This week we have been gathering some info for a deeper look at
biological processes to see if there is a way of getting a handle on the
issue of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) in regards to the idea of
Landholders duty of care. A lot has been written on the subject (see (4)
below) but with very little precise clarity for use in helping solve
Several more politicians (from various persuasions and parliaments) have
thanked us for our recent email demanding a National Property Rights Bill.
They want to be kept up to date on the issue which is pleasing.
New Approach - Lots of Links from now on
Since there are so many good articles we think people should want to look at,
from now on we will put in links (they are blue) for you to click on and go
directly to a web page with useful information. It will save you having to
type in a web address and then find the page which can often take a while to
find. Please check them out as these pages have photos, graphs, and other
information. These links will work when you forward News & views to other
This week we have
(1) Scientist says governments are ignoring greenhouse warning
(2) Publically listed Company getting into Conservation
(3) NSW Natural Resource Management Policy / Meeting
(4) A reply on sustainable Agriculture / remnant veg levels from Sheila Davis
(5) Salinity and water tables in the Desert Uplands
(6) NSW Farmers welcome John Andersons Property rights comments
(7) Nyngan Landholders civil disobedience threat - audio and photos on the web
(8) GM one hot topic at Women In Agriculture conference
(9) QLD Integrated Planning Act fears
(10) Dr Christine Jones comments on trees, crops & salinity
(11) Bill Soko replies to last weeks discussion
(12) Kathryn Varrica asks Is there a Standard for clear / vegetated land?
(13) 6 Tonne flower pots for salinity research
(14) An interview with one of the founders of Greenpeace - Patrick Moore
(1) Scientist says governments are ignoring greenhouse warning
New research shows that by the year 2050, the world's rainforests which
absorb around on third of the world's Carbon dioxide emissions will be
saturated. Climate scientist Barry Osmond, the head of the world's biggest
climate change project, Biosphere 2, says governments world wide are ignoring
the extent of the problem. In the 50's Carbon dioxide levels were around
300part per million, they are now 380 and by the middle of the next decade
will a massive 600 parts per million. Barry Osmond and Washington Based
scientist Joe Berry say while planting trees and playing with carbon credits
is good, they will not solve this global crisis, we have to stop using fossil
Barry Osmond says right now we are very fortunate that rainforests are taking
carbon dioxide out of the environment for us. We are burning fossil fuels in
the gigatonnes at the moment and only about half of that is winding up in the
atmosphere and the other half is going into the rainforests, so they are
currently helping us out. He says they anticipate they will continue to do
that for a while, but that will not be sustainable if the type of development
the world has seen over the last 300 years continues at its current level.
Dr Osmond is in charge of Biosphere 2, a giant research laboratory in the
Arizona desert in the USA. Biosphere 2 is the largest living laboratory in
the world, it covers 3 acres and encloses 7.2 million cubic feet, it has rain
forest, oceans, savanna, marshes, a fog desert and agro forestry. After a
chequered history, in the early 90's a group of young scientists tried to
live a totally self sufficent lifestyle in the lab but failed dismally, the
whole focus of Biosphere 2 has been changed to studying Climate change. Over
the next three years, three different landscapes will be created and then
totally cleared, to see what impact tree clearing has on the release of
(*There are many articles on greenhouse / global warming on our web site and
other places on the web. If you are on line then just click on the following
places to see the information.
To see an Interview with Dr. Sallie Baliunas on how the Sun may affect
climate change rather than CO2
To see an article by Leon Ashby showing global temperature graphs and carbon
dioxide levels with a discussion of various data.
To see comments on some Greenhouse Myths click here
To see data on sea levels (some are rising, some are falling) click here
To see Andrew Bolt`s article (Herald Sun) on Tasmania`s 160 year old sea
level marker showing a lower sea level than 160 years ago click here
To see photos of Franz Joseph Glacier (NZ) 1964 & 2000 showing Glacier
advancement (the opposite to what is expected with global warming) click here (http://www.john-daly.com/)
(2) Publically listed Company getting into Conservation
After the Tasmanian Landcare awards ceremony, the Founder of Earth
Sanctuaries, Dr JOHN WALMSLEY, gave a provocative speech. It touched on the
work of Earth Sanctuaries - a publically listed company that has conservation
of wildlife as its primary goal. Earth Sanctuaries strategy is to aquire land
and erect electrified vermin-proof perimeter fencing, then remove any feral
animals from that land and attempt to reintroduce selected native species
that occupied the area prior to European settlement.
(* Did you know Flinders Island has a unique situation where is has no
introduced / predatory animals such as rabbits, foxes, dingoes etc, therefore
the native animals flourish)
(3) NSW Natural Resource Management Policy / Meeting
Key NSW farming groups have presented members of NSW Cabinet with a list of
demands, aimed at addressing what they see as the failure of natural resource
The NSW Farmers' Association, NSW Irrigators' Council, Ricegrowers'
Association of Australia and Cotton Australia believe the regional committee
process for both water and native vegetation management has fallen apart,
despite the best intentions of those involved.
NSW Farmers' President, Mal Peters, says bureaucracy has bogged down the
process for years with very little in the way of outcomes for the environment
"Local representatives aren't being given the information they need,
particularly on the social and economic impacts of proposals, and they're
being out-numbered by Sydney fly-ins and departmental delegates," Mr Peters
NSW Irrigators' President, Col Thomson, says the problems being experienced
by water users are no different to those being faced over native vegetation
issues and they highlight an unwillingness by government to deal with the
social and economic impact of its reform agenda.
"It's quite clear that the process is no longer about community consultation
and stakeholder involvement - it is about government plans, government
targets and government outcomes," Mr Thomson said.
"The most worrying aspect of the water debate is that the security of our
water property right is now being threatened.
"The government clearly stated that the intent of the Water Management Act
was to clarify existing property rights and provide ten years of security for
water users through government buy-back of water for the environment.
"What we are now seeing is the government forcing water committees to build
in conditions or caveats into their plans which will ensure that this
buy-back is never triggered and that is simply not acceptable," Mr Thomson
Mr Peters says Regional Vegetation Committees are being forced to make
decisions which erode farmers' rights, simply because regulation is the only
power they are being given.
"Each committee needs to be provided with funding or other alternatives, so
they can build a range of incentives for conservation into their plans.
"Unless drastic changes are made to ensure local representatives have access
to social, economic and environmental studies, and the power to make
decisions which can't be overturned by city bureaucrats, the system will
continue to break down," Mr Peters concluded.
(4) A reply on sustainable Agriculture / remnant veg from Sheila Davis (Qld)
Sheila Davis has asked people for a list of Quotes / references which mention
vegetation retention rates. These are the replies she has been sent. Thanks
very much Sheila.
Jamie Pittock (WWF) lists
· Freudenburger, D., Noble, J., and Morton, S. (1997). A
comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system for the
Southern Mallee of NSW: Principles and Benchmarks, CSIRO Wildlife and
Ecology, Canberra. This recommends 70-100% retention and greater than
25% reservation of each ecological community in a rangeland environment.
· Kirkpatrick, J.B. (2000). Reservation, retention and reestablishment
* tradeoffs?, Nature Conservation of NSW, Sydney.
http://www.nccnsw.org.au/veg/home/kirkpatrick.html To view this page click here
On page 2 he
indicates that 30% retention is the absolute minimum standard.
Professor Kirkpatrick has published other, more comprehensive papers on
this topic (eg. in the RFA process) than I have at hand.
· The Queensland Herbarium analysis and referee reports from leading
ecologists that were tabled at the Queensland Vegetation Management
Advisory Committee in July and August 1999 argue for a minimum 30%
retention threshold based on Queensland data.
· McIntyre, S., McIvor, J.G., and MacLeod, N.D. (1999). Principles for
sustainable grazing in eucalypt woodlands: landscape-scale indicators
and the search for thresholds. Management for Ecological
Sustainability. Centre for Conservation Biology, U of Q. It
independently concludes that 30% retention is critical top retain
biodiversity in the landscape..
· Boulter, S.L. et al. 2000. "Native Vegetation Management in
Queensland." Department of Natural Resources, Brisbane. The paper cites
unpublished empirical data from Queensland and supports a 30% minimum
retention threshold. It is an official publication of the 'responsible'
authorities of the State Government of Queensland.
Note that such thresholds need to be set at the ecological community
level, not just the landscape level.
Of course, the more that is cleared the more biodiversity is lost,
greenhouse gases emitted, and land degradation exacerbated.
World Wide Fund for Nature
Jan McNichol writes
page 49 of "Exploring the future requirements for managing Australia's
remnant vegetation". - Canberra, A.C.T. : Land and Water Resources
Research and Development Corporation, 1999. ISBN 0642267480
"Revegetation of up to half the area of all farms reduces salinity and
acidity problems and erosion, provides shelter for native and farm
animals, is a source of valuable timber crops, stabilises nutrient
flows, maintains water quality, and is seen as just as valuable as other
forms of agriculture."
I did a literature search on "vegetation retention" and came up with an
annotated bibliography of forty-three items.
One of the abstracts, from Streamline, for an article called "Report
draws up blueprint for woodlands grazing" by J. Francis, published in
Australian Farm Journal, volume 9, issue 1, 3/1999, states: "A study of
sustainable grazing in eucalypt woodlands in southern Queensland has
determined that no more than 30% of a property in the subtropics should
be under intensive production, at least 30% should be covered by
woodlands and at least 10% should be managed for wildlife. These and
other guidelines have been developed for vegetation retention and
intensive land use on properties in a bid to conserve species and ensure
Personally I think large areas of vulnerable lands should be taken out
of private ownership and managed for the long term ecological good of
the whole country, for the benefit of future generations of bush stone
curlews and other living beings. There's not enough in conservation
measures for individual landholders for it to make economic sense to
them. The "safe" range for retention appears to be about 50 to 70%,
Oh, and the Productivity Commission has two new publications out this
year, one called "Cost sharing and biodiversity conservation : a
conceptual framework / Aretino et al." and the other "A duty of care for
the protection of biodiversity on land / Bates et al." which might
hazard a guess on this topic.
Nigel Livesay (QCC) writes
A "duty of care" for the prevention of salinity may require high levels
of native vegetation /deep rooted perennial vegetation retention. For
instance the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia
that; "in terms of maintaining hydrological function alone, most of the
agricultural area (of Western Australia) would need to retain deep-rooted
vegetation at a level in the order of 60 to 70 percent cover. Recent
information from Tom Hatton at CSIRO Land and Water (pers. comm)
suggests that to have a chance of restoring hydrological function in some
catchments the figure for planting deep-rooted vegetation would need to be in
order of 85% catchment cover, because of the hysteresis effect (when you push
a natural system too far then you have to go even further to bring about a
rebound and return it to close to the previous position, if this is
possible at all)".
In Queensland the level of native vegetation needed to be retained to
maintain hydrological function and prevent salinity is still being
determined. However in parts of Queensland, eg Brigalow and Desert
Uplands, it is highly likely to be of a similar order to that of Western
Native Vegetation Campaigner
Queensland Conservation Council
(*From Leon Ashby - I will try to read all of the above references to see
what assumptions, evidence and science these papers are using and compare
them with those of landholders - Hopefully we can work out what is agreed on
and what remains in dispute in regards to what basis retention rates should
be determined upon)
(5) Salinity in the Desert Uplands
The comment by Nigel Livesey about Native vegetation to restore Hydrological
Function to prevent salinity in WA and possibly the Desert Uplands and
Brigalow Belt of Qld is one that needs a comment on.
I have a property in the Desert Uplands of Qld. This area has no widespread
water table that is charged by rainfall.
The only widespread water table is the Great Artesian Basin which is below
many layers of impervious rock and clay layers and is reached when drilling
hits a confined aquifer at about 70 to 130 metres. Generally the water then
rises 10 metres or more
But there are some areas that become water saturated above layers of rock.
They are on the surface and fill after very large rainfall events and then
water seeps out of the side of hills for several months afterwards. None that
I know of have salinity associated with them. Any unconfined aquifers seem
to have very little water in them.
As well as all this the general situation is very much in accord with the
model described by Dr Christine Jones in her salinity articles. (Click here to view) The
perennial grasses in the Desert Uplands have become sparser since settlement
and less rainfall enters the soil today. (this lessens all plants growth
Trees have increased markedly due to a different fire regime since settlement
This model is in conflict with the current widespread belief that there were
many trees before settlement and these trees pumped the water from water
tables preventing them from rising. The belief is that tree pulling or
clearing will then cause the water tables to rise.
In the Desert Uplands we would love to have rising water tables to get some
water from to irrigate with but this is not happening.
Evidence of a changed rainfall runoff rate
The evidence to support the Christine Jones model on my property "Barcoorah"
is a lake called "Lake Barcoorah" that has dead Coolibah trees in the bottom
of it. Today no trees that germinate there survive. The lake gets about a
metre or more of water in it each year, even in low rainfall years, which
drowns any tree seedlings that germinate.
The trees were up to 100 years old before dying about 50 years ago. This
means some time over 50 years ago there was never enough runoff in 100 years
to drown the Coolibah trees. That suggests either there was extremely low
rainfall for 100 years, or that rainfall entered the soil much, much better
in the past because of denser perennial grasses and the runoff into "lake
Barcoorah" was no more than about 10% of todays amount.
Evidence of vibrant grass root systems
Tony Phillips (Tambo, Qld) has been rejuvenating parts of his property by
establishing deep rooted perennial grasses. To do this he often blade ploughs
timbered areas with no perennial grasses to disturb the hard soil and create
a seedbed and allow rain to infiltrate much easier. Whenever the dozer
pulling the blade plough goes from areas of trees with no perennial grasses
to dense perennial grass areas, the dozer has to work a lot harder. Tony
believes this is evidence that the root mass of the perennial grasses
permeate the soil profile much more completely than tree roots do. This
therefore supports the idea that perennial grasses are better than trees at
keeping water in the soil where it falls. A solution to salinity prone areas.
The landscape goal of landholders to establish deep rooted perennial grasses
with some tree cover is going to prevent salinity risks (if there are any)
much better than a 100% tree cover with few perennial grasses. (The destiny
of places like the Desert Uplands if tree management techniques such as tree
pulling are banned)
In short , the Assumed Hydrological model that Nigel Livesey (QCC) and many
others accept does not fit the Desert Uplands
To see the web page with a photo of the dead trees in lake Barcoorah click here
(6) NSW Farmers welcome John Anderson`s comments on Property Rights
NSW Farmers' President, Mal Peters, said farmers would welcome Deputy Prime
Minister John Anderson’s recognition in his rural statement that the property
rights of land holders are threatened by ill-considered environmental laws.
“However, the Government has had two terms in office to deal with this issue
and it is only now that they have given it the recognition it deserves. The
commitment to deal with property rights in the next term of government is
only worthwhile if the Coalition is prepared to say what it intends to do
before the election.
“Clearly, land holder property rights is now an election issue and the NSW
Farmers' Association will seek specific policies from the major parties
clearly stating what action they will take to protect the rights of land
(7) Nyngan Landholders civil disobedience threat - audio and photos on the
If anyone wants to hear interviews and see photos of what the Nyngan
landholders are saying and what landscape management is needed, then check it
out on www.nswfarmers.org.au under "eroding our rights - eroding our land".
- It`s very well done. Or if you are on line then just Click
(8) GM one hot topic at AWIA conf
Genetic modification of crops and animals was one of the hottest topics at
the Australian Women in Agriculture conference. More than 100 women from
around the nation attended the annual conference in Melbourne, which looked
at issues as diverse as water shortages to tariffs. But it was whether to go
gm or organic that proved to be the major bone of contention.
(* If anyone wants to send us info on GMO`s which can enlighten the rest of
us landholders who are a bit unsure what to think about the issue, then
please do. Is there too much Hype? Are there real threats? What sort of
Genetic modification is involved?
A couple of politicians are asking for some helpful, well thought out
(9) QLD Integrated Planning Act fears
If Federal, state and local governments have their way farmers and graziers
along the coast may require a licence to operate. The Qld Farmers Federation
says the three tiers of Government are looking to use the new Integrated
Planning Act as an environmental weapon, rather than a tool to streamline
planning. Currently only intensive industries like prawn farming,
aquaculture, piggeries, feedlots and chicken farms require a licence to
operate as they are deemed environmentally relevant, there are concerns, that
traditonal agriculture like cane, cattle and cotton may be caught in the net
as well. Canegrowers, cotton growers and QFF have just held a crisis meeting
to sort out and stop any such changes.
(10) Dr Christine Jones comments on Trees, crops, & Salinity
Dear Leon & Jane
I'm intrigued that people continue to refer to tree clearing in the early
1900s as the "cause" of dryland salinity. Large tracts of south-eastern,
southern and south-western Australia were grasslands and grassy woodlands at
the time of European settlement, as recorded in explorers journals and
original survey reports from the early to mid 1800s.
Many of these areas experienced a rapid loss of perennial groundcover within
only a few years of settlement as a result of overgrazing during long, dry
summers. Sometimes trees and shrubs replaced the grasses, sometimes they
didn't. Explosions in tree or shrub numbers were an artefact of changes in
land management, which enabled the woody component of the original complex
grassy woodland communities to dominate.
If this woody component represented the last vestige of perenniality, it is
hardly surprising that its removal and replacement by annual crops and annual
pastures at some later date upset the water balance. However, to insist that
dryland salinity is the result of tree clearing is a misrepresentation of the
facts, particularly when twisted in the current form "if we put the trees
back, we can solve the problem."
Some parts of Australia did not have any trees at the time of settlement.
Some parts would be healthier today with more trees. In other parts, trees
and shrubs are woody weeds. In many situations, active management will be
required to produce a better balance of trees, grasses and shrubs than
currently exist. However, these issues have very little to do with dryland
We need to address the lack or perenniality across the entire landscape of
southern Australia, not just in parts of it, and not just with one type of
The length of time that soil is bare in annual cropping systems is
staggering. That does not mean that traditional enterprises must cease.
Rather, we need a change in approach. The technique of pasture cropping, for
example, which involves sowing cool season annual crops into dormant, warm
season perennial grasses, enhances soil biological activity and fosters
healthy, high-producing crops. It also has enormous potential to reverse
dryland salinity through the restoration of perennial groundcover over the
large tracts of land which are currently farmed.
While woody vegetation, or lucerne, can pump accumulated groundwater, this
only represents a biological form of an engineering solution and treats
symptoms not causes. The real cause of dryland salinity is loss of soil
integrity and soil water holding capacity.
A healthy groundcover of fibrous-rooted perennial grasses can restore soil
integrity and water balance across the landscape, but it is not sufficient
just to have some grass. Degraded grasslands sitting atop degraded soils do
little for either landscape function or productivity. It is vitally
important that the groundcover be appropriately managed in order to be
Above all, it is important that we recognise that the "transient tree phase"
is a red herring, so that we can move forward and find some real solutions to
the salinity crisis.
There will be a paper on "Effective pasture cropping" (Colin Seis) and
another on "Balanced soil, balanced water" (Christine Jones) at the second
national Stipa Native Grasses Conference in Dookie, Vic, on 28 September. To
register or find out more contact Mike Byron on (02) 6374 2005 e-mail
A seminar on the technique of pasture cropping will be held at Marcus Oldham
College, Geelong, on 4 October (details <firstname.lastname@example.org>) and
there will be a Farming Without Farming land regeneration field day at
"Inverary", Branxholme, Vic on 8 October (details <email@example.com>)
(11) Bill Soko replies to last weeks discussion
Reply to Leon,
Obviously hard to draw a line on public good vs duty of care or private
towns we have zoning laws which restrict our use of land. On rural lands the
zoning concept is being applied to natural areas as well as other development
In towns we have building "setbacks" where we cannot build within a certain
to the main road (6m) and boundaries. I think setbacks on watercourses
looked at in the same manner. We could say "public good" is a component of
of care", for the whole community including the farmer.. Never forget we
a community, the guy who buys your milk and made your tractor has an
we all don't like unfair exploitation by selfish interests -- city people do
favor deregulation for corporate giants to create monopolies.
resources or people leads to disaster.
Your property may only require veg as a form of erosion protection on the
Your grazing property was most likely kept clear by a fire regime management
thousands of years. With a different burning program today (?)the new
could be changing the veg mix(?) Again the duty of care is to fit into some
realistic regional plan so your efforts on any conservation measure are not
You may only need to provide a small sample of the once local flora and you
pick the most valuable to you wish to retain / restore. With biodiversity
watershed protection and water quality enhancement.
One note on the dairy farm: I am sure that along with the 4 X increase in
production compared to 40 years ago, there has been a huge increase in farm
and management labour, and the nutritional value of many farm products has
-- protein levels, trace elements etc. But also your intensive management
would probably produce more than the 40 yrs ago farm even if you worked
organically! (actually--there is an organic dairy in Malanda -- Mungali
is a huge success.) Yes, I forgot the taste test -- does your milk taste as
that 40 yrs ago ? bit hard I know but a real question.
Don't really know about Leakeys claim -- he knows more than I. He is
insects and and all plants mainly in rainforests. Remember 1ha of Cape Trib
rainforest has more plant variation than ALL North America. Obviously the
extinction will go down after a certain point by simple exaustion. When you
that all life will be lost in 20 years at Leakeys rate you can see why he is
concerned. So it may take 50 or 100 its still pretty sobering......
From Leon Ashby
You are correct in asking if there is a different fire regime
on my grazing property. There is a different fire regime in all of Australia
compared with 200 yrs ago which has resulted in tree increases in many areas
of Australia - to see the page on Tree increase under "Environmental Myths"
on our web site. click here
The Aramac Landcare group has many members who use tree pulling to create
disturbance (to establish plants and slower water runoff speed to assit
revegetating eroding creeks in the Desert Uplands.) This also reduces soil
erosion, but is now an illegal practice across creeks.
As to dairy farm details. The soil is more balanced today than when soil
tests were first began. Todays milk is higher in protein and fat levels and
higher in other quality measurements. It is also lower in bacteria, but is
that a good thing.
Bob McFarland (NSW) has commented on our immune systems being meant for a
level of exposure to bacteria etc, and that sterile environments are not what
we should be aiming for.
From Kathryn Varrica (CLEG, NSW)
(12) Is there a Standard for clear / vegetated land?
Thankyou again for the news & views. It is interesting, reassuring & for
practical application also. I have a question someone may be able to answer:
What is the "standard" for classifying land as either cleared or vegetated?
It was recently quoted by a local government planner (NSW) as being an actual
number of trees. Do the levels of government & the various departments have a
formula, such as number of trees to the hectare, if so, what is the
definition/ discription/ classification of a tree?
This Question relates to 1:25000 aerial photographs that are interpreted in
accordance to State Forest of NSW Research Note 17 to become veg. mapping for
the purpose of identifying environmental significance for wildlife corridors.
The maps produced are coloured according to vegetation type. How many trees
per ha would there be where the maps are identifying "cleared" & then what
constitutes a tree?
From Qld Country Life
(13) 6 Tonne Flower pots for Salinity Research
CSIRO researchers are using two six tonne flower pots to measure the
consumption of of water by crops. The pots can be weighed to an accuracy of
30 grams. The aim is to measure how much water leaks past the root zone. Dr
Chris Smith, Dr Warren Bond and Frank Dunn are working on the project.
Lucerne is one efffective crop and can be grown in a rotation says Dr Smith.
Other options include finding crop varieties that use more water and
perennial companion crops