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Integration by case, place and process: transdisciplinary research for sustainable grazing in the Lachlan River catchment, Australia

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Abstract

In a context of global agricultural intensification, integrating conservation and agricultural production is a major challenge. We have tackled the problem using a transdisciplinary research framework. Our work focuses on part of the upper Lachlan River catchment in southeastern Australia. The region is dominated by livestock grazing, and is part of an internationally recognised threatened ecoregion because most native woodland vegetation has been cleared. In productive areas, most remnant vegetation occurs as scattered and isolated paddock trees, which are dying from old age and not regenerating due to agricultural practices. The policy context and industry trends present additional risks for sparse trees. These declining trees provide many ecosystem services, including enhanced water infiltration, shade for livestock, aesthetic and cultural values, and habitat for native species. Our research aims to identify management options and policy settings that enable landscape-scale tree regeneration while maintaining grazing production. Our findings highlight tensions between the trajectory of tree cover in the region and stakeholder values. Under status quo management, many scattered and isolated paddock trees will be lost from farms, although most farmers would like to see them persist. Case studies on selected farms reveal management strategies that may be more sustainable in terms of tree regeneration and agricultural productivity, such as rotational grazing. In addition to these applied insights, our work provides a case study illustrating how a transdisciplinary study can be conducted efficiently by a small team. Our pragmatic approach has successfully combined targeted disciplinary activities with strategic collaborations and stakeholder engagement, all united by shared landscape, case graziers, and outreach activities.

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the Australian Research Council and the Australian Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, the latter through a Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities ‘Significant Project’. The authors thank the landholders and other stakeholders who have collaborated in this work, and the insights of three anonymous referees. Thanks also go to: Edwina Loxton, Alex Campbell-Wilson and Cate Campbell-Wilson who provided valuable office assistance; Robert Forrester and Jin Yoon for statistical analysis and research design; and, Jerome Pink, Andre Zerger, John Stein and Garth Warren for spatial analysis expertise. Finally, this project could not have proceeded without the professionalism of field ecology research assistant Jenny Stott.

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Sherren, K., Fischer, J., Clayton, H. et al. Integration by case, place and process: transdisciplinary research for sustainable grazing in the Lachlan River catchment, Australia. Landscape Ecol 25, 1219–1230 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-010-9494-x

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