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the opportunities for agriculture, businesses and those who advise them!

The Ag Institute of Australia is delighted to present a forum of key importance to Australian agriculture, agribusinesses and those who advise them on Tuesday 29 November 2011.
Future food production from agriculture faces many challenges. Pressures from competition for arable land and water resources, energy costs, access to water and climate variability are increasing. We must produce more food and deliver it to more people, locally and internationally, while protecting the environment that supports food production. Markets are demanding more food of higher nutritional quality, while agricultural input resources are becoming scarcer. Government responses to energy and climate issues, such as the carbon tax, add yet another dimension. Australian agriculture, with its dependence on fossil fuel energy, will be challenged increasingly by these changing factors.
We are all connected to our arable land, and our whole natural environment, through food. We need to ensure that farming and its service industries remain profitable and ecologically sustainable.
This affects those in finance, succession planning, legal professions and real estate as well as those in agri-consulting, commodity trading, agribusiness and government policy.
This Forum features speakers who will illustrate the threats and challenges and also some of the potential responses and opportunities. Together we can respond positively if we have the facts. This is your chance to get those facts.

Forum sessions will encourage audience interaction.

Click here for the event flyer!

A Research Colloquium and Workshop Series
School of the Environment and the Water and Environmental Sustainability Research Hub (WES-Hub)

PRESENTS
Professor Richard Aspinall

Chief Executive and Director of Research
Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen, UK
CRICOS No: 00114A

Land Use and Ecosystem Assessment

Professor Aspinall will present the process and findings of an ecosystem assessment for Scotland, developed as part of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (published in March/April 2011). The UK NEA is framed around biodiversity, ecosystems and broad habitats, and provides a synthesis of the goods and services provided by Scotland’s environmental systems over the last 70 years. He will discuss the recorded changes to ecosystem services in Scotland
documented in the UK NEA within the context of land systems. Land systems provide a framework for ecosystem assessment that explicitly includes the roles of human systems, including technologies and societal choices, in delivery of ecosystem services and benefits. This not only complements biodiversity-based understanding of ecosystem goods and services but also provides different insights into human-environmental interactions that have an impact on ecosystem goods and services and human well-being. Professor Aspinall will argue that land systems: provide a broader and more informative framework for understanding ecosystem services than ecosystems (defined by habitats); support the interdisciplinary syntheses necessary to resolve many of the questions associated with ecosystem assessment; and can help to understand the links between drivers of change and human and environmental systems’ responses with implications for decisions on environmental management.
All Weclome
Wednesday, 20 April, at 3.00-4.30pm

Room 5, Science Innovation & Learning Centre (SILC)

Building 52, off Physical Sciences Road, Car parks 9 or 15 – parking fees apply – http://www.flinders.edu.au/map
For information on upcoming presentations in this series please visit:

www.flinders.edu.au/science_engineering/environment/our-school/events-activities/seminars/

Click here for the flyer

The Calperum Station flux tower now has it’s own site: calperumtower.wordpress.com/

From here, we will be able to provide a wide range of information about the monitoring site, including weekly raw data graphs (updated three times a day).

By Bart M. Kellett and Wayne Meyer

Greener economies for greener landscapes

In previous posts we described evidence for a changing climate and argued that our society’s success in adapting hinges on the efforts of regional leaders, local innovators and policy makers. This is the last post in this series and discusses a direction for adaptation for businesses, governments, farmers, NGOs and research organisations.

Build smarter, greener economies for a brighter future

Developing green economies is a good guide for adapting policies, plans and local practices. Coal and oil are becoming more expensive as the cheap global reserves dwindle. This means there are emerging opportunities for the production of source materials and generation and supply of renewable energy including biofuels, biogas, and biomass.

Policy measures such as a carbon trading scheme being considered by the Australian Government, if implemented, would make green energy more competitive. By growing crops and trees for biofuel and biomass, farmers could capitalise on growing national and international demand for energy, and also contribute to improving the condition of natural resources. However, profitability of these new production systems is not guaranteed for every location and development will be risky especially without smartly designed incentives and structured support from government. We suggest it is prudent to watch for future opportunities to diversify as markets for carbon, alternative energy and biodiversity conservation are better defined.

As transport costs increase there will be increasing advantage in manufacturing and value adding close to primary sources. More competitive businesses will identify new value chains and capitalise on using current ‘waste’.

By Bart M. Kellett and Wayne Meyer

Negotiating a future for our landscapes and communities

In the last post we talked about changes in climate that we are experiencing now and we expect to experience into the future. We reasoned that a business as usual approach is one to avoid and that we should keep an open mind about how we should manage our landscapes and communities. Today we will discuss the second key message from the Lower Murray Landscape Futures Project.

The future is in our hands

Policy makers, regional leaders and local innovators can influence our landscapes and livelihoods just as much as a hotter and drier climate. The look and function of our future landscapes are determined by the decisions we make today.

Leaders can assist communities manage change and contribute to resilience by establishing and supporting learning groups, guiding the assessment of development applications and adapting local practices to align with the regional climate change adaptation plan. With a changing climate, resilience can be increased by matching land use to the most suited areas and retrofitting or retiring current use in unsuitable areas.

In the Lower Murray, additional increases in river salinity could be offset with 3 to 5 times the current investment in salt interception. Some policy incentives to improve irrigation efficiency and consolidation of irrigation in lower impact areas may be justified. Flow control structures may be required to protect river floodplain ecosystems from saline groundwater.

Around two million hectares of land should be managed differently to achieve community aspirations. Although some actions (e.g. conservation farming) require a small change, others require conversion of one form of agriculture to another (e.g. from marginal grain crops to tree crops).

An important element in realising a better future for our landscapes, livelihoods and lifestyles is having each small action and change contribute to building that better future. Having each action contribute means that we need to have a shared vision, our collective ideal, described and articulated. Sowing the seed of this regional vision is what the next key message is about.

By Bart M. Kellett

Please click here to find out about a new climate change adaptation project involving eleven councils from the South Australia Murray-Darling Basin region.

By Bart M. Kellett and Wayne Meyer

The River Murray

Over the coming days we are going to present three key messages from the Lower Murray Landscape Futures Project, which preceded the Climate Change, Communities and Environment Project that is currently underway. This project performed an in-depth quantitative analysis of regional plans under a series of climate change scenarios. Today we will focus on the first key message.

Business as usual is not an option

A business as usual approach, based on what has worked in the past, is not likely to work in the future. There is significant evidence that we are moving further and further away from past climate conditions. The headings below summarise the compelling measures of changing climate in Australia.

The implications of these changes for landscapes in southern Australia are far reaching. Yields and economic returns from traditional cropping and grazing systems are likely to become more variable and generally decrease without significant adaptation. Surface runoff and groundwater discharge to rivers will decrease, leading to lower water allocations for irrigated agriculture. On the plus side, there is likely to be less deep drainage and hence, less risk of dryland salinity. The rate of ecological decline is likely to quicken, and the risk of wind erosion and dust storms is likely to increase.

In essence, the most likely outcome from the measured trends is that southern Australia will generally become a little more arid in its climate features. Managing for the inevitable ups and downs of seasonal weather variability will need to be done in the expectation that it will be warmer and slightly drier with more frequent ‘arid’ like conditions (longer and deeper dry periods, longer and hotter heat waves, more frequent storms, slightly lower humidity). This will increasingly be different to that which we have experienced in our recent history.

Below is a summary of evidence of changing climatic conditions in Australia. This information was sourced from a short publication by CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology released this year. You can access it at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate

Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increasing
Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased significantly over the last 100 years. For the past 800,000 years and possibly the past 20 million years, levels of just one greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, have been between 180 and 300 parts per million (ppm). The level in 2009 of 386 ppm is much higher than the natural average.

Australia is getting hotter
All of Australia has experienced warming over the last five decades and some areas have experienced an increase in average temperature by 1.5 – 2°C. Also, the number of record hot days per annum has been increasing each decade since the 1960’s and the number of record cold days per annum has been decreasing over the same time period.

There is less rainfall where most Australians live
Over the last five decades, rainfall has increased in northern and central Australia and decreased in eastern and southern Australia. The decrease varies between 5 and 50 mm/year.

Sea surface temperatures are rising
Sea surface temperatures in the Australasian region have increased by about 0.4°C over the last 50 years.

The sea level is rising
The global mean sea level has risen by about 200mm since 1870. Since 1993, sea level rise, mostly resulting from thermal expansion has been 1.5 to 3 mm/year in southern and eastern Australia and 7 to 10 mm/year in northern and western Australia.