How we work - our strategic approach
South western Australia is one of the few areas on earth with a continuous biological lineage dating back some 250million years. It has evolved a degree of botanical diversity and endemism comparable with the world’s richest rainforests. Many species have only been scientifically discovered and named in the past two decades, and this high rate of discovery continues to this day.
The in-built resilience of south-western ecosystems should not be underestimated. They have transformed themselves in the face of long term climate change in the past, and remain in a state of constant and quite rapid evolutionary change. Unlike most northern hemisphere ecosystems, the operating systems here are about hanging in for the long haul. The widespread clearing of many systems since European settlement is arguably the greatest force diminishing their inbuilt adaptability.
With the greenhouse horse bolting and international agreement stalling, we need to work where we can make a meaningful difference.
Why Gondwana Link?
- Ecological resilience: Our ecological systems are changing drastically. Lots of existing species will be lost, a tough fact we all have trouble getting used to. But if we can retain the inherent qualities of key systems - their ability to adapt and make the most of changed circumstances – then at least those systems have a good chance of surviving and adapting, along with many of the species they hold. It’s from those systems that the natural world will renew itself.
- Leading by example: In a world that can seem paralysed by the immensity of the ecological and energy challenges facing us, it is important for individuals, groups and communities to tackle what they can. Being fundamentally strategic, breaking immense problems into ambitiously achievable chunks, showing real progress, and then getting more strategic and ambitious, is what we can all do.
Gondwana Link is specifically designed to seize our best chance of retaining resilient ecological systems across a key spectrum of Australian habitats - addressing current ecological decline while significantly mitigating the impacts of accelerated climate change and learning how to best sequester carbon in both natural and restored habitats. It is also hoped our work in Western Australia will inspire Australians in other areas, and we think there is evidence this is happening.
Developing the ecological strategy
“Conservation obviously requires complex joined-up thinking, as it involves many scientific disciplines combined with socio-economic sensitivity. But it also needs joined-up sites if habitats are to flourish as dynamic elements within overall ecosystems. . . . Species protection without ecosystem protection is a self-defeating exercise” Paddy Wordworth “New approaches to nature” The Irish Times 20 Sept 2008.
Translating the vision for Gondwana Link into some measurable, tangible goals to guide the work underway requires a series of steps and is a work in progress.
Ultimately, we need to quantify our objectives where possible so that we can also develop clear indicators of progress.
A functioning and resilient landscape
Key characteristics of a functioning, resilient landscape across Gondwana Link are:
- Sufficient habitat extent, configuration, diversity and condition to support ongoing genetic adaptation and evolutionary processes;
- Sufficient habitat extent, configuration and condition to support viable populations of a full suite of species, including those nomadic or migratory species that have some dependence on the area, in the long term;
- Ability to adapt and persist in response to climate change and other major disturbances;
- The provision of refuges to allow re-establishment of systems following major temporal or spatial disturbances;
- The protection of carbon stocks and avoidance of further avoidable emissions through land use changes;
- Healthy hydrological systems (surface and groundwater), including both freshwater, salty and ‘mixed water’ ecosystems;
- Trophic regulation by predators such that indigenous species and systems are maintained and introduced species do not dominate;
- Fire regimes that do not degrade the ecological processes and natural values of the landscape;
- Human use and management of these landscapes that supports the ecological functions without the requirement for continuous and intensive threat-abatement responses;
- Adaptive management by adaptive and resilient people and organisations.
The work that has occurred so far in Gondwana Link is starting to identify specific objectives for functional resilience within different parts of the Link and to develop quantitative measures of progress towards achieving them.
We also note that nature responds to opportunity and it may be that, by removing the threats, providing opportunities and enhancing natural resilience through restoration efforts and better management, some welcome ecological surprises may result.
Work we directly support