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Range Management Newsletter 12/1

 

March 2012 – Range Management Newsletter 12/1


FROM THE EDITOR

Noelene Duckett, 5 Amery Street, Ashburton  VIC  3147.  Email: aduckett7@msn.com

Welcome to the first newsletter for 2012. 

This issue opens with a number of articles related to Society business.  Firstly there is information about an exciting opportunity to provide feedback about the Society via the upcoming ARS Members On-line Survey – this a great initiative by the National Council so check further down in the Newsletter for additional details.  The Annual General Meeting of the Society is also coming up on the  23rd May 2012 with motions on notice to be submitted by 11th April.  Additionally, there is an update from the organising committee of the next ARS Conference to be held in Kununurra in September this year – the conference is definitely taking shape!.  As a reminder for those of you intending to submit a paper/poster for the conference, the deadline for submissions is the 16th April.  Also, don’t forget to book your accommodation to ensure you have somewhere to stay!  Finally, I would like to remind members that your 2012 ARS subscriptions are now due – please pay by 31st March to avoid becoming unfinancial.

There are several other stimulating articles in this issue.  Peter Walker has written an excellent response to David Eldridge’s shrub encroachment article published last July (RMN 11/2).  Peter has a long history working on issues related to shrub encroachment having been based in the Western District of New South Wales for many years – it is interesting to read how his observations and opinions compare and contrast with David’s.  Gary Bastin’s article fills us in on the recent updates to the ACRIS (Australian Collaborative Rangeland Information System) website where recent information on fire extent and frequency, livestock grazing pressure, kangaroo densities and dust activity has been uploaded.  It would also have been remiss of us not to include a note about the passing of Gordon King, a larger than life character who, as Andrew Ash aptly states, will be sadly missed by rangelanders around the globe.

The next issue of the newsletter will be out in July so I would appreciate receiving articles by early to mid June at the latest.  Please think about contributing!

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FROM THE PRESIDENT

John Taylor, ARS President and Director, Rangelands Australia/Professor of Rangeland Management at The University of Queensland, Gatton  QLD  4343.
Email: john.a.taylor@uq.edu.au

The Annual General Meeting (AGM, Wednesday 23rd May) and our Biennial conference in Kununurra (23-27th September) are fast approaching. 

At our AGM, Council will be seeking endorsement of some proposed changes to our Articles of Association.  These mainly deal with a need to make reference to electronic means of communication for notice of meetings, publications, etc.  Details of the proposed changes are provided later in this Newsletter.
 
I hope many of you are planning to attend the Kununurra Conference, and to present a paper or poster.  The Organizing Committee has been busy developing some interesting field trips, great social/networking activities and a really interesting program, so I am sure it will be very good value.  Council will meet face-to-face during the conference, and there will also be a General Meeting of the Society on the last day.

Your Council has met by teleconference on three occasions since the last RMN.  Among the many issues addressed, we finalized the content of a survey of members needs (see ‘Attention ARS Members’ below).  Following a recommendation from the Publications Committee, we recently approved a 5-year agreement with CSIRO Publishing to publish 4 issues per year of The Rangeland Journal, promote the Journal, and grow institutional subscriptions.  We have also initiated a process to identify a new Chair of the Publications Committee, following Ken Hodgkinson’s decision to stand down later this year.  A role statement for this position is currently under development, and will be circulated to members via an Email Alert.  To enhance the value of our website we’ve sought approval to provide links to the websites of all rangeland-based Regional NRM Groups.  We also awarded Travel Grants to two people – Noelene Duckett and Helene Aubault.  Noelene will use her grant to attend the Kununurra Conference, and, in her role of Editor – RMN, will use this opportunity to meet members and explore new directions for the Rangeland Management Newsletter.  Helene will use her grant to visit western Queensland in July-August to research the impact of artificial water points on wind erosion.  On behalf of the Council, congratulations to both Noelene and Helene. 

Finally, it has just been confirmed that Australia has experienced the wettest two years on record, and in some areas it’s actually been three wet years.  In an earlier commentary, I noted that this provided a rare opportunity to restore and rehabilitate our grazing lands by strategic rest and use of fire.  The wet conditions also represent a major threat, in that invasive plants and pest animals can rapidly spread and remain undetected for far too long, making control and limiting further spread all that more difficult.  I believe that invasive plants and animals are the biggest threat to the integrity and productivity of our rangelands, and encourage you all to be alert for, report, and tackle any new incursions.  
 

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ATTENTION ARS MEMBERS - HOW CAN WE BETTER SERVE YOU?

John Taylor, ARS President and Director, Rangelands Australia/Professor of Rangeland Management at The University of Queensland, Gatton  QLD  4343.
Email: john.a.taylor@uq.edu.au

A survey of members and other stakeholders is being conducted by the Council of the Australian Rangeland Society in March-April 2012.  The purpose of the survey is to collect information about how well we are meeting member’s needs, how we might attract and retain new members, and how we might better serve our members and the rangeland community.

The survey is a combination of ‘tick the box’ type questions and short written answers, and will be available in both electronic and paper forms.  The e-survey will be accessible through the ARS Website (watch for the Email Alert) and hard copies/return envelopes can be supplied by the ARS’s Membership Secretary, Graeme Tupper (Contact: grmtupper@yahoo.com.au).  The survey should only take about 5-10 minutes to complete, and we ask that you submit your completed surveys by Friday 20 April 2012.

Your opinions are important to us, and we thank you in advance for your time in assisting Council to better serve our members and other stakeholders in our vast rangelands.  A summary of the findings will be published in this Newsletter and presented at the Society’s Biennial Conference in Kununurra in September 2012.

 

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UPDATE ON THE ARS CONFERENCE - KUNUNURRA, SEPTEMBER 2012

Paul Novelly, Organizing Committee Chairman, Department of Agriculture and Food WA, Locked Bag 4, Bentley Delivery Centre  WA  6983.  Email: paul.novelly@agric.wa.gov.au

Preparations for the 17th Biennial Conference of the Rangeland Society are proceeding, with the Organizing Committee starting to see some progress (although most of that is due to our organizer, Ray Bird at ‘Meeting Masters’).  All ARS members would have received a copy of the preliminary brochure in the last Newsletter mail out with details of the venue, basic program of the Conference and tours.  We are excited about what the conference will be able to offer ‘rangelanders’.

Information about the Conference

The on-line link to the Conference web site is now live (http://www.austrangesoc.com.au/site/whatson_conference.php).  This will allow us to update information rapidly as more and more of the Conference structure and contents are finalized, and provide delegates with information in an easily accessible manner.  The website provides a feast of information about Kununurra and its environs (so that you know what to pack and wear), getting to and from Kununurra, accommodation options for delegates and tours associated with the Conference. 

Registration

On-line registration should be available soon (for those that want to take advantage of our “early bird” rate, as well as those who want to get all the financials sorted during this financial year).

Submission of Abstracts

The website also contains the necessary information and dates for the submission of abstracts for consideration for presentation at the Conference.  Papers for oral presentation will be selected on a competitive basis, and all papers will be considered for presentation as posters.  The closing date for submissions is the 16th April 2012, and there is no certainty that expressions of interest submitted after that date will be accepted.  So, please don’t play the normal “brinkmanship” over the submission of your contribution, and the Organizing Committee would be most grateful if delegates wishing to present a paper could get their abstract in as soon as possible.

Accommodation in Kununurra

While Kununurra has significant “tourism infrastructure”, we do recommend that you consider making your accommodation bookings early, and give some thought to your travel arrangements.  September is towards the end of the tourist season and we have avoided the Western Australian school holidays to make things as easy as possible for delegates.  However, unlike Bourke in 2010 there are no plans for a ‘tent city’, so we recommend that if you are fairly sure you are attending the Conference you make some arrangements now. 
All accommodation bookings should be made through our Conference partner the Kununurra Visitor Centre (see the website for details). 

We look forward to seeing you in Kununurra in September
 

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NOTICE OF THE 2012 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE ARS

The 2012 Annual General Meeting of the Australian Rangeland Society will be held on:

Wednesday 23rd May 2012

at 5 pm (Qld time)
at 37 Pioneer Crescent, Bellbowrie, Queensland, 4070


The agenda will include:

  1. Open Meeting
  2. Apologies
  3. Minutes of the 2011 Annual General Meeting (available in the Members Only section of the Society’s Website - http://www.austrangesoc.com.au/site/ )
  4. Receive the President’s report
  5. Receive the Financial Reports
  6. Motions on notice
  7. General business

Elections for office bearers of the Society are called in each alternate year and were last called in May 2011.  If vacancies occur between elections Council can appoint members to hold the vacant position until the next call for elections (which will happen in May 2013).  Currently there are no vacancies on Council.

Motions on notice are set out in this notice.  Any financial member wishing to place a motion on notice before the Annual General Meeting must ensure that the signed motion is lodged with the Secretary by 11th April 2012.

Motions should be posted or emailed to:

Dr Carolyn Ireland, Secretary
The Australian Rangeland Society
13 Woodland Close, Aldgate, SA, 5154
Email: cireland@irmpl.com.au

The AGM will be followed by light refreshments. Please let President John Taylor (07) 5460 1662 john.a.taylor@uq.edu.au know if you will be attending in person. 

 

Motions on Notice

Motion 1

Solvency resolution

'That the Directors have reason to believe that the Australian Rangeland Society Ltd will be able to pay its debts as and when they become due and payable.'

Motion 2

Alterations to the Articles of Association

Council of the Australian Rangeland Society (the Society) recommends that changes be made to the Articles and Memorandum of Association of the Society (the Articles) to allow the following:

  • A shorter time-frame for sending and receiving “Notices of Meeting”
  • Inclusion of the Society’s Website and email as lines of communication in these matters.
  • Incorporation of the Society’s Website as a publication
  • Deletion of authority for bank accounts to be established for publishing the Journal and the Newsletter
  • Deletion of the role of Production Manager.

Section 26 of the Articles deals with Alteration of the Articles (a copy of these can be found on the Society’s Website http://www.austrangesoc.com.au/site/)

  • Must be approved by an AGM
  • Must be submitted to and approved by the Minister of the Crown who is administering the Corporations Law

Subject to the above two points the Articles may be altered in such a manner as Council may from time to time recommend.

The following proposals to amend the Articles of the Society to enable these alterations will be put as one Motion to the 2012 Annual General Meeting.

1. It is proposed to amend clause (b) of Article 7 (Meetings of the Society) that reads:

(b)   Each member of the Society shall be entitled to be given not less than six weeks prior written notice of each general meeting of the Society, specifying the place, date and time of commencing of the meeting and the nature of the business to be transacted at the meeting.  Notice published in the Journal or Newsletter shall be deemed to constitute due notice for the purposes of this paragraph, as long as the edition of the Journal or Newsletter in which such notice appears is dispatched to members generally not less than six weeks prior to the meeting.

to:

(b)   Each member of the Society shall be entitled to be given not less than three weeks prior written notice of each general meeting of the Society, specifying the place, date and time of commencing of the meeting and the nature of the business to be transacted at the meeting.  Notice published in the Newsletter and on the Society’s Website shall be deemed to constitute due notice for the purposes of this paragraph, as long as the edition of the Newsletter in which such notice appears is dispatched to members generally not less than three weeks prior to the meeting and is published on the Website not less than three weeks prior to the meeting.

 

2. It is proposed to amend clause (a) of Article 27 (Notices) that reads:

(a) A notice may be given by the Society to any member either personally or by sending it by post to him/her at his/her registered address.  Where a notice is sent by post, service of the notice shall be deemed to be effected by properly addressing, prepaying, and posting a letter containing the notice, and to have been effected in the case of a notice of a meeting on the second day after the date of its posting, and in any other case at the time at which the letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.

to:

(a) A notice may be given by the Society to any member either personally or by sending it by post or email to him/her at his/her registered postal or email address.  Where a notice is sent by post, service of the notice shall be deemed to be effected by properly addressing, prepaying, and posting a letter containing the notice, and to have been effected in the case of a notice of a meeting on the second day after the date of its posting, and in any other case at the time at which the letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post. Where a notice is sent by email, service of the notice shall be deemed to be effected by properly addressing and sending the email containing the notice.

 

3. It is proposed to amend clause (a) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(a) The Society shall publish periodicals to be known as 'The Rangeland Journal' and the ‘Range Management Newsletter’.  The Journal shall be published in such manner and at such intervals as the Council may decide.

to:

(a) The Society shall publish periodicals to be known as 'The Rangeland Journal' and the ‘Range Management Newsletter’ and other material of interest to members on an electronic website.  The Journal shall be published in such manner and at such intervals as the Council may decide.

 

4. It is proposed to amend clause (b) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(b) The Journal and/or Newsletter shall be sent free to each member of the Society according to his/her membership category, at his/her registered address.

to:

(b) The Journal shall be sent to each member of the Society according to his/her membership category, at his/her registered address and electronic access to the Newsletter and Members Only section of the Website shall be provided exclusively to members.

 

5. It is proposed that clause (c) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(c) A list of all members shall be published periodically.

remains unchanged.

 

6. It is proposed to amend clause (d) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(d) The Council shall appoint biennially a Publications Committee consisting of the Editors for the Journal and Newsletter, the production Manager and such other members (not necessarily being members of the Council) as the Council may decide.

to:

(c) The Council shall appoint biennially a Publications Committee consisting of the Editors for the Journal, Newsletter and Website, and such other members (not necessarily being members of the Council) as the Council may decide.

 

7. It is proposed to amend clause (e) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(e) The members of the Publications Committee shall hold office until the end of the second annual general meeting after their appointment or last reappointment, except that the Council may at any time terminate the appointment of any one or more of the members of the Committee.

to:

(d) The members of the Publications Committee shall hold office for three years after their appointment or last reappointment, except that the Council may at any time terminate the appointment of any one or more of the members of the Committee.

 

8. It is proposed to delete clause (f) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(f) For the operations of the Newsletter, the Newsletter Editor and Production Manager may jointly operate a bank account to be opened at such bank and operated in such manner as the Council may decide, under the name ‘Australian Rangeland Society Newsletter Account:.  Cheques shall be signed jointly by the Newsletter Editor and Production Manager, or in such other manner as the Council may decide.

 

9. It is proposed to delete clause (g) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(g) For the operations of the Journal, the Journal Editor and Productions Manager may jointly operate a bank account to be opened at such bank and operated in such manner as the Council may decide, under the name 'Australian Rangeland Society Journal Account'.  Cheques shall be signed jointly by the Editor and the Business Manager, or in such other manner as the Council may decide.

 

10. It is proposed to add a new clause (f) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(e) The Society shall maintain an electronic website on the internet to inform the public about the Society, to provide an electronic means of joining the Society, to provide electronic access to proceedings of conferences organised by the Society, the Newsletter and to any other material Council and the Publications Committee wish to publish.

 

11. It is proposed that clause (g) of Article 23 (Publications) that reads:

(f) All advertisements for insertion in the Society’s publications must first be approved by the relevant Editor on behalf of the Council.

remain unchanged.

 

12. It is proposed to amend the title of Article 24 (Editors etc.) that reads:

24. EDITORS OF THE JOURNAL AND NEWSLETTER

to:

24. EDITORS OF THE JOURNAL, NEWSLETTER AND WEBSITE

 

13. It is proposed to delete Article 25 (Production Manager) that reads:

25 PRODUCTION MANAGER

(a) The Council may appoint from time to time a person to be the Production Manager of its publications on such terms and conditions as it may decide.

(b) The Production Manager shall be responsible for the printing, publication and distribution of the Journal and such other publications and matters as directed by Council.  The Production Manager shall be subject to the directions of the Council in all matters involving the expenditure of funds.
 

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A RESPONSE TO THE ARTICLE ON SHRUB ENCROACHMENT - A GLOBAL VIEW (RMN 11/2)

Peter Walker, Orange  NSW  2800.  Email:  peter.walker3@bigpond.com.

I would like to make some comments on David Eldridge’s article in the July 2011 issue of the Range Management Newsletter (RMN 11/2)

As a soil conservationist at Cobar in the 1970’s and working throughout the Western Division of NSW  for some years afterwards, management and control of inedible woody shrubs was a major part of my and many others’ work.

Many readers will recognise the Cobar Peneplain as having arguably the most woody shrubs and trees and the most eroded, hard-setting soils in the Australian rangelands.  Most of the ridges of the Cobar Peneplain support dense growth of woody shrubs and little if any groundcover (except in exceptional seasons like 1976, 1983/4, 2000, and perhaps 2010/11).

The proliferation of shrubs (and trees) was attributed to lack of periodic fire, removal of rabbits, and high total grazing pressure, resulting in overgrazing of groundcover.  The bare ground was attributed to loss of more fertile topsoil by water erosion (leaving a hard-setting surface with high runoff rates and very low water infiltration capacity), competition over groundcover from shrubs and trees, and removal of ground cover by continuous grazing.

The prevailing view (eg evidence to the Royal Commission in 1901) was that this country was once a grassy open woodland.  As groundcover was reduced by grazing and /or drought, grazing intensity increased (as stock numbers were not reduced accordingly), bare ground increased, soil erosion and runoff increased, shrub seedling establishment increased through reduced competition by grass, growing shrubs increasingly competed for soil moisture, and a downward spiral of groundcover levels became firmly established.

The soil conservation rationale at the time was prevention of further soil erosion by encouraging groundcover, this requiring prevention of woody shrub increase, enhancement of infiltration of runoff water, removal of established woody shrubs, and establishment of a sustainable grazing regime.  Woody shrub invasion was regarded as a form of land degradation, and its severity was mapped in 1987-88 in a state-wide assessment of land degradation (Graham,1989).

Although I agree with much of what David says, to my mind the significant or total replacement of grassy shrub woodland by woody vegetation across extensive areas IS a form of land degradation, with a negative effect on ecosystem processes.  This is despite the fact that some bird and fauna species are advantaged by denser canopies of woody plants.  It is certainly a form of degradation for the pastoral industry.  And, if the amount of bare ground under shrub or tree canopies increases, then so does the risk of soil erosion- a cause of permanent land degradation.  Restoration of native perennial grasslands can thus be expected to improve ecological processes resulting in more productive and resilient landscapes (Alemseged et al. 2011).  The rangeland that David describes in New Mexico and Texas sounds to me analogous to a fair bit of the Cobar Peneplain.

As referenced by David, Danni Ayers et al. found that a mosaic of low, moderate and high densities of shrubs and trees provide the optimum habitat for the largest range of birds and fauna.  This would indicate that the best land condition for biodiversity is a grassy or herbaceous woodland with a range of shrub and tree densities.

While a succession or encroachment of woody species is part natural, land management is obviously a major factor, especially fire and grazing management.  The challenge for land managers is to achieve a vegetation structure that provides for this biodiversity, production potential (of various types) and/or provision of environmental enhancement.

It does need to be recognised that not all rangelands are capable of grazing, or at least continuous grazing, taking into account total grazing pressure.  This may apply at a land unit scale up to a whole  land type scale.  Some would argue that the harder red portion of the Cobar Peneplain falls into this category, at least in its current condition.  This is not to say that tactical grazing when seasonal conditions allow would not be sustainable, but the very infrequent availability of such opportunities would result in logistical, economic, and social upheaval.

Of the many  forms of woody shrub control attempts I know of in the NSW rangelands, all have failed in the long term, except where periodic cultivation (and cropping) have prevailed (see also Alemseged et al. 2011 and references therein).  This seems to be the only means of establishing a financially viable alternative and providing the constant attention that is necessary for control of woody plant regrowth.  Alemseged et al.  (op. cit.) found that clearing  of shrub and periodic cropping followed by light or rotational grazing did allow reestablishment of desirable native grasses after good summer rains near Cobar.  The emphasis here must be on the post-cropping grazing management.

All the other shrub control methods work for a while, but sooner or later regrowth overcomes the will, effort and/or finances of the land manager.  Most treated trial sites that I have revisited now carry a higher density of shrubs than beforehand. (I’m sure there are some exceptions, and there ARE short term benefits of most treatments, but I suspect the costs of the treatments, except perhaps for burning, outweigh the overall benefits).  If this is indeed the case, then it is best not to disturb the status quo, except that a decline in production and financial viability will inevitably result.  The obvious need is to try to prevent the encroachment of shrubs on clear areas, prescribed burning being the best option.  So, there is never likely to be a shortage of shrub infested land: on a property, local or rangeland scale.

I believe there are several possible ways to address the issue of shrub and timber dominated rangeland. These might include:

  • Develop land use alternatives to grazing. Payment for management of carbon sinks and/or Enterprise Based Conservation would appear an ideal solution.
  • Allow clearing and cropping management on a portion of holdings where the soils and rainfall regimes are favourable, in return for only sporadic grazing of the remainder if/when ground cover levels reach agreed levels.  For example, in the Cobar district 3-4000 hectares of typical 20000 hectare holdings could be approved for development.
  • Control, by lease conditions, grazing down to proscribed groundcover levels.
  • Government provides incentives for maintaining proscribed groundcover levels and for adoption of alternative land uses.
  • Government buys back leases to allow alternative land uses (including nature conservation).

It is recognised that all land needs to be managed, either privately, publicly or in combination.  The economics of grazing in shrub infested  and heavily timbered rangelands are such as to force pressure on grazing rates, reduce land management inputs and require off-farm income (or indeed reduce these holdings to hobby farms, rural retreats or hunting blocks).  There is need to keep people on the land to manage, and at the same time to maintain rural communities and infrastructure.  Otherwise the management of such land falls to Government agencies, and these agencies have been progressively starved of funding, not only to carry out land management practices but even to provide staff to carry them out.

The best hope would appear to be that a range of alternative land uses which support local populations, optimise use of natural resources, and maintain ecological values and processes can be developed and implemented. This seems a tall order in the foreseeable future but needs to be pursued.

References

Alemseged Y, Hacker RB, Smith WJ, and Melville GJ (2011).  Temporary cropping in semi-arid shrublands increases native perennial grasses.  The Rangeland Journal 33(1): 67-78

Graham, OP (1989).  Land Degradation Survey of New South Wales 1987-89: Methodology.  Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales, Technical Report No. 7, Sydney ,NSW.
 

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RECENT UPDATES TO THE ACRIS WEBSITE

Gary Bastin, ACRIS Management Unit, CSIRO, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs NT 0871.  Email: Gary.Bastin@csiro.au

What is ACRIS?

It is widely understood that the extreme climatic variability in the Australian rangelands makes it difficult to separate change resulting from seasonal climate variation from that driven by human activities.  The Australian Collaborative Rangeland Information System (ACRIS) uses scientifically rigorous data and information collated from state, Northern Territory and Australian Government agencies and other sources to monitor changes.

The report Rangelands 2008-Taking the Pulse documents change, as distinct from state, in the rangelands at a national and regional scale using data and information produced and interpreted by the ACRIS for the period 1992 to 2005.  This report can be accessed on the ACRIS website at:
http://www.environment.gov.au/land/rangelands/acris/index.html

Recent Updates

Since the production of the Rangelands 2008-Taking the Pulse report, four updates reporting recent change in the rangelands have been uploaded on to the ACRIS website:

Fire Extent and Frequency - 2006-2010

Key Points:

The continued mapping of fire scars from satellite imagery has allowed ACRIS to update the fire record for 2006 through 2010. A complete fire record for the rangelands now exists between 1997 and 2010.  Fire extent and frequency continue to vary considerably across the rangelands.  Notable differences include:

  1. Fire continues to be widespread and frequent in much of northern Australia when there is little rain during the dry season.  Much of this burning appears to be uncontrolled, occurring in the late dry season when fires are more extensive and quite intense.  However there is evidence for some northern bioregions that the extent of cooler fires in the early dry season is increasing. Such burning should mitigate the extent and severity of hotter fires in the late dry season.
  2.  Fire was relatively more extensive in north east Queensland in 2008 and 2009 following high rainfall over the preceding summers.  For example, 3.8% and 4.7% of the Brigalow Belt North and 5.0% and 6.0% of the Desert Uplands bioregions burnt in 2008 and 2009 respectively.  Median annual fire extent (between 1997 and 2010) for the Brigalow Belt North is 0.7% and for the Desert Uplands, 1.9%.
  3. In the semi-arid and arid parts of central Australia, there was little fire activity between 2006 and 2010. This region last experienced extensive episodic fire, particularly in the western deserts, following the sequence of wetter years at the start of the most recent decade.  This situation changed late last year with large areas of central Australia burning following very good rainfall in 2010 and 2011. Statistics will be reported in the next ACRIS update of fire activity,

Fire was generally minimal and infrequent across most of the southern rangelands between 2006 and 2010.

Livestock Grazing Pressure - 2003-2008

Key Points:

  1. ACRIS now has an embedded process for reporting change in livestock density based on periodic census and surveys of graziers by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to obtain stock numbers. However ACRIS is not able to quantify the reliability of all regional data; available jurisdictional data agree for some regions and differ elsewhere.
  2. Since our previous reporting in Rangelands 2008 - Taking the pulse, stock density (almost exclusively cattle) has continued to increase in many northern pastoral bioregions.  Much of this increase is presumed to be driven by continuing strong demand, until 2009, for live-export cattle into south-east Asia.
  3. In contrast, regional livestock densities declined between 2004 and 2008 in much of the south eastern, southern and south western rangelands.
  4. Through the first decade of the 21st century, there has been a variable relationship between change in livestock density and seasonal quality (as indicated by decile rainfall).  Stock densities appeared to broadly track seasonal quality in some bioregions (i.e. the expected result) while in others (particularly parts of northern and central Australia), density remained above the 1984-91 base as seasonal quality declined.
  5. Timely monitoring of landscape function and critical stock forage is critical where reduced stocking density does not closely align with declining seasonal quality.

As reported in Rangelands 2008 - Taking the pulse, the reliability of findings remains an issue.  Reliability of the ABS survey data is unknown where corresponding jurisdictional data are not available for corroboration.  Additionally, concordance procedures between Statistical Local Areas (SLA) used by ABS to collate data and bioregions (used by ACRIS for reporting) may be tenuous for those pastoral bioregions where there is small sample size and/or poor spatial correspondence between the two regionalisations.

Kangaroos contribute significantly to total grazing pressure and recent changes in their regional populations are reported in the “ACRIS Kangaroo Density Update 2004-2008”.  Continuing lack of quantitative data on numbers of feral herbivores (particularly goats) prevents ACRIS from comprehensively reporting change in total grazing pressure in the rangelands.  This has now improved with ACRIS contracting Tony Pople (Biosecurity Queensland) to collate and analyse goat data collected as part of the annual kangaroo surveys.  Tony’s report will be uploaded to the ACRIS web site soon.

Kangaroo Densities - 2004-2008

Key Points:

Systematic surveys of kangaroo numbers continue across the NSW rangelands, the sheep-grazed pastoral tenure of SA and much of western Queensland.  Similar surveys also occur in the southern and western parts of the WA rangelands and these data are now available to ACRIS.

Additional data since 2003 show that:

  1. The combined density of kangaroo species in WA (reds and western greys) was much lower than the combined density of species in eastern states (including SA).
  2. There has been a general decline in kangaroo populations in all bioregions (with available data for reporting) since 2003.  Regional densities in 2008 were generally considerably below the average for the 1984-93 period (used as a base for reporting change).
  3. Density declines were related to drier years (poorer seasonal quality) in the middle years of the last decade.  For the example bioregions examined there has been a variable response with better seasons towards the end of the reporting period.  Kangaroo densities have remained largely unchanged in some regions and slowly increased in others.

Recent Dust Activity Based on the Dust Storm Index - 2005-2010

The level of dust in the air is a useful indicator of wind erosion rate, although the amount of dust observed is influenced by several factors (actual weather conditions, soil type, vegetation type and ground cover etc).  In Australia, a Dust Storm Index (DSI) is calculated from visibility records made by Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) observers.  The DSI provides a measure of the frequency and intensity of wind erosion activity at continental scale.  It is a composite measure of the contributions of: local dust events, moderate dust storms and severe dust storms using weightings for each event type, based upon dust concentrations inferred from reduced visibility during each of these event types.

The DSI was first used in the National Collaborative Project on Indicators for Sustainable Agriculture (NCPISA) and has been used for monitoring wind erosion in all National State of the Environment (SoE) Reports and Queensland SoE reports and for the Australian Rangeland Information System (ACRIS) since 2007. 

ACRIS reported spatial patterns and trend in the Dust Storm Index between 1992 and 2005 in Rangelands 2008 - Taking the pulse.  An update has recently been carried out by Grant McTainsh and colleagues at Griffith University and is available on the ACRIS website.

Key Points:

  1. Methods for calculating DSI have changed since dust activity was last reported in Rangelands 2008 – Taking the pulse.  Manual observation frequency (MOF) is now standardised such that there must be a continuous record between 1992 and 2010 for the data from a recording station to be included.  This reduces the risk of generating erroneously high or low mean DSI values for particular areas where a station has a discontinuous recording history.  Another change (of lesser importance) is using inverse distance weighting to spatially interpolate DSI values between recording stations.  This method affords more control over the spread of values away from data points (BoM recording stations) than did the previously used ‘natural neighbour’ method.
  2. Recent change in dust activity for rangeland bioregions is presented in two ways in the Griffith University report available from the ACRIS web site:
    • By comparing mean DSI values for 1992-2005 with those for the extended 1992-2010 period.
    • By comparing change for recent years where there has been dramatic change.

In essence, dust levels were relatively high in parts of the eastern and western rangelands to 2009 (particularly) but were very low in the east with the good season experienced in 2010.

Other Updates Expected Soon

It is expected that an additional two updates will be uploaded to the website soon:

• Landscape Function

• Critical Stock Forage as an indicator of Sustainable Grazing Management


More Information

Detailed reports expanding on these summaries are available as PDFs from the ACRIS website. Further information about the ACRIS is also available on the website or from Gary Bastin at the ACRIS Management Unit (Gary.Bastin@csiro.au).
 

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OBITUARY - DR GORDON KING

Gordon King passed away peacefully on Sunday August 14 after a relatively short battle with a very rare form of bile duct cancer.  Gordon's spirit remained strong to the end and he was still involving himself in the organisation of various conferences and events even as his illness progressed.  Gordon was born a city boy but he had the bush in his heart completing an agricultural science degree and a PhD in pasture agronomy.  While an academic staff member at University of New South Wales, Gordon supervised many overseas students, befriending and housing a number of them, revealing his generosity of spirit that touched many people over the years.

Many of his students were introduced to the wonders of the Australian rangelands at the University's Fowlers Gap Field Station north of Broken Hill.  Supervising these students heightened Gordon's strong interest in the rangelands and this coupled with his business acumen and organisational skills came together in the organisation of the IRC in Townsville in 1999.  Gordon was the business manager and he set about his task with great enthusiasm which entailed travelling the world drumming up support and sponsorship for the Congress.  He is well remembered for turning up at SRM meetings in freezing February in Hawaiian shirt and boardshorts to promote the Townsville 'troppo" congress.  Gordon's gregarious nature, booming voice and never say no attitude was unwavering even when things got tough.  His outstanding efforts led to an incredibly successful congress with a record number of delegates and a business model that allowed a very large portion of the sponsorship money to be used to support more than 100 delegates from developing countries.  An abiding memory for those attending the Townsville conference will be Gordon dancing in his tropical shirt (and without his tropical shirt!) at the beach party!

As a result of Gordon's success in running the business and finances for the 1999 IRC, he became involved in supporting the organisation of the 2003 IRC in Durban, the 2008 joint IRC-IGC in Hohhot which took an extraordinary effort, and most recently helping the Argentinean team with the organisation of the IRC in Rosario in April this year.  Some may have found his at times blunt advice a bit confronting but this attitude and approach was exactly what was needed to successfully organise these large international congresses.  His larger than life character, compassion and sound advice touched many people's lives in many countries.  He'll be sadly missed by rangelanders around the globe.

Andrew Ash, Director, Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO, GPO Box 2583 Brisbane QLD 400.  Email:  Andrew.Ash@csiro.au

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LEARNING FOR A FUTURE IN THE RANGELANDS - YOUR THOUGHTS

John Taylor, Rangelands Australia/Professor of Rangeland Management at The University of Queensland, Gatton  QLD  4343.  Email: john.a.taylor@uq.edu.au

The Rangeland Management Postgraduate Coursework Program was developed through a participative process that engaged over 1000 producers/land managers, extension officers, Landcare/NRM Facilitators, scientists and policy makers.  The Program has been very successful, but after 10 years it’s time to update the needs analysis (ie. knowledge and skills for future success in the rangelands), and to review and, if necessary, revamp the curriculum to remain ‘forward looking’.

To do this Rangelands Australia (RA) has developed an on-line survey with the assistance of UQs Institute of Social Science Research (ISSR).  The survey covers the values and qualities we need to instill in our graduates for individual effectiveness and success, the range of courses/subjects offered and the mode of offer, and the knowledge and skills necessary for economic, environmental and social outcomes in the rangelands.  The questionnaire is a combination of 'tick the box' type questions and short written answers and comes in two parts.  In Part A we are seeking advice on curriculum/course development, and the breadth of knowledge and skills graduates in Rangeland Management will need in the future.  In Part B we are seeking advice on the content of individual courses to ensure that what we deliver is relevant - now and in the future.  Depending on your responses, it should take about 10 to 25 minutes to complete the survey.

The Rangeland Management program aims to complement research-oriented programs by focusing on providing accessible and relevant opportunities for the professional development of producers/managers, extension officers/advisors and Landcare/NRM Facilitators, and especially those who live/work in the rangelands. 

We will be emailing the survey to key people and organizations across Australia, and to others with a long interest in the future of our rangelands.  If you would like to contribute your insights and/or expertise, please send your email address to Margaret Wood at RA (margaret.wood@uq.edu.au ) with ‘RM Survey’ in the Subject.  If you would like a hard copy of the survey and a return envelope sent to you, please put ‘RM Survey –Hard copy pls’ in the Subject and include your postal address in the body of the email.  All responses will be submitted direct to ISSR, will remain confidential, and cannot be linked back to your contact details.

We look forward to your assistance in helping us meet the educational needs of managers and other professionals in our vast rangelands.
 


 

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65TH SOCIETY FOR RANGE MANAGEMENT ANNUAL MEETING - SPOKANE, WASHINGTON

John Taylor, ARS President and Director, Rangelands Australia/Professor of Rangeland Management at The University of Queensland, Gatton  QLD  4343.
Email: john.a.taylor@uq.edu.au

The meeting attracted almost 1500 people, with 30% of them classed as young professionals and students.  It was a well-run meeting, with a Trade Show and a host of great opportunities for learning and networking.

The ARS and CSIRO Publishing joined forces to mount a stand at the 2-day Trade Show, with good interest shown in the Kununurra conference and The Rangeland Journal.
The 5-day program included 11 Workshops, 13 Technical Sessions, 9 Forums and 9 Symposiums.  The fora were on topics such as: Status and Conservation of Burrowing Owls; Bringing History into Management: Providing Perspective and Direction; Rangeland Collaboration: Ranch and Landscape Scale; Disturbance, Resilience and Thresholds in Sagebrush Ecosystems; Mongolian Rangeland Development and Management; and included a Ranchers’ Forum.  Symposia included: Toolbox for Invasive Species Management; Climate Change and North American Rangelands; Free Roaming Wild and Feral Horses; and Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach: Education in Rangeland Ecology and Management.

The Program and Abstracts are available on the Spokane 2012 website: http://www.rangelands.org/spokane2012/.  Unfortunately, the Abstracts are not grouped by Session, Forum, etc, so you’ll need to refer to the Program (p 26-69) to identify titles of interest, and then search the list of Abstracts by Titles.

In a prelude to the 2013 meeting there were also forums on Native American Rangelands – Tribal Perspectives and Programs that Work on Native American Rangelands.  The theme of the 66th meeting will be ‘Native America – Native Rangelands’, and this will be held in Oklahoma City, from 2nd to 6th February 2013.
 

 

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AW HOWARD MEMORIAL STUDY AWARDS

The A W Howard Memorial Trust Incorporated has, over the past 37 years, offered study awards and research fellowships to Australians working towards promoting and improving the development, management and use of pastures (including natural resource management) in Australia. Grants-in-Aid are also awarded to Australian organisations, associations and communities for projects related to pastures.  These grants commemorate the outstanding vision that Amos W Howard (a grazier at Mt. Barker in South Australia) achieved in discovering and then promoting the value of subterranean clover to farmers in Australia.

The Trust intends to diversify its awards as follows:

AW Howard Memorial Study Award for Australian Grazing or Rangeland Extension Consultants, Advisers and Agribusiness Specialists

This Study Award seeks to encourage and enable front line extension specialists, rural consultants and agribusiness staff working with Australian pastoral industries (located either in temperate, Mediterranean, tropical or arid grazing regions) to visit and examine pastures, grazing systems and practices that have been successfully developed and implemented either overseas or in other Australian regions. These systems would need to be economically and environmentally sound and socially acceptable.

One such award will be made biennially or annually (commencing in 2012) to a value of up to $A20,000.

AW Howard Memorial Study Award for Australian Graziers or Rangeland Pastoralists 

This Award seeks to encourage and enable respected and innovative Australian graziers or rangeland pastoralists the opportunity to visit and examine successful grazing systems and practices being implemented either in Australia or in other countries that are perceived to have either economic, social and/or environmental benefits to Australian pastoral industries and rural communities. This Study Award seeks to promote producer excellence and leadership within Australian pastoral industries through development and adoption of best pastoral practices, new practical management approaches in pastures, grazing systems and natural resource management.

One such award will be made biennially or annually (commencing in 2012) to a value of up to $A20,000.

Conditions for both Awards

Applications for both awards close on 30 March 2012 and applicants will be notified in late May 2012.

Applicants must have been continuously resident in Australia for the past three years or have permanent residency status in Australia.

Applications for both Study Awards will be competitively assessed by the Trust on merit from a written and signed application form that can be sourced from the Trust website (www.sardi sa.gov.au/awhoward).

Each application must have written letters of support from two knowledgeable referees familiar with the applicant that clearly states how the applicant is viewed within the industry and how rural communities and grazing industries would benefit from the proposed Study Award being granted.

At the conclusion of the Study Award the successful applicant must prepare a report describing the main outcomes and highlights of the visits undertaken and innovations that may have relevance to Australian grazing or rangeland industries. The report will be published in the AlAST Journal and will be made available to Australian Grassland Societies and rural media.

Further information is available from:

The A W Howard Memorial Trust Inc
C/-South Australian Research and Development Institute, GPO Box 397, ADELAIDE SA 5001
Telephone: (08) 8303 9401
Facsimile: (08) 8303 9403
http://www.sardi.sa.gov.au/awhoward
 

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NEW MEMBERS

Helene Aubault - Brisbane  Qld

Donald Cowan - Brisbane  Qld

Katrina Gepp - Broken Hill  NSW

Josephine Kelman - Gympie  Qld

Allen McIlwee - Adelaide  SA

Grant Mctainsh - Brisbane  Qld

Tim Moore - Adelaide  SA

James Schultz - Sydney  NSW

Craig Strong - Brisbane  Qld

Sandra Dunn - Orange  NSW

Martin & Kristin Williams - Nyngan  NSW

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2012 ARS MEMBERSHIP RATES

2012 Membership Rates; GST inclusive, if paid by 31st March*

                                                                                   Australia          Overseas Airmail

Individual or Family

  • Full (Journal + Newsletter)/Student       $100/$80              $125/$100
  • Part (Newsletter only)/Student                 $60/$45                  $70/$50

Company

  • Full (Journal + Newsletter)                          $135                        $165
  • Part (Newsletter only)                                    $75                           $90

* Please note that the RMN will only be available electronically to members except those who pay an additional $15 membership subscription to receive a printed copy of each issue - see note below under the heading Membership Subscription Rates for 2012

New members are encouraged to join the Society via the ARS website (www.austrangesoc.com.au) and renewing members should also pay their 2012 dues through the website, if possible. A renewing member should logon using their Username, which is their email address as in the ARS database, and their Password, which is “new login xxxx”, xxxx being the member’s membership number. If you do not know your membership number, please contact Graeme Tupper by email, grmtupper@yahoo.com.au. Some members may have changed their Password in the database, in which case, Graeme Tupper will not know it. If you encounter problems in logging on, contact Graeme Tupper.

  • Membership Fees paid after 31st March incur a penalty of an additional $15.00 per subscription.
  • All rates are quoted in AUSTRALIAN currency and must be paid in AUSTRALIAN currency.
  • Membership is for the calendar year 1st January to 31st December. New member subscriptions paid after 1st October are deemed as payment for the following year.

Any member who has not paid his/her subscription by 31st March of the financial year for which it is payable shall be deemed unfinancial, and all his/her rights and privileges as a member of the Society are suspended until the subscription is paid.

Membership Subscription Rates for 2012

The 2012 Subscription Rates remain as for 2011, except that the Range Management Newsletter will be available electronically to financial members who have current membership, i.e. payment has been made for 2012. For members who wish to receive a printed copy of the RMN, an additional $15 membership subscription will be required, except for members who do not have an email address, who will continue to receive a printed copy as part of their standard membership fee. The new system will be implemented as from the publication of the second RMN for 2012. Any enquiries relating to this should be directed to Graeme Tupper, Subscription Manager, grmtupper@yahoo.com.au

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