Improving drought resilience through NRM

Farmers across eastern Australia are facing the prospect of a dry summer on the back of a long period of below average rainfall.

Short term assistance packages can help farmers through the worst of these periods however, a recent research report by the University of Canberra has highlighted the importance of natural resource management in improving resilience to drought conditions over the long term.

“This report gives us valuable insights into how NRM programs can bring farming and landscape benefits beyond the typical outcomes of weed control, better grazing practices or threatened species management,” NRM Regions Australia, Executive Officer Kate Andrews said.

“While it’s long been known that NRM can have flow-on benefits, we don’t always have the analytics to demonstrate this.

“Learning more about what NRM actions bring the most benefits in combating the effects of drought will help in building more robust and targeted programs in the future.”

The research found that many NRM investments improved resilience to drought. One of the most important actions identified was in regards to helping farmers to plan for and manage risk. Other beneficial activities identified were supporting graziers to manage groundcover, control of feral animals, improved water use efficiency, and building feed reserves.

The research outcomes underscore the importance of the link between natural resource management and agriculture, acknowledged in the Memorandum of Understanding the NFF has with NRM Regions Australia which was signed during 2017.  

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President, Fiona Simson, welcomed the report.

“Farming communities and NFF are concerned about the resilience of farmers and their enterprises in times of drought.

“We are pleased to see analysis that adds evidence-based insights into how we can build resilience to drought and which explores tax deductible insurance premiums.”

Climate models predict more frequent warmer and drier periods across Australia, and helping farmers better prepare for this eventuality is critical to sustaining our industry.

Natural resource management bodies based regionally across Australia are responding to this challenge via a range of targeted programs including grants and landholder workshops, and improved soil, water and grazing management.

The University of Canberra research report provides additional evidence to support the work already underway and provides scope for improvements to how such programs are rolled out, communicated, or adapted.

For more information and case studies highlighting the benefits of NRM programs to farmers in improving drought resilience, check out our section on Building Drought Resilience in our Knowledge Bank section.

Funding boosts recovery effort for a Tasmanian endemic

In 2017, project partners including NRM South, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Threatened Species Section) and the University of Tasmania received grant funding from the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Recovery Fund (TSRF) for emergency intervention actions to save Morrisby’s gum from extinction. The project aimed to create safe havens to protect Morrisby’s gum from browsing and wildfire, to improve habitat by infill planting and controlling invasive grasses, and to investigate methods to improve the genetic diversity of seed stock.

Morrisby’s gum (Eucalyptus morrisbyi) is one of Australia’s most threatened eucalypts and has an extremely restricted distribution in the wild. Endemic to Tasmania’s southeast, it was previously known to only exist in two locations, which have suffered rapid dramatic declines in recent decades. With the loss of all but a few established trees, they were considered to be functionally extinct as there were fewer than 30 mature trees in the wild producing seed.

Following the announcement of TSRF funding, a landowner situated approximately 50 km from the remaining stands, contacted NRM South to inform them about a mature block of E. morrisbyi that he had planted on his property in the 1990s, which had since disappeared from formal records. This was a significant boost for the recovery project – providing valuable new genetic material from a stand of healthy mature trees.

One year on, recovery actions under the TSRF project have already contributed to improving the trajectory for Morrisby’s gum. In the last six months there has been substantial regeneration of suppressed juvenile plants in two fenced safe havens at Calverts Hill Nature Reserve, 446 E. morrisbyi planted into empty niches and an increase in the genetic diversity of seed banked material from this provenance.  Seed collection from 53 plants in the seed orchard has confirmed a provenance that is  genetically diverse from the other populations.

TSRF project activities, which have been coordinated by NRM South, will wrap up in June 2019. For more information about the project, check out NRM South website updates here and here.

Submission to the Senate inquiry into our faunal extinction crisis

While Australia is renowned for its unique and varied biodiversity, our ‘megadiverse’ landscapes are losing mammal species at a rate faster than anywhere else in the world. NRM Regions Australia recently made a submission to the Senate’s ‘Environment and Communications References Committee Inquiry’ into Australia’s faunal extinction crisis. The aim of this submission is to highlight the crucial role that NRM organisations play in conserving our biodiversity assets. The integrated approach to landscape management that has been practiced under the NRM model for decades has enabled regional NRM bodies to address land and water management practices and deal with other threatening processes such as loss of vegetation, weed and feral animal impacts. These actions, which involve community and a range of land managers, are vital in protecting habitat at a landscape scale.

Australia’s declining biodiversity decline demands attention, particularly when faced with the challenges of climate change, a growing population and greater global competition for diminishing resources. Without the national ‘infrastructure’ provided by NRM regions many of our landscape-scale threatened species projects could not be delivered. To download a copy of the submission, click here.

47 organisations to deliver the $450 million RLP program.

Successful tenderers for Regional Land Partnerships have been announced, with 47 organisations getting the green light to go ahead with projects under Phase 2 of the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Over the next five years, these organisations will continue the long standing commitment to deliver on-ground natural resource management through projects targeting key national environment and sustainable agriculture priorities at a regional and local level.

With an investment totalling $450 million, priority activities under RLP include protecting and improving soil condition on agricultural land, protecting threatened ecological communities, restoring globally-important wetlands, and supporting recovery efforts for species identified under the Threatened Species Strategy.

For more information, refer to the official Media Release; Regional Land Partnerships: a fresh start for Landcare.