcomes through a collective approach to land management and protection of our biodiversity. This includes building on the National Reserve System to ensure adequate protection of all bioregions, leveraging the efforts of community groups through the National Landcare Program and coordinating and sharing information.
The National Landcare Program includes the Environmental Stewardship Program under which 297 land managers across NSW, Queensland and SA were approved to implement (up to) 15-year conservation management plans over 56,527 ha of private land worth $152.3 million.