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Our Research

Our interdisciplinary research program aims to investigate how managing natural assets can integrate conservation objectives with production on farms.

This work begins with our field ecologists, building a body of evidence over two decades for the value of natural assets to support biodiversity. Alongside this work, conversations with farmers have revealed the contribution of biodiversity to farm productivity and farmer wellbeing.

Our research aims to take “science to the paddock”, enabling farmers to access the latest research to support decision making, and building the case for long-term investment in natural assets across our agricultural landscapes.

Our researchers work on integrating production on farms with conservation objectives. This includes monitoring the responses of woodland plant and animal species in replanted areas, as well as in degraded woodland patches that are protected from production pressures.

The south-eastern sheep-wheat belt of Australia is predominantly box-gum grassy woodlands. This ecosystem was once rich in plant and animal diversity, but with only a fraction of its original extent remaining – primarily on farms – it is an ecosystem that now requires careful management and conservation to sustain.

From our long-term monitoring of biodiversity on farms, we have an exceptional body of evidence for the value of investing in a farm’s natural assets to support the conservation of a wide range of native plants and animals.

Over the last 22 years our field ecologists have also been exchanging information with farmers who are active in improving the natural assets on their farms. These conversations have pointed to the important role biodiversity plays in supporting ecosystem services and farm productivity.

Under the Sustainable Farms Project since 2018 we have developed a program of research to explore the relationships with between biodiversity gains and the effect on farm profitability and mental health.

This research incorporates the insights of the farming communities with whom we work. We aim to produce information that will support farmers to address the challenges they face in maintaining the productive base of their farm, while also supporting the conservation of woodland plants and animals.

While our specific research projects contribute to interdisciplinary whole, they are categorised below in the broad research areas of ecology, mental health, economics and social science.


Ecology research

Monitoring biodiversity and valuing ecosystem services in production landscapes.

The Australian National University has been monitoring vegetation, reptiles, birds and arboreal marsupials on farms over more than two decades. With over 900 research sites in the woodlands, this is one of the largest long-term monitoring and research studies of its kind in Australia.

The success of these monitoring programs has been based on partnerships with scientists, statisticians, policy makers and resource managers. The monitoring has relied on a network of farmers who have undertaken natural asset management projects and have research sites on their properties.

Through our long term monitoring surveys, we answer questions that resource managers and policy makers have, to help guide future on-ground restoration efforts.  This work has produced hundreds of publications, books and resources to support best-practice natural asset management.

More recently, the survey data collected by ANU over 20 years of the long term ecology studies has been used to develop a spatial model for estimating bird occupancy on farms (see below). This unique tool allows farms across the Sustainable Farms project area to estimate bird species found in plantings and remnant patches. This tool provides farmers with a clear illustration of the value of their land management practices for biodiversity.

The farm dams study

Farm dams are important refuges for farm biodiversity, but their value has rarely been quantified for a range of taxonomic groups at once, particularly in terms of the gains in biodiversity and water quality that can be attained by dam improvement.

While we know that dense vegetation and abundant water provide habitat for biodiversity (particularly birds), and can buffer the effects of extreme temperatures on the animals that use them, this study will quantify those benefits in detail for the first time.

The objective of this study is to evaluate the role that fenced farm dams play in farm environmental sustainability. This study will investigate the effects on faunal biodiversity, water quality and vegetation structure of fencing of creeks and dams of different sizes.

Our research design will consider fenced and unfenced dams of large and small sizes, as well as fenced and unfenced creeks or wetlands as control sites. All farms in the study include both a fenced and an unfenced small dam. Some dams may be fenced at the beginning of the study, while others may be fenced during the study to act as experimental treatments.

Survey methods include:

  • Point counts for birds
  • Artificial substrates for herpetofauna detection
  • Frog surveys
  • Water quality testing

Frogs in farm dams

The objective of this study is to examine the relative influence of potential drivers of frog and tadpole distribution throughout highly modified agricultural landscapes.

Frog populations occurring within agricultural landscapes contend with multiple threatening processes, that alter patterns of habitat availability through reduced inundation areas, declining water availability, increasing fragmentation of aquatic habitats, altered aquatic vegetation complexity and increasing abundance of exotic species. Farm dams have the potential to act as important refuges for a number of frog species, but this has yet to be quantified. This study will aim to quantify and compare the relative influence of characteristics of agricultural landscapes on the occurrence and abundance of frog species, with particular reference to farm dams.

Bird breeding success - pilot study

The objective of this research is assess the following questions:

  • Does enhancing a farm dam increase bird breeding activity?
  • Do farm dam plantings offer greater breeding opportunities for birds than other types of plantings?

Restoration plantings are widespread through the wheat-sheep belt of southeastern Australia. These plantings often have important agricultural functions and they are also effective means for re-establishing habitat for woodland fauna. With plantings playing such an important part in woodland fauna conservation, it is important to investigate the relative value of different planting types across a range of woodland fauna assemblages. There is a broad literature dedicated to bird occupancy of different styles of plantings (e.g. wide shelterbelts, narrow shelterbelts, block plantings and remnant underplantings), however there has been little or no research around the effect of farm dam restoration on bird assemblages. Further, many studies limit their investigation to bird occupancy and leave questions that relate to how birds use different habitats (e.g. for breeding) unanswered.

Systematic mapping of existing research on vegetation strips in agricultural landscapes

Eli Bendall and Martin Westgate tracked research trends on the effects of vegetated strips (including shelterbelts) within agricultural landscapes. This project, completed in 2021, will provide an updated systematic map that includes the recent literature as well as the Australian literature which was not mapped in the earlier review.

Data linking project - the Bird Occupancy Estimator tool

The conservation of biodiversity is now recognized as a key component of initiatives to promote industry sustainability within agriculture (e.g. the Beef Sustainability Framework and the Sheep Sustainability Framework). However, developing biodiversity indicators for measuring sustainability in agricultural management and production is challenging because traditional biodiversity metrics can have limitations (e.g. see Dornelas et al., 2014; Lindenmayer et al., 2015a, 2015b), and different species can respond to management interventions in different ways.

Using statistical models we combined ANU Sustainable Farms’ unique set of large-scale, long-term field observations with modern remote sensing products. We built two joint species distribution models (JSDMs) that modelled 60+ different woodland bird species occupancy in spring, and accounted for detection difficulty.

A free Bird Occupancy Estimator web tool enables members of the public, particularly farmers and Local Land Service staff, to use our second JSDM to estimate species occupancy at the patch and farm scale for 60 different bird species.

The web tool (working title Bird Checker) is available online. It is currently undergoing user-experience testing and improvements, and a new version is expected to be available during November 2021.

The effectiveness of management interventions

The objective of this study is to quantify the effectiveness of management interventions for bird biodiversity in threatened and endangered temperate woodland communities.

Management interventions such as planting, fencing and livestock control are critical parts of restoration efforts to restore native biodiversity. However, there is limited empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of such actions, including in temperate woodlands (Doerr et al., 2017).

We will use long-term data in a series of our long-term studies to determine whether fencing and livestock grazing control have had positive effects on bird biodiversity in a range of threatened woodland communities in western New South Wales and southern New South Wales. We will contrast the occurrence of overall bird biodiversity and the occurrence of a suite of individual species in response to interventions relative to “business as usual” management, and so-called “benchmark” sites (in travelling stock reserves).

This work builds a time series perspective into earlier snapshot (cross-sectional) work on a biodiversity (agri-environment) incentive scheme in the western Murray region of the Murray Local Land Services area (Lindenmayer et al., 2012).

The impacts of grazing control on biodiversity

The objective of this study is to quantify the effects of grazing control on birds, reptiles and other environmental attributes including plant cover and soils (e.g. Sato et al., 2019).

Intensive livestock grazing can have major impacts on biodiversity. Despite this, the effects on biodiversity recovery following changes in grazing regimes often remain poorly understood including in temperate woodlands (Doerr et al., 2017). We have established an 11-year long grazing study of ~ 100 permanent field sites in the Cowra and Boorowa regions to evaluate the impact of grazing regimes on biodiversity and environmental attributes.

References

Doerr, V. A. J., M. J. Davies, E. D. Doerr, S. Prober, H. Murphy, H. McGinness, and B. Hoffmann (2017) Knowledge Bank of Management Effectiveness: Technical guide. CSIRO, Canberra, Australia.

Dornelas, M., Gotelli, N.J., McGill, B., Shimadzu, H., Maues, F., Sievers, C., Magurran, A.E. (2014) Assemblage time series reveal biodiversity change but not systematic loss. Science 344, 296–299.

Lindenmayer, D.B., Wood, J. Montague-Drake, R., Michael, D., Crane, M., Okada, S., MacGregor, C. and Gibbons, P. (2012) Is biodiversity management effective? Cross-sectional relationships between management, bird response and vegetation attributes in an Australian agri-environment scheme. Biological Conservation, 152, 62-73.

Lindenmayer, D.B., Barton, P., Pierson, J. (Eds.) (2015a) Indicators and surrogates of biodiversity and environmental change. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Lindenmayer, D.B., Pierson, J., Barton, P., Beger, M., Branquinho, C., Calhoun, A., Caro, T., Greig, H., Gross, J., Heino, J., Hunter, M., Lane, P., Longo, C., Martin, K., McDowell, W.H., Mellin, C., Salo, H., Tulloch, A., Westgate, M. (2015b) A new framework for selecting environmental surrogates. Science of the Total Environment 538, 1029–1038.

Sato, C.F., Strong, C.L., Holliday, P., Florance, D., Pierson, J., and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2019) Environmental and grazing management drivers of soil condition. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 276, 1-7.


Mental health and wellbeing research

Exploring links between farmer mental health and natural resource management.

The rural setting poses potential risks and benefits for the mental health of farmers. Reports from our farmer partners suggest that healthier landscapes and improved green spaces provide an opportunity for farmers to feel more positive about their land, particularly during tough times.

Improved green space and a less degraded landscape may also provide a sanctuary for farmers to relax and feel more positive about their land. The potential for natural asset management to improve social connections and financial performance may provide additional wellbeing benefits.

Sustainable Farms aims to systematically examine how the farm environment impacts on farmer mental health. Initial findings show that there are a range of factors such as financial status and social support at play in influencing farmer mental health and engagement in natural resource management practices, so untangling these complex relationships from survey data can be challenging.

Regional Wellbeing Survey data

The Regional Wellbeing Survey has been conducted every year since 2013 by the University of Canberra. It surveys 13,000 Australians, and is unique in that it focuses on the experiences of people living in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia.

Every year, many questions specifically designed for farmers are included in the survey. Farmers are recruited into the survey by posting flyers and surveys to a stratified random sample selected from the FarmBase database. Multiple farming and farmer-related organisations also encourage farmers to take part.

Regional Wellbeing Survey data will be used by Sustainable Farms in two ways.

Firstly, 2018 data was used to establish a baseline for farmer network extension and outreach. In future years, survey data will be used to monitor the progress of the project’s awareness and adoption goals. See the project ‘Baseline report on natural asset management on farms’ for more information.

Secondly, 2018 Regional Wellbeing Survey data was used to help quantify and describe the links between sustainable farming and wellbeing. Although many farmers who engage sustainable farming practices claim they experience mental health and wellbeing benefits as a result of adopting such practices, there has been very little research examining this relationship (Saxby et al. 2018; Schirmer et al. 2013).

Mental health and wellbeing impacts of the natural environment in rural and farming communities

The impact of the natural environment on mental health and wellbeing is emerging as a field of great interest among both policy makers and researchers.

Literature in this area mostly explores the health and wellbeing benefits of exposure to natural environments within an urban context, viewing opportunities to increase exposure to nature as a potential upstream intervention to promote good health and wellbeing (Maller et al. 2005).

The relationship between people and the natural environment is considerably different for populations living in rural areas, and even more so for those who depend on the natural environment for their livelihood, such as farmers.  This project aims to bring together the existing research on the relationship between the natural environment and mental health and wellbeing of people living in rural settings.

This work systematically reviews the literature on the relationship between mental health and wellbeing of people living or working in rural areas (including farmers and other landholders) and a range of environmental factors, including 1) chronic natural disasters (drought); 2) natural resource management (e.g. conservation); and 3) other related factors such as land degradation, environmental/climate change, and nature connectedness.

FarmWell survey

Farmers are sometimes found to be at increased risk of mental illness, although there is mixed evidence for greater prevalence of mental health problems in rural communities. Higher rates of suicide in farmers compared with the general population are more consistently reported. Moreover, uptake of mental health support services is low.

There are a range of commonly reported risk factors for poor mental health in farmers. Enduring environmental hardship (such as drought, bushfire and floods) has been associated with reduced wellbeing and increased risk for mental health problems. There is some indication that environmental degradation (such as dryland salinity) is associated with depression (Speldewinde et al., 2009). Such findings suggest that building resilience against the effects of climate change, natural disasters, and environmental degradation might improve wellbeing and mental health outcomes in farmers. Sustainable farming practices generally aim to help build such resilience, but little is known about the effect that engaging with such practices may have on mental health outcomes, beyond anecdotal reports.

Many farmers engage with initiatives related to sustainable farming practice at some point in their career (Schirmer et al., 2015), and there is some evidence that this impacts positively on wellbeing. The current project aims to test associations between farming practice and mental health to provide more scientifically rigorous evidence in this area.

The initial FarmWell survey was conducted in 2018-19. The primary aim of the study was to identify relationships between mental health and wellbeing status with farming practice and biodiversity. The secondary aim of the study was to assess relationships between financial status and mental health and wellbeing. Farmers who were part of the long-term ecological monitoring project (n≈240) were invited to participate in a survey via email or mail.

Access to mental health services

We examined differences in use of mental health services between residents of rural, regional and metropolitan areas of Australia in a sample of over 2300 adults who had a mental health condition.

Rates of self-reported use of specific services for mental health problems were compared between areas of residence. We found there were no differences in overall rates of use of professional services for mental health problems. There were also no significant differences in help seeking from specific sources, with the important exception of psychologists. People in rural areas were 26% less likely to report having sought help from a psychologist in the past year than those in metropolitan areas (18% vs 24%).

The findings suggest that people in rural areas tend to seek help when they are experiencing mental health problems, similarly to those in urban areas. However, a lack of access to psychological services may mean that people in rural areas don’t improve as quickly as people in urban areas.

There were some limitations in the study, including our reliance on self-report, lack of information about reasons for service use, and limited information about the severity of mental health problems that the participants experienced. The findings may reflect the limited access to care in rural areas, along with differing attitudes and preferences related to mental health services.

References

Maller, C., Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P., & Leger, L. S. T. (2005). Healthy nature healthy people : ‘ contact with nature ’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promotion International, 21(1). doi:10.1093/heapro/dai032

Saxby, H., Gkartzios, M., & Scott, K. (2018). ‘Farming on the edge’: wellbeing and participation in agri-environmental schemes. Sociologia Ruralis, 58(2), 392–411. doi:10.1111/soru.12180

Schirmer, J., Berry, H. L., & O’Brien, L. V. (2013). Healthier land, healthier farmers: considering the potential of natural resource management as a place-focused farmer health intervention. Health & Place, 24. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2013.08.007

Schirmer, J., Mylek, M., Peel, D., & Yabsley, B. (2015). People and communities: The 2014 regional wellbeing survey. Canberra, AU: University of Canberra.

Speldewinde, P. C., Cook, A., Davies, P., & Weinstein, P. (2009). A relationship between environmental degradation and mental health in rural Western Australia. Health & place, 15(3), 880-887.


Economics research

Quantifying the value of natural assets for farm profitability and financial resilience, and identifying financial tools to support farmers.

Our economics research aims to understand what production gains might come from investing in natural asset management, as well as the costs involved in this investment.

An initial cost-benefit analysis found that benefits of fencing and planting farm dams would outweigh costs even if there are only fairly modest weight gains in cattle. This research suggested that these improvements could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars through improved water quality and livestock production if investment was to occur at a landscape scale. Our ongoing research aims to bring this work “closer to home” by applying a farm-level economic analysis to a wider range of farm enterprises, and under alternative adoption and policy scenarios.

Sustainable Farms is also using our biodiversity data to develop an ecosystem accounting system for the box gum grassy woodlands, which would help shed light on how farming sustainably in woodlands ecosystems has benefits for farmers as well as maintaining and supporting this ecological community.

Evaluating and predicting farmer uptake of nature-based farm dam enhancements

Farmer decisions about how they manage both dams and the broader farm dam catchment can have important implications for the value of farm dams as refuges for biodiversity across agricultural landscapes.

This research will seek to evaluate the drivers and constraints for farmer adoption of ‘nature-based’ dam management practices. The research aims to build understanding of the level of feasible uptake of nature-based dam management practices across the Sustainable Farms study region.

The timeframe for the evaluation of adoption for this application is proposed to be an approximately 10-year period – sufficient time for both farm dam enhancements to be conducted and for some biodiversity benefits to be realised.

The integration of the economics-based thinking with the ecological research in the Sustainable Farms project aims to provide insights into the potential for supporting landscape scale biodiversity conservation outcomes.

The research will use the Adoption and Diffusion Outcome Prediction Tool (ADOPT) (Kuehne et al., 2017) to understand the likely level of adoption of nature-based farm dam management practices. Case-study examples will be used, involving participation of local people with a good understanding of farmers and farming practices in their locality.

Cost-benefit analysis of farm dams and shelterbelts

It seems to be generally accepted that cattle and sheep will eat more, and consequently gain more weight, if they drink more because they have ready access to clean drinking water, rather than an unpalatable “muddy dam”.

Similarly, shelter belts that provide protection against heat and cold will also increase weight gain, with an accompanying reduction in the mortality of calves and lambs.

The aim of this project is to estimate the extent of any production gains, as well as the cost of investing in appropriate natural infrastructure, such as environmentally-friendly dams to replace the less palatable muddy dams found on many farms, and planting shelter belts.

A paper arising from this project (Dobes et al., 2021) has recently been published, and a summary is available here.

Environmental economic accounting of box-gum grassy woodlands

Box-gum grassy woodland is a critically endangered ecological community listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act. The community occurs between the forests of the wetter coastal areas and the arid interior from Victoria to southern Queensland, but only about 5% of the pre-European settlement distribution remains (Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, 2010). Remaining woodland is mostly on privately owned land, and is found as patches in the agricultural landscape.

The objective of this study is to develop an environmental economic account for the box-gum grassy woodlands. This account will include land, carbon, water, biodiversity and agriculture. The account will be used as an information system for research on conservation.

The farm-level economics of improved drought resilience from enhancing farm dams

In low rainfall years, securing water to meet stock demand is a fundamental consideration for livestock graziers. Strategies to improve the persistence of water in farm dams in low rainfall years is important for graziers’ long-term drought resilience and has implications for biodiversity because of the importance of farm dams as refuges for biodiversity across Australia’s temperate grazing landscapes.

Improved water persistence in farm dams has the potential to provide win-win outcomes, delivering both public and private benefits.

Evaporation is the main driver of water loss from open farm dams (Hipsey and Sivapalan 2003) and is predicted to increase under climate change (Helfer et al., 2012; Konapala et al., 2020). This presents a significant and increasing threat to dam water persistence across Australia’s grazing landscapes.

The aim of this research is to evaluate the farm-level economics of improved water persistence arising from strategic windbreak plantings as part of ecological enhancement of farm dams.

Revenue contingent loans

In an era of climatic uncertainty and increasing droughts, farm improvement projects that restore degraded land, enhance natural assets and improve drought resilience are becoming ever more important. However, sustainable funding of these projects presents a challenge that requires novel solutions.

There is a strong case for the investigation of revenue contingent loan (RCL) instruments designed for this purpose.

An RCL has advantages for farmers compared with mortgage-type or conventional loans, because repayments depend on future revenue streams. Such an approach has advantages over government grants, which are likely to be both inequitable and extremely expensive to taxpayers.  A paper arising from this project (Chapman et al., 2020) has been published, and a summary is available here.

References

Chapman, B. and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2019) A novel approach to the sustainable financing of the global restoration of degraded agricultural land. Environmental Research Letters (14): 124084

Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010). National Recovery Plan for White Box – Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland. Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, Sydney.

Dobes, L., Crane, M., Higgins, T., Van Dijk, A.I.J.M. and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2021) Increased livestock weight gain from improved water quality in farm dams: A cost-benefit analysis. PLoS ONE 16(8): e0256089. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256089

Helfer, F., et al. (2012) Impacts of climate change on temperature and evaporation from a large reservoir in Australia. Journal of Hydrology 475: 365-378.

Hipsey, M. R. and M. Sivapalan (2003) Parameterizing the effect of a wind shelter on evaporation from small water bodies. Water resources research 39(12): 1339-n/a.

Konapala, G., et al. (2020) Climate change will affect global water availability through compounding changes in seasonal precipitation and evaporation. Nature communications 11(1): 3044-3044.

Kuehne, G., Llewellyn, R., Pannell, D.J., Wilkinson, R., Dolling, P., Ouzman, J., Ewing, M. (2017) Predicting farmer uptake of new agricultural practices: A tool for research, extension and policy, Agricultural Systems: 156: 115-125.


Social science research

Our social science research supports the outreach and extension activities we run in partnership with NRM managers and Landholders.

We are using a range of methods to understand the perspectives and needs of farming communities. This work explores how we can support the development of new knowledge and values connected with the management of natural assets on farms and includes:

  • Community surveys in collaboration with the University of Canberra’s Regional Wellbeing Survey, to learn the level of interest, knowledge and participation in natural asset management.
  • Case studies and life history interviewing to share learnings from farmers in our network who have invested in natural assets on their farm.
  • Program monitoring and evaluation to measure the effectiveness of the outreach and extension being provided by both Sustainable Farms and other NRM agencies.
  • Knowledge network study of natural resource managers and landholders to explore how they create, exchange and use knowledge about nature-based solutions on farms.
  • Scenario planning in partnership with Leuphana University.

Baseline report on natural asset management on farms

As part of the evaluation of Sustainable Farms, we partnered with the University of Canberra’s Regional Wellbeing Survey to develop a snapshot of the attitudes, knowledge and participation of farmers in relation to natural asset management on farms.

The 2018 Regional Wellbeing survey collected baseline data for key performance indicators for the Sustainable Farms project relating to:

  • The awareness of the benefits of natural assets
  • The adoption of natural asset management practices
  • Inclusion of natural asset management in farm planning and objectives

This data was collected in both the Sustainable Farms project area and for comparison purposes in the Box Gum Grassy Woodland area (as defined at European settlement). A total of 390 farmers in the Sustainable Farms project area and 1209 farmers in the Box Gum Grassy Woodland area participated in the survey.  The report can be found here. A retest of this survey will be completed in 2022.

Stories from our farmers

The Australian National University has been working with farmers in the woodlands of south-eastern Australia for more than 20 years. Many farmers have shared with us their stories about how they have balanced their production goals with investments in conservation, and the benefits and challenges they have experienced. Anthropologist Natasha Fjin conducted a series of life history interviews to capture the journeys of eight of these farmers in the South West Slopes.

The farmers who participated in this project are all connected with ANU Sustainable Farms, either through their participation in long term monitoring or through generous donations. The latter includes Marion and Kent Keith who donated the proceeds from the sale of their farm, Ballanda Park, to the project. John Mitchell made this book possible through a donation that supported both the research and production. John Mitchell and the Keiths have contributed significantly to Sustainable Farms and are passionate about promoting ecological research and sustainable farming practices within Australia.

These interviews are collated into a book that showcases a diversity of properties and practices for readers to glean ideas from and move towards more sustainable farming practices on their land. The book applies a narrative approach from a farmer’s subjective perspective and is not intended to be from an academic or scientific perspective.

Program monitoring: measuring practice change

Field days and other participatory learning events are a great way to share ideas of natural resource management with farmers. However, monitoring the success of participatory learning activities in driving practice change can be challenging and time consuming.

Historically the natural resource management sector has struggled to agree on a framework to apply consistently for this purpose.  In 2018 Sustainable Farms developed an approach to measure the impact of our own field day program. This approach was then outlined in a report for NSW Local Land Services, who adopted the framework in 2020 and are continuing to develop it further with trials in eleven LLS offices. The original methodology is described in this report, and this is the approach that will support the Sustainable Farms project evaluation due in 2023.

The report is available here.

Knowledge network study of NRM practitioners and landholders

The objective of this study is to explore how knowledge is produced and circulated to inform investment in natural assets on farms.

This sociological study will investigate the broader knowledge network Sustainable Farms is located within. It is an opportunity to create understanding of how scientists, NRM practitioners and landholders create and use knowledge through networking and information-sharing. Knowledge and networked collaboration is crucial to the land management practice change that is needed to arrest the decline of native species in agricultural landscapes (Lindenmayer et al., 2010; Lindenmayer et al., 2015; Belder et al., 2021). In particular, we will look at how applied ecology and related fields of landscape ecology and conservation science is circulated in education initiatives (such as publications, field days and seminars) connecting landholders and NRM professionals.

Scenario Planning with the Coolac Farming Community

Ongoing expansion and intensification of agriculture are leading causes of biodiversity loss worldwide, and efforts to conserve biodiversity in farming landscapes often conflict with agricultural land use. This project employs scenario planning methodologies to support a community in the Sustainable Farms project area to solve complex planning issues in the face of uncertainty.

Leuphana University’s Tamara Schaal, with the support of the Sustainable Farms project, engaged landholders and community leaders in the Coolac area. The process involved mapping community priorities, the main drivers of change, uncertainties and conflicting priorities. Information was co- produced with the community through interviews and participator planning workshops. Publications from this scenario planning approach will be available shortly.