Why is everyone talking about natural sequence farming?


Ian Rutherfurd, University of Melbourne

On the eve of the recent National Drought Summit, prime minister Scott Morrison and deputy prime minister Michael McCormack visited Mulloon Creek near Canberra, shown recently on the ABC’s Australian Story. They were there to see a creek that was still flowing, and green with vegetation, despite seven months of drought.

Mulloon Creek was the legacy of a long collaboration between prominent agriculturalist Peter Andrews, and Tony Coote, the owner of the property who died in August. For decades they have implemented Andrews’ “natural sequence farming” system at Mulloon Creek.




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Government to set up new multi-billion Future Drought Fund


Central to the system is slowing flow in the creek with “leaky weirs”. These force water back into the bed and banks of the creek, which rehydrates the floodplain. This rehydrated floodplain is then said to be more productive and sustainable.

McCormack, who is also the minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development, was impressed and declared the success of Mulloon as a “model for everyone … this needs to be replicated right around our nation”. The ABC program suggested this form of farming could reduce the impact of drought across Australia. So, what is the evidence?

The promise of natural sequence farming

There are plenty of anecdotes but little published science around the effectiveness of natural sequence farming. What there is describes some modest floodplain rehydration, little change to stream flows, some trapping of sediment and some improvements in soil condition. These results are encouraging but not miraculous.

How much each of the different components of natural sequence farming contributes is not always clear, and the economic arguments for widespread adoption are modest. At present, there is not the standard of evidence to support this farming method as a panacea for drought relief, as proposed by the deputy prime minister.




Read more:
Helping farmers in distress doesn’t help them be the best: the drought relief dilemma


But if the evidence does emerge, why wouldn’t farmers simply adopt the methods as part of a sensible business model? Don’t all farmers want to do better in drought?

In the ABC show, and elsewhere, supporters of natural sequence farming argue that it is hard for farmers to adopt the methods because government regulations restrict use of willows, blackberries and other weeds, that they claim, are particularly effective in restoring streams.

Governments are correct to be wary of this call to use weeds, and some research suggests that native plants can do a similar job. This restriction on use of weeds might be galling for proponents of natural sequence farming but it should not be a fundamental impediment to adoption.

A more important frustration for natural sequence farming practitioners is how widely the approach can be applied. In Australian Story, John Ryan, a rural journalist, says:

I am sick of politicians, farmers groups, and government departments telling me that Peter Andrews only works where you’ve got little creeks in a mountain valley … I’ve seen it work on flat-lands, steep lands, anywhere.

Natural sequence farming arose in the attempt to restore upland valleys and creeks in southern NSW that were once environmentally valuable chains of ponds or swampy meadows. But these waterways have become deeply incised, degraded, and disconnected from their floodplains. Not only does this incision produce a great deal of sediment pollution, but it produces many agricultural problems.




Read more:
Spring is coming, and there’s little drought relief in sight


In reality, small and medium-sized stream systems across much of Australia have deepened after European settlement. If the leaky weirs of natural sequence farming are effective, then they could be applied across many gullied and incised streams across the country.

We’ve already been doing it

The good news is that landholders and governments have already been using aspects of natural sequence farming in those very gullies for decades to control erosion.

Since the 1970s, across the world, one useful method for controlling erosion has been grade-control structures. They were once made of concrete but are now usually made of dumped rock (called rock-chutes), and also logs.

Rock chutes in Barwidgee Creek, 1992, Ovens River catchment, Victoria. Source: T McCormack NE Catchment Management Authority.
T McCormack NE Catchment Management Authority
The same creek in 2002. It is now heavily vegetated and has pools of water, just like Mulloon Park.
T McCormack NE Catchment Management Authority

These structures reduce the speed of water flow, trap sediment, encourage vegetation, and stop gullies from deepening. These are all goals of natural sequence farming using leaky weirs.

There are thousands of such structures, supported by government initiatives, across the Australian landscape acting as an unrecognised experiment in rehydration and drought protection.




Read more:
We must strengthen, not weaken, environmental protections during drought – or face irreversible loss


Perhaps governments should already have evaluated these structures, but the rehydration potential of these works has not been recognised in the past. It is time that this public investment was scientifically evaluated.

We may find that natural sequence farming and the routine government construction of grade-control structures have similar effects on farmland and the environment.

But whatever the outcome, gully management is not likely to mark the end of drought in the Australian landscape.The Conversation

Ian Rutherfurd, Associate Professor in Geography, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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An open letter to the Prime Minister on the climate crisis, from 154 scientists


Andrew Glikson, Australian National University

Dear The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia,

The following is an open letter signed by 154 Australian atmospheric, marine, environmental, biological and medical scientists, including several leading climatologists, for your and your government’s attention.

There is no Planet B

In July 2016, global temperatures soared to the hottest in the 136 years of the instrumental record, 0.1℃ warmer than previous warm Julys in 2015, 2011 and 2009. It followed a succession of rising temperatures, moving from 0.42℃ above average in 2000, to 0.87℃ above average by 2015.

Developments in the atmosphere-ocean system reported by major climate research organisations (including NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US National Snow & Ice Data Center, the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, the Tyndall Centre, the Potsdam Institute; the science academics of dozens of nations; and in Australia the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology) include:

We are concerned that global warming, amplified by feedbacks from polar ice melt, methane release from permafrost, and extensive fires, may become irreversible, including the possible collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, a crucial component of the global climate system that transfers heat from the tropics to the North Atlantic.

According to James Hansen, NASA’s former chief climate scientist, “burning all fossil fuels would create a different planet than the one that humanity knows“. Joachim Schellnhuber, Germany’s chief climate scientist, has summed up the situation by saying: “We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.”

We note your broad agreement with this point, in light of your 2010 statement that:

…we are as humans conducting a massive science experiment with this planet. It’s the only planet we have got… We know that the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic… We as a human species have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us.

While the Paris Agreement remains unbinding and global warming has received minimal attention in the recent elections, governments worldwide are presiding over a large-scale demise of the planetary ecosystems, which threatens to leave large parts of Earth uninhabitable.

We call on the Australian government to tackle the root causes of an unfolding climate tragedy and do what is required to protect future generations and nature, including meaningful reductions of Australia’s peak carbon emissions and coal exports, while there is still time.

There is no Planet B.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Christine Adams-Hosking, Conservation planner, University of Queensland

Associate Professor Stephen Adelstein, Medical scientist, University of Sydney

Professor Ross Alford, Tropical ecologist, James Cook University

Dr Wallace Ambrose, Archaeological anthropologist, ANU

Dr Martin Anda, Environmental engineer, Murdoch University

Dr Marion Anderston, Geochemist, Monash University

Professor Michael Archer, Paleontologist, UNSW Australia

Dr Leanne Armand, Marine Researcher, Macquarie University

Professor Patricia Armati, Medical scientist, University of Sydney

Professor Owen Atkin, Plant respiration researcher, ANU

Professor Elaine Baker, Marine scientist, University of Sydney

Associate Professor Cathy Banwell, Medical scientist, ANU

Dr Andrew Barnes, Aquatic animal health researcher, University of Queensland

Dr Fiona Beck, Renewable energy researcher, ANU

Dr Tom Beer, Climatic and environmental change researcher, CSIRO

Professor Andrew Blakers, Photovoltaics/energy storage researcher, ANU

Professor Phillip Board, Medical scientist, ANU

Professor Justin Borevitz, Plant geneticist, ANU

Dr Caryl Bosman, Environmental planning researcher, Griffith University

Professor David Bowman, Forestry researcher, University of Tasmania

Dr Timothy Broadribb, Plant Scientist, University of Tasmania

Dr Helen Brown, Environmental health researcher, Curtin University

Dr Tim Brown, Medicine and environment researcher, ANU

Professor Ralf Buckley, Conservation/ecotourism researcher, Griffith University

Dr Florian Busch, Plant scientist, ANU

Dr Jason Byrne, Urban design researcher, Curtin University

Professor Maria Byrne, Marine and developmental biologist, University of Sydney

Dr Martina Calais, Renewable energy researcher, Murdoch University

Associate Professor Craig Carter, Engineering and IT researcher, Murdoch University

Dr Phill Cassey, Ecologist, Adelaide University

Professor Carla Catterall, Ecologist, Griffith University

Dr Juleen Cavanaugh, Biomedical scientist, ANU

Professor Fred Chow, Plant biologist, ANU

Associate Professor David Cohen, Geochemist, UNSW Australia

Professor Steven Cooper, Evolutionary biologist, SA Museum

Professor Rod Connolly, Marine scientist, Griffith University

Professor Jann Conroy, Plant scientist, Western Sydney University

Dr Lucy Coupland, Medical scientist, ANU

Dr Joseph Coventry, Solar energy researcher, ANU

Dr Chris Creagh, Physicist, Murdoch University

Professor Patricia Dale, Environment/planning researcher, Griffith University

Dr Armanda Davies, Planning geographer, Curtin University

Dr Ian Davies, Forestry fire management researcher, ANU

Dr Kirsten Davies, Ethno-ecology and environmental law researcher, Macquarie University

Dr Robert Davis, Vertebrate biologist, Edith Cowan University

Professor Keith Dear, Global health researcher, ANU

Dr Fjalar de Haan, Sustainability researcher, University of Melbourne

Professor Hans Peter Dietz, Medical scientist, Penrith Hospital

Professor Bob Douglas, Medical scientist, ANU

Associate Professor Mark Douglas, Medical scientist, University of Sydney

Dr Jen Drysdale, Climate and energy researcher, University of Melbourne

Professor Angela Dulhunty, Medical scientist, ANU

Professor Robyn Eckersley, Climate change governance researcher, University of Melbourne

Dr Elin Charles Edwards, Environmental geographer, University of Queensland

Professor David Eldridge, Evolutionary biologist, UNSW Australia

Professor David Elsworth, Environmental ecologist, Western Sydney University

Associate Professor Jason Evans, Climate change researcher, UNSW Australia

Dr Isabelle Ferru, Medical scientist, ANU

Professor Tim Flannery, Climate Council

Professor Barry Fox, Ecologist, UNSW Australia

Dr Evan Franklin, Solar energy researcher, ANU

Dr Diego Garcia-Bellido, Paleontologist, University of Adelaide

Dr Stephen Garnett, Conservation and sustainability researcher, Charles Darwin University

Dr John Gillen, Soil scientist, ANU

Dr Andrew Glikson, Paleoclimatologist, ANU

Dr Susan Gould, Climate change researcher, Griffith UNiversity

Professor Colin Groves, Anthropologist, ANU

Dr Huade Guan, Hydro-meteorologist, Flinders University

Professor Neil Gunningham, Global governance researcher, ANU

Dr Asish Hagar, Medical scientist, UNSW Australia

Dr Nina Hall, Sustainable water researcher, University of Queensland

Dr Willow Hallgren, Atmospheric scientist, Griffith University

Dr Elizabeth Hanna, Environmental health researcher, ANU

Associate Professor David Harley, Epidemiologist, ANU

Professor Robert S. Hill, Paleobotanist, University of Adelaide

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Marine climatologist and Great Barrier Reef researcher, University of Queensland

Professor Geoff Hope, Archaeologist and natural history researcher, ANU

Associate Professor Michael Howes, Environmental scientist, Griffith University

Professor Lesley Hughes, Climate change and species researcher, Macquarie University

Dr Paul Humphries, Environmental scientist, Charles Sturt University

Professor Phillip Jenning, Energy researcher, Murdoch University

Professor Darryl Jones, Behavioural ecologist, Griffith University

Dr Hugh Jones, Medical scientist, University of Western Australia

Dr Jochen Kaempf, Physical oceanographer, Flinders University

Professor Jeffrey Keelan, Medical scientist, University of Western Australia

Professor Peter Kershaw, Biogeographer and botanist, Monash University

Dr Carsten Kulheim, Plant physiologist, ANU

Professor Rakkesh Kumar, Medical scientist, UNSW Australia

Dr Lori Lach, Rainforest conservationist, James Cook University

Professor Barry Lacopetta, Medical scientist, University of Western Australia

Professor Trevor Lamb, Medical scientist, ANU

Professor Tony Larkum, Plant biologist, University of Technology Sydney

Dr Annie Lau, Geography and environmental management researcher, University of Quensland

Professor Bill Laurance, Tropical environment and sustainability researcher, James Cook University

Associate Professor Fred Leusch, Soil, water and energy researcher, Griffith University

Professor Andrew Lowe, Plant conservationist, University of Adelaide

Dr Fabio Luciano, Medical scientist, UNSW Australia

Professor Justin Marshall, Marine biologist, University of Queensland

Dr Melanie Massaro, Ecologist and ornithologist, Charles Sturt University

Associate Professor John F. McCarthy, Resource environment researcher, ANU

Dr Allison McInnes, Plant biologist, UTS

AssociateProfessor Andrew McKenzie, Landscape planning researcher, University of Canberra

Dr Kathryn McMahon, Environmental researcher, Edith Cowan University

Professor Andrew Millington, Land change scientist, Flinders University

Professor Angela Moles, Evolutionary ecologist, UNSW Australia

Professor Renee Morris, Medical scientist, UNSW Australia

Professor Barbara Norman, Urban planning researcher, University of Canberra

Professor Nikos Ntoumanis, Behavioural medicine researcher, Curtin University

Dr Bradley Opdyke, Climate historian, ANU

Professor Richard G. Pearson, Marine and tropical biologist, James Cook University

Dr Barrie Pittock, Climate scientist, CSIRO

Dr Jason Potas, Medical scientist, ANU

Professor Susan Prescott, Medical scientist, University of Western Australia

Dr Lynda Prior, Climate researcher, University of Tasmania

Dr Thomas Prowse, Biologist, University of Adelaide

Professor Marie Ranson, Molecular biologist, University of Wollongong

Professor Steve Redman, Medical scientist, ANU

Associate Professor Tracy Rogers, Evolutionary ecologist, UNSW Australia

Professor Chris Ryan, Eco-innovation researcher, University of Melbourne

Dr Oz Sahnin, Climate change researcher, Griffith University

Associate Professor Peter Sainsbury, Climate and health researcher, University of Sydney

Professor David Sinclair, Medical scientist, UNSW Australia

Dr Tom Sobey, Medical scientist, UNSW Australia

Professor Will Steffen, Climate change researcher, ANU

Professor Peter Steinberg, Marine scientist, UNSW Australia

Associate Professor Christian Stricker, Medical scientist, ANU

Professor Ian Suthers, Marine biologist, UNSW Australia

Associate Professor Sue Taylor, Medical scientist, University of Western Australia

Dr Sebastian Thomas, Sustainability researcher, University of Melbourne

Dr Andrew Thomson, Solar researcher, ANU

Associate Professor Thomas Thorsten, Marine biologist, UNSW Australia

Associate Professor Ian Tibbetts, Marine Scientist, University of Queensland

Professor David Tissue, Plant ecophysiologist, Western Sydney University

Professor Matthias Tomczak, Oceanographer, Flinders University

Mr Shane Toohey, Medical scientist, University of Western Australia

Dr Gail Trapp, Medical scientist, UNSW Australia

Professor Patrick Troy, Human ecologist, ANU

Professor Tom Trull, Antarctic, oceans and atmosphere researcher, CSIRO

Professor David Tscharke, Medical scientist, ANU

Professor Chris Turney, Antarctic climatologist, UNSW Australia

Dr Tania Urmee, Renewable energy technologist, Murdoch University

Professor René Vaillancourt, Plant geneticist, University of Tasmania

Professor John Veevers, Earth scientist, Macquarie University

Professor Charlie Veron, Marine scientist, Australian Institute of Marine Science

Professor Phil Waite, Medical scientist, UNSW Australia

Dr Elaine Walker, Physics and energy researcher, Murdoch University

Dr Hayden Washington, Environmental researcher, UNSW Australia

Professor David Watson, Water and society ecologist, Charles Sturt University

Dr Scarla J. Weeks, Biophysical oceanographer, University of Queensland

Professor Adrian Werner, Hydrologist, Flinders University

Mr Peter Weiske, Medical and environmental scientist, ANU

Dr Jonathan Whale, Energy researcher, Murdoch University

Associate Professor George Wilson, Wildlife management researcher, ANU

Dr Phillip Zylstra, Forests and fire researcher, University of Wollongong

The Conversation

Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleo-climate scientist, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Will dumping Australia’s climate-savvy prime minister help the climate?


Grist

In terms of climate policy, Australians face a choice between fairly good and downright evil in an upcoming federal election.

The face of evil belongs to climate skeptic Tony Abbott, leader of the opposition Liberal Party (which, in topsy-turvy Down Under fashion, is in fact conservative).

And the face of relative good is … in some disarray at the moment. Power brokers in the Labor Party, which narrowly holds power in the country, this week stripped the prime ministership away from Julia Gillard and handed it back to former leader Kevin Rudd. They believe this move will help them win the election, which is tentatively scheduled for September.

The stakes are high. Australia is among the world’s worst per-person contributors to climate change. The country is a huge producer of coal, exporting a lot and consuming a good bit itself. And it’s been suffering heavily from climate change in recent…

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Petition: Greenpeace – No Super Trawlers


The link below is to a page where a petition can be signed online to send to the Australian Prime Minister to stop super trawlers working in Australian waters.

For more visit:
https://www.greenpeace.org.au/action/index.php?cid=28

Copenhagen Summit Fails to Deliver


In news that has delighted the ears of climate change sceptics the world over, the Copenhagen summit on climate change has failed to deliver anything of real value that will actually make a difference. It is truly disappointing that even in the face of a massive environmental disaster that will affect the entire planet, global leaders have failed to lead and work together in finding solutions to the major issues we face over the coming decades and century.

Newspapers in Australia have reported the failure of the summit and are reporting on the leader of the opposition gloating over the failure of the summit. His solution is to ignore the real issue and hope that the Australian people prove to be as oblivious to climate change as the coalition he leads.

Typically, the usual anti-Kevin Rudd biased journalists and climate change sceptics of the newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) I read this morning, were also quick to pour further scorn on the Prime Minister and the problem of climate change itself (which they deny). One particular vocal climate change sceptic in the Sunday Telegraph has very little credibility with me and I find his obsessive anti-Rudd tirades more than a little tiring. This self-opinionated buffoon is little more than an embarrassment for both the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph for which he also writes. His columns are becoming more of a personal vendetta against Kevin Rudd than anything resembling real journalism.

I’ll be finding a better way to become acquainted with the daily news than continuing to read the biased diatribes that continue to be put forward by these papers in future. I’ll also be hoping that our leaders can overcome the various preoccupations each have with self-interest (whether it be personal or national) in order to reach a real workable agreement on dealing with the growing threat of climate change