Assessing resilience to underpin implementation of Land Degradation Neutrality: A case study in the rangelands of western New South Wales, Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Environmental Science and Policy, 2019, 100 pp. 37 - 46
Issue Date:
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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Land degradation through loss of ground cover, wind erosion and woody scrub encroachment affects rangelands globally, threatening the resilience of communities and ecosystems. Climate change is anticipated to exacerbate land degradation in the rangelands, through increased incidence of drought. In the semi-arid rangelands of Australia, land managers have limited capacity to manage land degradation. Recent Australian climate policy initiatives could provide opportunities to improve land management, and increase resilience of rangeland pastoral systems. The Australian government's Emissions Reduction Fund enables landholders to obtain carbon credits for sequestering carbon in vegetation and soil. In western New South Wales (NSW), landholders have received funding for avoiding clearing or allowing the regrowth of native vegetation. These carbon farming projects could provide financial resources for landholders to manage drivers of land degradation and thus contribute to achieving “land degradation neutrality” (LDN). However, the impacts of carbon farming, particularly at regional level, are highly uncertain. The conceptual framework for LDN proposes that planning for LDN should be underpinned by assessment of resilience of the current and alternative lands use, using tools such as the Resilience Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Approach (RAPTA). RAPTA is a framework developed to guide the application of resilience concepts in management of social-ecological systems. It encourages a systems approach to identify critical linkages in the system, that become the focus of assessment of the system's resilience, and development of management plans to enhance resilience, and facilitate transformation where required. We present a case study of the application of RAPTA to support assessment of the resilience of current management and alternative land use strategies involving carbon farming. RAPTA facilitated a holistic assessment of social, biophysical and economic impacts of carbon farming in western NSW, that improved understanding of the opportunities, trade-offs, synergies and risks. RAPTA was found to be an effective tool to support LDN planning. Constraints to application of RAPTA include gaps in knowledge of thresholds, and resource requirements to enable effective stakeholder engagement, to inform integrated landscape management.
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