Australian Rangeland Society

Restoring Ecological Processes, Ecosystems and Landscapes in a Changing World : Conference at UNE, 5–9 February, 2017

Wal Whalley and Rhiannon Smith, School of Environmental and Rural Science, The University of New England.  Email: rwhalley@une.edu.aursmith66@une.edu.au

 

Members of ARS working in the general area of landscape regeneration may be interested in the outcomes from the above Conference at the University of New England last February. The Australian Rangeland Society was one of the sponsors of the Conference and 12 of the 27 Plenary and Keynote addresses were published in the latest Issue of The Rangeland Journal, totaling 166 pages plus an Editorial. This issue was published on the 29th January, 2018 as the last in Vol. 39. By arrangement with CSIRO Publishing, all papers in this Issue can be downloaded free to non-members of ARS for three months from the date of publication. They can be downloaded free to Members after this date. Additional plenary and keynote addresses will also be published this year in a special issue of Ecological Management and Restoration  (https://www.ecolsoc.org.au/publications/journals/emr).

More than 360 delegates attended and the Conference featured 190 presentations, including 27 presentations by invited plenary and keynote speakers, covering the full spectrum of topics associated with environmental restoration. Delegates included scientists, practitioners, landholders, Indigenous land management groups, and government and non-government organisations. The program covered social and political facets associated with restoration; practical aspects of designing and executing restoration projects; sustainable design of restoration projects in the face of continuing landscape and climate change, and end points and goals for restoration projects. Symposia topics included:

  • Seed genetics and management
  • Broad-acre revegetation strategies and techniques
  • Riparian restoration and revegetation
  • Cost-effective revegetation and restoration
  • Connectivity for biodiversity in fragmented landscapes
  • Sustainable revegetation in a changing world: planning and design issues
  • Revegetation for ecosystem service provision
  • Restoration and indigenous NRM
  • Sociology of restoration, revegetation and landscape repair
  • Grazing management for biodiversity conservation
  • Restoration on farms
  • Soils and restoration
  • Monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement of restoration and revegetation programs
  • Policy drivers for restoration
  • Invasive species and agri-ecosystem restoration
  • The role of fauna in restoration

The role of the arts in communicating environmental messages was explored through thought-provoking performances, artworks and a public discussion forum, and delegates visited local restoration projects and practitioners during a ¾-day field trip.

We invite readers to seek out audio recordings of presentations by visiting (http://www.une.edu.au/about-une/academic-schools/school-of-environmental-and-rural-science/ers-news-and-events/restore-regenerate-revegetate-conference-2017).

During the final plenary session of the Conference, approximately 120 delegates formulated and agreed unanimously to the following Declaration as part of the conference legacy. This document has since been distributed to political leaders throughout Australia in the hope that some of these recommendations will be accepted and appropriate actions taken.

The Armidale Declaration

The delegates at the Restore, Regenerate, Revegetate Conference held at the University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, from 5–9 February 2017, shared an impressive body of practical and scientific knowledge of how we are restoring Australia’s natural heritage and environmental capital across the continent. However, the Conference also highlighted several key points that must be addressed if we are to truly meet the challenges and opportunities of land repair.

  • We acknowledge the success of the last 30 years of land restoration and rehabilitation, but decry the continuing decline in the extent and condition of Australia’s native terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the impact that this will have on the health, prosperity, wellbeing and cultural legacy of future Australians.
  • We celebrate the significant contributions of many communities across Australia to repair their local environments. However, we have only just begun to address the vast challenge that confronts us. We have developed the skills, knowledge and passion to meet this challenge, but lack the market drivers to achieve the scale of response required.
  • We urge support for Indigenous groups so they can continue to work on country to manage our natural resources through the application of cultural science.
  • We urge effective action to limit human-induced climate change, which is crucial if we are to build on present and future restoration efforts.
  • We recommend ensuring that the principle of ‘net gain in biodiversity’ underpins all environmental regulation.
  • We recommend the development of a stable investment process that is decoupled from politics, has bipartisan support, retains and enhances social capital, and is independently administered, to support the actions and research required to reverse the ongoing decline in Australia’s natural terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (natural capital).
  • We recommend the establishment of a federal agency as the premier research and development organisation for promoting the productive and sustainable use of natural resources in rural Australia, in accord with the 2011 recommendations of the Productivity Commission.
  • We recommend the support and continued development of stable, long-term government institutions for natural resource administration and management, and the facilitation of strong partnerships between government, community and industry.
  • Finally, we recommend commonwealth, state and local governments define and mandate the use of native flora as an essential component in restoration and landscaping works associated with publicly funded road, rail and other infrastructure programs.

We would be interested to hear from any ARS members in Administrative positions about their reactions to these recommendations and any impacts they might have on attitude changes in the future.