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Vaarzon-Morel P.,Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Center
Rangeland Journal | Year: 2010

This paper reports on a survey of Aboriginal perceptions of feral camels undertaken with Aboriginal people from 27 Aboriginal communities within the current feral camel range in central Australia. Research methods were qualitative, involving face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Views were sought on feral camel presence and impacts and people's attitudes towards feral camel management. In just over two-thirds of the communities surveyed, interviewees reported seeing camels. Many interviewees in high camel density areas claimed that camels damage natural and cultural resources (such as water places and bush tucker) and affect their customary use of country. Roughly a third of interviewees also claimed that feral camels deprive native species of water. Damage to infrastructure and homelands was also reported, and concern was expressed over the danger that camels posed both on and off the roads. At the same time, camels are said to have positive benefits and most interviewees view them as a potential resource. Yet despite a widely held view among interviewees that camels need to be controlled, the majority were only prepared to consider limited management options. What is significant, however, is that Aboriginal views on feral camels today are not homogenous: there is a diversity of perspectives emerging in response to transformations being brought about by feral camels on Aboriginal land. The findings are discussed in the context of earlier studies on Aboriginal perceptions of feral animals in central Australia, which concluded that feral animals were thought not to be a significant land management problem but to 'belong to country'. The implications of changing Aboriginal perceptions of feral camels are discussed for the development of a collaborative feral camel management strategy. © Australian Rangeland Society 2010.

Edwards G.P.,Environment | Zeng B.,Environment | Saalfeld W.K.,Environment | Vaarzon-Morel P.,Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Center
Rangeland Journal | Year: 2010

Feral camels have significant negative impacts on the environment and the social/cultural values of Aboriginal people. These impacts include damage to vegetation through feeding behaviour and trampling; suppression of recruitment in some plant species; damage to wetlands through fouling, trampling, and sedimentation; competition with native animals for food, water and shelter; damage to sites such as waterholes, that have cultural significance to Aboriginal people; destruction of bushfood resources; reduction in Aboriginal people's enjoyment of natural areas; creation of dangerous driving conditions; damage to people and vehicles due to collisions, and being a general nuisance in remote settlements. Negative economic impacts of feral camels mainly include direct control and management costs, impacts on livestock production through camels competing with stock for food and other resources and damage to production-related infrastructure. The annual net impact cost of feral camels was estimated to be $10.67million for those elements that could be evaluated according to market values. We established a positive density/damage relationship for camels and infrastructure on pastoral properties, which is likely to hold true for environmental variables and cultural/social variables as well. Therefore, irrespective of climate change, the magnitude of the negative impacts of feral camels will undoubtedly increase if the population is allowed to continue to increase. Furthermore, the likelihood that camels would be epidemiologically involved in the spread of exotic diseases like bluetongue and surra (were there to be outbreaks of these diseases in Australia) is also very likely to increase with population density. On the basis of our present understanding, we recommend that feral camels be managed to a long-term target density of 0.10.2camels/km 2 at property to regional scales (areas in the order of 10000100000km 2) in order to mitigate broad-scale negative impacts on the environmental, social/cultural and production assets of the Australian rangelands. © Australian Rangeland Society 2010.

Leavesley A.J.,Australian National University | Leavesley A.J.,Bushfire Cooperative Research Center | Leavesley A.J.,Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Center | Cary G.J.,Australian National University | Cary G.J.,Bushfire Cooperative Research Center
Pacific Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

It is often assumed that a fine-scaled mosaic of different times-since-fire supports greater biodiversity than a coarsescaled mosaic - the fire mosaic hypothesis. A potential mechanism of the fire mosaic hypothesis is the effect of area on species diversity. We investigated the effect of patch area on bird communities in mulga (Acacia aneura) woodland in central Australia. The study was conducted at Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park using 55 fixed-area sites classified to the time since last fire: burnt 2002; burnt 1976 and long unburnt. Birds were surveyed in the winter and spring of 2005 and 2006. Of 20 key species, two showed a positive density-area effect (i.e. higher density in larger patches). Patch area did not affect total bird density or species richness. However, species turnover (ß-diversity) was greater in large patches in the burnt 2002 treatment than it was in small patches. There was no effect of patch area on the composition of the bird communities in any of the time-since-fire classes. We concluded that patch area did affect the distribution of some birds in mulga woodland. However, patch area was not a mechanism of the fire mosaic hypothesis because the effects of patch size tended to increase avian diversity in larger patches rather than small.

King K.J.,Australian National University | King K.J.,Bushfire Cooperative Research Center | Cary G.J.,Australian National University | Cary G.J.,Bushfire Cooperative Research Center | And 5 more authors.
Global Change Biology | Year: 2013

This study explores effects of climate change and fuel management on unplanned fire activity in ecosystems representing contrasting extremes of the moisture availability spectrum (mesic and arid). Simulation modelling examined unplanned fire activity (fire incidence and area burned, and the area burned by large fires) for alternate climate scenarios and prescribed burning levels in: (i) a cool, moist temperate forest and wet moorland ecosystem in south-west Tasmania (mesic); and (ii) a spinifex and mulga ecosystem in central Australia (arid). Contemporary fire activity in these case study systems is limited, respectively, by fuel availability and fuel amount. For future climates, unplanned fire incidence and area burned increased in the mesic landscape, but decreased in the arid landscape in accordance with predictions based on these limiting factors. Area burned by large fires (greater than the 95th percentile of historical, unplanned fire size) increased with future climates in the mesic landscape. Simulated prescribed burning was more effective in reducing unplanned fire activity in the mesic landscape. However, the inhibitory effects of prescribed burning are predicted to be outweighed by climate change in the mesic landscape, whereas in the arid landscape prescribed burning reinforced a predicted decline in fire under climate change. The potentially contrasting direction of future changes to fire will have fundamentally different consequences for biodiversity in these contrasting ecosystems, and these will need to be accommodated through contrasting, innovative management solutions. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

McAllister R.R.J.,CSIRO | McAllister R.R.J.,Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Center
Rangeland Journal | Year: 2012

Livestock mobility is practised by pastoralists to cope with some of the variability and unpredictability of limited forage resources and because a diverse portfolio of strategies is needed to manage risk. The global trend towards rangeland privatisation, fragmentation and land-use intensification is eroding many of the institutions that have traditionally facilitated pastoral mobility. While Australia's pastoral industry was developed as a European private-property system, livestock mobility has recently been increasing, indicating an important response to variability regardless of a nation's wealth or development. This paper discusses how opportunistic movements of livestock over large scales by trading grazing rights between enterprises are effective but imperfect. Knowledge about the trustworthiness of individuals and local environments is often limited and poorly monitored. There is scope for policy to support mobility by targeting these institutional failures. The Australian system of trading grazing rights can inform efforts to maintain spatial flexibility in the industrial era. © Australian Rangeland Society 2012.

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