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Problems, Prospects and Procedures for Assessing the Sustainability of Pastoral Land Management in Arid Australia

G. Pickup and D. M. Stafford Smith
Journal of Biogeography
Vol. 20, No. 5 (Sep., 1993), pp. 471-487
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2845721
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2845721
Page Count: 17
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Problems, Prospects and Procedures for Assessing the Sustainability of Pastoral Land Management in Arid Australia
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Abstract

Land degradation problems are widely recognized in arid Australia. Such problems are widely recognized in arid Australia. Such problems arise partly because of a very unpredictable climate, great spatial diversity, and the lack of a conceptual framework within which to base approaches to sustainable land management. Furhtermore, the concept of `sustainability' itself is poorly defined, for good reasons. Planning for sustainable land use in Australia's rangelands will require assessment of whether pastoral enterprises are sustainable in particular areas. Because of the complexity of the natural and cultural system, there is no simple way of making this assessment. We present a procedure which aims to solve the assessment question efficiently by starting with the least critical and most easily performed analyses and finishing with the most critical and hardest. We suggest determining whether the enterprise is economically viable at a superficial level, then working through the ecological characteristics at increasing levels of complexity, and finally assessing whether the necessary management strategies are socially feasible. The procedure highlights what can be done using existing understanding and what issues need further research. Despite the latter, efforts must be made to carry out assessments of this kind so the necessary expertise and databases are in place before political expediency forces less objective assessments.

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