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Can seasonal climate forecasting prevent degradation of Australia's grazing lands?

McKeon, G.M., Dr.; Ph.: (07) 3896 9548; Fax: (07) 3896 9606; greg.mckeon@dnr.qld.gov.au

Research organisation: Climate Impacts and Grazing Systems Group, Queensland Department of Natural Resources, 80 Meiers Road, Indooroopilly Qld 4068.

Collaborators:

NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation (Rob Richards); South Australian Department of Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs (Roger Tynan); Agriculture Western Australia (Ian Watson); Queensland Department of Primary Industries (David Orr)

Sponsor: National Climate Variability Program administered by LWRRDC, Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation.

Objectives:

To evaluate the impact of seasonal forecasting for grazing enterprises across Australia's grazing lands by:

  • constructing hindcast seasonal forecasts with different lead times for specific locations across Australia (Gascoyne Catchment, W.A.; northern South Australia; western NSW; western Queensland; and north-eastern Queensland);
  • calibrating existing pasture model GRASP to simulate pasture and animal production;
  • developing simple models for soil loss (function of cover) and vegetation dynamics (function of climate variability, fire, grazing) and validate these models with known historical degradation events;
  • simulating impact of grazing management strategies including decision rules (stocking rate change and burning) which use climate forecasts; and
  • comparing management strategies in terms of animal production, resource condition and management needs such as drought feeding and financial trading.

Methodology:

The project specifically addresses the role of seasonal climate forecasting in the management of climate variability in Australia's grazing lands. The history of Australia's grazing industries includes many periods when the interaction of rangeland management decisions (stocking rate, burning) and year-to-year climate variability has led to resource damage (loss of desirable perennial plants, soil loss, invasion of woody weeds). The project will evaluate to what extent new seasonal forecasting systems in combination with other strategies can be used to avoid resource degradation.

The project will provide to graziers and extension officers simulation case studies of the value of seasonal forecasting. The forecasts will be evaluated in terms of animal production, vegetation change and soil erosion. They will show how better management for climatic variability can increase profitability/sustainability in Australia's rangelands.

Progress: Project commenced in 1998/99 but does not really get underway until May 1999.

Period: starting date 1998-07; completion date 2001-06

Status: ongoing

 Keywords: climate forecasts, grazing management, land degradation, pasture models, vegetation change

Publications: None as yet.

 

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