Kachana Landscape Management Workshop 2004
Internationally active human- cum natural-resource consultant, Sam Bingham gave a Power point presentation on “Megafaunal biomass and its role in our landscapes”. Sam explained the concept of “brittleness” and then touched on what happened in Southern Africa and in the Americas in only relatively recent times and then draws parallels to Australia. We discussed where we might stand in terms of eco-system function what may still be possible if we wished to achieve it.
Is it possible that if we do not reintroduce mega-fauna into our Australian landscapes that the biomass represented by vegetation may actually be a destabilising factor? (A wildfire hazard that could take our ecological assets into a downward spiral?) How would we go about managing these sorts of landscapes if we were given the task? Sam split us up into groups and each group had to devise a landscape goal and a management plan... the complexity of the situation became obvious to us all... it became apparent how vital local knowledge would be if we were to stand a chance in succeeding... Where is the local knowledge? Are we gathering local knowledge? What are we doing with local knowledge? Are we perhaps lacking local knowledge? What do we actually do next? If fire remains the primary tool for managing landscapes, will we see the same swing from perennial to annual vegetation that has occurred in other “brittle” regions of the world?
Sam gave us much to chew on when he produced his graph which displayed the lag time and then rapid exponential growth effects of “upward” or “downward” pressure that emanate from policy that to begin with may seems to be reasonably sound, but in effect is a fraction out on a vital issue.
During our field walks we were taught to look more closely at drainage lines and creek areas... Stability? Diversity? Biodiversity? What thrives where? Nutrient supply? An area's Capacity to hold and release water? And much more...
Dr Andrew Storey backed up the practical with a Power Point presentation on “Aquatic biomass and its role in our Landscapes”. Andre's Presentation is included in the Kachana Workshop 2004 Report in CD-format and can be ordered
A practical aspect:
Fire is the rapid oxidation and release of energy from combustible materials. The heat emitted from burning materials will heat and eventually dry out living cells thus killing them. It does not matter if the living cell belongs to a simple single celled organism, to a multi-celled part of an organism like a leaf or even to part of a more complex organism like the back of your hand.... Fire still heats and eventually burns what is able to burn and will continue to generate heat and gas in the process. Depending on how, where and why it starts, depending on what internal and external factors are there to govern it's progress, there is literally no limit to the amount of study and research we can throw at the issue...
For those few of us who actually need to able to deal with fire on the ground, there are two broad categories:
- Fire we can do something about (circle of influence)
- Fire we can't do anything about (circle of concern)
The “successful” manager will deal with the former and learns to live with the latter. This lets us deal directly with only three types of fire:
- Those we light
- Those we manipulate
- Those we watch
Again each situation will be unique. Riding the red-steer is like riding any other steer: the most important skills are acquired by the doing. Sure, a bit of first-hand observation and some uncommon good sense may go a long way...
The planned fire-demo for the workshop was cancelled due to gusty wind conditions, but Andre and Laura, our Swiss Uni Students captured it on video-film a few mornings later. This demonstration will be covered on a separate web-page.
Weeds & feral animals
A pragmatic view?...
Not unlike “tax-problems” these are “problems” we rather look forward to on Kachana.
While our natural resources are still in decline, “resource-stabilisation” remains our highest priority. Once we have stabilised what we can, we will perhaps make some time to indulge in the academic consideration of who does what with what is left...
We feel that we will be more effective as managers if our focus remains on what we want, rather than spending resources to fight what is less desirable; therefore:
- Any plant that helps hold the soil together, covers the ground, brings minerals up to the surface, injects energy into the ground and enhances our microclimate gets a “fair go”...
- Any animal that can mulch, fertilise and prune vegetation and assist in sequestering soil-carbon gets a “fair go” too...
For obvious reasons locals are given first option but we do not discriminate against new Australians, be they humans, animals, plants or micro-organisms (or even new ideas...)
In fact we very much doubt that it is possible to restore the biodiversity of Australia to levels that will support the expectations and aspirations of modern city-dwellers without reintroducing mega-fauna and focused human management elements into our landscapes.
More on this particular issue can be found on these web-pages:
- Alligator Creek Revitalization Project
- We modify the behaviour of introduced species (in our case: humans, dingos, wild donkeys and cattle) to produce new defined outcomes.
End of workshop feedback
I came to recharge my enthusiasm - touch reality - renew + correct land care / landscape direction in my life. I feel both I + the cause Kachana stands for (Future of East Kimberley) has benefited greatly from this W/S. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be part of Gill's education in this perspective. I hope I have helped consolidate her understanding + will endeavour to maintain contact + input to the NRM strategy as I see great potential benefits for the E Kimberley as a result. Thank you.
Don't give up. It may sometimes seem as if you are getting nowhere - but progress is being made.
1. Yes - to present and inform people about waterways - but also to better my understanding of holistic management in Kimberley rangelands
3. Data on Millennium Project, understanding effects of no cattle & no fire on vegetation / landscape - how vegetation may look good from afar, but is senescing.
i. keep spreading the word - change will come seeds will sprout
ii. Where possible support with research & data (incl. photo record) to satisfy the cynics.
iii. Attempt to stabilise landscape from top of catchment downstream.
5. ? Sustainability & future generations.
1. I came to find out what was happening to the environment and how we or what we can do to change it
2. I know that there is a way that we can better the land
3. I thought Andrew's talk really opened my eyes to what little guys we have in our water systems
4. Keep on going with the wonderful work and you will get there
1. I was aware about some information about Kachana, and about the efforts being made to create sustainable pastoralism. I was not aware of the extent of change to landscapes @ Kachana, and was also unaware of the difficulties and challenges faced with such tasks.
2. I still don't know why a town planner was sent to Kachana, however, I am certainly more aware of the issues identified during the 3 days.
3. Highlights - well the whole 3 days has been great, very challenging, but very beneficial. I started with a very limited knowledge base of pastoralism but have learnt a lot, not just about pastoralism, but about the dangers facing the industry and especially our landscapes. I hope I can use this knowledge and information.
i. Keep up the good work, and don't lose hope
ii. Keep nagging people to come to the workshops. Commitment will pay off.
iii. I will be back.
(Translated from German below:) 1. I came to Australia with great but unspecified expectations. I wanted to learn a lot about "foreign" problems so that I could better assess (+ compare) “domestic” ones.
2. The practical stint here is teaching me to be more open-minded and broaden my perspective, and to see global contexts; see the same problems as in Switzerland, but also some that are very different (and unimportant to us)! The workshop has highlighted the problems here and one was able to tap into the knowledge of the experts.
3. The presenting of erosion the problem (that until now I had not considered to be so grave) was very interesting.
4. Posters and graphs need to be larger (so that all can read them)!
5. More about the geology of the region
1. Ich kam mit grossen, aber unspezifischen Erwartungen nach Australien. Ich wollte vieles ueber "fremde" Probleme lernen, damit die "eigenen" besser zu verstehen sind (und vergleichbar warden)
2. Das Praktikum zeigt mir offener, weitsichtiger zu denken und globale Verknuepfungen herzustellen, gleiche Probleme wie in der Schweiz zu sehen, aber auch ganz andere (fuer uns unwichtige). Der Workshop hat die bestehenden Probleme hier noch intensiver gezeigt und man konnte das Wissen der Experten ausnuetzen.
3.Das Aufzeigen des Erosionsproblem (das ich bisher noch nicht so krass gesehen hatte) fand ich sehr interessant.
4. Plakate, Graphika muessen unbedingt gross genug sein, damit sie fuer alle leserlich sind
5.Mehr ueber die Geologie der Region erfahren
1. To look @ some country, learn about biomass and know how it is used in management. Understand the challenges.
2. Learnt a lot about how the management of cattle can benefit the landscape.
fire, donkeys - land/water relationship in the North.
3. How 5 unmanaged cows can impact (?) the landscape. Visual pictures of erosion. The country - the people
4. Wrap up @ night before dinner - too tired after to take it in.
Need time to digest - more time to look @ before + after pictures - results
I came here to learn about the agriculture and differences between my home and here.
I know now that there's a lot more to everything. Before this I honestly didn't think much of these areas. I now learned about the potential in all of this. My highlights were the swimming , slide shows and group discussions. I really liked getting into smaller groups because I found it easier to ask questions and understand things. Because I don't live here I don't fully understand everything.
Do closing discussion before dinner.
(Translated from German below:) When I arrived in Australia, I did not know in what poor condition these landscapes really are. The vast wildfires and resulting erosion and loss of biodiversity is shocking, and if one imagines the vast areas that are affected globally it is alarming. I therefore find it important that there are people on this earth that have the courage to work against this trend even if this does not always find acceptance. For me a key to the whole workshop was Sam's graph with the exponential increase and decrease. It demonstrates the that on the one hand we are able to climb out of the hole we have here; on the other hand it indicates (especially for us in Europe where things are NOT YET that far gone,) that we need to act in a timely manner if we are to catch the upward trend. Furthermore it was very interesting for me to see how politically difficult it is to succeed in promoting such a great idea. Should I ever find myself in a position where I influence the direction of funding, this is a “flag” that I will certainly not forget. Thank you very much for this very interesting and informative workshop.
Als ich hier nach Australien kam, wusste ich nicht in was fuer einem schlechten Zustand dieses Land wirklich ist. Die riesigen Braende, die daraus folgenden Erosionen und Biodiversitaetsverarmungen sind schockierend und wenn man sich vorstellt, auf was fuer Flaechen dies global geschieht, beaengstigend. Ich finde es daher sehr wichtig, dass es auf dieser Erde Leute gibt, die den Mut haben, dem entgegen zu wirken, obwohl es nicht ueberall auf Akzeptanz stoesst. Sams Graph mit dem exponentiellen An- und Abstieg war fuer mich ein Schluessel des ganzen Workshops. Er zeigt auf, dass man einerseits aus dem Loch, welches hier existiert wieder herausfinden kann, dass man auf der anderen Seite (speziell fuer uns Europaeer, da wir und NOCH NICHT dort befinden) fruehzeitig reagieren muss, um dem aufsteigenden Ast zu folgen. Weiter war fuer mich sehr interessant wie schwierig es ist, politisch eine solch tolle Idee durchzusetzen. Falls ich selber einmal in der Lage sein sollte den Geldfluss solcher Projekte zu beeinflussen, ist dies ein grosses Ausrufezeichen, dass ich sicherlich nicht vergessen werde. Danke vielmals fuer diesen sehr spannenden und lehrreichen Workshop.