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A collaborative design to adaptively manage for landscape sustainability in north Australia: lessons from a decade of cooperative research

Abstract

Approaches to manage for the sustainable use of natural and cultural resources in a landscape can have many different designs. One design is adaptive collaborative landscape management (ACLM) where research providers and users work closely together on projects to develop resources while adaptively managing to sustain or maintain landscapes in the long term. We propose that collaborative projects are more useful for achieving outcomes than integrative projects where participants merely join their separate contributions. To foster collaborative research projects to adaptively manage landscapes in northern Australia, a Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre (TSCRC) was established in 1995. The TSCRC is a joint venture of major organizations involved in research and land management. This paper is our perspective on the four most important ‘lessons learned’ after using a ACLM-type approach for over 10 y. We learnt that collaboration (working in combination) not necessarily integration (combining parts into a whole) achieved sustainable outcomes. We found that integration across culturally diverse perspectives seldom achieved sustainable solutions because it devalued the position of the less empowered participants. In addition, positive outcomes were achieved when participants developed trust and respect for each other by embracing and respecting their differences and by sharing unifying concepts such as savanna health. Another lesson learned was that a collaborative organization must act as an honest broker by resisting advocacy of one view point over another. Finally, we recognized the importance of strongly investing in communication and networking so that people could adaptively learn from one another’s experiences, understand each other’s challenges and respect each other’s choices. Our experience confirms the usefulness of the ACLM approach and highlights its role in the process of sustaining healthy landscapes.

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Acknowledgments

Authors are indebted to the many participants in the Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre who inspired us and taught us the lessons described in this paper. We thank the coordinating editor and reviewers for suggesting ways to improved draft manuscripts.

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Correspondence to John Ludwig.

Additional information

Jill Landsberg—deceased.

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Duff, G., Garnett, D., Jacklyn, P. et al. A collaborative design to adaptively manage for landscape sustainability in north Australia: lessons from a decade of cooperative research. Landscape Ecol 24, 1135–1143 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-008-9236-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-008-9236-5

Keywords

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Integration
  • Natural resources
  • Savannas
  • Tropics