Australia’s future landscapes will be shaped by global climatic, economic, and cultural drivers. Landscapes evolve. They are manifestations of the complex negotiations between nature and cultures, over millennia. In the Anthropocene, humans are the dominant evolutionary force reshaping the biosphere.
Landscape management involves all human activities and interventions that change the forms and functions of landscapes. It also involves the ways we learn about, and understand the world, and our place in it. Responses to climate change are driving changes in natural resources policy, research and management. Building capability for large-scale, adaptive management is critical in an era of global change. By rigorously examining and learning from recent experience—bioregional conservation planning, natural resource management (NRM), landcare, and water reform—Australia can build capacity for integrated and adaptive resource management.
Climate change compounds existing stressors on ecosystems. It adds complexity and presents new challenges for integrated assessment, planning, and management of natural resources. Given the dynamic nature of the ecosystems, static conservation paradigms and stationary hydrology models are increasingly redundant. In the face of inherent complexity and uncertainty, ‘predict and control’ strategies are likely to be less useful. Adaptive approaches are called for, due to the complex relationships and non-linear feedbacks between social, ecological, and climatic systems. Australia should invest in building professional and community capacity. Australia’s scientific and professional capacity in natural resources provides useful foundations, but substantially increased investment is called for. Research should be focused on guiding and influencing management at large scales and on avoiding undesirable thresholds or tipping points in complex ecological systems.
Cultural and governance aspects are emphasised as central to effective adaptation strategies, because landscape management is an intergenerational, societal challenge that requires participatory, adaptive learning approaches.