A Conservation Knowledge System for improving biodiversity and cultural outcomes of regional planning: Filling key knowledge gaps.

By 11/23/2021Current Projects
HSF 21132 | Amount: $72,000 | Project Leader: B Wintle | Project Period:

A project undertaken at The University of Melbourne, and supervised by Prof Brendan Wintle

A collaboration between The University of Melbourne, Bush Heritage Australia and a national consortium of First Australians, agriculture, academic and conservation partners

Australia’s unique biodiversity is under severe threat. Unless there is significant change in the way we protect our environment, we face a future marked by the continued decline of our diverse flora, fauna and ecosystems. Current conservation approaches often rely on incomplete or inconsistent ecological and cultural information. Further, planning is often undertaken sector by sector with little opportunity for collaborative landscape management to mitigate threats, build resilience and strengthen local communities.

For the first time, the Conservation Futures Integrated Knowledge System will map our unique and threatened ecosystems Australia-wide, as well as, integrate complex landscape information from many sources for conservation planning, assessment and reporting. Traditional Owners, farming and agriculture experts, industry leaders and conservationists will convene to tackle this challenge and facilitate better conservation of Australian ecosystems.

We have already identified important data sources across the country and gaps in knowledge that will hold our conservation efforts back. A key gap is the advanced knowledge and future aspirations of Traditional Owners, which are under-represented in the majority of current data and planning systems nationally. Supporting the representation of this knowledge is a duty that we do not undertake lightly. We believe through significant effort, building of trust, and strong systems that protect and acknowledge Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property, we can improve the sharing of knowledge. Therefore, a key objective of our project is to demonstrate scientifically robust and culturally respectful cross-cultural integration of knowledge to support regional planning.

A key scientific objective will be to demonstrate how advice from Indigenous community leaders and rangers can be applied to systematically guide and prioritise regional biodiversity surveys, and to show how mapping of culturally significant species can be achieved through integration of western scientific and Indigenous knowledge systems. We will draw on recent scientific advances in sampling design for planning and implementing regional surveys that will involve both western scientists and Indigenous ranger groups.

Scientific outputs will include mapping of culturally significant and Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) listed threatened species that incorporate local, traditional and tailored field survey data. Knowledge products will be made available in a way that respects intellectual property, while recognising the immense power and value in shared understanding for on-ground management of natural environments in cultural landscapes.

We will provide practical examples of how our knowledge products can be used, such as in Healthy Country Planning to understand where conservation or restoration actions are most feasible, socially acceptable and cost-effective, or by local governments seeking to prioritise protection and restoration to maximise carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation benefits. Furthermore, our project will promote collaboration/action/impact through the development of networks built around decision-making workshops that identify shared goals and find areas of commonality and efficiency.