Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 1185–1199 | Cite as

The socio-economic vulnerability of the Australian east coast grazing sector to the impacts of climate change

  • Erin F. SmithEmail author
  • Scott N. Lieske
  • Noni Keys
  • Timothy F. Smith
Original Article


Research that projects biophysical changes under climate change is more advanced than research that projects socio-economic changes. There is a need in adaptation planning for informed socio-economic projections as well as analysis of how these changes may exacerbate or reduce vulnerability. Our focus in this paper is on the delivery of time-sensitive socio-economic information that can better support anticipatory adaptation planning approaches. Using a ‘multiple lines of evidence’ approach based on Australian Bureau of Statistics’ data (2010/2011), we examine the socio-economic vulnerability of the grazing sector located on Australia’s east coast. We profile the east coast grazing sector through an overview of the composition of its workforce and the value of grazing commodities produced. We then assess the potential vulnerability of the grazing sector using spatial snapshots of five factors known to shape socio-economic vulnerability in New South Wales and Queensland: (1) reliance on agriculture, (2) geographic remoteness, (3) socio-economic disadvantage, (4) economic diversity and (5) age. Our assessment of the east coast grazing sector reveals six subregions characterised by high potential socio-economic vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. We find high percentages of labour forces employed in agriculture, geographic remoteness and age (high percentages of owner/managers and employees in younger age groups) to be drivers of vulnerability. Finally, we evaluate the ways in which these vulnerabilities may be exacerbated or reduced in light of emerging environmental, economic and social trends. This approach complements demographic projection methods to deliver time-sensitive socio-economic information to support anticipatory adaptation planning.


Adaptation Resource dependency Sensitivity Regional planning Broadacre agriculture 


Funding information

This article received funding from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency as part of the Natural Resource Management Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Research Grants Program, under the Natural Resource Management Planning for Climate Change Fund—A Clean Energy Future Initiative (Australia). The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Commonwealth does not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin F. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Scott N. Lieske
    • 2
  • Noni Keys
    • 3
  • Timothy F. Smith
    • 4
  1. 1.Sustainability Research Centre, ML28University of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydore DCAustralia
  2. 2.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.University of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydore DCAustralia
  4. 4.Faculty of Arts Business and LawUniversity of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydore DCAustralia

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