The Rangeland Journal

Published by CSIRO Publishing
Online ISSN: 1036-9872
Publications
Article
Wild dog and dingo baits impregnated with the toxin 1080 and exposed at two different sites in the field suffered significant reductions in weight compared with controls as a result of ant activity. In one case a bait was completely destroyed in five days, while others were reduced in weight by over 70% during the same period. Sun-drying of baits for 48h before laying did not significantly reduce damage by ants. Ant activity may detoxify baits before they are taken by wild dogs.
 
Article
The objectives of this study were to predict the potential distribution, relative abundance and probability of habitat use by feral camels in southern Northern Territory. Aerial survey data were used to model habitat association. The characteristics of ‘used’ (where camels were observed) v. ‘unused’ (pseudo-absence) sites were compared. Habitat association and abundance were modelled using generalised additive model (GAM) methods. The models predicted habitat suitability and the relative abundance of camels in southern Northern Territory. The habitat suitability maps derived in the present study indicate that camels have suitable habitat in most areas of southern Northern Territory. The index of abundance model identified areas of relatively high camel abundance. Identifying preferred habitats and areas of high abundance can help focus control efforts.
 
Article
This paper develops a hierarchical landscape approach for investigating how landscape structure influences the abundance of eastern grey kangaroos, red kangaroos and common wallaroos on properties in a partially-cleared semi-arid woodland of Queensland. This approach is applied to examine the extent to which a mosaic of spatial factors at a hierarchy of scales influences kangaroo abundance at the property-level, the level of management interest. The analysis concludes that the structure of the property habitat mosaic, coupled with pasture productivity, is the most important influence for each species. Access to water was not a limiting factor, although it may be important locally. Grey kangaroos prefer an even mosaic of all habitat types on properties with productive grass-dominated pastures. Red kangaroos are positively associated with run-on areas and large-shrub regrowth patches, reflecting their foraging preferences for forbs and short grasses and their ability to use more open habitats. Wallaroos have a clumped density distribution associated with a heterogeneous mosaic of open habitats interspersed with fragmented forest patches and small to medium-grained shrub-regrowth patches. The research, while not replicated, identifies linkages between tree clearing practices at the property level and increased large kangaroo abundance in the region. These linkages have been previously overlooked in the kangaroo management debate. Therefore, any tree clearing guidelines developed at the property level need to be sensitive to key ecological processes influencing kangaroo populations at both the landscape and property levels. If not, the sustainable management of total grazing pressure (livestock plus kangaroos) and biodiversity conservation will never become a reality.
 
Article
Gidgee (Acacia cambagei) forms woodlands and forests on moderately fertile clay soils throughout semi-arid areas of north-eastern Australia. Analysis of soil data from Queensland indicates that gidgee’s environmental domain has a broad overlap with treeless Mitchell grassland although a preference for slightly coarser soils with higher phosphorus and lower potassium content. Mapping of woody cover change for an area of central Queensland suggests that gidgee thickening and spread has occurred between 1951 and 1994. However, this increase has been more than offset by loss of gidgee cover by clearing in other areas. Gidgee thickening and encroachment onto grassland is a problem for graziers because the trees suppress grass and are unpalatable except when very young. Landholder surveys and other information indicate that gidgee has recruited sporadically and that thickening occurred with a massive seedling recruitment in the 1950s with a smaller recruitment wave in the 1970s. These waves coincide with relatively wet times and the extreme rainfall abundance in the 1950s has a multi-century expected recurrence. There are historical records describing gidgee death during the extreme droughts in the first part of the 20th century. Young gidgee plants are fire sensitive but well-established gidgee stands are fire retardant, and the importance of fire for control of gidgee thickening is unknown. One scenario explaining gidgee dynamics emphasises the role of environment (mostly climate and soil), while another emphasises management (mostly fire). Research priorities are presented and may contribute to appropriate management of gidgee woodlands.
 
Effect of incubation conditions, emergence environment and seed pre-treatment on the germination of Cassia brewsteri. Germination was monitored in Petri dishes in a germination cabinet and emergence from soil was monitored in a glasshouse after storage in dry soil for 0, 1 or 3 months. Values are mean % (n = 50 × 4 replicates) of seeds sown ± s.e.  
Analysis of variance summary for the effects of seed treatment (control, boiled or acid) and emergence environment (0, 1 or 3 months in soil before watering or Petri dish) on the emergence of Cassia brewsteri seeds 
Article
Acacia harpophylla F. Muell. (brigalow) used to naturally occur over a range of about 50 000 km(2) in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. Large scale clearing for agriculture has reduced the area to less than 20 000 km(2) and it is estimated that 20-25% of vertebrate fauna living in brigalow communities will become locally extinct as a result of the current clearing induced loss of habitat. Some coal mining companies in central Queensland have become interested in providing habitat for the endangered bridle nail-tailed wallaby that lives in brigalow vegetation. However, there is little known about establishment techniques for brigalow on mine sites and other disturbed ground; an understanding of brigalow biology and ecology is required to assist in the conservation of this threatened vegetation community and for re-creation of bridled nail-tail wallaby habitat in the post mining landscape. Brigalow is an unusual species of Acacia because it is not hard-seeded and germinates readily without the need to break seed-coat imposed dormancy. Germination trials were undertaken to test the ability of brigalow seed to germinate with a range of temperatures and salinity levels similar to those experienced in coal mine spoil. Optimum germination was found to occur at temperatures from 15 to 38 degrees C and no germination was recorded at 45 degrees C. Brigalow was very tolerant of high salt levels and germinated at percentages greater than 50% up to the highest salinity tested, 30 dS/m. Germination of greater than 90% occurred up to an electrical conductivity of 20 dS/m. The results indicate brigalow seed can be sown in summer when rains are most likely to occur, however, shading of the seed with extra soil or mulch may ensure the ground surface does not become too hot for germination. Because of its ability to germinate at high salinity levels, brigalow may be suitable for use in saline mine wastes which are common on sites to be rehabilitated after mining.
 
Sections of the pastoralist survey 
Decision assistance used by respondents in western Queensland to help manage pastoral enterprises during 2002 (AE 95% confidence level) (n = 49). Other refers to decisions based on market prices, feed budgets, experience of rainfall in area and use of rainfall records.  
Sample selection in the second (2003) survey and shire response rates Values are number of respondents out of number sent, with the percentage response rate in parentheses 
Article
Survey methods were engaged to measure the change in use and knowledge of climate information by pastoralists in western Queensland. The initial mail survey was undertaken in 2000–01 (n = 43) and provided a useful benchmark of pastoralists climate knowledge. Two years of climate applications activities were completed and clients were re-surveyed in 2003 (n = 49) to measure the change in knowledge and assess the effectiveness of the climate applications activities. Two methods were used to assess changes in client knowledge, viz., self-assessment and test questions. We found that the use of seasonal climate forecasts in decision making increased from 36% in 2001 (n = 42) to 51% in 2003 (n = 49) (P = 0.07). The self-assessment technique was unsatisfactory as a measure of changing knowledge over short periods (1–3 years), but the test question technique was successful and indicated an improvement in climate knowledge among respondents. The increased levels of use of seasonal climate forecasts in management and improved knowledge was partly attributed to the climate applications activities of the project. Further, those who used seasonal forecasting (n = 25) didn’t understand key components of forecasts (e.g. probability, median) better than those who didn’t use seasonal forecasts (n = 24) (P > 0.05). This identifies the potential for misunderstanding and misinterpretation of forecasts among users and highlights the need for providers of forecasts to understand the difficulties and prepare simply written descriptions of forecasts and disseminate these with the maps showing probabilities. The most preferred means of accessing climate information were internet, email, 'The Season Ahead' newsletter and newspaper. The least preferred were direct contact with extension officers and attending field days and group meetings. Eighty-six percent of respondents used the internet and 67% used ADSL broadband internet (April 2003). Despite these findings, extension officers play a key role in preparing and publishing the information on the web, in emails and newsletters. We also believe that direct contact with extension officers trained in climate applications is desirable in workshop-like events to improve knowledge of the difficult concepts underpinning climate forecasts, which may then stimulate further adoption.
 
An IFA (Solenopsis invicta  S. richteri) mound in north-eastern Mississippi pasture. Photo taken in the fall; note ring of actively growing vegetation at the mound periphery.
Near-infrared template constructed by scaling and aligning 50 representative fire ant mounds.
Article
Imported fire ants construct earthen nests (mounds) that exhibit many characteristics which make them potentially good targets for remote sensing programs, including geographical orientation, topography, and bare soil surrounded by actively growing vegetation. Template-based features and object-based features extracted from aerial multispectral imagery of fire ant infested pastures were used to construct classifiers for automated fire ant mound detection. A classifier constructed using template-based features alone yielded a 79% probability of detection with a corresponding false positive rate of 9%. Addition of object-based features (compactness and symmetry) to the classifier yielded a 79% probability of detection with a corresponding false positive rate of 4%. Maintaining a 79% detection rate when applying the classifier to a second, unique pasture dataset with different seasonal and other environmental factors resulted in a false positive rate of 17.5%. Data demonstrate that automated detection of mounds with classifiers incorporating template- and object-based features is feasible, but it may be necessary to construct unique classifiers on a site-specific basis.
 
Article
Kangaroo harvest quotas for each Australian state have been set mainly as proportions of population estimates derived from aerial surveys. Estimating population size from strip transect counts using fixed wing aircraft has become an established technique, but counts must be adjusted by correction factors to ensure population estimates are both accurate and repeatable. Surveys of kangaroos in Queensland are currently conducted with helicopters using line transect methodology, but cost restricts their use to relatively small survey blocks. Nevertheless, they return more accurate and repeatable estimates of kangaroo density than surveys with fixed-wing aircraft. A comparison of the above two techniques was made along the same transect lines in seven survey blocks (5000-10,000 km2) in southern and western Queensland, allowing an assessment of the comparative accuracy of the fixed-wing method. For red kangaroos (Macropus rufus), required correction factors of 0.7-3.1 were similar to those used previously. However, for eastern grey kangaroos (M. giganteus), substantially larger correction factors of 3.4-10.2 were needed to approach true density. For wallaroos (M. robustus), correction factors of 3.8-4.8 were required. but can be considered conservative because helicopter-derived density estimates are known to be underestimated by a factor of 2-3. Further work is needed to establish how correction factors for each species should be applied on a broader scale and whether they lead to repeatable estimates or kangaroo density.
 
Article
The emerging carbon economy will have a major impact on grazing businesses because of significant livestock methane and land-use change emissions. Livestock methane emissions alone account for similar to 11% of Australia's reported greenhouse gas emissions. Grazing businesses need to develop an understanding of their greenhouse gas impact and be able to assess the impact of alternative management options. This paper attempts to generate a greenhouse gas budget for two scenarios using a spread sheet model. The first scenario was based on one land-type '20-year-old brigalow regrowth' in the brigalow bioregion of southern-central Queensland. The 50 year analysis demonstrated the substantially different greenhouse gas outcomes and livestock carrying capacity for three alternative regrowth management options: retain regrowth ( sequester 71.5 t carbon dioxide equivalents per hectare, CO2-e/ha), clear all regrowth (emit 42.8 t CO2-e/ha) and clear regrowth strips (emit 5.8 t CO2-e/ha). The second scenario was based on a 'remnant eucalypt savanna-woodland' land type in the Einasleigh Uplands bioregion of north Queensland. The four alternative vegetation management options were: retain current woodland structure (emit 7.4 t CO2-e/ha), allow woodland to thicken increasing tree basal area (sequester 20.7 t CO2-e/ha), thin trees less than 10 cm diameter (emit 8.9 t CO2-e/ha), and thin trees <20 cm diameter (emit 12.4 t CO2-e/ha). Significant assumptions were required to complete the budgets due to gaps in current knowledge on the response of woody vegetation, soil carbon and non-CO2 soil emissions to management options and land-type at the property scale. The analyses indicate that there is scope for grazing businesses to choose alternative management options to influence their greenhouse gas budget. However, a key assumption is that accumulation of carbon or avoidance of emissions somewhere on a grazing business ( e. g. in woody vegetation or soil) will be recognised as an offset for emissions elsewhere in the business ( e. g. livestock methane). This issue will be a challenge for livestock industries and policy makers to work through in the coming years.
 
Graphical display of a network.  
Article
Arid systems are markedly different from non-arid systems. This distinctiveness extends to arid-social networks, by which we mean social networks which are influenced by the suite of factors driving arid and semi-arid regions. Neither the process of how aridity interacts with social structure, nor what happens as a result of this interaction, is adequately understood. This paper postulates three relative characteristics which make arid-social networks distinct: that they are tightly bound, are hierarchical in structure and, hence, prone to power abuses, and contain a relatively higher proportion of weak links, making them reactive to crisis. These ideas were modified from workshop discussions during 2006. Although they are neither tested nor presented as strong beliefs, they are based on the anecdotal observations of arid-system scientists with many years of experience. This paper does not test the ideas, but rather examines them in the context of five arid-social network case studies with the aim of hypotheses building. Our cases are networks related to pastoralism, Aboriginal outstations, the ‘Far West Coast Aboriginal Enterprise Network’ and natural resources in both the Lake-Eyre basin and the Murray–Darling catchment. Our cases highlight that (1) social networks do not have clear boundaries, and that how participants perceive their network boundaries may differ from what network data imply, (2) although network structures are important determinants of system behaviour, the role of participants as individuals is still pivotal, (3) and while in certain arid cases weak links are engaged in crisis, the exact structure of all weak links in terms of how they place participants in relation to other communities is what matters.
 
Article
The control of woody weeds in the mulga lands of south-west Queensland is commonly regarded as essential for restoration of degraded systems. However, these shrubs have become a dominant and stable component of many mulga land ecosystems, and their removal may have unknown ecosystem impacts. This paper reports an experiment to determine the effect of woody weeds and grazing pressure on grass recruitment, cover and diversity in two vegetation communities in Queensland's mulga lands. Both factors influence grass recruitment, cover and diversity, but the response differs between the two vegetation communities investigated. The overall grass cover is consistently greater in sites where woody weeds were removed, and where grazing pressure was lowest. However, in the Dunefields community the cover and frequency of grass plants responded mon to the removal of woody weeds than in the Mulga Sandplain community. In contrast, in the Mulga Sandplain community the grasses responded more to reducing or removing grazing pressure. Results suggest that subtle differences between systems influence grass dynamics, highlighting the need for community-specific research and management.
 
Article
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Adelaide, 1975. Includes bibliographical references (leaves [1]-11). Photocopy.
 
Article
Spine title: Grazing Astrebla grassland. Thesis (M. Agr. Sc.)--University of Queensland, 1979. Includes bibliographical references.
 
Article
Since their release over 100 years ago, camels have spread across central Australia and increased in number. Increasingly, they are being seen as a pest, with observed impacts from overgrazing and damage to infrastructure such as fences. Irregular aerial surveys since 1983 and an interview-based survey in 1966 suggest that camels have been increasing at close to their maximum rate. A comparison of three models of population growth fitted to these, albeit limited, data suggests that the Northern Territory population has indeed been growing at an annual exponential rate of r = 0.074, or 8% per year, with little evidence of a density-dependent brake. A stage-structured model using life history data from a central Australian camel population suggests that this rate approximates the theoretical maximum. Elasticity analysis indicates that adult survival is by far the biggest influence on rate of increase and that a 9% reduction in survival from 96% is needed to stop the population growing. In contrast, at least 70% of mature females need to be sterilised to have a similar effect. In a benign environment, a population of large mammals such as camels is expected to grow exponentially until close to carrying capacity. This will frustrate control programs, because an ever-increasing number of animals will need to be removed for zero growth the longer that culling or harvesting effort is delayed. A population projection for 2008 suggests ~10 500 animals need to be harvested across the Northern Territory. Current harvests are well short of this. The ability of commercial harvesting to control camel populations in central Australia will depend on the value of animals, access to animals and the presence of alternative species to harvest when camels are at low density.
 
Article
In recent years, with the formation of organisations such as the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, social science interest in the Australian desert has re-surfaced with a research emphasis that is focused on creating sustainable futures for the region. One consequence of this is a demand for detailed demographic information to allow an assessment of different quanta of need in social and economic policy, and for assessment of the impact of these in environmental policy. However, demographic analysis on human populations in the desert to date has attracted very little research attention. In this paper we begin to address this lack of analysis by focusing on the populations, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, of the arid and semi-arid zones of Australia. We extend earlier analysis by including for the first time demographic information on the semi-arid as well as the arid zone to establish the spatial pattern of population growth within the whole desert area drawing attention to the resulting settlement structure as an outcome of prevailing social, cultural and economic conditions. By examining population structure and demographic components of population change we also present for the first time population projections for the semi-arid zone and, therefore, in combination with the arid zone, for the entire Australian desert. All of this provides a basis for considering social and economic policy implications and the nature of underlying processes that drive change in this region.
 
A summary of the two sampling approaches to characterise soil organic carbon stock
Examples of four different kinds of design-based sampling (each with n = 10) for a hypothetical paddock: (a) simple random sampling; (b) random sampling stratified by classified geographical coordinates (shown in the background shading); (c) random sampling stratified by a classified ancillary variable (in this case, an estimate of long-term mean ground cover, shown in the background shading); (d) systematic random sampling (with the initial location shown as an open circle).
Spatial variability described by the variogram. Panels on the left show hypothetical observations of a variable at 100 locations along a transect. Panels on the right show the associated theoretical (standardised) variogram. The process is autocorrelated strongly in the first row, moderately in the second row, and weakly in the third row. The range parameter of variogram is 30 m in each case.
Model-based sampling scheme that minimises the mean cokriging variance for soil organic carbon concentration and bulk density. We have assumed that both variables will be collected at the same locations, but this is not essential.
Statistical power to detect a deviation within 10% of the sample mean, with 95% confidence (two-tailed test): solid line = simple random sampling (Fig. 4a); dashed line = random sampling stratified by geographical coordinates (Fig. 4b); dotted line = systematic random sampling (Fig. 4d).
Article
The accurate measurement of the soil organic carbon (SOC) stock in Australian grazing lands is important due to the major role that SOC plays in soil productivity and the potential influence of soil C cycling on Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. However, the current sampling methodologies for SOC stock are varied and potentially conflicting. It was the objective of this paper to review the nature of, and reasons for, SOCvariability; the sampling methodologies commonly used; and to identify knowledge gaps for SOC measurement in grazing lands. Soil C consists of a range of biological materials, in various SOC pools such as dissolved organic C, micro- and meso-fauna (microbial biomass), fungal hyphae and fresh plant residues in or on the soil (particulate organic C, light-fraction C), the products of decomposition (humus, slow pool C) and complexed organic C, and char and phytoliths (inert, passive or resistant C); and soil inorganic C (carbonates and bicarbonates). Microbial biomass and particulate or light-fraction organic C are most sensitive to management or land-use change; resistant organicCand soil carbonates are least sensitive. TheSOCpresent at any location is influenced by a series of complex interactions between plant growth, climate, soil type or parent material, topography and site management. Because of this, SOCstock andSOCpools are highly variable on both spatial and temporal scales. This creates a challenge for efficient sampling. Sampling methods are predominantly based on design-based (classical) statistical techniques, crucial to which is a randomised sampling pattern that negates bias. Alternatively a model-based (geostatistical) analysis can be used, which does not require randomisation. Each approach is equally valid to characterise SOC in the rangelands. However, given that SOC reporting in the rangelands will almost certainly rely on average values for some aggregated scale (such as a paddock or property), wecontend that the design-based approach might be preferred. Wealso challenge soil surveyors and their sponsors to realise that: (i) paired sites are the most efficient way of detecting a temporal change inSOCstock, but destructive sampling and cumulative measurement errors decrease our ability to detect change; (ii) due to (i), an efficient sampling scheme to estimate baseline status is not likely to be an efficient sampling scheme to estimate temporal change; (iii) samples should be collected as widely as possible within the area of interest; (iv) replicate of laboratory analyses is a critical step in being able to characterise temporal change. Sampling requirements for SOC stock in Australian grazing lands are yet to be explicitly quantified and an examination of a range of these ecosystems is required in order to assess the sampling densities and techniques necessary to detect specified changes in SOC stock and SOC pools. An examination of techniques that can help reduce sampling requirements (such as measurement of the SOC fractions that are most sensitive to management changes and/ or measurement at specific times of the year-preferably before rapid plant growth-to decrease temporal variability), and new technologies for in situ SOC measurement is also required.
 
Percentage change in components of the grazing system as simulated by AussieGRASS (Carter et al. 2000, 2003). The changes are calculated as the average for the period from 1991 to 2007 expressed as a percentage of the average for the period 1961 to 1990: (a) annual rainfall, (b) available soil water, (c) forage growth index, (d) forage production (or pasture growth), (e) surface (or pasture) cover, and ( f ) flow-to-stream (i.e. the addition of hill-slope runoff and throughdrainage).
Time series of (a) 5-and (b) 20-year moving averages of rainfall averaged across Qld's grazing lands. The region of Qld constituting the grazing lands is given by McKeon et al. (2004).
Article
Grazing is a major land use in Australia's rangelands. The 'safe' livestock carrying capacity (LCC) required to maintain resource condition is strongly dependent on climate. We reviewed: the approaches for quantifying LCC; current trends in climate and their effect on components of the grazing system; implications of the 'best estimates' of climate change projections for LCC; the agreement and disagreement between the current trends and projections; and the adequacy of current models of forage production in simulating the impact of climate change. We report the results of a sensitivity study of climate change impacts on forage production across the rangelands, and we discuss the more general issues facing grazing enterprises associated with climate change, such as 'known uncertainties' and adaptation responses (e.g. use of climate risk assessment). We found that the method of quantifying LCC from a combination of estimates (simulations) of long-term (>30 years) forage production and successful grazier experience has been well tested across northern Australian rangelands with different climatic regions. This methodology provides a sound base for the assessment of climate change impacts, even though there are many identified gaps in knowledge. The evaluation of current trends indicated substantial differences in the trends of annual rainfall (and simulated forage production) across Australian rangelands with general increases in most of western Australian rangelands ( including northern regions of the Northern Territory) and decreases in eastern Australian rangelands and south-western Western Australia. Some of the projected changes in rainfall and temperature appear small compared with year-to-year variability. Nevertheless, the impacts on rangeland production systems are expected to be important in terms of required managerial and enterprise adaptations. Some important aspects of climate systems science remain unresolved, and we suggest that a risk-averse approach to rangeland management, based on the 'best estimate' projections, in combination with appropriate responses to short-term (1-5 years) climate variability, would reduce the risk of resource degradation. Climate change projections - including changes in rainfall, temperature, carbon dioxide and other climatic variables - if realised, are likely to affect forage and animal production, and ecosystem functioning. The major known uncertainties in quantifying climate change impacts are: (i) carbon dioxide effects on forage production, quality, nutrient cycling and competition between life forms (e.g. grass, shrubs and trees); and (ii) the future role of woody plants including effects of. re, climatic extremes and management for carbon storage. In a simple example of simulating climate change impacts on forage production, we found that increased temperature (3 degrees C) was likely to result in a decrease in forage production for most rangeland locations (e. g. -21% calculated as an unweighted average across 90 locations). The increase in temperature exacerbated or reduced the effects of a 10% decrease/increase in rainfall respectively (-33% or -9%). Estimates of the beneficial effects of increased CO2 (from 350 to 650 ppm) on forage production and water use efficiency indicated enhanced forage production (+26%). The increase was approximately equivalent to the decline in forage production associated with a 3 degrees C temperature increase. The large magnitude of these opposing effects emphasised the importance of the uncertainties in quantifying the impacts of these components of climate change. We anticipate decreases in LCC given that the 'best estimate' of climate change across the rangelands is for a decline (or little change) in rainfall and an increase in temperature. As a consequence, we suggest that public policy have regard for: the implications for livestock enterprises, regional communities, potential resource damage, animal welfare and human distress. However, the capability to quantify these warnings is yet to be developed and this important task remains as a challenge for rangeland and climate systems science.
 
Article
Despite recognition that non-native plant species represent a substantial risk to natural systems, there is currently no compilation of weeds that impact on the biodiversity of the rangelands within Australia. Using published and expert knowledge, this paper presents a list of 622 non-native naturalised species known to occur within the rangelands. Of these, 160 species (26%) are considered a current threat to rangeland biodiversity. Most of these plant species have been deliberately introduced for forage or other commercial use (e.g. nursery trade). Among growth forms, shrubs and perennial grasses comprise over 50% of species that pose the greatest risk to rangeland biodiversity. We identify regions within the rangelands containing both high biodiversity values and a high proportion of weeds and recommend these areas as priorities for weed management. Finally, we examine the resources available for weed detection and identification since detecting weeds in the early stages of invasion is the most cost effective method of reducing further impact.
 
Article
An assessment of the relative influences of management and environment on the composition of floodplain grasslands of north-western New South Wales was made using a regional vegetation survey sampling a range of land tenures (e. g. private property, travelling stock routes and nature reserves). A total of 364 taxa belonging to 55 different plant families was recorded. Partitioning of variance with redundancy analysis determined that environmental variables accounted for a greater proportion (61.3%) of the explained variance in species composition than disturbance-related variables (37.6%). Soil type (and fertility), sampling time and rainfall had a strong influence on species composition and there were also east-west variations in composition across the region. Of the disturbance-related variables, cultivation, stocking rate and flooding frequency were all influential. Total, native, forb, shrub and subshrub richness were positively correlated with increasing time since cultivation. Flood frequency was positively correlated with graminoid species richness and was negatively correlated with total and forb species richness. Site species richness was also influenced by environmental variables (e. g. soil type and rainfall). Despite the resilience of these grasslands, some forms of severe disturbance (e. g. several years of cultivation) can result in removal of some dominant perennial grasses (e. g. Astrebla spp.) and an increase in disturbance specialists. A simple heuristic transitional model is proposed that has conceptual thresholds for plant biodiversity status. This knowledge representation may be used to assist in the management of these grasslands by de. ning four broad levels of community richness and the drivers that change this status.
 
Article
Clearing of native vegetation is a major threat to biodiversity in Australia. In Queensland, clearing has resulted in extensive ecosystem transformation, especially in the more fertile parts of the landscape. In this paper, we examine Queensland, Australian and some overseas evidence of the impact of clearing and related fragmentation effects on terrestrial biota. The geographic locus is the semi-arid regions. although we recognise that coastal regions have been extensively cleared. The evidence reviewed here suggests that the reduction of remnant vegetation to 30% will result in the loss of 25-35% of vertebrate fauna, with the full impact not realised for another 50-100 years, or even longer. Less mobile, habitat specialists and rare species appear to be particularly at risk. We propose three broad principles For effective biodiversity conservation in Queensland: (i) regional native vegetation retention thresholds of 50910: (ii) regional ecosystem thresholds of 30%: and (iii) landscape design and planning principles that protect large remnants, preferably > 2000 ha, as core habitats. Under these retention thresholds. no further clearing would be permitted in the extensively cleared biogeographic regions such as Brigalow Belt and New England Tablelands. Some elements of the biota. however, will require more detailed knowledge and targeted retention and management to ensure their security. The application of resource sustainability and economic criteria outlined elsewhere in this volume should be applied to ensure that the biogeographic regions in the north and west of Queensland that are largely intact continue to provide extensive wildlife habitat.
 
Article
For pasture growth in the semi-arid tropics of north-east Australia, where up to 80% of annual rainfall occurs between December and March, the timing and distribution of rainfall events is often more important than the total amount. In particular, the timing of the 'green break of the season' (GBOS) at the end of the dry season, when new pasture growth becomes available as forage and a live-weight gain is measured in cattle, affects several important management decisions that prevent overgrazing and pasture degradation. Currently, beef producers in the region use a GBOS rule based on rainfall (e. g. 40mm of rain over three days by 1 December) to de. ne the event and make their management decisions. A survey of 16 beef producers in north-east Queensland shows three quarters of respondents use a rainfall amount that occurs in only half or less than half of all years at their location. In addition, only half the producers expect the GBOS to occur within two weeks of the median date calculated by the CSIRO plant growth days model GRIM. This result suggests that in the producer rules, either the rainfall quantity or the period of time over which the rain is expected, is unrealistic. Despite only 37% of beef producers indicating that they use a southern oscillation index (SOI) forecast in their decisions, cross validated LEPS ( linear error in probability space) analyses showed both the average 3 month July-September SOI and the 2 month August-September SOI have significant forecast skill in predicting the probability of both the amount of wet season rainfall and the timing of the GBOS. The communication and implementation of a rigorous and realistic definition of the GBOS, and the likely impacts of anthropogenic climate change on the region are discussed in the context of the sustainable management of northern Australian rangelands.
 
Effect of incubation conditions, emergence environment and seed pre-treatment on the germination of Cassia brewsteri. Germination was monitored in Petri dishes in a germination cabinet and emergence from soil was monitored in a glasshouse after storage in dry soil for 0, 1 or 3 months. Values are mean % (n = 50 × 4 replicates) of seeds sown ± s.e. 
Article
Dormancy-breaking treatments are applied to seeds of many Australian species used for mine-site restoration in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia. Once seeds are sown, several months may pass before a rain event sufficient for germination. Therefore, it is important that treated seeds are able to survive in soil until conditions are hospitable for germination and growth. However, little is known about the effects of seed dormancy-breaking treatments on the longevity of seeds in soil. Two species that are potential candidates for use in mine site restoration programs in Queensland were trialed viz., Cassia brewsteri (F. Muell.) Benth and Lysiphyllum carronii (F. Muell.) Pedley. Untreated, boiled and acid treated seeds of the two species were sown in soil in a glasshouse. Seeds were watered immediately or kept dry for one or three months before watering and emergence was assessed. When applied to seeds incubated on filter paper in a germination cabinet, boiling and acid treatments were effective methods of breaking dormancy and increasing germination for both C. brewsteri and L. carronii seeds. However, in soil, seedling emergence from boiled seeds was the same or less than that of untreated seeds. Storage time in soil before watering had little effect on seedling emergence in the glasshouse, suggesting that most decreases in emergence compared with laboratory germination occurred after the input of water to the system. Treatments that promote germination in the laboratory can reduce seedling emergence in soil. Thus, treated seeds should be tested for survival in soil before use in mine- site restoration programs.
 
Article
Calotrope [Calotropis procera (Aiton) W.T.Aiton] is an exotic shrub or small tree species that is currently invading the tropical savannahs of northern Australia. A chemical trial involving 11 herbicides and four application methods (foliar, basal bark, cut stump and soil applied) was undertaken to identify effective chemicals to control calotrope. Of the foliar herbicides tested, imazapyr provided 100% mortality at the rates applied, and the higher rate of metsulfuron-methyl killed 100% of the treated plants. The herbicides 2,4-D butyl ester, fluroxypyr, triclopyr and triclopyr/picloram killed greater than 80% of the plants when applied by a basal bark or cut stump (when cut 5cm above ground level) method of application. Plants cut close to ground level (5cm) were controlled more effectively than plants cut 20cm above ground level. Chemical control (foliar and cut stump spraying) is a cost effective tool to treat calotrope densities <800plants/ha. Adoption of pasture management practices that promote perennial grasses, in conjunction with strategic chemical control, would further increase the effectiveness and reduce the costs of controlling vast areas of this weed.
 
Article
Land condition monitoring information is required for the strategic management of grazing land and for a better understanding of ecosystem processes. Yet, for policy makers and those land managers whose properties are situated within north-eastern Australia's vast Great Barrier Reef catchments, there has been a general lack of geospatial land condition monitoring information. This paper provides an overview of integrated land monitoring activity in rangeland areas of two major Reef catchments in Queensland: the Burdekin and Fitzroy regions. The project aims were to assemble land condition monitoring datasets that would assist grazing land management and support decision-makers investing public funds; and deliver these data to natural resource management(NRM) community groups, which had been given increased responsibility for delivering local environmental outcomes. We describe the rationale and processes used to produce new land condition monitoring datasets derived from remotely sensed Landsat thematic mapper (TM) and high resolution SPOT 5 satellite imagery and from rapid land condition ground assessment. Specific products include subcatchment groundcover change maps, regional mapping of indicative very poor land condition, and stratified land condition site summaries. Their application, integration, and limitations are discussed. The major innovation is a better understanding of NRM issues with respect to land condition across vast regional areas, and the effective transfer of decision-making capacity to the local level. Likewise, with an increased ability to address policy questions from an evidence-based position, combined with increased cooperation between community, industry and all levels of government, a new era has emerged for decision-makers in rangeland management.
 
Article
Faecal near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (F.NIRS) provides predictive information on cattle diets and nutritional levels, useful for livestock management or for research purposes. Potential errors exist throughout the entire F.NIRS process, including the collection method. The accepted collection method involves aggregating equal amounts of faecal material from 5 to 15 animals, mixing and removing a single sample for analysis. The adequacy of this method was tested by collecting and analysing up to 70 samples from individual cattle in different paddocks. Two methods were used to determine sample size based on observed variability in dietary attributes. Variability of dietary non-grass material and crude protein content increased with paddock size, so required sample size also increased. For dietary F.NIRS predictions to be used for research, our results suggest from 20 to 51 samples are needed in small to large paddocks to accurately predict the proportion of dietary non-grass material, from 12 to 50 samples for crude protein content and from 6 to 34 samples for dry matter digestibility. Composite samples from 15 cattle provided representative means in less than 50% of the situations investigated using biologically significant precision levels, but would be adequate for management of animal nutrition. Analysis of individual samples provided additional measures of range and variability which were also informative.
 
Article
Eucalyptus savannas on low nutrient soils are being extensively cleared in Queensland. In this paper we provide background information relevant to understanding nutrient (particularly nitrogen) dynamics in sub/tropical savanna, and review the available evidence relevant to understanding the potential impact of clearing Eucalyptus savanna on nutrient relations. The limited evidence presently available can be used to argue for the extreme positions that: (i) woody vegetation competes with grasses Cor resources. and tree/shrub clearing improves pasture production, (ii) woody vegetation benefits pasture production. At present, the lack of fundamental knowledge about Australian savanna nutrient relations makes accurate predictions about medium- and long-term effects of clearing on nutrient relations in low nutrient savannas difficult. The future of cleared savannas will differ if herbaceous species maintain all functions that woody vegetation has previously held, or if woody species have functions distinct from those of herbaceous vegetation. Research suggests that savanna soils are susceptible to nitrate leaching, and that trees improve the nutrient status of savanna soils in some situations. The nitrogen capital of cleared savanna is at risk if mobile ions are not captured efficiently by the vegetation. and nitrogen input via N-2 fixation from vegetation and microbiotic crusts is reduced. In order to predict clearing effects on savanna nutrient relations, research should be directed to answering (i) how open or closed nutrient cycles are in natural and cleared savanna, (ii) which functions are performed by savanna constituents such as woody and herbaceous vegetation, native and exotic plant species. termites, and microbiotic 7 crusts in relation to nutrient cycles. In the absence of detailed knowledge about savanna functioning, clearing carries the risk of promoting continuous nutrient depiction.
 
Article
Science communication. including extension services. plays a key role in achieving sustainable native vegetation management. One of the pivotal aspects of the debate on sustainable vegetation management is the scientific information underpinning policy-making. In recent years. extension services have Shifted their focus from top-down technology transfer to bottom-up participation and empowerment. I here has also been a broadening of communication strategies to recognise the range of stakeholders involved in native vegetation management and to encompass environmental concerns. This paper examines the differences between government approaches to extension services to deliver policy and the need for effective communication to address broader science issues that underpin native vegetation management. The importance of knowing the learning styles of the stakeholders involved in native vegetation management is discussed at a time of increasing reliance on mass communication for information exchange and the importance of personal communication to achieve on-ground sustainable management. Critical factors for effective science-management communication are identified Such as: (i) undertaking scientific studies (research) with community involvement, acceptance and agreed understanding of project objectives (ii) realistic community consultation periods: (iii) matching communication channels with stakeholder needs; (iv) combining scientific with local knowledge in in holistic (biophysical and social) approach to understanding in issued and (v) regional partnerships. These communication factors are considered to be essential to implementing on-ground natural resource management strategics and actions, including those concerned with native vegetation management.
 
Article
The soil seedbanks in three patch types (tall grassland, short sward and lawn) were measured in native pastures near Crows Nest, south-east Queensland in two experiments. In the first experiment, seedbanks were measured at four sites, and in the second, the variation in seedbanks during the year was measured at one site. In each experiment the size and composition of the seedbanks were determined by germinating the seeds in soil samples. In the first experiment, total seed numbers ranged from approximately 6000 to 12,000 per m(2). There were no significant differences between sites for total seeds or for seeds of any species group except legumes which comprised only a small portion of the seedbanks. There were significant differences between patch types for total seeds and for the following species groups, medium tussock grasses, short tussock grasses, stoloniferous grasses, legumes and forbs but not large tussock grasses and sedges. Total seed numbers, and those of medium tussock grasses, stoloniferous grasses and forbs were highest in the lawn patches and lowest in the short sward patches. Legumes had higher numbers in the tall grassland patches than in other patch types. In the second experiment, there were large differences between total seed numbers at the different sample dates (January, May, September and November). Numbers were highest in January and then declined throughout the year. This pattern was largely a reflection of the changes in numbers of forb seeds, the species group with the most seeds. There were no significant differences between patch types for total seeds but there were for medium tussock grasses, stoloniferous grasses, sedges and forbs. There was no relationship between the composition of the pasture sward and the composition of the seedbank for any of the three patch types. Twenty-eight species were allocated to persistent and transient seedbank types; all seedbank types occurred in all three patch types. The major species in the seedbanks were sedges (Cyperus gracilis, C sesquiflorus), forbs (Gamochaeta spp., Paronychia brasiliana, Daucus glochidiatus) and Eragrostis spp.
 
Article
We measured daily changes in plant water content to see if red kangaroos (Macropus rufus), in foraging at night, may gain more water than foraging by day. If so, it could be influential in dictating their time of foraging. The study was stimulated by work in Africa which showed that, by choosing to feed at night, gazelles are able to take advantage of increased plant water content. Daily changes in water content of 15 known forage plants were examined at Idalia National Park in semi-arid western Queensland in February, April and July 2002, during progressive drying of the country in an extraordinarily dry year. Of 29 day-night comparisons of plant water content, thirteen showed no difference, two (both of red spinach, Trianthema triquetra) showed a substantial increase at night, eight showed small but statistically significant increases, and six showed small but statistically significant decreases. We conclude that the choice of red kangaroos to forage at night is unlikely to be explained by nightly increases in plant water content.
 
Article
The population dynamics of the palatable, perennial grasses Bothriochloa ewartiana (Domin) C.E.Hubb. (desert Mitchell grass), Chrysopogon fallax S.T.Blake (golden beard grass) and Heteropogon contortus (L.) P.Beauv. ex Roem. & Schult. (black speargrass), were studied in an extensive grazing study conducted in a eucalypt woodland within the Aristida-Bothriochloa pasture community in central Queensland between 1994 and 2000. Treatments were three grazing pressures based on light, medium and heavy utilisation of forage available at the end of summer and two timber treatments (trees intact and trees killed). Seasonal rainfall throughout this study was generally favourable for plant growth with no severe drought periods. Grazing pressure had a greater overall impact on plant dynamics than timber treatment, which had minimal impact. Grazing pressure had a large impact on H. contortus dynamics, an intermediate impact on B. ewartiana and no impact on C. fallax. Fluctuations in plant density of both B. ewartiana and C. fallax were small because both species were long lived with low levels of seedling recruitment and plant death, whereas fluctuations in H. contortus density were relatively high because of its relatively short life span and higher levels of both recruitment and death. Heavy grazing pressure increased the recruitment of B. ewartiana and H. contortus in some years but had no impact on that of C. fallax. Heavy grazing pressure reduced the survival of the original plants of both B. ewartiana and H.contortus but not of C. fallax. For H. contortus, the size of the original plants was larger where trees were killed than where trees were left intact and plants of the 1995 seedling cohort were larger in 1998 at heavy compared with those at light and medium grazing pressure. Grazing had a minor negative impact on the soil seed bank of H. contortus. Populations of all three species remained stable throughout this study, although the favourable seasonal rainfall experienced and the short duration of this study relative to the life span of these species may have masked longer term, deleterious impacts of heavy grazing pressure.
 
Article
Pastoralists from 37 beef cattle and sheep properties in western Queensland developed and implemented an environmental management system (EMS) over 18 months. The EMS implemented by them was customised for the pastoral industry as part of a national EMS pilot project, and staff from this project encouraged and assisted pastoralists during this trial. The 31 pastoralists surveyed at the end of the pilot project identified few benefits of EMS implementation, and these were largely associated with environmental management and sustainability. In terms of the reasons for uptake of an EMS, these pastoralists identified drivers similar to those reported in other primary industry sectors. These included improving property and environmental management, financial incentives, a range of market benefits, assistance with red tape issues, access to other training opportunities and assistance and support with the development of their EMS. However, these drivers are weak, and are not motivating pastoralists to adopt an EMS. In contrast, barriers to adoption such as the time involved in developing and implementing EMS are tangible and immediate. Given a lack of effective drivers and that pastoralists are under considerable pressure from ongoing rural adjustment processes, it is not surprising that an EMS is a low priority. It is concluded that widespread uptake and on-going use of an EMS in the pastoral industry will not occur unless pastoralists are required or rewarded for this by markets, governments, financiers, and regional natural resource management bodies.
 
Article
Fifteen years ago it was proposed that the conversion of kangaroos from a pest to an economically valuable resource would allow graziers to reduce the numbers of domestic stock and thereby lower total grazing pressure. Since then, little progress towards this goal has been achieved. This is believed to be due mainly to the low prices obtained for kangaroo products. A survey of graziers in south-west Queensland was carried out to discover their opinions on kangaroos as a potential economic resource. Questions on the harvesting of feral goats were also included in the survey because of the contrast this industry provides to kangaroo harvesting in terms of grazier involvement. The results of the survey are discussed in relation to resource ownership rights; kangaroo product prices and marketing; and competition within the kangaroo harvesting industry. They show that while low kangaroo product prices do act as a disincentive to graziers, other administrative, legal and institutional factors are also important impediments to their entry to the industry. It is concluded that until the focus of attention widens to include consideration of these as well as just market factors, little progress will be made towards integrating graziers into the kangaroo harvesting industry.
 
Article
Weedy Sporobolus grasses have low palatability for livestock, with infestations reducing land condition and pastoral productivity. Control and containment options are available, but the cost of weed control is high relative to the extra return from livestock, thus, limiting private investment. This paper outlines a process for analysing the economic consequences of alternative management options for weedy Sporobolus grasses. This process is applicable to other weeds and other pastoral degradation or development issues. Using a case study property, three scenarios were developed. Each scenario compared two alternative management options and was analysed using discounted cash flow analysis. Two of the scenarios were based on infested properties and one scenario was based on a currently uninfested property but highly likely to become infested without active containment measures preventing weed seed transport and seedling establishment. The analysis highlighted why particular weedy Sporobolus grass management options may not be financially feasible for the landholder with the infestation. However, at the regional scale, the management options may be highly worthwhile due to a reduction in weed seed movement and new weed invasions. Therefore, to encourage investment by landholders in weedy Sporobolus grass management the investment of public money on behalf of landholders with non-infested properties should be considered.
 
Correspondence analysis (ordination) of surveys of plant canopy cover for mound vegetation. Eigen values are presented with their respective axis. Labels for sites and grazing utilisation categories (0, protected-3, very heavily grazed) follow Table 1.
Article
When choosing which environmental attributes to monitor in assessing disturbance, it is important to consider not only which metric will provide the most sensitive indicator of disturbance, but also the spatial considerations of where in the landscape that metric will be most responsive to change. Degradation in landscapes is often unevenly expressed because: (i) disturbance is spatially localised, (ii) landscape elements differ in their sensitivity to disturbance, and (iii) degradation following localised disturbance is spatially contagious. The spatial heterogeneity of degradation has proven to be a key obstacle to rangeland monitoring (e.g. where the initiating processes of broad-scale degradation are concentrated in landscape locations that are not detected by surveys) but can also provide opportunities to focus monitoring efforts. We propose that the effectiveness of monitoring could be enhanced by identifying and selectively monitoring 'indicator patches', i.e. specific landscape locations that provide the most management-relevant and timely information about the consequences of a monitored disturbance. We tested and demonstrated the utility of the 'indicator patch' concept in the rangelands of the Succulent Karoo in southern Africa. We contrasted the grazing response of dominant 'representative' vegetation, with responses of interspersed patches of distinct vegetation associated with zoogenic mounds. Since mound vegetation is more palatable and preferentially grazed by sheep, we tested whether mounds could serve as 'indicator patches' in providing a sensitive measure of grazing disturbance. Percentage canopy cover measurements in dominant off-mound vegetation provided a poor indicator of grazing disturbance (although more intensive plant size measurements did reveal grazing impacts on plant population dynamics). In contrast, vegetation on mounds displayed patterns of changes in species abundances that were easier to detect and useful for interpreting and quantifying the effects of grazing. Mound vegetation could, therefore, be used as 'indicator patches' and targeted for exclusive sampling as a sensitive method for monitoring rangeland condition and detecting early warnings of vegetation change. This approach could be widely employed to better harness the extensive knowledge base regarding the patchy, spatially localised nature of degradation-initiating processes in numerous other landscapes. Routinely incorporating this understanding into the design of monitoring programs could improve the effectiveness of sampling effort, allow detection of more subtle trends (changes), and provide earlier warning of impending degradation so remedial action can be taken before degradation becomes severe and widespread.
 
Schematic representation of how directional virtual fencing (DVF TM ) operates. A magnetometer located in the DVF TM device worn on the cow's head or neck determines the animal's angle of approach to a virtual center line (VCL TM ). Once the animal penetrates the virtual boundary (VB TM ), determined with the systems global positioning system (GPS), algorithms in the unit's geographical information system (GIS) use these raw data to determine to which side of the animal and how intense the electromechanical stimulation (cues) should be to cause the animal to turn away from the VCL TM and return to the virtual paddock (VP TM ) in the shortest distance and time. The VCL TM represents where a conventional fence would be constructed on the landscape. (Adapted from Anderson et al. 2003.)
A grazing cross-bred beef cow wearing a directional virtual fencing (DVF TM ) battery (1) powered neck saddle device equipped with spring loaded electrodes (only left side pair shown 2) for providing electrical stimulation and left (3) and right (4) piezo speakers housed inside poly vinyl chloride (PVC) pipe for audio stimulation. A global positioning system (GPS) antenna (5) is located in the centre of a panel of solar cells (6). This prototype platform may appear clumsy but was remarkably robust during numerous field trials conducted between 2001 and 2005.
Article
Virtual fencing is a method of controlling animals without ground-based fencing. Control occurs by altering an animal's behaviour through one or more sensory cues administered to the animal after it has attempted to penetrate an electronically-generated boundary. This boundary can be of any geometrical shape, and though unseen by the eye, is detected by a computer system worn by the animal. The most recent autonomous programmable systems use radio frequency (RF) signals, emanating from global positioning system (GPS) satellites to generate boundaries. Algorithms within a geographic information system (GIS) within the device's computer use the GPS and other data to determine where on the animal a cue, or cues, should be applied and for how long. The first commercial virtual fencing system was patented in 1973 for controlling domestic dogs. Virtual fencing was used for the first time to control livestock in 1987. Since then proof-of-concept research using commercial, as well as custom designed systems have demonstrated that virtual fencing can successfully hold as well as move livestock over the landscape. Commercial virtual livestock control systems do not yet exist but research continues towards this goal. Pending research needs relating to this method of animal control are discussed in light of currently available technologies.
 
Article
Concerns of reduced productivity and land degradation in the Mitchell grasslands of central western Queensland were addressed through a range monitoring program to interpret condition and trend. Botanical and eclaphic parameters were recorded along piosphere and grazing gradients, and across fenceline impact areas, to maximise changes resulting from grazing. The Degradation Gradient Method was used in conjunction with State and Transition Models to develop models of rangeland dynamics and condition. States were found to be ordered along a degradation gradient, indicator species developed according to rainfall trends and transitions determined from field data and available literature. Astrebla spp. abundance declined with declining range condition and increasing grazing pressure, while annual grasses and forbs increased in dominance under poor range condition. Soil erosion increased and litter decreased with decreasing range condition. An approach to quantitatively define states within a variable rainfall environment based upon a time-series ordination analysis is described. The derived model could provide the interpretive framework necessary to integrate on-ground monitoring, remote sensing and geographic information systems to trace states and transitions at the paddock scale. However, further work is needed to determine the full catalogue of states and transitions and to refine the model for application at the paddock scale.
 
Article
Survival rates of arid-land perennial plant species were significantly related to climate, site factors, and grazing by kangaroos (Macropus rufus, Desmarest and Macropus robustus, Gould). Rainfall patterns ranging from severe drought to well above average resulted in responses in all species. All but Frankenia (Frankeniapauciflora, DC) responded to spatial and temporal site factors. Survival of wire wanderrie grass (Eragrostis xerophila, Domin) was severely reduced by grazing kangaroos, while poverty bush (Eremophila spectabilis, C.A. Gardn.) and Frankenra responded positively to kangaroo activity. Cotton bush (Ptilotus obovatus, Gaud.), ball-leaf bluebush (Marreana glomerifolia), (F. MueH et Tate) Wils. and Wilcox bush (Eremophila leucophylla, Benth.) showed no survival response to kangaroo grazing. The application of maximum likelihood procedures permitted subtle effects to be detected and several significant causal factors to be separated.
 
Article
Changes to fire regimes associated with European colonisation are implicated in declines in biodiversity and productivity in rangelands globally. However, for many areas there is incomplete knowledge of historical fire regimes and purported changes can become accepted wisdom with little empirical evidence. In the Mulga Lands of south-western Queensland, the dominant narrative implicates reduced fire frequency as a cause of woody vegetation thickening. We present a fire history of the Mulga Lands since pastoral exploration in the 1840s based on a review of explorer and early pastoralist journals, newspaper articles, interviews with long-term landholders and collation of satellite imagery. Fires in mulga communities are infrequent and only occur after at least two years of above-average summer rainfall. The assumption of regular pre-pastoral fires is not supported by available evidence. Since pastoral settlement in the 1860s, fire events affecting >1000 km² have occurred seven times (1891-1892, 1904, 1918, 1950-1951, 1956-1957, 1976-1979 and 2011-2013), with only the 1950s fires affecting a >10% of the total area of mulga-dominated vegetation. We argue that fire is limited by fuel loads, which are in turn limited by rainfall events occurring only a few times a century. Even in the absence of grazing and active fire suppression fire intervals would be extremely long, perhaps 30-50 years in relatively fire-prone communities and much longer throughout most of the region. Combined with quantitative studies of fire and tree and shrub population dynamics, detailed fire histories will allow for more informed and nuanced debates about the role of fire in rangelands subject to abrupt management upheavals.
 
Article
Initially, the size-class structure of 1067 natural sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) trees and seedlings, growing in populations at three semi-arid sites (Burnerbinmah, Ninghan and Goongarrie) in Western Australia, was measured during 1996-97. These same populations, and any new sandalwood seedlings and small trees that had established after 1996-97, were measured again after 17 years (2013). Size-class structure was assessed by measuring over-bark stem diameter at 150 mm above the ground. Populations of sandalwood trees at the Burnerbinmah and Ninghan sites failed to regenerate and, after 17 years, they contained only 0-3% small trees and 0-2% seedlings. Their overall population size declined by 21-24% and, combined with recruitment failure, these natural stands of sandalwood may largely disappear within 50-60 years. At the Goongarrie site, the proportion of large trees within the natural population increased from 58% to 82%. The proportion of small trees was constant at 13-16%, while seedlings declined from 29% to 2%. The population reduced by 35%, mainly due to high seedling mortality. Although the population was in decline, there appeared to be enough small trees and seedlings to maintain the population longer than at both the Burnerbinmah and Ninghan sites. In a second study, 16 640 sandalwood seeds were sown at the same three sites during 1996-97, and then assessed for germination, survival, growth and fruit production over 17 years. Sandalwood germination and growth were compared between locations, fencing treatments and land systems. Seed enrichment was successful at each site with 27-45% germination and 6-20% survival (from germinated seeds) after 17 years. The overall seedling survival rates (from total seeds sown) ranged from 2.1% to 5.2%. Mean stem diameter of seedlings was significantly larger at Goongarrie (37 mm) than at both Burnerbinmah and Ninghan (20-22 mm) sites. Grazing significantly affected the performance of sandalwood seedlings at an age of 17 years at the Ninghan site. At this site, seedling survival (from germinated seeds) was 16% in the fenced plots compared with only 6% in the unfenced plots. Mean stem diameter in the fenced plots (24 mm) was also significantly greater than in the unfenced plots (11 mm). Land systems did not affect survival of sandalwood seedlings at the Burnerbinmah site but had a significant impact at the Goongarrie site after 17 years. Seedling survival was significantly greater on the hills and ridges than those growing on the plains with granite and red sand plains. Seed-enrichment programs are recommended to improve long-term regeneration and sustainability of sandalwood trees.
 
Article
Eight overarching impressions drawn from the 17th biennial conference are presented which are generally compatible with views on future challenges and directions for rangeland science and management expressed independently in a recent international forum. These impressions relate to (1) loss of research capacity, especially in the southern rangelands of Australia, (2) a need for greater collaboration and role clarity in rangelands research and development, (3) the importance of scaling issues in the conduct and application of research, (4) widespread understanding of rangelands as social-ecological systems, (5) complementarity of production and biodiversity conservation, (6) progress in regional planning, (7) policy as a legitimate field of research endeavour, and (8) a need to question the 'traditional' perspective on rangeland science.
 
Article
Traditionally, yaks (Poephagus grunniens) raised on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau graze only natural pasture and much of their diet consists of sedges, in particular Kobresia spp. These ruminants are subjected to an extremely harsh environment of strong UV radiation, hypoxia and severe cold, which can lead to high oxidative stress. Consequently, it was predicted that sedges would contain high concentrations of functional antioxidants when compared with other alpine plants, and that this would help them survive the harsh conditions. To test the prediction, 18 alpine plants on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, which are available to yaks as forage, were examined. These plants, including four sedges, five grasses, five forbs and four shrubs, were analysed for gross constituents, Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity, phenol content, and fatty acids composition. Based on their Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity, the 18 plants were divided into three groups: low, medium and high. Three of the four sedges were ranked in the medium group and one in the low group, whereas three of four shrubs were ranked in the high group. The total phenol content of the plants ranged between 1.1 and 12.4 g gallic acid equivalents per 100 g DM, with the shrubs containing the highest concentrations. The prediction that sedges would contain higher antioxidant capacity than other alpine plants was not supported. It was concluded that other factors such as anti-nutritional contents and biomass availability are also important in determining dietary selection in yaks.
 
19th-century watercolour depicting a typical scene on a stock route, with overlanders droving a herd of cattle (Gill 1865).  
Map of the Boorowa/Yass Plains region in NSW, showing details of the first outbreak of sheep scab in 1834. East–West movements of stock which are shown are along the original Sydney–Port Phillip (Hume Highway) stock route.  
A vital piece of equipment for any drover or overlander. Front cover of 'Drovers Guide...' published by Gordon (1880), which contains two main sections on 'Sheep' and 'Cattle and Horses' legislative controls.  
First page of 'Drovers Guide...' (Gordon 1880), showing details of controls enacted for (travelling) sheep movements, branding and dumping of carcases.  
(a) Map showing the southern portion of Micketymulga Parish, County of Lincoln, located on the north bank of the Macquarie River, a few kilometres north-west of Wellington, NSW; showing details of Travelling Stock Routes (TSRs) – Nos. 1 and 22. TSR No. 1 appears to be the first official TSR for this particular land district, (b) NSW Government Gazette details proclaiming TSRs for the districts of Bligh, Wellington, Warrego and Lachlan. Details for TSR No. 1 reveal this was once an extensive TSR route extending from Wellington to Bourke, via Dubbo, as gazetted 30 October 1874 (NSW GG 1874), (c) details for TSR 22, which inspection of parish maps show was re-classified as a forest reserve in 1898, then mostly resumed as private land by 1913 (NSW LPMA 2010).  
Article
Travelling Stock Routes (TSRs) are a network of grazing routes and reserves which are thought to have originated from the informal tracks of early European explorers, pastoralists and settlers. However, their origins are much more complex, and entwined in legislative and administrative attempts from the 1830s to 1870s to manage and control diseases in sheep and cattle. We describe (1) the development of management controls for the emerging TSR network, through the series of enactments in legislatures designed to eradicate scab in sheep, and ovine catarrh from the pastoral industry, and (2) identify the people who made the decisions which influenced the management and design of the TSR network. Requirements for droving permits, access to squatting runs, and historic methods for sheep disease control are described, and development of major quarantine points on stock routes are highlighted. As we indicate, this narrative sets the stage for the formal survey of the first TSRs in the early 1870s, and highlights the rich social and economic drivers that contributed to their development upon the landscape, their design and location, and influence on present-day management approaches.
 
Queensland Railways weekly notices regularly informed all staff on the application of various drought relief measures in use on the railway network. In this example a timely reminder is provided on how drought affects railway traffic.
The location of selected properties that were listed for the long distances rebate. The properties located were based on a list of 97 stations published (Queensland Railways 44/1939) with 38 properties being located (Queensland Government 2019a, 2019b, 2019c).
Queensland Drought Relief Legislation from 1897 to 1961
Article
Since 1964, maps showing areas of drought declaration in Queensland, Australia were created or updated as drought declarations changed. Prior to 1964, drought declarations were based on railway lines rather than specific areas. By using a railway distance buffer, drought declaration areas based on local government areas could be mapped. A literature review of the history of Queensland drought declarations, enabled mapping of the extent and duration of drought declarations for the period 1936–1964. Analysis of the changes in these areas enabled the duration of each drought episode to be determined. These data and information were then combined with the mapped drought declarations areas (1964–2020) to enable an assessment of drought area and duration in Queensland since 1936. There were 13 drought episodes of differing durations. Calculating the area percentage of Queensland that was drought declared from 1936 to the present (2020) identified an increasing duration of drought declaration. This increase appears to be due to the changes in the administration process to remove a drought declaration area (revocation) which have occurred since 1982.
 
Article
We measured vegetation changes inside and outside two exclosures built in 1973 on red calcareous loam soils located in Conkerberry Paddock on Victoria River Research Station in northern Australia. These two exclosures were unburnt since their establishment in 1973 until exclosure 1 was unintentionally burnt late in the dry season (October) of 2001. Data from permanent transects and examples from photopoints illustrate that from mostly bare soils in 1973, total pasture biomass recovered relatively rapidly both inside and outside exclosures (in about five years). This initial recovery was primarily due to the establishment of annual grasses and forbs. After this five year period, there was a consistent increase in the biomass of perennial grasses, such as Heteropogon contortus and Dichanthium spp. Also in the first five years after exclosure, the exotic shrub, Calotropis procera,invaded the study area, but then largely disappeared in a period of lower wet-season rainfall in the late 1980s. The density of native tree species, particularly Hakea arborescens, Eucalyptus pruinosa and Lysiphyllum cunninghamii increased in general, but more so inside one or other of the exclosures. Although the late dry-season fire of 2001 reduced the density of larger H. arborescens and L. cunninghamii inside the exclosure at Site 1, this effect was not apparent for smaller trees and for trees outside this exclosure. Our findings show that savanna vegetation can change massively in the medium term (29 years) and that exclosure from cattle grazing can contribute to our understanding of the role of livestock in such change. However, exclosures by themselves do not provide adequate information about the processes leading to vegetation change replicated experimental studies are needed. That substantial increase in the biomass and proportion of perennial grasses occurred with light to moderate cattle grazing implies that these rangelands can be managed for production, although control of woody vegetation is an issue.
 
Article
Most of Inner Mongolia is covered with natural grassland and is highly sensitive to global climate change because of the physical geography, the highly variable climate, and the complicated socioeconomic conditions. The climate is generally wetter in the east becoming drier towards the west of the region. Using a Pressure-State-Response model to select climate-related assessment indicators, a vulnerability assessment to climate change framework of counties in Inner Mongolia was built, which included three layers and 17 indicators. Climate change vulnerability of eight counties in the steppe area of Inner Mongolia was assessed from 1980 to 2009. The results showed that in the past 30 years, climate change vulnerability of eight counties has decreased with the decrease more pronounced after 2000. The lowest value for vulnerability was in 2008. The vulnerability of the western region was higher than that of the eastern region. Counties with a desert ecological system had a higher vulnerability than counties with steppe. Under the background of exposure increasing and sensitivity slightly decreasing, a continuing significant improvement in adaptive capacity is the key reason for a reduction invulnerability of the Inner Mongolia steppe area to climate change. The volatility of the climate on an inter-annual scale can cause changes in vulnerability between years. With the development of the rural economy and increases in national investment in the environment, the vulnerability of the Inner Mongolian steppe has been significantly reduced, but, overall, the vulnerability remains high. Most of the counties are moderately vulnerable, some counties are seriously vulnerable, even extremely vulnerable, and strong measures need to be adopted to strengthen the ability to adapt to climate change.
 
Article
Local residents of the Lhasa River Region (LRR) on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in western China have noticed that the surrounding mountains have appeared conspicuously green since the 1980s. To verify these claims, we investigated trends of grassland activities in the LRR from 1982 to 2013 by using remotely sensed Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data, as a proxy for photosynthetic activity. Due to the limitation of available remote sensing data, we used long-term data with low resolution, GIMMS3g NDVI, to explore the temporal changes between 1982 and 2012; we used moderate resolution data, MODIS NDVI, to investigate the spatial variations of trends between 2001 and 2013. In addition, we examined the relationship between grassland change and climate change. The results revealed a significant upward trend in the annual mean NDVI of the LRR from 1982 to 2012, corroborating the observations of the local people. The increasing trend was more pronounced during the period of 1982-1999 than during the period of 2000-2012. The seasonal NDVI also exhibited a significant upward trend in spring and summer from 1982 to 1999. From the higher resolution MODIS NDVI data analysis, during 2001-2013, the lower regression slope values were mainly distributed in the river valley (the area of lower elevation), whereas the higher values pixels were located in the northern LRR (the area of higher elevation). In addition, the annual NDVI correlated significantly with temperature and precipitation during the study period. Temperature is a more significant factor influencing grassland change than precipitation in spring and autumn. However, the precipitation with the time lag effect is more significantly correlated with NDVI during the growing season (from May to October). The results of this project will help to monitor regional vegetation changes, understand the impact of climate change, and better manage the economically, environmentally and culturally significant grasslands of the LRR.
 
Article
The occurrence of interstitial species in Astrebla grasslands in Australia are influenced by grazing and seasonal rainfall but the interactions of these two influences are complex. This paper describes three studies aimed at determining and explaining the changes in plant species richness and abundance of the interstitial species in a long-term sheep utilisation experiment in an Astrebla grassland in northern Queensland. In the first study, increasing utilisation increased the frequency of Dactyloctenium radulans (Button grass) and Brachyachne convergens (Downs couch) and reduced that of Streptoglossa adscendens (Mint bush). In the second study, seasonal rainfall variation between 1984 and 2009 resulted in large annual differences in the size of the seed banks of many species, but increasing utilisation consistently reduced the seed bank of species such as Astrebla spp. and S. adscendens and increased that of species such as B. convergens, D. radulans, Amaranthus mitchellii (Boggabri) and Boerhavia sp. (Tar vine). In the third study, the highest species richness occurred at the lightest utilisation because of the presence of a range of palatable forbs, especially legumes. Species richness was reduced as utilisation increased. Species richness in the grazing exclosure was low and similar to that at the heaviest utilisation where there was a reduction in the presence of palatable forb species. The pattern of highest species richness at the lightest grazing treatment was maintained across three sampling times, even with different amounts of seasonal rainfall, but there was a large yearly variation in both the density and frequency of many species. It was concluded that the maintenance of highest species richness at the lightest utilisation was not aligned with other data from this grazing experiment which indicated that the maximum sustainable wool production occurred at moderate utilisation.
 
Top-cited authors
Andrew Ash
  • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Joseph Cooper Scanlan
  • Queensland Government
Mark Stafford Smith
  • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Robyn A. Cowley
  • Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries
John Carter
  • Department of Environment and Science