Work we directly support
We have identified nine Principles underpinning our work in the broader Gondwana Link, along with six key Functions that Gondwana Link fills. The work we do with individuals, groups, businesses and institutions is built from these but focused into achieving tangible outcomes. Our current work program has many facets which include:
Knowledge and information
Why improve and share knowledge?
The urgent need to build and maintain momentum for change means that we often have to proceed without the degree of definitive, evidence-based science we prefer. There is however a large body of ecological theory and scientific methodologies from which we can develop management actions and test them for their effectiveness. There is also a wealth of experience and knowledge gained from living in and observing these landscapes. The trick is to usefully bring together what we have, get on with the necessary action decisions while steadily improving the knowledge base so that future actions are even better informed. Fortunately, we find that there is a backlog of ecological change needed across Gondwana Link, so that there is plenty of ‘no regrets’ steps we can take while our knowledge base improves. That is not to say there aren’t some major difficulties. For example, in the Great Western Woodlands where we need better identification of high conservation value areas, for both species richness and ecological function, there are gaps of over 100kms between even the most basic data points, such as collections of species present.
How GLL helps
Gondwana Link Ltd draws together the wide range of information and knowledge available across the Link, so that it is available for use to support work achieving the Gondwana Link vision, as well as in communicating about the work underway and progress being made. In doing this we encourage all groups involved to share information so that not only do we improve our joint knowledge of what is needed in particular areas, but we build a range of tools that support work across the Link and make it easier to measure cumulative success and major gaps across the whole Link.
The main programs we operate include:
- Geographic Information System and data layers. We have brought together thousands of shape files containing much of the accessible spatial information about the Gondwana Link area. We have also built a solid capacity in analysing, interpreting and building layers. We utilise a range of software, such as ArcGIS, VegMachine and MCAS and help groups build their own capacity. We work in close cooperation with data analysts in a range of Government departments, in the Ecology Centre at University of Queensland as well as spatial data operators in a number of the groups.A metadata base of available spatial layers has been prepared and can be provided. However, many data licences are organisation specific, we can’t licence you for some layers but we can indicate who can. We can also assist with some mapping needs, generally on a fee for service basis.
- Extensive bibliography and library. We have established a physical library, based in Albany, and an online searchable database, providing access to many books, journal articles and reports relating to the work of achieving Gondwana Link. You can access these by contacting us for a database password.
- Image Library. Over 4000 images relating to work across Gondwana Link have been catalogued so far. These are available for use by groups promoting work in Gondwana Link, and include images by renowned photographers such as Jiri and Marie Lochman, Ami Vitali, Mark Godfrey, Barbara Madden and Chinch Gryniewicz. We welcome contributions of images, but currently have a severe filing backlog, so welcome some volunteer filing even more. Many images are licensed so we cannot make the Image Library web searchable. However, for small requests we can generally help find the right image for you, and for larger requests can do so for a small fee.
- Who is who, and what are they up to? Without being too nosey, we do tend to know who is doing what to support achievement of the Gondwana Link vision. That’s because we are there supporting as much of it as we can, and because numerous groups, businesses and individuals keep us up to date. And one of our key roles is giving advice, so an even wider range of people talk to us about their proposals, or proposals they are assessing. This sort of information is very fluid, and changes rapidly, so feel free to contact our living, breathing data bases, Amanda and Keith.
- Property database. As outlined in more detail below, we keep track of what is available for sale across the Link and have successfully linked a number of conservation purchasers, groups and individuals, with ecologically important properties.
- Scientific researchers. There is an increasing amount of good science happening across the Link, from data being collected by groups as part of their Conservation Action Plans to the TERN monitoring site being built in the Great Western Woodlands. Our overall approach is to be generally supportive of all good science underway across the Link, but to only provide specific support and engagement where we see a practical focus on achieving on-ground outcomes. We are particularly concerned that there is currently too wide a gulf between the work of academic scientists and practitioner scientists. Both have their values, and those values increase exponentially when the work of the two sectors is brought together.
And of course we tend to know what various people are up to and planning, and can share that unless there is confidentiality involved (science being so squeezed for funding, believe it or not, that sometimes proposals are confidential until locked in).
What is underway
There is so much happening out there!! We have put much if the current science information into the pages describing what is happening in various areas. For the whole Link we are currently working to establish more systematic programs which synthesise and analyse the on-ground information into a coherent ‘all of Link’ picture.
Why we need to monitor and evaluate
It was the great economist John Maynard Keynes who said ‘There is no harm in being sometimes wrong - especially if one is promptly found out.’ In a world of imperfect knowledge and ecological urgencies we proceed with what knowledge we currently have, and adapt as required. We aim to implement ‘no-regrets’ actions which have strategic impacts, and are based on the best available knowledge. In the long term such an approach will only be successful if constantly reviewed and revised as improved information comes in. Additionally, the many wonderful donors and funding bodies who have supported work across Gondwana Link deserve to know if we are indeed making a difference. We are all constantly curious.
How GLL helps
Success needs to be measured at all scales, and the various measurements and data needs to be cohesively brought together so that the local pictures enlighten the regional pictures and the regional pictures enlighten the local pictures, and all the way in-between them all.
At the project scale we have worked with a number of colleagues to develop some simple methodologies to evaluate success, such as standardised photo points for restoration projects and GIS data protocols.
At the local scale we work with numerous groups on their Conservation Action Plans (CAPs) that identify 6-8 targets and 10 year success indicators (three are currently on the web at http://conpro.tnc.org/, scroll down the box on left to Gondwana Link). As with implementation of the Plans, funding to fully implement monitoring programs is a problem, but one being gradually worked at. Establishing good benchmarks is a priority. Where possible we have encouraged CAP monitoring indicators to be standardised with national standards, such as for water quality.
Across the various regions we have worked with key national players to develop simpler approaches to achieving monitoring. For the largest operational area (the 16million ha Great Western Woodlands) the success measures to date have been more political (gaining bi-partisan support, involvement of major mining companies, Traditional owner programs etc) but we are now sorting out what key ecological indicators would be (relating to intactness, function etc).
Across all of Gondwana Link we are currently finalising a standard set of indicators that enable rapid tracking of overall progress, against readily measured gross indicators (such as hectares protected and managed) which we are trying to underpin with the more detailed monitoring data coming from local areas. It’s a bit like building a train line from two different start points, and adjusting both survey lines so they eventually meet up. We hope to eventually monitor ecological function at a grand scale, and some remote sensing techniques show promise here, but it a job for the future.
What groups do
There is some very effective on-ground monitoring happening across Gondwana Link. For example, in the Fitz-Stirling area, a grant from LotteryWest enabled Bush Heritage and Greening Australia to establish good benchmark data on the condition of the creek system, and Bush Heritage have also devoted considerable time over the past 6 years collecting vertebrate data for all the bush and restoration areas. At a broader level Birdlife Australia monitor Black Cockatoo numbers across the south west, including in Gondwana Link, giving us meaningful measures of how badly the current conservation areas are doing in conserving highly mobile species with broad habitat needs.
Effectiveness through standards
Why we need standards
Gondwana Link works through partnering – formally or informally – with the many organizations and individuals who share our vision for an ecologically resilient landscape across south western Australia. Many different actions can contribute to achieving the vision. We are currently developing standards for the various activities undertaken across Gondwana link, in order to provide clarity on the quality of work needed to achieve agreed ecological outcomes.
The area of greatest need at this stage is the type of plantings needed to be ecologically effective. We are very concerned that many early plantings, undertaken through landcare and other broad programs, are not as effective as they could be and may even cause some harm, by increasing the number of opportunistic species in the landscape, such as crows, Kookaburras, New Holland Honeyeaters and the like, who reduce the habitat niches available for the rarer species.
We are also concerned that some commercial plantings in the broad Gondwana Link area could end up being marketed as ‘part of Gondwana Link’, when their actual benefits were unclear.
How GLL helps
We have produced an initial set of restoration standards that help clarify where on spectrum from low to high value a particular planting would sit. The standards are based on existing international work, particularly through the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Society for Ecological Restoration.
We accept that restoration has many facets, and to guide our work have adopted the classification of ecological restoration being ‘an intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its health, integrity and sustainability.’(ref The SER International Primer on Ecological Restoration, published by the Society for Ecological Restoration International (Version 2: October, 2004).
This definition recognises that restoration is a far wider activity than, for example, the planting of a paddock and includes such work as managing fire regimes back to a closer semblance of their original, restoration of original predator prey relationships and so on.
The standards we have developed in a 26 point check list, which then provides a clear star rating, which is summarised in the table below.
Additional standards are under development, and we are currently seeking funds for a range of genetic work that will give the standards more precision.
What groups do
The development of any approach to achieving high standard and effective work requires constant feedback from that place known as ‘the real world’. The standards we currently have are open for feedback from groups on what is practical and what works or not.
Why we need to plan
The primary role of our planning is to improve cohesion and integration across a diversity of views and information sources, while being able to regularly test plans to ensure they are as strategic as possible.
Plans are also an effective means of building clarity amongst the range of people involved in any one project.
How GLL helps
We have adopted the internationally accepted Open Standards for Conservation approach, and the associated Conservation Action Planning and Miradi software tools which also enable comparisons across targets. This approach has now been supported in six different areas of the Link, and has the added advantage of enabling comparisons between regions and across targets. We thank The Nature Conservancy for introducing us to this tool.
Detailed planning to establish the Gondwana Link program was a hot topic at the first Conservation action Planning training workshop in Australia, held in Emerald Queensland in 2001.
Since 2010 we have had Barry Heydenrych (seconded from Greening Australia) and Paula Deegan helping with development of local area conservation plans across the Link. A number of these plans can be viewed at http://conpro.tnc.org/.
What groups do
The collection of groups working together in each area have responsibility for the development and upkeep of their plans.
Development of good plans requires a focused effort from key group members and other experts. Typically, each group will meet a number of times as they work through their plans, starting with a robust discussion on what really are the strategically important but ‘ambitiously achievable’ targets, and how their ecological condition can be measurably improved within ten years. We then prod and poke and exasperate until the groups feel the final plans are both ecologicaly robust and practically worthwhile.
The knowledge contributed and freely shared by group members and visiting experts is often staggering. To have a group map all their wallaby populations, and the breeding lineage for each family, over morning tea is an impressive insight into just how much knowledge is available. Similarly, to have a research scientist in the room who can see how valued and applicable their decades of research can be.
The groups, of course, are also undertaking far more massive tasks in the implementation of what are quite often very efficient programs of work.
Why we need to purchase land
While our preference is always to work with existing landholders to achieve our ecological targets, sometimes the changes needed are often just too massive to achieve through the largesse of any one landholder, or group of landholders, particularly farmers. It is unfair to expect farmers to carry the main burden of achieving landscapes that meet 21st century sustainability and ecological resilience standards, when their property boundaries and areas were designed in the 1950’s or earlier. So alongside programs of incentives and other support, a number of the groups and individuals supporting Gondwana Link have raised funds to purchase, restore and manage strategically placed properties.
It can be expensive, both buying the properties in the first place, then funding their restoration and management. However there are some clear benefits to owning a property. These include:
• The ability to permanently secure critical habitat and other ecological features
• The opportunity to restore and manage to high order ecological specifications
• The ability to set up long term study and monitoring plots
• The potential for demonstrating conservation management to neighbours and other parties
How we help
To help get Gondwana Link started Keith and Amanda specialised in finding critically important properties and negotiating purchase for conservation use. We ‘fondly’ remember standing in cold windswept paddocks hammering out the best possible deal for all, the generosity and courage of early donors, and the joy of walking through recently purchased bush and finding stands of endemic eucalypts (like the Corackerup Moort on Nowanup) or being startled by wallabies scurrying about. With groups like Bush Heritage, Greening Australia and Carbon Neutral now owning and managing a number of purchased properties, and doing their own negotiations, we have specialised in keeping tabs on what properties are available across the Link, and helping potential conservation buyers. Often farmers contact us before putting their properties on the open market, and more than once we have been able to connect keen buyers with willing sellers. Our mapping systems are also very useful in analysing the inherent and strategic worth of particular properties. Some more strategic roles have emerged for us in recent years, such as find a greater place for connectivity and ecological values in Government planning policies and working through with some talented entrepreneurs how ‘multiple owner’ purchases could proceed.
What groups and some special people do
To quote our friend Peter Luscombe ‘nothing works better for conservation than a good cheque book’. It was Eddy and Donna Wajon who secured the first two properties purchased specifically to help achieve Gondwana Link, followed closely by Bush Heritage, and Greening Australia, and now Carbon Neutral, who now own over 9588 ha of high value land between them. Donors have been the mainstay, with a number of the group purchases getting additional funding support from the National Reserve System program, and a couple through carbon investment funding.
We build on the efforts of many good people, with some conservation purchases predating us, such as Peter and Suzy Luscombe’s Caladenia Hill, north of the Porongurups, Bob’s Bush in Fitz-Stirling, and Friends of Porongurups who ran an inspiring local campaign fundraising to purchase the critically important Twin Creeks Conservation Reserve (again with help from the National Reserves System). Then there are the latest heroes to arrive Bill and Jane Thompson.
Please contact us if you are interested in investing in a conservation property that helps us achieve Gondwana Link.
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones”. John Maynard Keynes